Wednesday, March 30, 2011

A wee bit of market research

[Update: C4SS has scheduled an online "roundtable chat" on this topic for April 10th. See you there! - KN@PPSTER]

It seems like every couple of months for years, I see an online notice from some anarchist/voluntaryist/libertarian, to the following effect: "I'm going into the arbitration business. More on that real soon now."

And then ... nothing.

It occurs to me that what brings these aspiring arbitrators up short may not be that they discover or decide they're incompetent to arbitrate cases according to some pre-announced ruleset, but rather that they run up against some daunting "front-end" technical barriers. For example:

How do the would-be arbitrators put their offering in front of potential customers?

How do those customers easily and conveniently complete, sign and register General Submissions for Arbitration, and possibly pay retainers associated with those submissions?

How does the arbitrator accept those submissions and retainers?

How are records kept?

How are disputes between people with GSAs on file with different arbitrators handled, etc.?

I have it in mind that the solution to this is an online "arbitration commons," and I'm interested in your opinion as to whether or not that's true, and if so whether or not the following is a useful (and complete) description of such a commons:


An arbitration commons is an online environment in which arbitrators and customers publicly interact in the following ways:

1) Arbitrators can post, and prospective customers can view, "packages" of arbitration services (or offers to create custom "packages") available for sale.

2) Prospective customers can publicly post Submissions To Arbitration (most commonly General Submissions to Arbitration, but specialized/customized forms may be available).

3) Desirable optional additions to (2) would include the ability to digitally sign Arbitration Submissions within the commons itself, and to tender payment of retainers and/or arbitration fees associated with said submissions through integrated gateways.

4) Arbitrators can publicly accept posted Arbitration Submissions.

5) Desirable optional additions to (3) would include the ability to digitally sign Arbitration Submissions within the commons itself, and to accept/publicly verify payments from customers through integrated gateways.

6) Additional optional elements of an arbitration commons might include venue services (teleconferencing, etc.); public postings of arbitration opinions/verdicts and notices of verdict non-compliance; manual or automatic public disclosure of inter-arbitrator agreements and the shunt/appeal trees derived from those agreements, etc.


An arbitration commons could conceivably be operated as a "non-profit" at the expense of some number of arbitrators or other interested parties for the purpose of advancing arbitration as a revolutionary alternative to the existing state civil justice system.

Alternatively, a single proprietor or partnership could operate the commons and charge fees to users -- most likely a periodic "merchant account" subscription payment from participating arbitrators and/or some kind of rake-off of retainer payments.


1) If you are an aspiring arbitrator, would the existence of an arbitration commons as described above make you more inclined to throw in and get your arbitration business going?

2) If you're a potential customer for arbitration services, would the existence of an arbitration commons as described above make you more inclined to submit a GSA with an arbitrator (presumably with some kind of reasonable periodic retainer, plus reasonable fees for actual case handling) and actually make use of the services in preference to state systems?

3) As an aspiring arbitrator and/or potential customer, are there particular individuals or organizations whose names, if associated with an arbitration commons (as participant, proprietor, whatever) would make you more or less likely to participate or cause you to trust the mechanism more or less?

4) Am I leaving out any necessary elements in my description of an online arbitration commons?

Note: This is "front end" stuff. Yes, I understand that enforcement of arbitration decisions at the "back end" is also an important element; my working theory at the moment is that, at least on the scale represented by the current freedom movement, negative social preferencing ("shunning") of those who enter into arbitration then refuse to abide by the results can be an effective enforcement strategy.

Talk at me.

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