The balance between individual and societal liberty

I have jury duty today.  I am being forced, by the state, to use up an entire day so that other citizens may enjoy one of our constitutional rights, the right to a trial by a jury of their peers.  This obligation is a clear curtailing of my personal liberty, as I have been threatened by the rule of law if I leave.  In return, society enjoys greater liberty as a whole.  We have deemed this trade-off to be a fair one.

I had a long and ongoing twitter discussion (below) with @akpoff about the difference between jury duty and a military draft, from the perspective of government infringement on personal liberties for the sake of the greater societal liberty.  In general, I’m ridiculously opposed to the draft, and to war in general, but it seems foolish to state that there is no situation in which a draft (or war) is not necessary.

One of the points I made below is that one of the roles of civil disobedience is to help find that balance between individual and societal liberty.  It’s not our only tool as citizens (sometimes revolution is required), but if you believe that the government should not have the right to draft you, require you to pay taxes, or require you to serve in a jury, you have the right to refuse and face the legal consequences instead. And as always, you have the right to leave this country in favor of one whose choices regarding liberty are more palatable to you.

Am I way off here? I’m happy to revise my position if someone can make a solid case for doing so, based on a rational analysis of the situation.

  • ryanwaggoner – I have to report for jury duty today. Lame!
  • akpoff – Jury duty is a key component of our justice system. I wouldn’t call it lame.
  • ryanwaggoner – haha…I appreciate the civics lesson. I accept your premise but reject your conclusion. the draft was important too, but still lame
  • akpoff – I’d rather you reject the premise. 🙂 Seriously, would you want to be tried by no more than an appointed, unaccountable judge?
  • akpoff – The draft is lame. Who gave the gov the right to take a citizen against their will? Liberty always will be valued voluntarily.
  • ryanwaggoner – you can’t have it both ways. if liberty is worth defending with people against their will, it applies to both jury duty and draft.
  • ryanwaggoner – my point is that both the draft and jury duty are lame for the individual, due to inconvenience (or death), but good for society
  • akpoff – I find jury duty no more an inconvenience than voting. In fact I look forward to both. Participatory government is a blessing.
  • akpoff – The draft, however, is the tool of kings and lords over serfs. Free men and women shouldn’t need to be encouraged to fight.
  • akpoff – Then unjust, undeclared wars to effect “regime change” in another country is wasn’t the framers had in mind for free citizens.
  • ryanwaggoner – voting is optional, jury duty is compulsory. and the morality of a particular conflict is irrelevent to the morality of the draft
  • akpoff – Wow! You’ve floored me there. Do you believe citizens belong to the state? Can the state decide how best any life is lived?
  • ryanwaggoner – not at all, but what’s the logical difference between the draft, jury duty, taxes, and any other compulsory service to the state?
  • ryanwaggoner – what is the standard? that it’s fine for the state to control your life so long as it’s not TOO inconvenient? who chooses the line?
  • ryanwaggoner – as I see it, the role of civil disobedience is to find the balance in terms of curtailing personal liberty for the good of society
  • akpoff – Military service is almost full surrender of one’s rights to the state (UCMJ), up to and including death. Jury duty less so.
  • akpoff – “Government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state, an intolerable one.” -Thomas Paine
  • akpoff – “That government is best which governs least.” – Thomas Paine
  • akpoff – Government should infringe on individual liberty as little as possible. Death at war is too inconvenient, unless volunteered.
  • ryanwaggoner – completely agree with everything you’ve said. i served in navy and am libertarian. but who decides what minimal infringement means?
  • ryanwaggoner – I am not convinced that a military draft is never necessary. strikes me as too black and white to fit in a reality of shades of gray
  • akpoff – In America, ideally free citizens who understand our Constitution, respect the rights of others and elect the same.
  • akpoff – BTW – Army and classical liberal. 😉