Kri´tarch`y   Pronunciation: kri´tärk`y

      n. 1. The rule of the judges over Israel.

      Samson, Jephthah, Gideon, and other heroes of the kritarchy.

      - Southey.

 One day in the future, a historian will write: "The American Constitution lasted less than two centuries. It was toppled in 1954 when kritarchy first raised its ugly head."


It should be clear by now that 'natural law' in the sense of 'the natural order of human beings' is not a question of idle speculation, but of natural facts. This leads to the question whether there exists a political system that respects these facts. Indeed there is such a system. It differs from democracy and similar systems in that its government has no special powers. It is denied any powers, privileges and immunities that are also denied to human beings. That means that a kritarchy's police forces cannot lawfully use their weapons and coercive powers except for maintaining natural rights. In contrast with their counterparts in a democracy, the courts and the policemen of a kritarchy are not part of a coercive monopoly. In a kritarchy, every person is entitled to offer judicial and police services to willing others; no person can be forced to become a client of any court of law or police force against his will.

A kritarchy does not have subjects and rulers. It lacks a government in the modern sense of the word, that is an organization with coercive powers that claims a right to obedience of  those who inhabit its realm. Governing and taxing people are not functions of the political system of kritarchy. People are left free to govern their own affairs, either individually or in association with others. Indeed, freedom is the basic law of a kritarchy.

The term 'kritarchy', mentioned in several well-known dictionaries, is compounded from the Greek words kriteis (judge) or krito (to judge) and archeh (principle, cause). It was coined in 1844 by the English  author Robert Southy. In its construction kritarchy resembles terms like monarchy, oligarchy and hierarchy. According to its etymological roots, kritarchy is the political system in which judges, or their judgements,  are the ruling principle. Similarly, a monarchy is a system in which one person is the ruling principle or first cause of every legal action. In an oligarchy, a few persons, acting in concert but without a fixed hierarchy among them, are the source of all human actions. This olicharchy is what we have in a modern democracy. The members of a democratic parliament have equal standing and their joint decisions are supposed to bind all citizens.

Unlike monarchies and oligarchies, kritarchies do not establish political rule. The judges of a kritarchy do not legislate but find ways and means to settle conflicts and disputes in a manner that is consistent with the natural order of human beings. That order is understood to be objectively given (it consists of people who respect each other's space) and not something that answers to whatever desires or ideals the judges may have.

In contrast to other political systems, the judges in a kritarchy have no subjects; They do not have prosecutors who drag people before their benches. They cannot 'pick' their subjects. Instead, they are 'picked' themselves by people desiring to have their conflicts and disputes resolved by their judicial judgments.

The distinctive characteristic of a kritarchy is therefore that it is a political system without political rule. Its judges enjoy no privileges or special powers. They do not rule the people. Their only concern is to protect the voluntary, natural order of human beings.

There are many historical and even recent examples of kritarchy or near-kritarchy. Also there have been attempts to use constitutions (such as the Magna Charta and the Bills of Rights in England, the original constitutional amendments in North America and the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen) to introduce elements of kritarchy as checks on the powers of oppressive governments. At the end of the  second millennium before Christ, the Jews lived in a system described in the biblical book of the Judges. Their 'judges' were not judges in the technical sense of the modern legal systems but rather respected men who provided leadership and counsel without having the power to coerce or tax. Similar

kritarchies existed among the Celtic and Germanic peoples both before and during their confrontation with Roman imperialism. Kritarchy was firmly established in medieval Iceland, Ireland and Frisia. In the first half of the nineteenth century, the European settlers in the Mid-West and Far-West in North America developed their own brand of kritarchy. In Africa and Asia, tribal societies have continued to the present day to adhere to some form of kritarchy if they have not been submerged in the governmental structures imposed by the colonial powers or by the indigenous politicians who took over from them.

While these historical examples may suggest that kritarchy is a primitive political system, it should be borne in mind that most kritarchies fell victim to military lords. Often, these lords turned ostensibly temporary structures for the mobilisation of men and resources in times of war into a permanent apparatus of political rule. They organized this rule in such a way that their subjects are not given opportunities for its abolition. They can only choose between various types of political rule. Kritarchists have always been aware of the artificial and destructive character of alternative political systems. The fact that a given kritarchy lost out to a destructive system doesn't make kritarchy primitive. It may well be that a given economy progresses despite a particular political system rather than because of it. Economic progress may well coincide with political regress.

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Last revision: April 27, 2006 07:45 PM
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