Andy: "[Given the same crime,]why in one society did the criminal forfeit the right to life, in another the right to property, and another the right to liberty (freedom from imprisonment)? The only way I can see to resolve this is either because the authority (reasonably and etc.) established it as such the society qua society determined it was such (quite similar, maybe the same). I would accept this."
Every society decides for itself who will be an officially-recognized authority with coercive power. It is not necessarily in the form of a government. God did not drop a government or an authority figure into each society as it formed. The individuals decided whose judgment they would respect. There is no need for it to be a taxation-based government. Is there?
In the case of a criminal who commits a crime, society (or the individual; not the government itself, which, as you know, may not have the best interest of the people in mind) perceives that a punishment is just. The punishment imposed is not just merely because someone who was chosen by a numerical majority has imposed it.
In the U.S., a jury can interpret not only the facts of the case, but make a practical decision on whether a law is just or unjust. In the U.S. Constitutional legal system, the individual juror is the ultimate judge of what is unjust. Hear me out on the individual being able to decide what is a just punishment. I will cover it in greater depth later on in this post.
I am all in favor of the individuals that comprise a society voting for laws that concern force, fraud and coercion. With such a foundation, cases could be heard in private courts. (As you may know, the American Arbitration Association handles billions of dollars in settlements every year outside the court system.)
Discussions of the merits and practicality of the free-market legal system have already been covered, and I'd rather not cover it right now. For those who are interested, here's a decent article that discusses the concept. http://www.lewrockwell.com/hoppe/hoppe16.html
Andy: "However, you seemed to assert elsewhere that society/government have no rights that individuals do not have (which I deny). You must then hold for this proposition that individuals have the right to kill, to seize money from, or to imprison one who has committed a crime against someone or himself, as they find reasonable. Is this the case, or is their a way out of the predicament for you?"
Correct. The individual does have these rights. But the punishment he "finds reasonable" must be in accordance with reality. If someone has murdered someone, he has forfeited his own life. You would be morally and legally culpable if the person you killed was not, in fact, the murderer. Such risks, (not merely that it is against a statute to seek justice on your own) are what keep individual-justice-enforcing actions in check right now, are they not?
Likewise, you would be morally and legally culpable if you were to seek more restitution than that which had been taken from you in the first place.
Morally, an individual could imprison a criminal for a crime he had committed. The duration of the imprisonment is either just or unjust. It depends on whether the punishment objectively fits the crime, not on an established custom. A customary punishment is established because it is perceived and accepted as just, not because the custom makes it just.
Some checks to ensure the justice of individual prisons:
First, it would be cost-inefficient to keep your own prison for people who have committed crimes. You would likely have to find people who would donate to keep an individual incarcerated. If I went around with a hat collecting money to keep a rapist in a private prison, you can bet it would be full before I got down one city block, and I wouldn't have to do it at gunpoint, like the government does. Insofar as you must have the approval of others for the length of time and conditions of incarceration in order to receive donations, society would brought into it, and therefore, you would have more men with their own sense of justice agreeing with your own.
Second, if you were acting grossly out of accordance with reason, your prisoner would be swiftly liberated by those who had a higher degree of reason.
Third, there are few people who, when taken captive for a true crime, would not agree to arbitration in a private court, or face the just consequence of being put in a private prison. (I estimate both parties would agree to arbitration/restitution through a private court 90% of the time, compared to imprisoning someone on one's own.)
Fourth, it could not possibly be worse than the absolutely disgusting state of the Department of "Corrections" we have running now: rape pits run by means of your coerced tax dollars. Rape pits staffed by testosterone-pumped, power-drunk, hot-dog necked guards who are willing to abuse prisoners at the drop of a hat. In the D.O.C. there is an almost complete lack of accountability, due to the ignorance of the public as to what goes on in prisons, due to public choice theory, and because the government has force on its side: force limited only by how much money it can manage to squeeze out of the taxpayer.
If a libertarian private justice system would be "chaos," sign me up. It would be a breath of fresh air compared to the "justice" system we have now. It would also save tens of thousands from being imprisoned for breaking asininely-enacted malum prohibitum laws.
Geoff: "When a government becomes corrupt, like you said, they have forsaken their end, and therefore forfeited their 'right'...to rule."
Andy: "But there is a difference between the criminal and the corrupt government."
A corrupt government is a collective of individual criminals. They should be charged as such.
Andy: "In the case of the criminal, the rights he would forfeit are life, liberty, and/or property.
In the case of the authority, the "right" is the power to create to civil laws and such binding in conscience."
If I say to society, "You may not steal from someone," it is binding in conscience. They must obey. Not because I said, it, though! Only because God said it. The same goes for a collection of individuals who say something in accord with divine law. Am I wrong? Is there something missing in my logic? Does the mere fact that a statute of conduct in accord with justice between men is written down suddenly make it morally binding? If there were no statutes at all, would it suddenly be all right to steal from my neighbor? "Morally binding" isn't the issue here. Coercion to back up the morally binding statement is the issue. I believe that anyone is only able to use force to protect, reclaim, or do justice concerning that which people have a claim to by the fact that they were born: life, liberty, property. It is inconvenient for individual men to enforce law (whether written on a piece of paper and/or in our hearts.) The present government is able to do so (sometimes), but only through immoral, forced property confiscation. That's a problem.
An individual, society or a government does not make a particular punishment just, it merely perceives that it is, and decides whether a punishment will be carried out. A punishment is intrinsically just or unjust, depending on the nature of the crime and whether the punishment fits the crime. A society, or an individual, can mete out a punishment. Whether it is just does not depend on any law except the divine law.
Where does anyone get an a priori right to play Robin Hood, taking money from people in order to do "good things?" Are you trying to say there is some social contract we all signed by having the misfortune to be born into a particular system? Kind of like how a child that was born to a slave mother and slave father actually "belonged" to the slaves' master? Because I sure don't vote for anyone to take my money. Are other people out there signing some contract on my behalf? Who gave them that right? Where does the buck stop, Andy? Does God will someone to take my property against my will? Is that what it comes down to? Because I sure think I have a "reasonable claim" to keep my money. Especially when my money could, certainly, do far more good in private enterprises that will eventually usurp and outshine all the "duties" and "services" that government claims to have and offer, respectively.
Andy: [speaking about non-standardized punishments] "One must demonstrate how this specific criminal act can legitimately permit the variety of punishments at the discretion of a non-authority."
There is no such thing as an objective, standardized "justice" for a crime committed on this earth. There's only a reasonable ballpark we can hit into. Perfect justice is for God to enact. You're making it sound as though a collection of individuals, chosen by some people (not all), and not very accountable to anyone, is somehow able to mete out a more perfect justice by the special guidance of the Holy Spirit. This is not the case.
Anyone has the authority to make a statement that is in accordance with divine law. Such a statement is, obviously, morally binding. What I do not understand is why you seem to imply that a government somehow precedes human social interaction. That there can morally be no justice in society without a government. Government is not a divine institution. It's a human institution. God gives no proprietary, special morality to a group of governing individuals. The criminal does not cede his permission to be punished by the government, or by any other individual, and it doesn't matter. Punishment and restitution goes beyond government, which is a human institution: it has its roots in natural law. If something is stolen, justice mandates that it be returned. Natural law doesn't say how. It just says it has to happen.