Liberty, equality, and justice FOR ALL: liberty to do what we want without inflicting harm, and justice to correct injustice. We need continuous improvement of the justice and social systems, remembering that the people involved on all sides are people like us.
Often, liberty and justice hang on opposite sides of a balance. In these cases, one person's choices negatively impact another person and justice then has a claim. Justice is meant to punish wrongdoing and ensure that any person pays for the costs of their own choices. Neither liberty nor justice should be allowed to rob the other. Our justice system needs improvement, and our social systems need improvement to lessen the burden on the justice system. Expecting the justice system to reduce its own burden is like expecting a bomb squad to defuse a bomb that has already exploded. Every crime committed is both the offender's poor choice and the system's failure to prevent the crime. If we want to reduce crime, we need to address the root causes of crime. The root causes of crime are located in social systems rather than the justice system.
"All are created equal." By law, all have equal claim to both liberty and justice. In practice, we need to improve at respecting every individual's rights and claims to justice.
"All are endowed with certain inalienable rights." I don't agree with what many people say and do, but I respect that their claims to liberty are as valid as mine. If there is a liberty I claim, it is my patriotic duty to respect others' claims to that same liberty.
So much needless conflict and chaos could be avoided with empathy. We can imagine ourselves in others' positions to understand their perspective. If we claim with surety that we would believe and act superior to others if we were in their shoes, we get dangerously close to believing we are superior. We cannot believe we are superior to any other while simultaneously believing that all are created equal.
This nation was built on self-governance, the idea that government derives its powers from the consent of the governed. In the end, it is our fault for any of society's failures and we deserve credit for any of society's successes. We should all respect and defend others' claims to both liberty and justice.
To reduce crime, we should be addressing the root causes of crime. We should have empathy for those who commit crimes instead of believing that we are morally or otherwise superior. If I had been born into the body and situation of someone currently incarcerated, there's a decent chance I would have acted in a similar way. There are flaws in the system that encourage crime, and there are aspects of human nature that encourage crime. Since we cannot change human nature, we should adjust the social systems to better address the reasons people commit crimes. Imagine, for a moment, that you have just committed a crime. Now come up with a story or a mental image about what it was that drove you to commit the crime. These mental images are precisely the things we need to address to reduce crime. Here's a freebie: poverty (relative and absolute) causes increased incidence of crime.
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