Gypsy Law: Justice For Me, But Not For Thee

Dave Killion — September 8, 2012

As I promised yesterday, here is the quote I highlighted from the chapter on Gypsy law

“The rules, in large part common to the different communities, can be usefully grouped into two categories. One consists of ordinary legal rules covering the obligations of gypsies to each other. Swindling or stealing from a fellow gypsy is an offense to be dealt with, swindling or stealing from a non-gypsy comes under gypsy law only to the extent that it creates problems for other gypsies.”

This first category sounds as if it could have come from a book I read recently ; ” The Invisible Hook“, by Peter Leeson. The rules by which pirates regulated themselves were very much in the vein of maintaining peaceful, honest conduct within the group, while permitting (or more correctly, encouraging) violent, dishonest behaviour toward outsiders. I imagine such systems have been very common throughout history. You can read a summary of Leeson’s thoughts here.

While on the topic of pirates, I’ll let you know that during our next meeting, the club will be discussing the chapter on Somali Law from the Friedman book I cited yesterday. Have a look, and consider sharing with us any thoughts you might have.




Jeremy Maddock says

So, Gypsy law seems quite utilitarian in nature. The goal it strives for is the greatest good for the greatest number (of Gypsies). Obviously, it cannot purport to be based on any kind of natural law unless they are also willing to make the argument that Gypsies are somehow naturally or metaphysically superior to non-Gypsies.

It occurs to me that any just legal system needs to stem from the recognition that there is a natural right to the ownership and enjoyment of property. Each individual must possess this right equally. From that starting point, any disparity between individuals will arise from the natural differences between them, namely their skills, intelligence, work ethic, etc. Such differences are defensible on grounds of nature and reality, and are not based on fictitious group rights or irrational ethnic or cultural superiority (or inferiority) complexes.

Only from a sound understanding of the natural right to property can a just legal system manifest itself. For this reason, the presence of group rights and the absence of a universal right to property are fundamental flaws in the Canadian constitutional system. Such a system is strikingly similar, in fact, to Gypsy law.

— September 9, 2012

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