Several years ago in Chicago, I was called for jury duty. In the course of questioning potential jurors, the judge asked if anyone had any objections to finding the defendant guilty if the evidence showed him to be in violation of the law. Of all the potential jurors present, I was the only one who raised his hand. The judge then asked me to explain. I answered, “I would not find the defendant guilty if I believed the law to be unjust.” The judge responded: “Who are you to say whether the law is just or not.” I told the judge that I had used the word “believe.” That terminated his questioning of me, and he turned to the attorneys for any objections. They had none. By the way, I never got to be a juror because they picked their quota before reaching me.
I bring this up, because at the time I had no idea whether others had similar thoughts about juries and the law as I had. But in fact this stance is called “jury nullification.”
This reminds me of how a would-be assassin, Vera Zasulich, in 1878 in Russia, was acquitted by a sympathetic jury, despite the fact that she was guilty.
I regard the use of the word “bullshit” as a ubiquitous term of rejection or condemnation. And I regard the most important type of rejection, the rejection of the trivial and irrelevant — that which is not important or valuable. I know that what is valuable or important is relative to what one is trying to achieve. But to achieve anything, one has to be alive — and hopefully, healthy. In other words, the necessary condition of doing anything is being alive. So, even if you are willing to sacrifice your life for some cause such as the well being of your loved ones or your country, you must be alive. So, as I see it, sustaining your life (for whatever cause), is most important, at least as a precondition for anything else. And to talk of what is necessary for life is to talk about human needs (as contrasted with desires).
What everyone needs is air, water, food, shelter and anything which will maintain necessary body temperatures (e.g., clothes, fire, air conditioning). We who live in cities, in houses, condominiums, or apartments know that necessities are bought with money, and so we invariably will think of the necessity of a job to get an income. But is it true that a job is necessary? And if you lose your job or can’t find one, you picture yourself in the plight of the homeless. You imagine getting some kind of welfare, soup kitchen, begging, scrounging through garbage, and sleeping in some tunnel or make-shift shelter.
But for millennia, people have lived off the land — either as hunter/gatherers or as farmers and herders. And many still do. So, the alternative to working for a wage is to live off the land. And to do so one must have free access to land on which to hunt, fish, gather, farm or herd. Does anyone have such free, legal access to land?
The Supreme Court case which gave the right to patent life forms: Diamond v. Chakrabarty. The Supreme Court case was argued on March 17, 1980 and decided on June 16, 1980. The patent was granted by the USPTO on Mar 31, 1981.[
Capitalism is normally associated with a market economy, as if that’s all that it is. But markets and trade are very old practices which existed in primitive communities, in slave, and in feudal societies. So what differentiates the capitalist market economy from these others? It is the existence of people who do not own land, and are neither slaves, nor serfs, nor vagabonds who are compelled to work, as was the case in Europe after the Black Death, and a practice carried over to the American colonies.
People who are neither slaves nor serfs are euphemistically called “free laborers.” And if these “free laborers” are not working and are homeless, they are modern vagabonds.
Today, the punishment is less severe than being branded or executed – it is a fine and/or incarceration.
I experienced the working of such a law in Dade County, Miami, Florida, in the 70ies. I had traveled to Miami University in my VW camper, and parked legally on a street by the University, and went to sleep in my camper. Well, in the middle of the night I was awakened with rapping on my windows. When I came out I was confronted by a bunch of policemen telling me that it was illegal to sleep in a vehicle in Dade County. I questioned this by offering the scenarios that I could be very tired from driving or even somewhat inebriated and couldn’t drive. The answer was: “We have your license plate recorded and if you do this again, you will be arrested.” I took off to Key West where I parked on a beach and slept in my camper.
In lieu of deprivation to subsistence land, the community which does this should offer some kind of compensation. Milton Friedman suggested a negative income tax to cover at least food and shelter.
What we in the United States do have is a food stamp program, but not a universal shelter program.
I suggest that there be at least free camping rights around the country – what is called “freedom to roam” (as exists in the European Nordic countries). If this existed then Bertrand Russell’s proposal [in Proposed Roads to Freedom: Socialism, Anarchism and Syndicalism, 1919] that each person be allotted a vagabond’s wage would be approximated.