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The Jury System is a cornerstone of justice and liberty. However, they are also controversial. On the one hand, there are those who see the jury system as an integral part of a free and impartial justice system. On the other hand, there are those who doubt the jury’s ability to deliver fair and honest verdicts.
Let’s start with the obvious fact that juries are far from perfect. They are imperfect because the people who make them up are imperfect. Ignorance is one major problem. Opponents of the jury system argue, with some justification, that it is too dangerous to place the fate of another human being in the hands of people incapable of understanding the complexities of the cases they are judging. Often those tasked with deciding the outcome of cases lack the technical or legal knowledge to adequately interpret the evidence and testimony being presented to them. It has been suggested that in these cases individual jurors will often resort to pre-conceived beliefs or allow themselves to be influenced by jurors with more knowledge – whether real or perceived – than they have.
Ignorance, however, is an easily solved problem. Why not select jury members based on their familiarity with the subject matters under discussion? Someone who works in the finance industry – bankers, financial advisors, accountants, and so forth – would be more equipped to judge financial-based crimes than the layperson.
Then there’s the question of who can sit on a jury. In the United Kingdom an individual needs to be aged between eighteen and seventy, have been a resident of the UK for at least five years since the age of thirteen, and must be mentally stable to serve on a jury. It would more than reasonable to suggest that qualifications for jury duty ought to be more stringent than they are. It is more than reasonable to suggest that the age limit ought to be raised from eighteen to perhaps twenty-five (if not older) and that jurors under the age of forty ought to have certain intellectual qualifications. This would ensure that those tasked with determining guilt or innocence would have the wisdom and/or intelligence to comprehend the grave nature of the responsibility they have been burdened with.
Those who criticise juries also argue that they are prone to bias and prejudice. In one shocking case, Kasim Davey was jailed for contempt when he boasted: “I wasn’t expecting to be in a jury deciding a paedophile’s fate. I’ve always wanted to fuck up a paedophile and now I’m within the law.” (Seemingly it never occurred to Mr. Davey that the man he was judging may have been innocent). Likewise, it is well known that many African American defendants were condemned by all-white juries in the Jim Crow South.
However, much of this is a red-herring. Professor Cheryl Thomas, the director of the Jury Program at University College of London, spent ten years analysing every jury verdict in England and Wales taking into account the race and gender of both defendants and jurors. Professor Thomas concluded that:
“There’s no evidence of systematic bias, for instance, against members of ethnic minorities, or that men are treated differently than women, that if you live in a particular part of the country or you have a certain background that you’re more likely to be convicted than others.”
Besides, those who criticise the jury system forget that juries reflect the values and principles of their society. If juries repeatedly deliver unjust verdicts it is because there is a sickness in that society. The fact that all-white juries tended to convict African American defendants merely because they were black is a reflection on the virulently racist nature of that society, not of the jury system itself. Today, the legal system is careful to disqualify those jurors who may harbour prejudices that will inhibit their ability to judge the facts impartially. Courts are very quick to disqualify jurors who may know the defendant or alleged victim, those with emotional links to the case (i.e. a victim of rape sitting on the jury of a rape trial), and so forth.
Lord Devlin, the second-youngest man to be appointed to the English High Court in the 20th century, once described the jury system as “the lamp which shows where freedom lives.” The principle behind juries is that the individual ought to be judged by his peers based on community standards, not by the politically elite. Without juries, our legal system would be dominated by judges and lawyers. What lies at the centre of the debate over juries is the question of whether the whole of society or just the elite should be involved in the dispensation of justice.
In 2015, the then-Presidential candidate, Donald Trump (1946 – ) called for a boycott of Starbucks after the famous coffee shop chain failed to include the words “Merry Christmas” on their annual Christmas cups. “Did you read about Starbucks?”, Trump asked a rally in Springfield, Illinois. “No more ‘Merry Christmas’ on Starbucks. Maybe we should boycott Starbucks.”
Two years later, Donald Trump, now President of the United States, doubled down on his pro-Christmas message. Speaking at a Christian Public Policy conference, the President stated:
“We’re getting near that beautiful Christmas season that people don’t talk about anymore. They don’t use the word ‘Christmas’ because it’s not politically correct.”
“You got to department stores and they’ll say, ‘Happy New Year’, or they’ll say other things and it’ll be red, they’ll have it painted. But they don’t say it. Well, guess what? We’re saying ‘Merry Christmas’ again.”
The sentiment that there is a War on Christmas designed to push the religious holiday out of public consciousness carries a great deal of validity. Since 2000, the Becket Institute has listed the biggest Christmas scrooges in American public life, giving the worst offenders an ‘Ebenezer award.’
In 2000, city manager of Eugene, Oregon, Jim Johnson was given the Ebenezer Award after he issued a five-page memo banning Christmas trees from any “public space” in the city.
In 2011, the Ebenezer Award was given to the United States Post Office after they enforced a policy preventing people from singing Christmas carols on Government property. This decision stands in direct contradiction to Benjamin Franklin’s (1706 – 1790) (their founder) commandment to “always live jollily; for a good conscience is a continual Christmas.”
In 2014, the City of Sioux Falls was given the Ebenezer Award after they threatened to repaint and censor snowploughs that featured artwork celebrating the religious nature of Christmas.
In 2015, the Ebenezer Award was given to the Department of Veteran Affairs after they banned their employees at their Salem, Virginia facility from saying ‘Merry Christmas.’
The problem is not unique to the United States, either. During an interview with 2GB Radio, Peter Dutton (1970 – ), Australia’s minister for immigration and border protection, became incensed after a caller informed him that there had not been any Christmas carols in a performance at his grandchild’s school. The caller informed Dutton that the school in question, Kerdon State High School, had replaced the lyric “we wish you a Merry Christmas” with “we wish you a happy holiday.” Dutton replied: “You make my blood boil with these stories. It is political correctness gone mad and I think people have just had enough of it.”
I believe that the drive to remove the more traditional and religious aspects from holidays like Christmas and Easter is indicative of a larger attempt to abolish the influence of Christianity on society and culture.
The problem with this, needless to say, is that it is akin to chopping down a tree and still wishing to enjoy its fruits. It is not possible to enjoy the fruits of Western culture and civilisation when its ideological origins and overarching philosophical-cum-theological structures have been removed. Christianity and Western civilisation are inextricably linked. The poet, T.S. Eliot (1888 – 1965) wrote in Notes Towards the Definition of Culture (1943) that “to our Christian heritage we owe many things besides religious faith. Through it we trace the evolution of our arts, through it we have a conception of Roman Law which has done so much to shape the Western world, through it we have our conception of private and public morality.”
The War on Christmas is an attack on the very fabric of Western Civilisation. Christmas symbolises the central axiom our culture was built on: that the Universe was constructed to have a natural and moral order. The War on Christmas is not merely an attack of Judeo-Christian belief, nor is it merely an attack on Western culture, it is an attack upon truth itself. And the truth cannot prosper while those who believe it are unwilling to defend it.
(This is derived from an old essay I wrote for university)
The size of government is an important yet seldom discussed issue. This is a peculiar phenomenon as the size of government is integral to our freedom. When government power is not limited those with power are able to encroach upon the freedoms of the people. However, when the powers of government are limited people are able to live in peace, freedom, and prosperity.
The Age of Enlightenment (c. 1685 – c. 1815) represents a period in history where the principles of the old world were replaced by new ideals. It was during the Enlightenment that the concepts of modern democracy (democracy originated with the Ancient Greeks, albeit in a rather primitive form), liberty, and inalienable rights began to emerge. One of its key concepts, limited government, came about during the High Enlightenment (c. 1730 – 1780). The English philosopher John Locke (1632 – 1704), perhaps the greatest defender of limited government, believed civil power should be derived from individual autonomy and that the separation of powers was necessary to protect people from tyranny.
Limited government works on the idea that governments should have a little interference in people’s lives as possible. Supporters of small government believe that big government destroys human creativity and innovation because. As the Austro-Hungarian philosopher, Friedrich Hayek (1899 – 1992) stated: “the more the state plans, the more difficult planning becomes for the individual”. Numerous supporters of democracy and liberty had held limited government as an important, and necessary, ideal. The American statesmen, founding father, and President, James Madison (1751 – 1836) sought institutions which would limit the scope of government and give more rights to the individual. Similarly, the Australian Prime Minister, Malcolm Fraser (1930 – 2015) argued that “the power of the state should be limited and contained”.
In no other area is this been clearer than the economy. The economist, Adam Smith (1723 – 1790) argued that regulations on commerce are not only ill-founded but also counter-productive as countries depend on capital accumulation . According to James Madison, guarding persons and property would: “encourage industry by securing the enjoyment of its fruits.” Nations with small governments create their own fortune by allowing the people to participate freely in the marketplace.
Small government makes them master of their own destinies rather than making the government master of them. The people should never forget, as Ronal Reagan put it, “we the people are the driver, the government is the car.” Only small government can continue to survive into the future, only small government can protect the rights of the individual, and only small government celebrates human achievement. This is why small government matters.
- Adam Smith Institute, ‘the Wealth of Nations’: http://www.adamsmith.org/wealth-of-nations. [23/03/2014]
- Australian Greens, ‘the Greens’: http://greens.org.au/. [23/03/2014]
- Australian Greens, ‘the Economy: We Live in a Society, Not an Economy’: http://greens.org.au/economy. [23/03/2014]
- Australian Greens, ‘Standing Up for Small Business’: http://greens.org.au/small-business. [23/03/2014]
- Australian Government, ‘Australian Constitution,: Australian Politics, http://australianpolitics.com/constitution-aus/text [23/03/2014]
- Australian Government, ‘Australia’s System of Government’: Australian Government: Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, https://www.dfat.gov.au/facts/sys_gov.html. [23/03/2014]
- Australian Government, ‘Australian Government Taxation and Spending’: 2011-12 Budget Overview, http://www.budget.gov.au/2011-12/content/overview/html/overview_46.htm. [23/03/2014]
- Moran, ‘Economic Freedom Delivers Results’, Review – Institute of Public Affairs, vol 59, no. 3. 2007.
- Australian Labor Party, ‘Australian Labor Party’: http://www.alp.org.au/. [23/03/2014]
- Australian Labor Party, ‘Labor is for Growth and Opportunity’: Growth and Opportunity, http://www.alp.org.au/growthandopportunity. [23/03/2014]
- Eltham, ‘Size of Government: Big is Not So Bad’: the Drum, http://www.abc.net.au/unleashed/3912918.html. [23/03/2014]
- Bonner, ‘the Golden Rule: He Who Has the Gold Makes the Rules’: Daily Reckoning Australia, http://www.dailyreckoning.com.au/golden-rule/2008/03/05/. [23/03/2014]
- Bowen, ‘Economic Statement August 2013: Joint Media Release with Senator the Hon Penny Wong Minister for Finance and Deregulation’, Australian Government: the Treasury, http://ministers.treasury.gov.au/DisplayDocs.aspx?doc=pressreleases/2013/016.htm&pageID=003&min=cebb&Year=&DocType. [23/03/2014]
- Cracked, ‘Australian Greens’: http://www.cracked.com/funny-6522-australian-greens/. [23/03/2014]
- Boaz, ‘Remembering Ronald Reagan’: Cato Institute, http://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/remembering-ronald-reagan. [23/03/2014]
- M. Cooray, ‘More About Limited Government and the Role of the State’: http://www.ourcivilisation.com/cooray/westdem/chap6.htm. [23/03/2014]
- Western, ‘Big Government is Good for You’: the Guardian, http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/cifamerica/2009/oct/13/obama-healthcare-economy-socialism [23/03/2014]
- W. Younkins, ‘John Locke’s Limited State’: Le Quebecois Libre, http://www.quebecoislibre.org/06/060219-4.htm. [23/03/2014]
- For Dummies, ‘How the Enlightenment Affected Politics and Government’: http://www.dummies.com/how-to/content/how-the-enlightenment-affected-politics-and-govern.html [23/03/2014]
- History, ‘Enlightenment’: http://www.history.com/topics/enlightenment [23/03/2014]
- Indiana University Northwest, ‘Two Enlightenment Philosophes: Montesquieu and Rousseau’: http://www.iun.edu/~hisdcl/h114_2002/enlightenment2.htm. [23/03/2014]
- A. Dorn, ‘the Scope of Government in a Free Society, Cato Journal, vol 32, no.3. 2012. Pp: 1 – 14
- Novak, ‘Small Government Means Better Governance’: the Drum, http://www.abc.net.au/unleashed/4147992.html. [23/03/2014]
- P. Sommerville, ‘Limited Government, Resistance and Locke’: http://faculty.history.wisc.edu/sommerville/283/283%20session10.htm. [23/03/2014]
- Liberal-National Coalition, ‘the Coalition’s Policy to Increase Employment Participation’: http://lpaweb-static.s3.amazonaws.com/13-08-27%20The%20Coalition%E2%80%99s%20Policy%20to%20Increase%20Employment%20Participation%20-%20policy%20document.pdf. [23/03/2014]
- Liberal Party, ‘Our Plan for Real Action’: https://www.liberal.org.au/our-plan. [23/03/2014]
- Liberal-National Coalition, ‘the Coalition’s Policy for Trade’: http://lpaweb-static.s3.amazonaws.com/Coalition%202013%20Election%20Policy%20%E2%80%93%20Trade%20%E2%80%93%20final.pdf. [23/03/2014]
- Lobao and G. Hooks, ‘Public Employment, Welfare Transfers, and Economic Well-Being across Local Populations: Does a Lean and Mean Government Benefit the Masses?’, Social Forces, vol 82, no. 2. 2003. Pp: 519 – 556
- R. Cima and P. S. Cotter, ‘the Coherence of the Concept of Limited Government’, Journal of Policy Analysis and Management¸ vol. 4. 1985. Pp. 266 – 270
- Baird, ‘The State, Work and Family in Australia’, the International Journal of Human Resource Management, vol 22, no. 18, 2011. Pp: 1 – 14
- New Learning, ‘Ronald Reagan on Small Government’: http://newlearningonline.com/new-learning/chapter-4/ronald-reagan-on-small-government. [23/03/2014]
- Parker, ‘Religion and Politics’, Distinktion: Scandinavian Journal of Social Theory, vol 7, no. 1. 2006. Pp: 93 – 115
- Public Interest Institute, ‘A Short History of Economic Theory Classical Economic Theory: From Adam Smith to Jean-Baptiste Say’: http://limitedgovernment.org/ps-12-9-p3.html. [23/03/2014]
- Hollander, ‘John Howard, Economic Liberalism, Social Conservatism, and Australian Federation’, Australian Journal of Politics and History, vol 53, no. 1. 2008. Pp: 85 – 103
- Kelman, ‘Limited Government: an Incoherent Concept’, Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, vol. 3, no. 1. 1983. Pp. 31 – 44
- Pryce, ‘the Thatcher Years – Political Analysis: Putting the Great Back into Britain?’: Margaret Thatcher: 1925 – 2013, http://www2.granthamtoday.co.uk/gj/site/news/thatcher/analysis.htm. [23/03/2014]
- Dunlop, ‘Small Government Can Equal Big Problems’: the Drum, http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-02-28/dunlop-small-government-can-equal-big-problems/5287718. [23/03/2014]
- US Government, ‘Bill of Rights’: the Charters of Freedom “a New World is at Hand”,http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/bill_of_rights_transcript.html. [23/03/2014]
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- Various Authors, ‘Social Issues and Political Psychology’, International Journal of Psychology, vol 47, no. 1. 2012. Pp: 687 – 697
- We the People, ‘Principles, Priorities, and Policies of President Reagan’: Ronald Reagan and Executive Power, http://reagan.civiced.org/lessons/middle-school/principles-priorities-policies-president-reagan. [23/03/2014]
- Voegeli, ‘the Trouble with Limited Government’, Claremont Review of Books¸ vol 7, no. 4. 2007. Pp: 10 – 14.
- W, ‘Size of Government: Brooks and Ryan’s False Choice’: the Economist, http://www.economist.com/blogs/democracyinamerica/2010/09/size_government. [23/03/2014]
This is our weekly theological article.
The Canadian clinical psychologist, philosopher, and academic, Jordan B. Peterson (1962 – ) has released a 12-part lecture series designed to evaluate the psychological and cultural significance of the Bible. As he explains on his website:
“The Bible is a series of books written, edited and assembled over thousands of years. It contains the most influential stories of mankind. Knowledge of those stories is essential to a deep understanding of Western culture, which is in turn vital to proper psychological health (as human beings are cultural animals) and societal stability. These stories are neither history, as we commonly conceive it, nor empirical science. Instead, they are investigations into the structure of Being itself and calls to action within that Being. They have deep psychological significance.”
Be warned, these are long lectures, ranging from two-hours-and-twenty-eight minutes to two-hours-and-forty-minutes. Furthermore, much of the subject matter is very deep and complex. However, it is a lecture series that boasts a wealth of practical wisdom and will greatly enlighten the viewer on the cultural and theological heritage of Western civilisation.
You can find the full lecture series here: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL22J3VaeABQD_IZs7y60I3lUrrFTzkpat