"Mistrust those in whom the urge to punish is strong." Friedrich Nietzche

"Any and all non-violent, non-coercive, non-larcenous, consensual adult behavior that does not physically harm other people or their property or directly and immediately endangers same, that does not disturb the peace or create a public nuisance, and that is done in private, especially on private property, is the inalienable right of all adults. In a truly free and liberty-loving society, ruled by a secular government, no laws should be passed to prohibit such behavior. Any laws now existing that are contrary to the above definition of inalienable rights are violations of the rights of adults and should be made null and void." D. M. Mitchell (from The Myth of Inalienable Rights, at: http://dowehaverights.blogspot.com/)

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

What is Justice?

Do you know what justice is? According to my trusty dictionary, justice is "the maintenance or administration of what is just according to law." I believe that most people, when they think of justice, think of that definition.

Unfortunately, the law, quite often, is not just. Let me say that another way: Legality does not equal justice.

Once upon a time, in this nation, it was legal to own slaves. The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 allowed slaves owners or their agents to enter free states to capture runaway slaves and take them back to slavery. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld that law. It was legal, but it was not just.

Women were not allowed to vote until the passage of the 19th Amendment in 1920. (There were some exceptions in a few Western states, Wyoming being principle among them.) Before 1920 women had no direct representation in Congress. If they worked and were taxed, then they were being taxed without representation, among other issues. That, too, was not just, but it was legal.

According to Lysander Spooner, a 19th Century writer-philosopher, in his essay "Vices are not Crimes," it was legal in Massachusetts for a 10-year-old girl to consent to have sex. At the same time it was illegal for any person to buy and drink distilled spirits. All legal, of course, passed by the Massachusetts legislature.

In early England, and in the American colonies at first, a person could be punished for not going to church. It was required by law to attend church on Sundays.

Also in England in those days, a women who was pregnant or had a child but had never been married, that is, had no legally recognized husband, was considered to be a abomination to society and an affront to God. Those women could be thrown in jail, along with their bastard child. All legal, but was it justice?

These are but a few examples of how the law does not equal justice. But I have a different definition of justice, one that is based on logic--not on the emotional basis of religion or personal moral beliefs.

My definition of justice is as follows: Justice is when you get what you deserve, nothing more, nothing less. Right is when justice is done; wrong is when it is not. (From my political pamphlet "The Myth of Inalienable Rights.")

In the matter of slavery: If we believe in the concept of inalienable rights--that is, that each person owns, and owns completely, the property of himself or herself--then to enslave a person is not just. It is the gross violation of his or her right to freedom and personal liberty. Besides which, slave owners are slave owners only because of the use of force--legally or illegally--over the slaves. And no slave owner wishes to be a slave.

In the matter of womens' suffrage: One of the calls to revolution for this nation was the slogan "No taxation without representation." By not allowing women to vote, but by still making them subject to the law, their rights were violated and they did not have what they deserved--a right to help determine what laws would be passed that affected them to a lesser or greater extent daily.

In the matter of being able to knowingly and willingly consent to sex at age 10: Does a 10-year-old child deserve to have sexual relationships? Would such a girl have the social skill, the knowledge, experience, or ability to decide whether or not to have sex? From everything that I understand about human mental development, I think not! A 10-year-old girl, or boy, would be extremely unlikely to voluntarily initiated sex, especially with an adult.

In fact, many who are 18 years old aren't fully equipped for that decision either. However, we have to have an age limit for when a person is fully responsible for his or her actions when it comes to things sexual, so the age of 18 is acceptable. After all, the average teenager has been driving for a couple of years by that time, and that is a much more dangerous proposition.

As to whether any adult is mentally competent to decide to buy and drink alcoholic beverages brings me to the biggest injustice of our times: The so-called war on drugs.

The notion that drinking alcoholic beverages or using any other recreational drug is immoral (and therefore should be illegal) is a religious concept and has no place in a modern secular society based on logic and inalienable rights.

If adults (and I am only talking about adults here) actually do own the property of their minds and bodies, and if those adults do not violate the rights of others in the use of that property, and if said use includes using one or more of the presently illegal drugs, then the use of drugs is what that person deserves because that is what he or she wants. They also deserve any consequences, positive or negative, incurred by their drug use behavior.

It is not a matter of whether you, or anyone else, thinks that drug use is dangerous and harmful to the people using those drugs. That is their inalienable right. Drinking alcohol, smoking tobacco, downhill skiing, race car driving, sky-diving, scuba-diving, and mountain-climbing are all arguably dangerous and possibly harmful to those who enjoy those behaviors.

It would be an injustice to arrest, convict, incarcerate, and forfeit a person's property for their drug use. The mere use of a drug does not cause a person to commit crimes. That is, the mere use of a drug does not cause the user to violate the rights of others . . .except, of course, for the drug alcohol.

According to U.S. Department of Justice statistics, approximately one-half of all violent crimes are committed by people who have been drinking alcohol. The vast majority of all crimes associated with the presently illegal drugs are caused, not by their mere use, but by the laws making them illegal.

Also, the U.S. has 5% of the world's population, but it has 25% of the world's imprisoned population. Is that because we have a better justice system than any other nation in the world, or is it because we have a bigger injustice system?

There was a time in this country when the presently illegal drugs were legally available and there was no criminal justice problem associated with their use. The religious people got Congress to pass laws making those drugs illegal because those religious people believed that their use was immoral. That is using the government to enforce specific religious ideas. That's not only unconstitutional, it's a great injustice.

You and I deserve the benefits of our actions, of what we can do and of what we can get by the use of our bodies and minds, just so long as we do so without violating the rights of others. And, if our actions harm us, then we deserve that too. That is justice. When the law does not protect our rights, as is the case in the so-called war on drugs, and, if it punishes honest, non-violent drug users, then that is injustice.

Remember, law does not always equal justice. And, if we do not fight for our rights and true justice, then the government will slowly but surely become a granter of privileges and not a protector of rights. That is, our civil servants will become our civil masters.

For a full discussion on this issue go to "The Myth of Inalienable Rights."

No comments: