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individual rights are not subject to a public vote or are they?

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Ayn Rand mentioned that individual rights should not be subject to public vote.

A jury can decide whether someone is guilty or not guilty, surely this is a public vote that could result in someone losing their right to liberty, or even their life.

What is the objectivist view on this issue? Would it be morally wrong to do jury 'duty'?

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When Ayn Rand said that individual rights should not be subject to public vote, she meant that rights-violating government policies like welfare programs and socialized medicine should be banned no matter how many people support them.

Criminal trials arise from the need to protect individual rights. A jury deliberating on a verdict is not voting on whether individual rights should be protected, but on what decision best protects those rights. This is the case even if the jurors make a mistake.

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I never said she was only referring to those things. I just used them as examples. Either way, I'm certain she wasn't referring to the process of deciding whether a defendant is legally guilty of a crime. Such decisions are necessary in a free society.

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Rights exist to protect the minority from the majority and the individual is the smalest minority on earth. As such individual rights can never be subject to public vote as that is violating the very premises of them. If they can be taken away a right is not a right it is a liberty. When someone is sentanced their rights are not violated unless it is the death penalty, as all they are doing is paying back what they unrightfuly took.

On the subject of jurys. I can't see how it is that 12 randomly picked men and women who know nothing about law can possibly make such descions. In a case recently a jurer told the court she was threatened by the defnedant. This was a complete lie that she concuted to be able to go home. She got three years. How does this person get to decided whether one man murdered another.

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Rights exist to protect the minority from the majority and the individual is the smalest minority on earth. As such individual rights can never be subject to public vote as that is violating the very premises of them. If they can be taken away a right is not a right it is a liberty. When someone is sentanced their rights are not violated unless it is the death penalty, as all they are doing is paying back what they unrightfuly took.

On the subject of jurys. I can't see how it is that 12 randomly picked men and women who know nothing about law can possibly make such descions. In a case recently a jurer told the court she was threatened by the defnedant. This was a complete lie that she concuted to be able to go home. She got three years. How does this person get to decided whether one man murdered another.

Thanks for your reply Atlas and my line of thinking is in line with your own.

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Ayn Rand mentioned that individual rights should not be subject to public vote.

A jury can decide whether someone is guilty or not guilty, surely this is a public vote that could result in someone losing their right to liberty, or even their life.

What is the objectivist view on this issue? Would it be morally wrong to do jury 'duty'?

How would this be different from a judge deciding whether someone is guilty or not? Wouldn't it be equally wrong that one person (or three or nine in the case of higher courts) gets to decide whether you are put in prison or executed?

If it's the voting that is problematic you should be equally opposed to any type of judicial decision making.

If instead you have a problem with the fact that juries consist of laymen, then how about a panel consisting of technocrats who have years of experience with the subject? Is a decision made by such a body suddenly superior and non-rights violating just because the people involved know better what they are talking about? That seems to be a very subjective criterion...

I would suggest that whether a judicial proceeding is a violation of rights has a lot more to do with whether due process has been observed, and whether the law is objectively applied. There are many places around the world that use judges instead of juries to decide guilt and they aren't any more rights-respecting by default. It is almost entirely irrelevant. Finally, jury verdicts have to be unanimous for them to count, which sets a fairly high threshold. They are NOT majority votes, nor are they really 'public votes' either.

I think I would rather be judged by a jury of my peers.

Edited by Maarten
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How would this be different from a judge deciding whether someone is guilty or not? Wouldn't it be equally wrong that one person (or three or nine in the case of higher courts) gets to decide whether you are put in prison or executed?
Good point. The OP uses the term "vote" for juries, but probably would not apply that term to judges. Juries are not supposed to decide things whimsically, and I think most of them would take their task seriously and attempt to be fair. For all its flaws, the jury system is a good check-and-balance. It ought to be improved rather than be dropped for a system that relies on judges alone.
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Good point. The OP uses the term "vote" for juries, but probably would not apply that term to judges. Juries are not supposed to decide things whimsically, and I think most of them would take their task seriously and attempt to be fair. For all its flaws, the jury system is a good check-and-balance. It ought to be improved rather than be dropped for a system that relies on judges alone.

Agreed. One of the biggest problems with juries is probably that both prosecution and defense tend to weed out people who actually know more about the situation so they have a more favorable jury. I'm not sure how to solve that problem (it probably exists for a reason), but it would probably be helpful if there was less jury composition manipulation going on.

For example, I think one could argue that one important purpose for juries (at least historically) has been jury nullification, but in most situations nowadays the involved parties do their best to get rid of people who have problems with the laws in question that are under discussion. I think it would be a positive development if there were more people on juries that were skeptical of techniques that are commonly used by both prosecution and defense to make a case seem more watertight than it is, and in the case of bad laws I don't see the problem in someone blocking the enforcement of that law as a jury member. That probably is an entirely different topic, though. :)

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@maarten they take out the ones more familiarized with any element of the case because neutrality is seeked among the jurors, not expert witnesses, and obviously to avoid bias and conflicts of interest.

@therights

There is one context in which your original proposition applies. Consider a trial in which the defense committed a victimless offense against the state (like selling whisky during the late 20s). In such a case, or similar, jurors are being used to take the moral responsibility of the state's transgressions by having no choice but to deliberate on whether someone committed or not an offense against X law or regulation, not decide whether X law should exist.

They can't even consider whether it's moral to destroy a human's life for the specifics of law "X", for the sanctity of any arbitrary law symbolizes the sanctity of the whole legal system.

Therefore deciding whether someone sold or merely possessed a can of whiskey in the 1920s is contained within the same system that decides whether a man took another's life - and treated with the same gravity.

Much like Democracy, the fact that there is no seemingly better system doesn't mean that both aren't horrible beyond toleration.

Edited by volco
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  • 2 weeks later...

A jury consisting of so called equal opportunity moochers is no more a guarantee of liberty than a public vote. The jury should be based on property rights. Those who are on the jury must be competent as property holders to know the individual rights as a self evident value based on reason and not a majority imposed mob justice.

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