la Roca de la Ley
According to David Friedman, “Medieval Icelandic institutions have several peculiar and interesting characteristics; they might almost have been invented by a mad economist to test the lengths to which market systems could supplant government in its most fundamental functions.” While not directly labeling it anarcho-capitalist, he argues that the Icelandic Commonwealth between 930 and 1262 had “some features” of an anarcho-capitalist society – while there was a single legal system, enforcement of law was entirely private and highly capitalist; and so provides some evidence of how such a society would function. “Even where the Icelandic legal system recognized an essentially “public” offense, it dealt with it by giving some individual (in some cases chosen by lot from those affected) the right to pursue the case and collect the resulting fine, thus fitting it into an essentially private system.”
Þingvellir was the center of Icelandic culture. Every year during the Commonwealth period, people would flock to Þingvellir from all over the country, sometimes numbering in the thousands. They set up dwellings with walls of turf and rock and temporary roofing and stayed in them for the two weeks of the assembly. Although the duties of the assembly were the real reason for going there, ordinary people gathered at Þingvellir for a wide variety of reasons. Merchants, sword-sharpeners, and tanners would sell their goods and services, entertainers performed, and ale-makers brewed drinks for the assembly guests. News was told from distant parts; games and feasts were held. Young people met to make their plans, no less than leading national figures and experts in law. Itinerant farmhands looked for work and vagrants begged. Þingvellir was a meeting place for everyone in Iceland, laying the foundation for the language and literature that have been a prominent part of people’s lives right up to the present day.
A lawspeaker (Swedish: lagman, Old Swedish: laghmaþer or laghman, Danish: lagmand, Norwegian: lagmann, Icelandic: lög(sögu)maður, Faroese: løgmaður) is a unique Scandinavian legal office. It has its basis in a common Germanic oral tradition, where wise men were asked to recite the law, but it was only in Scandinavia that the function evolved into an office. Two of the most famous lawspeakers are Snorri Sturluson and Þorgnýr the Lawspeaker.