• Editorial: Crime and Punishment: Justice in Equestria



    Ah Equestria, a perfect Utopian society full of magic, fun, and reform. Ever wonder why everypony seems so quick to forgive? The whole society seems to unquestionably agree with the overwhelming level of reform.

    So why it is understood that a pony who vandalizes, kidnaps, or creates general mayhem can be arrested, but treason, assault, and world domination can get a pass?

    In other words, what is Justice in Equestria?

    As villains continue to be reformed and we press even further into the season, I think all of us have given pause to wonder why so many baddies are reformed. It feels like, short of murder, a pony can get away with almost anything so long as they ‘reformed’ afterward.

    But maybe asking "Why so many reformations?" is the wrong question and we should focus more on whether or not Equestria has a justice system that requires reform.

    Before diving into ponies, let’s all agree that, for the sake of this editorial, Justice is a process toward Fairness. That is to say, ponies seek justice to restore what is fair to those who have been wronged but also to all of society. Let us also agree that Crime is established by laws. If there doesn’t exist a law against an action, then that action is not a crime even if it’s bad.

    We’ve all had the police called on us for disturbing the peace, right? Right!?
    For any society to run, they have to establish rules and punishments for their citizens to follow. Same in Equestria. When a pony steps out of the acceptable bounds, it’s possible they’ll be confronted by law enforcement. In order to have police, laws have to be established for them to uphold.

    Now we don’t spend much time in Equestrian prisons or trials outside of the mane 6 deliberating Starlight's fate back in The Cutie Re-Mark, but I want to theorize Equestria’s reforms are a direct result of the justice they've developed due to history.

    Let’s start with Equestria’s interesting government.


    Originally Equestria was the combination of three different tribes coming together to form one nation. We had a monarchy (where one leader makes the laws), a democracy/republic (where elections help determine rules and leadership), and a militant government (where members of the military run things).

    Imagine how crazy things were that first year!


    Add to the fact that all the groups must work together to get the sun/moon, plants/earth and weather to all work in harmony. Any disharmony would wreak their new nation, but that didn't mean residual feelings didn't linger into the forming of the cities and towns.

    I think it’s safe to say most cities in Equestria were made up of predominately one pony type and each group implemented rules more in alignment with their favored form of government.

    The Princess seems able to delegate land to traveling groups, but that's about it.
    I say this because most towns are simply set up that way. Pegasus ponies gravitated to other pegasi, unicorns to unicorns, and earth ponies to apples. . . I mean, other earth ponies. So they set up local government, traditions, holidays and rules to fit their needs.


    There are always exceptions, but mayors, council members, detectives, etc... remain in the nation because of the lingering influences of those original tribes. They make local rules to keep things fair.

    Equestria's greatest supervisor right here!
    This is why the pegasi living in Ponyville are still obligated to do their weather duty with a Wonderbolt supervising them doing it. Ponies still conduct themselves in a way that plays to their pasts.

    A whole town isolated from society and never subject to taxes, safety checks, or school regulations. 
    It would also explain how Starlight could run a town without suspicion or how the Hooffields and McColts didn’t know there was a fourth princess. They're not required by any law to engage with any government.

    Each town has their own legal bearings to decided how to handle minor laws and crimes so long as the safety of all of Equestria isn’t at stake.

    Amethyst Star looks too happy about punishment time.
    Ponyville doesn’t seem to have a jail anywhere, but it was understood that Snips and Snails, who brought a dangerous creature to the town, needed punishment. Interestingly, Ponyville felt Twilight should have the honor of deciding what that would be. Princess Celestia wasn't needed so long as the mayor was okay with the given punishment.

    I wonder if Trouble Shoes put those marks on the wall or was it the pony before him.
    So how is anything fair if every town dished out justice by differing standards?! And what about the princesses!? Good questions! Thing is, they don't. They all share an idea that governs justice throughout the whole country even though the customize how justice is given.

    Okay, here’s the theory:

    If this threat didn't condition ponies toward harmony, the heating bills certainly did.
    Ponies literally live in a world where harboring bitterness of any kind could potentially result in the destruction of their nation. Therefore Forgiveness and -big shock here- Harmony set the standard for pony Justice. During the time of the 3 tribes, no one tribe was ever held accountable for the situation that created the Windigos in the first place. It was all just forgiven to allow everypony a chance to move forward.

    To be a hero in this magical land you must have good morals or at least hang out with the right friend group.
    Equestria's first greatest heroes embodied six arguably ethical principles that they worked into their form of justice as well. Citizens would have watched this group as they banish any creature that didn’t subscribe to the ideals of harmony.

    It became common knowledge that if a creature had the potential for change, they must be offered reform, otherwise, banishment was the only other option. They couldn't even be sent to jail as bitterness might build and thus bring back the Windigos.


    And all this was solidified by a 1,000-year rule of peace under Princess Celestia who vanished the Crystal Empire filled with enslavement, petrified a selfish draconequus, and banished a jealous sister.
    With the Elements of Harmony and Princess Celestia, ponies could always trust that any major threat to their safety would be subdued without them having to be directly involved. So long as Celestia was able to forgive, no disharmony would build (This might be why the pillar's spell banished them with the Pony of Shadows since they couldn't forgive Stygian). Courts weren't needed to know these big bads were deserving of banishment.

    We need only imagine a changeling can change to exonerate Thorax of his involvement in attacking the Crystal Empire.
    Ponies started building a nation around the concept of fostering relationships and growth.

    Interestingly, anytime a pony acts out but learns a lesson from the experience, they are forgiven the offense. Equestrian law (though never stated in the show) would seem to protect the rights of self-discovery to extensive lengths.


    Honestly, all the characters have done something that in our world would merit some charges (or at least a Baker Act here in Florida). But that never happens because everypony around them knows they are still learning to be the best version of themselves they can be.

    Punishing a pony who has learned the lesson already will only stand to increase discontent and bitterness in the offender.

    Whether you like it or not, Equestria's default ‘punishment’ is to welcome the offender back into society equipped with the new knowledge they’ve gained from their unfavorable behavior. To ponies, the only just action is to reform remorseful villains and forgive anypony willing to learn from their past. It's Fair because it spares Equestria from facing the Windigos again.

    Twilight could see Starlight wanted friendship, so the whole fighting thing stopped and reform was offered. 
    This point could only be more elaborated on if there were intricate examples with a princess of a relationship based concept that sought out and mended damaged friendships, but those are posts for another time (Hint hint, wink wink).

    What do you think? Are ponies conditioned to forgive, forced to do so by Windigos, a bit of both? Or do you think something else? Let’s talk Pony Justice!



    For archival purposes, you can find the IntenseDebate comments for this post (if any) archived over here