In this hypothetical society, intentional Homicide (murder) is not a crime but society can develop normally and people carry out normal lives. I believe this could be possible because I read that apart from serial killers murder is rarely committed twice by the same person and nobody kills for fun or because they have a right to kill unless they have a mental illness.

Everybody has some moral and ethical quality (even the worst criminals) so I believe that even if we did not have any law saying that killing for whatever reason is illegal the average person would choose to not kill because most people have self-control and can manage their anger and impulses and most people naturally think it is unethical to kill without any penal code saying that murder is a crime and you could spend many years in a prison cell isolated from society if you did it. Even animals only kill for food or to protect their territory or to protect their offspring.

I wonder if homicide rates would be much higher than now or if life could be the same as today since there are many countries with high murder rates but they also have severe punishment and lifelong prison sentences for people who kill. The justice system would have fewer trials but the drawback is that if murder was legit people could think it is "normal" and " okay" to kill which could lead to future negative consequences.

Thousands of years ago before authorities created the first laws people used to murder each other since it always existed and murder still exists even with DNA recognition technology, cameras, life imprisonment and in more extreme cases death penalty. So I think murder is more about personal and emotional issues rather than the fear of the criminal system which might not appear to be a significant deterrent. But society worked before homicide became a legal crime.

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    $\begingroup$ This is certainly an interesting worldbuilding topic, but I think your question will be seen as lacking focus. Basically, any question that asks "how would society be different if X" falls under this category. Please, please please edit your question to provide focus before it receives a load of wildly different opinion based answers! $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Nov 13 '21 at 0:26
  • $\begingroup$ Note we are not a discussion forum to explore ideas. Someone posts a specific problem or issue with a scenario they are developing for some Worldbuilding purpose and peope try and provide answers to that specific problem. $\endgroup$
    – StephenG
    Nov 13 '21 at 3:13
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    $\begingroup$ Murder is not a crime from the state's perspective, or from people's moral perspective? $\endgroup$
    – Alexander
    Nov 13 '21 at 7:50
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    $\begingroup$ If the state won't punish murderers then the friends and relatives of the victim will. Which means that the state no longer has a monopoly on violence. Which means that it is not real state. The society will disintegrate into small domains where a strongman can enforce the peace. Now that I think of it, this has already happened once. The result is called the Middle Ages and the feudal society... $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Nov 13 '21 at 15:32
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    $\begingroup$ @AlexP I read this comment after giving an answer, but it is pretty much what I said. Spot on. $\endgroup$
    – DWKraus
    Nov 13 '21 at 15:56

The Law Would Compensate:

You could have a system where homicide was technically legal, sure. But I seriously doubt that it would work that way in practice.

For example, in such a system, the lives of people would likely be monetized. So a person doesn't own their own life, but instead their life is the property of their (spouse/parents/clan/liege). If you kill your spouse, and your spouse is your property, you likely paid for them to their family when you got married, and you're out the value you paid (I wish there weren't societies that worked this way in history, but there were).

But if you kill a member of another family, you are depriving them of a valuable resource, and compensation must be made. This was common practice in many parts of the world, designed to prevent a murder from devolving into a full-scale clan war. Courts or go-betweens would settle the price (likely the life of the murderer, but money often substituted).

A noble might be able to go around killing anyone they wanted (not unlike much of history) as long as they killed their own people (who they might technically own) or were wealthy enough (which is not unlike buying justice, except you pay the family instead of bribing a judge).

Monetizing human life will have a lot of subtle and I think corrosive effects on the rule of law and human rights. After all, there are no human rights (not even a right to be alive), except the right to property, which supersedes all others.

Remember, though, that people have families. If you kill Bill, then Bill's kin will be gunning for you. If not you, then everyone you love. If you kill one person (and some people agree that was fine) but then Bill's family kills your cousin (who didn't do anything), you've set up a vendetta.

So such a system involves a lot of cycles of violence where murder goes around and around until someone steps in and breaks the cycle (traditionally a court). I would advise studying the Oresteia, a Greek play cycle centering around the backstory to the Trojan war.

Agamemnon kills his daughter to appease the goddess Artemis, and his wife Clytemnestra kills Agamemnon in revenge. She also kills his new mistress Cassandra (who saw it coming but no one believed her). Later, Clytemnestra and Agamemnon's son Orestes kills his mother in revenge (with the help of his sister Electra, who loved her father best) for his father, and the Furies (the punishers of the gods) stalk Orestes to punish him. The whole thing is settled in the courts (embodied by Athena).

It's a Greek metaphor for why these things should be settled in the courts, instead of being "settled in the streets."

  • $\begingroup$ Upvoted. (At least in one the best known versions of the myth, Iphigenia survived being killed by Agamemnon -- see Iphigenia in Tauris -- and was eventually reconciled with Orestes.) $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Nov 13 '21 at 17:02
  • $\begingroup$ @AlexP Yes, but that was totally a deus ex machina, and no one knew she wasn't really dead. In one of the versions, Orestes has a kid with his half sister. Go figure. The Greeks (and especially the house Atreides) got a little weird with this stuff... $\endgroup$
    – DWKraus
    Nov 13 '21 at 17:20

There would be vastly higher rates of homicide, as shown by the way that cultures with it a crime but with inferior ability to catch criminals have much higher rates of homicide.

Now, nothing would prevent anyone from murdering the killer, even if it was self defense. So you would still have most being crimes of passion. Others would be carried out to conceal the killing or the killer. Without police forces bringing forensics to bear, concealing either one would be easier. Families and friends might investigate so the poor and unconnected would be more vulnerable.


I’m going to go out on a limb and say homicide rates would actually fall, at least over the long term.

If there’s no law against you killing my parents, siblings, children or friends, then there is also no law against me killing you (or your parents, siblings, children or friends) in return. And unless you’re an idiot, you will realize that and not give me a reason to do it.

Sure, there will inevitably be short-term blood feuds started by idiots, but their bad genes will be quickly removed from the gene pool to the eventual benefit of society.

You point out that many people have moral objections to killing, but for most, those objections will fall away when confronted with actual rather than theoretical violence. Rare true pacifists would either make themselves valuable friends of non-pacifists or go extinct.

Another long-term effect would be much stronger familial or tribal bonds, because your family and friends are the social armor that keeps outsiders from killing you. This would likely be far more effective than today’s flimsy armor of police and courts, which in practice seem more likely to protect perpetrators from their victims than the reverse.

This stronger tribalism would have profound effects on society as a whole, to the point we may never see nation-states develop. And this is indeed what we see in many failed states, e.g. Somalia and Afghanistan.

  • $\begingroup$ There are a lot of idiots out there. $\endgroup$
    – Mary
    Nov 13 '21 at 19:45
  • $\begingroup$ Actually, the rates would go up for a while. Look at Juarez Mexico. For a while, it had a horrendous homicide rate. The rate is down now and the rumored reason is that one gang has gotten control. In short, there is an authority saying "don't kill if you haven't been told to kill". $\endgroup$
    – David R
    Nov 15 '21 at 15:22

Look up the studies on the Yanomami who live with high rates of homicide. I heard of one study where it estimated that they live with a homicide rate similar to that on the front lines of WWII. And much of that is done within the tribe.

Also look up how things were in north Texas after the Civil war. There were quite a number of killings between those who had supported the Confederacy and those who had supported the Union. That bloodshed still has emotional impacts on the rural society of north Texas.

I have heard that we have not changed the homicide rate much by being civilized. All we did was to change it from being done by individuals to being done by the group. To check that, simply look at not just the homicide rate within the society but also at the rate at the edge of society. We kill a lot of people on the edge with wars, judicial actions, and other actions.

Edit: I recommend the CARTA series from the University of California where they explore the roots of human violence. This series is short presentations by the primary researchers in any specific area.



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