In this great big land of ours known as the earth, the various spaces are currently administered through various political jurisdictions. Natural terrain features, such as a river, valley, mountain range, or some other distinct boundary generally form what appear to be logical divisions to territory. People separated by a river or mountain range, distinctively recognize a difference between those living proximate to themselves and those distant. It is natural for an “us and them” distinction to arise among natural borders.
This does not, however, preclude commerce and cultural intercourse to occur between geographically distinct people. It would be natural for the hunters of the hill tribe to exchange their meat for the vegetables grown by the valley dwellers, or the fish of the riverside clan. There may even be a natural tendency toward blood ties, intermarriages, and formal alliances. Those who recognize the value of exchanging their goods with the diversity of goods available from those with a different lifestyle realize increased living standards through the division of labor and specialization. While feuding with other tribes, and attempting to take the resources of others through plunder may result in short term gains, the sustainable growth only comes about to those that recognize peaceful commerce is in their best interests.
The likelihood of conflict, then, comes about by rival tribes seeking to take over a territory held by another. The hill tribe wishes to move to a bigger or a mountain that is better stocked with game. The riverside clan is envious of the territory at the intersection of tributary waterways. The valley dwellers are seeking the more fertile fields held by another. In this simplistic analogy, conflict arises not from diversity, but from sameness. Seeking alternatives to conflict involves an appreciation of the differences people bring to the table. Avoiding conflict also involves a means of resolving competing claims on territory. In the absence or unwillingness to mediate competing claims, the means of repelling unjust claims are required.
Security and defense are the bookend activities of mediation or dispute resolution. Taken together, they are the three points of what some call justice. Security begins by communicating to any that would challenge an owner’s claim to a territory or property. We see this today with every little blinking red light on a car showing all observers that the vehicle is equipped with an alarm system. Security acts as a deterrent. Defense repels any unjust attempts to seize rightly held property or territory. It also recovers property unjustly taken by a rival claimant. These actions come about by ineffective security and mediation measures.
Because conflict is inherently costly and interrupts the potential for improved levels of well-being that come about through commerce, discourse, and social intercourse, defensive measures are the least preferred course of justice actions. The greater payoff comes about by focusing on security as a deterrent to rival claimants, or offering greater inducements toward successful mediation. The key task of mediation is in discovering the facts about ownership claims on the disputed property or territory.
The assertion that violence is necessary in a society is inherently false. However, the means, appearance, readiness, and willingness to act violently are essential toward providing security and defending property interests. Indeed, such a posture could be the most efficient way of avoiding conflict. The question remaining is, how to best empower and motivate property owners toward asserting justice?