Law and Ponies

OK… I’m not quite sure why this came up other than the previous question on the biology of ponies, but the question was about Equestria’s Legal System.

Oh yeah. Player characters in a civilized area. Legal problems are pretty much inevitable.

Well, It’s not like I’m a leading expert on My Little Pony, but I am an incurable answerer of questions and I possess the power of Google, so why not? Lets see what we’ve got to work with here…

We’re officers of the Royal Guard. We take our orders from royalty. With Princess Luna and Princess Celestia gone, and Princess Cadance overseeing the Crystal Empire now, that means we take our orders from you.

-Unicorn guard in Princess Twilight Sparkle Part 1.

Oh yes. That’s why not. The Royal Guard seems to be all that Equestria has in the way of an army, police force, national guard, or secret service – and they’re basically only seen in Canterlot, the Crystal Empire, and accompanying the Princesses or running their errands. There may be some local militias, but there’s no real evidence of that – and even if they exist, they seem unlikely to be more than a bunch of farmers and other local Earth Ponies who poke pointy sticks at monsters to give the Unicorns or Pegasi time to hit them with magic, lightning, tornadoes, or whatever.

In fact, going by the show… there really isn’t much of any evidence that Equestria actually has a criminal legal system other than being judged by the princesses (and usually being let off with a scolding. Princess Celestia really does seem to think of “My Little Ponies” as a bunch of kids in her care).

So there’s no real evidence for much of anything in the way of a criminal justice system. How about social services and contract law? That’s another big chunk of most legal systems.

As far as Social Services go… ponies don’t seem to need clothing even in winter (Winter Wrap-Up) and, while they may prefer fruits, vegetables, and baked goods, there’s apparently nothing to stop them from eating grass and leaves. There’s no shortage of water and they don’t actually seem to need very much in the way of shelter. It looks like Equestria doesn’t need much in the way of a social safety net. With Love and Harmony as principles of nature family law doesn’t seem too important either. Fire department? When any passing Pegasus Pony can shove a wisp of cloud into place and stomp out more water than anything but a water main could deliver otherwise? When unicorns can levitate down trapped people and most buildings are small anyway? Orphans? It’s an affluent (after all, a small town of creatures who do not normally wear clothes is supporting a boutique) female-heavy, society that’s quite indulgent of children, values extended families (Apple Family Reunion) and is based on love, friendship, and harmony. No… it sounds more like Orphans would have a hard time avoiding getting taken in.

Dressed? Uh, beg pardon Rarity, but, uh… we don’t normally wear clothes.

-Applejack, The Best Night Ever.

If Equestria doesn’t need social services, how about contract law? Well, The Super Speedy Cider Squeezy 6000 shows us that major business deals are conducted via verbal contracts and that ponies adhere to the spirit of the agreement, rather than to it’s exact wording.

That pretty much kills contract law. Ponies evidently run their society on the honor system.

That doesn’t leave a lot.

Evidently a land of full of peaceful, noncombative, highly cooperative, herd creatures with few serious physical needs and a tendency to share things freely, set in a universe where friendship, love, and harmony are actual forces of nature, has very little call for a legal system. Even when they’re dealing with nomadic buffalo, simple verbal agreements meet their needs.

What’s turned up on the show? Maybe there’s something we can find there in the way of law enforcement besides the (rather useless) royal guard and Alicorn decrees.

  • The hospital has a “security guard” – but that guards primary job seems to be chasing runaway mental patients.
  • Appleloosa has a Sheriff, who is apparently armed with pies and being disapproving. If there’s actually any serious crime out there I don’t think that pies and disapproval is going to stop it.
  • Police ponies appear in Pinkie Pride, in the police lineup of Cheese Sandwich semi-clones shot and next to Pinkie when she’s watching the show on a television – but that song-sequence also involves Cheese Sandwich jumping into paintings and disassembling his own body, backup groups and spotlights from nowhere, ponies wandering around on a giant pizza, the world turning upside down, giant party bombs, a lake of punch, many sudden shifts of setting, and Cheese Sandwich making a rainbow with his accordion – among many other bits never seen before or since. I think that the entire sequence – like much of the rest of that episode – can be safely chalked up to Pinkie and Cheese being Pinkie and Cheese and “party magic” (which looks to be about equal to Discords, but only works for moments).

Now on the “Law Enforcement? What Law Enforcement” side… Where were the hypothetical police when Trixie was banishing Twilight from Ponyville? Why did Twilight forgiving Trixie let her off the hook for imprisoning all of Ponyville as her personal kingdom? Did Twilight get arrested or sued for mass mind control and causing a massive riot by enchanting her doll? Did Twilight have to turn over her spending money for the next century to pay for destroying the town by fiddling with the parasprites? How much property damage have the Cutie Mark Crusaders done with no repercussions? Did the Diamond Dogs face kidnapping charges or – if they’re an independent nation – some sort of reprisals? Did Spike get persecuted for stealing that green dragons treasure? Did Zecora sue over not being served? Why are the Cutie Mark Crusaders and Spike still in the custody of ponies who let small children do absurdly reckless things? Why didn’t the buffalo go to court over people stealing their land? Why wasn’t Sugar Cube Corner sued out of existence over the “Baked Bads”? For that matter… the various animals are shown to have significant intelligences in many episodes; how do the chickens feel about ponies using their unborn offspring as baking ingredients?

The penalty for attempting to destroy the world seems to be one or another variant on being locked up until you escape and/or can be reformed. The penalty for almost ANY other offense seems to be a scolding and feeling guilty – so why are Fluttershy and Twilight so upset at the notion that she might have offended Celestia by trying to help her apparently-sick bird? Wouldn’t the courts and her civil rights protect her from any excessive retribution? Sure, neither Fluttershy nor Twilight are especially sensible in such matters – but it’s almost like they think that Celestia can just do whatever she wants to do when someone offends her.

When you have a nigh-immortal ruler who can literally destroy the world at will, who has vast magical powers (at least compared to almost everyone else), who is often considered a goddess, and who has many centuries of experience… is it really at all likely that the government is anything but an absolute monarchy? It may be a very benign one (Friendship, Love, and Harmony again), but is there any evidence that Princess Celestia is not being utterly literal when she says “My Little Ponies” and lets them “bow” to her?

At the proverbial bottom line… this is a setting where the inhabitants, and even the animals, are so harmonious, cooperative, and naturally coordinated that they spontaneously break out into song-and-dance performances, sometimes involving dozens of ponies and even more animals. They don’t have to practice, they don’t need a director, choreographer, or songwriter, and their environment supplies background music. If Equestria has any criminals at all they’re probably somewhat less threatening then The Pirates of Penzance.

Equestria doesn’t NEED a legal system. If the player characters get out of line you’ll just have to tell them that one princess or another has scolded them and that they’re going to suffer great big penalties for their low morale until they start behaving themselves again and make amends.