Courting Justice: I’m Gonna Blow Your Mind

March 4, 2013

By Robert N. Hunn

I’m going to blow your mind. I’m going to make you say “far out.” Well, I’m not going to blow your mind the same way Donald Southerland blew Pinto’s mind in Animal House. What I am going to do is give you a perspective on the civil justice system that you never had before.

To do this I have to go back to my macro-economics class in college and talk about an economic doctrine known as the theory of pure public good. I take no credit for developing this theory as it’s already on Wikipedia as being created in 1954 by Paul A. Samuelson. But, I would have created this theory if Samuelson hadn’t. Swear to God.

Let’s say that you live in a town that has a road that you never ever use. You don’t need this road to go to work, to take the kids to school or to shop. It’s a road that you have no use for. Under these circumstances, you are not going to care whether the government maintains the road, keeping it in good working condition. You are not going to care if that road gets shoveled in the winter. In fact, you may feel that it’s a waste of tax money for the government to invest any funds on this road since it’s of no use to you.

Now, let’s say there is a road in this town that you use all the time. You drive to work on this road, you take your kids to school on this road and your favorite beer store is on this road. Then it is important to you that the government maintains this road, keeping it in great condition. You want this road to be the first one plowed in the winter and the first road in the spring that has its pot holes repaired. This road is important to you.

Our civil just system is a pure public good. If you don’t need it, it’s not going to be important to you. You won’t give it any thought. You may think it’s a waste of tax dollars to maintain a civil courthouse. And you might get really pissed off when you get that notice in the mail that it is your turn to serve on a jury.

But let’s say there comes a time in your life that you’ve been wronged by someone and your only recourse is to sue the wrongdoer. Then you are going to want a civil justice system that works properly; one that is efficient and fair. You will appreciate that tax dollars are used to give you this forum to air your dispute and that your case is resolved in a timely manner because there are enough judges and administrative staff to handle the case load. Most of all, you will be thankful that the average citizen is willing to take time from their busy day and sit as a juror after taking an oath to decide the dispute fairly and without bias or prejudice.

Our civil justice system is a pure public good. It’s also something else. Pure democracy. Try getting that in China.