Walter's post this morning on Quaker litigation rang a bell for me. I grew up in Quakertown, Pennsylvania (seriously), home to a Quaker meeting house that has been holding meetings since 1710.
While law and economics provides a very plausible explanation for the Quakers' use of their own, intra-community, courts, there is a non-economic explanation as well: a literal reading of the New Testament suggests that Christians avoid secular courts in disputes with fellow Christians! As the linked article confirms, the Quakers took a number of theological positions based upon a literal reading of the Bible.
Chapter Six of Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians chides his readers for having utilized secular courts in disputes with each other and claims that it would have been better for them to allow themselves to be wronged than to have availed themselves of the litigation process:
(1)If any of you has a dispute with another, dare he take it before the ungodly for judgment instead of before the saints? (2)Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if you are to judge the world, are you not competent to judge trivial cases? (3)Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more the things of this life! (4) Therefore, if you have disputes about such matters, appoint as judges even men of little account in the church! (5)I say this to shame you. Is it possible that there is nobody among you wise enough to judge a dispute between believers? (6) But instead, one brother goes to law against another�and this in front of unbelievers!
(7) The very fact that you have lawsuits among you means you have been completely defeated already. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated?