There is law and there is justice; the legal minded believe (public) law may work justice more effectively than private actions, whether blood feud, clan war, weregeld or other forms of private vengeance such as the secret Vehm courts. Public law experts argue that monopolizing lawful violence reduces violence and works justice more effectively. Thus acts of private vengeance, viewed in pre-modernity as the essence of retributive justice become, in modernity: crimes!
However, there is of course the opposite view; it is a view held by various mafia, many criminals, but also by clans, tribes, in short proto-states from the pre-scientific era. The idea that public law is better than private vengeance is definitively one aspect of modernity, the industrial era. So are cabinet wars, limited as opposed to total wars, and for similar reasons: the reduction of violence, through the use of violence, by a monopolist of violence – the state. Here the Marxist experiment at attaining the self-destruction of state power is instructive.
As to those who believe that private vengeance is better and more fair than public law, who am I to disagree? I am not the state. I am well aware of the failures of state power to attain justice. Then again, the statists argue in extremis, that the primary goal of state power is to impose the monopolization of violence, not to work substantive justice.
So there are sensible reasons for which one might take the side, e.g. of a given mafia, a group of so-called criminals, for it is only the state’s laws which make them criminals, no?
That is not my own view. I believe the better view is that substantive justice is better attained by public (criminal) law rather than private vengeance. Then again, in the face of the failure of state power, as was the case in Sicily some 200 years ago one can well understand why private persons might make private justice a private affair. The problem is, then they are, knowingly or not, contenders for state power. And like I point out: the state claims the monopoly of lawful violence.
Yet, substantive justice is an ideal; it can never be attained. Life is inherently unfair. Is it fair that people die? No. But we cling to the hope of justice, the promise of fairness in our dealings with other people precisely because sickness and death, natural disasters are so arbitrary and unfair. Yet we believe, perhaps are naive, that by regulating our affairs as to voluntary transactions we can best cope with a bad situation. For there is a fundamental difference between the death at the hands of a robber or rapist as opposed to a natural or even accidental death through the forces of nature, which until recently were ever more powerful even than the state.