We’re all born free, at least somewhat. Most of the restrictions we must abide by are imposed by the people around us, starting with our guardians. This freedom includes the ability to create and reap consequences of decisions.
People with authority can only grant freedom, but can’t impose it. Freedom is a mentality that someone has the ability to explore their purposes, so it needs both someone’s authority to bestow it and the recipient to use it. However, authorities can impose justice.
Justice is an attempt to create fairness. People can debate endlessly about what’s fair, but we very often know what’s not fair:
- Stealing property someone has absolutely no right to.
- Harming or killing others maliciously without motive.
- Destroying others’ property strictly out of preference.
We tend to believe things we feel are right, even if it’s not particularly fair. Since we’re all human, we all have a sentiment about matters of fairness, and can never think purely rationally on the matter because our feelings always mix into it.
- We need authorities to apply justice because completely unrestrained freedom would let the most powerful people force everyone else to submit. With a powerful authority, other large groups with other types of power will fear what will happen if they break the rules too far.
- We also need third-parties to manage natural conflicts among people who can’t agree among each other. Often, some people are the victims of previous evil and feel justified in abusing someone else in turn.
Authorities’ judgments will never be compassionate, at least not in how they’re delivered. The most well-behaved of humanity is often abused by the worst-behaving, so fair judicial systems deliver equal retribution for their behavior. The only way to make it fairer is to verify exactly what people were thinking as they acted, but it won’t give the victims any closure either way.
All matters of legal justice are issues of morality, with the State being the decider. They are responses to previous moral decisions that people had made, which is why they’re always complicated. Small details like a coffee stain or location of a tool sometimes define everything in a court decision.
Most of the time, the emotional energy of the deciding judges projects their own trauma through the court onto the guilty party. It’s not uncommon for someone who performed a small deviance from society’s standards to be punished as if they’d performed a severe crime. This compounds if the victim comes from a different culture with a differing set of social rules.
For this reason, the logic of legal decisions is an arcane mess of context-sensitive circumstances, and creates a specialized web of people who manipulate logic in absurd ways that defy common sense and exploit political fashions (i.e., lawyers).
Where we get our inherent rights has a huge impact on the moral scope of the authorities:
- If God(s) (theonomos) define rights, we must be subordinate to that authority, in whatever form it comes, and even the State must give certain rights.
- If the State (heteronomos) defines rights, it has full liberty to take them away and we have no right to protest it.
- If the majority defines rights, then we must follow whatever is fashionable.
- If the individual (autonomos) defines rights, there’s no standard for evil unless we designate evil people as a separate sub-human class of citizen, since the “evil” person often feels they have a right to others’ rights.
There are two forms of delivering the implementation of justice:
- The spirit of the standard, by honoring principles. Since values are challenging to maintain without adaptation, a judge must maintain requires philosophical awareness of the rules they’re working with alongside a general obliviousness to present fashions.
- The letter of the standard, by parsing the logic of the rules irrespective of its context or creator’s intent. This can completely invert the original meaning of the text (especially after a few generations), and is often for self-interested purposes or malice.
Historically, judges didn’t often concern themselves with implicit human rights, so the idea is relatively new. Slavery, for example, is still ubiquitous but uses other names.
A huge portion of the contention about rulings comes through how to presume (and therefore rule) in the absence of evidence. If someone is presumed evil until proven innocent then they’re guilty without proof, but if they’re presumed innocent until evil then some criminals will get away with crimes they had committed. Everyone has at least some evil intent, so both of those approaches are technically justifiable.
The intent of an action dictates everything about whether the consequences of a decision are someone’s evil or incompetence. People will usually agree that we must punish evil people and give incompetent people at least some grace, but we have very little to no information to dictate what their real intent was.
One mistake many people make is to confuse helplessness with innocence, especially with children and poor people. Helplessness comes from someone with no power, but innocence comes from someone with no intent.
Society’s definition of “fair” or “equality” is often unclear:
- Equal value means each person is regarded as inherently valuable, but never addresses their needs.
- Equal opportunity means everyone can create results they imagine, but it won’t be equal status at the end.
- Equal status means anyone achieving a purpose to gain power, for any reason, will be thwarted to maintain that status.
- Equal retribution means “eye for an eye”, but doesn’t consider how anyone could feel with the arrangement.
One fascinating reality is that people tend to never have an issue with inequality. However, they despise people who created that inequality through cheating or immorality. Unfortunately, we often can’t know where that power came from, so we must guess at it, which often reflects on our view of the world.
Broadly, most people conflate equality with love. To be equal is to have the same of something as everyone else, but it won’t fix the gaping hole of unfulfilled purpose and loneliness we’re constantly carrying around.
Many times, people can sidestep justice by redefining language. By using a technicality or a specific element of the law to their advantage (especially if they can influence its writing) a wealthy person or an entire organization can ignore severe penalties for non-compliance.
Leftism tends to conflate equality with sameness, among other things.
While “eye for an eye” is the fairest universal standard, we tend to feel like we must take more than that when we’re wronged (i.e., “face for an eye”). At that point, though, we’ve perverted justice away from goodness.
Finding justice in this world can be difficult, and we must be grateful when we do find it. Most young people presume their freedoms as “given”, but anyone with more power can abuse those freedoms with unfair rules.
The more that justice is perverted from what is right, the less people will willingly follow the rules, partly from how the rules are more elaborate, and partly from distrusting the authorities. This makes all life more complicated for everyone.
By using a jury, the judge’s power is decentralized. It filters through the bias of a small group of people instead of one person. It’s theoretically more fair, to the degree that we can trust the common sense of a group of relatively less-educated individuals over an interpreter of the law.