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Libertarian Justice

category north america / mexico | crime prison and punishment | other libertarian press author Donnerstag November 30, 2006 08:31author by Eugene Plawiuk - Le Revue Gauche Report this post to the editors

Our New Law and Order Government proposes to have police appoint judges, calls for mandatory sentencing, three strike laws, and the whole raft of authoritarian solutions to 'crime' . What they have missed doing is to actually reform the real failure in our so called 'justice' system. That failure is the lack of a genuine jury system.

Like most judicial systems Canada's has little to do with real justice because it is all about state sanctioned law. It lacks the very basis of libertarian justice; the jury system.

Rarely are court cases in Canada heard by a jury. The prosecution can opt for a Judge in many cases of minor to serious crimes. And even in cases of very serious crimes, assualt, murder, etc. a jury is optional. It is NOT a given. It is an option. And thus it's power and relevance remains diminished in Canada, even more so than in the United States.

Yet for real justice to be done, the jury system is key to a libertarian approach to law. Ironic that those who laughingly call themselves libertarians like the Harpocrites quickly abandon any such pretext once they achieve state power. Then like Tories of old England they return to their reactionary artistocratic roots; law and order, God, Queen and Country.

They of course are really speaking of liberaltarianism, that species of false or vulgar libertarianism that is commonly called fiscal conservativism, neo-conservativism or neo-liberalism. When it comes to justice and morality they are not classical liberals nor libertarians but Burkean Reactionaries at best and fundamentalist Christians at worse. They fear anarchy and embrace law, order and good government.

The very beginings of Anarchism lay in the liberal utilitarian belief in self government and self reliance.It is about poltical justice. And as the author of that treatise William Godwin asserted it is about contractual relations between people. No contract is valid if it is not voluntary and freely entered into. This is the basis of anarchism and American libertarianism.

"Punishment inevitably excites in the sufferer, and ought to excite, a sense of injustice. Let its purpose be, to convince me of the truth of a position which I at present believe to be false. It is not, abstractedly considered, of the nature of an argument, and therefore it cannot begin with producing conviction. Punishment is a comparatively specious name; but is in reality nothing more than force put upon one being by another who happens to be stronger. But strength apparently does not constitute justice. The case of punishment, in the view in which we now consider it, is the case of you and me differing in opinion, and your telling me that you must be right, since you have a more brawny arm, or have applied your mind more to the acquiring skill in your weapons than I have." OF THE RIGHT OF PRIVATE JUDGMENT

An excellent essay on Libertarianism and the Jury system; The Jury: Defender Or Oppressor outlines the ideals of American libertarians Lysander Spooner and Benjamin Tucker. See the excerpt below.

Key to Spooners idea of justice was the fact that no Constitution or law could be accepted except by the people, because it is the people who make the laws. And Spooner viewed the real Jury system as not one appointed by the State but made up by the people themselves.

Our constitutions purport to be established by 'the people,' and, in theory, 'all the people' consent to such government as the constitutions authorize. But this consent of 'the people' exists only in theory. It has no existence in fact. Government is in reality established by the few; and these few assume the consent of all the rest, without any such consent being actually given.

Interestingly this was similar to the position of the great Canadian liberal Papineau in his critique of the Act of Confederation. In light of todays controversy over what is the Canadian Nation State one should remember that the people of Canada never had any say in either Confederation or the repatriation of the Constitution. Just as we have no say in the courts.

In fact on those occasions when the people attempted to have a say in their own government, the Rebellion of 1837 and again with the Riel Rebellion, the Canadian Law and Order State of the day ruthlessly put down the rebellions. And in the case of Riel he was tried and found guilty by a Judge. A jury of his peers would have declared him a free man.

The Jury: Defender Or Oppressor

"Why shouldn't every law be subject to review by the citizens? When authority springs from the people, why shouldn't it also return to them through a system of of citizen enforcement of the laws? Why shouldn't citizens have a practical, direct, effective way of defending their freedoms and property and that of their neighbors from any undue invasion of the state?

# Juries by no means are a prerequisite to a libertarian judicial system, but they are practical and they can work. They've proven that. They have the added advantage of a wide-spread popularity among a broad base of people. It's only a matter of degree to take people from understanding better the concepts behind the jury's right to determine law and fact, to help them to understand other elements of libertarian philosophy. the jury can help bridge the enormous abyss between the current statist society and a future libertarian society. One of the advantages a properly organized jury offers, no matter when or where it exists is that it has its own built-in safeguards which protect it from the kinds of pressure and decay that have affected all government judicial systems. These internal mechanisms which make juries immune from this rot include: jury does not establish precedent because every case is different and must rest on its own merits A jury's powers are limited
# The requirement that all verdicts be unanimous protects minorities from the abuse of majorities
# A jury does not need to be subservient to the legal community or to other minions of the state
# A jury has no vested power interests to protect
# A jury views justice from a layman's perspective"

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