Anarcho-Tyranny Comes to the Vatican

Imagine you live in some hypothetical state in the segregated, Jim Crow South, circa 1930. Your state has laws against lots of minor offenses such as littering, loitering, and causing a public disturbance — but the penalties for such crimes are harsh and disproportionate: terms of two to five years in a hard-nosed, brutal state prison. Those draconian laws aren’t always enforced; if they were actually applied against the general population, citizen outcry would force their quick repeal.

Rather, the laws are only enforced when the person accused belongs to an unpopular minority: a black man, an immigrant, a Jew, or someone who loudly opposes some political boss. In those cases, justice is swift and certain. Most people, who belong to the majority group and don’t irk the local Democratic party, go through life unaffected by these laws. The police know very well which “criminals” to target.

Imagine further that in such a state you’ve been chosen for a jury. The black defendant standing before the court is undeniably guilty. He has not only littered but loitered, has done so flagrantly and in front of dozens of upstanding, white witnesses. When confronted about those crimes, he has gone even further and caused a public disturbance. The prosecution has proven its case, and now you and your fellow jurors are set to deliberate on the verdict. If convicted, this blatant troublemaker faces five to ten years in the penitentiary.

Should you vote guilty? Should you “follow the law” and “uphold the system,” even though you know it’s fundamentally unjust?

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