An Offer to Be Refused?

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April 9, 2007

Two recent articles on Strike The Root--by Angelo Mike and Retta Fontana highlighted the outrage by which almost anyone can have his or her life put on hold so as to serve the government in one of its courts, as a juror. The arrogant presumption by which its "justice" system sets out to direct the life of individuals whom it is (by minarchist theory) supposed itself to be serving is inexcusable; no argument. It is all a clear case of involuntary servitude, so exposing the utter hypocrisy of a system that pretends to uphold the Thirteenth Amendment.

However, there's another aspect to this subject: What about the morality of avoiding an opportunity to help someone being even more heavily victimized by government?

Happily, a basis for ethics which is rational instead of irrational or religious provides a way for any of us to choose; it is, to decide each for himself which path brings the largest net enhancement to his own wellbeing. To take part in a jury would clearly impose a cost, that of uncompensated lost time--and the degree of that loss will vary with circumstance. Against that should be balanced first the advantage of not risking jail for contempt when refusing the jury draft, and then the sense of pleasure that may be enjoyed by accepting it and helping that fellow-victim, with any enhanced reputation that may also result.

Roughly half of the government's 2.2 million prisoners are inside for breaking one of its victimless "crime" laws (about drugs, guns, taxes...) and a few of the other half (those convicted of doing actual harm to someone) are eventually shown to be innocent--wrongly convicted, by prosecutors who didn't care for anything except an enhanced resume' and by juries who didn't adequately "question authority." So well over a million of our neighbors are suffering acutely without a shred of true justification. The odds are therefore quite high that a well-educated juror will work on a case in which an innocent person would otherwise be convicted.

Here are a few examples:

Marcy Brooks found herself in 2000 a juror in the trial of one Whitey Harrell, as portrayed in the movie " America : from Freedom to Fascism" which I reviewed here. She influenced her fellow-jurors to ask the simple question "What law makes the defendant file tax returns?" and when the judge declined to identify one, they acquitted Mr. Harrell of failure to file. The experience has opened to her a new world of understanding and approbation.

Harold Fish sits in prison as I write, convicted of murder because he shot a stranger in self-defense whom he reasonably believed was threatening his life. The jury had nobody on board who understood the absolute rights to carry a gun and defend oneself; all were unmodified products of government propaganda and so presumed that the defendant was guilty--why else would the government have accused him? If just one had sat on that jury who had a healthy understanding of those principles, such an outcome would not have been possible.

Edward Bushell was snatched from a London sidewalk and forced to join a jury in the case of Rex v Penn. The defendant had violated His Majesty's law against preaching anywhere but inside a State-sanctioned church, and that fact was not in question. However, Bushell showed his fellow-jurors that this law was itself unjust and should be "nullified," and Penn acquitted. The King's Judge didn't like that; several times, he ordered the jurors to return to their room and find Penn guilty! There was no food, no toilet and no bedding, but the jury stood firm for several days, and eventually prevailed. Penn was liberated, and after traveling West, gave his name to Pennsylvania .

That brave, good friend of freedom Irwin Schiff is in a government cage today because his 2005 jury was so blind as not to see the totally obvious fact that the judge was actively and repeatedly preventing him using the only (and fully adequate) defense he had: evidence that no law exists to tax earnings--gory details here. Had even one had his eyes that much open, Schiff's acquittal (or a mistrial) would have dealt a fatal blow to the continued collection of the income tax, and by now April 15th would be a date holding no special menace for any of us. So while jury "service" may seem to carry the stigma of altruism, it can also work out very much to one's own advantage.

Those illustrate some of the significant good that may come of accepting the government's sinister "invitation" to donate time on a jury. Before completing the cost/benefit analysis and responding, though, there is yet one more factor: Suppose it works out well and one lands on a case of someone accused of (say) possessing a pleasure-generating substance which the government has not blessed with its approval. By quietly declining to vote for conviction, the honest juror can cause a mistrial at least and so set the victim free. Now, that means that the government's "justice" system is shown not to be as horrible as it would have been if one had torn up the invitation; the net result of accepting it is that the putrid existing system smells better and so may last longer. That is clearly an additional cost or negative, to weigh in the ethical balance.

I've no answer for that except to suggest working rationally and systematically to abolish government. When that's done, there will of course be no court monopoly, and so no draft--to a jury any more than to the military. Instead, several court systems will compete, on the basis of reputation for fairness and efficiency. Then, for the same reason there will be no laws--which is to say, all cases will concern the breakage of a contract, and no contract exists unless made by two or more parties (laws are signed, of course, by only one). Third, there will be no punishment, merely restitution--for that is the whole nature of what true "justice" comprises; righting a wrong, compensating a victim at the expense of the aggressor. Fourth, there will be juries only if the disputants agreed to submit disputes to one, and proper expenses will be paid to jurors who will otherwise decline to take part. Check the Justice page on this website for more; the contrast between that and today's grotesque substitute for justice could hardly be greater. May it come soon! And may it not be delayed by any improvement to the status quo brought about by this article.

Meanwhile, unless there were a particular reason not to, I believe I would leap at the chance to be a juror--so if you choose to decline your invitation, please tell the government I'd be happy to take your place.

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Jim Davies's picture
Columns on STR: 243

Jim Davies is a retired businessman in New Hampshire who led the development of an on-line school of liberty in 2006, and who wrote A Vision of Liberty" , "Transition to Liberty" and, in 2010, "Denial of Liberty" and "To FREEDOM from Fascism, America!" He started The Zero Government Blog in the same year.
In 2012 Jim launched http://TinyURL.com/QuitGov , to help lead government workers to an honest life.
In 2013 he wrote his fifth book, a concise and rational introduction to the Christian religion called "Which Church (if any)?"