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Debunking Magna Carta Leads Back to Serfdom
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In my column for the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta, I wrote: “A number of legal scholars have made the irrelevant point that the Magna Carta protected rights of the Church, nobles, and free men who were not enserfed, a small percentage of the population in the early 13th century. We hear the same about the US Constitution–it was something the rich did for themselves. I have no sympathy for debunking human achievements that, in the end, gave ordinary people liberty.”

My celebration of this document was reposted today on a number of websites including as far away as Hong Kong. But the New York Times and a dolt of a law professor at the University of Chicago named Tom Ginsburg chose to debunk the Magna Carta on its 800th anniversary. “Stop Revering Magna Carta,” Ginsburg tells us.

Ginsburg alleges that the Magna Carta “wasn’t effective. In fact, it was a failure.” The law professor maintains that Magna Carta’s fame rests on myths, not on reality.

What absolute nonsense. In this age of American Caesars, we need to celebrate the Magna Carta, not debunk it.

The Magna Carta is the most important document in Anglo-American history. The Magna Carta launched a long struggle culminating in the Glorious Revolution in the 17th century. The struggle established that law flows from the people to whom it is accountable and not from an unaccountable monarch ruling by Divine Right. The Magna Carta gave Americans the Constitution and Bill of Rights. These are massive human achievements. The rule of law is a shield of the people. Rule by decrees is a weapon in the hand of tyranny.

Ginsburg debunks Magna Carta as the product “of an intra-elite struggle, in which the nobles were chiefly concerned with their own privileges.” At one time it was expected that a professor of law understood that law unfolds to the limit of its logic. For example, the asset freeze provision in the 1970 Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) was directed at organized crime. However, the law quickly spread beyond this intent and even jumped over the boundaries of the criminal code into civil divorce suits.

The 13th century English barons might not have been concerned with the rights of serfs, but their insistence that the king was accountable to law grew, like the mighty oak from an acorn, into a political system in which government is accountable to law that flows from elected representatives of the people.

It is this human achievement that is being lost, perhaps because law professors are more inclined to debunk human achievements than to celebrate them.

If you wish to understand how the rule of law was accomplished and how it is being lost, read The Tyranny of Good Intentions.

(Republished from by permission of author or representative)
• Category: History, Ideology • Tags: Constitutional Theory, Magna Charta 
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  1. Kat Grey says:

    It’s “cool” these days for scholars to deprecate anything that comes from England, apart from the Beedles (although I must point out that all the barons and King John himself were ethnically French !!)

  2. tom says:

    Exactly Paul

    We can use the original obvious hypocracy of the second-class elitists, to then use the exact same language to make sure general human rights apply to ourselves – the people.

    No matter if it originated from us, or it came from hypocritical self-serving elitists, we’re always hopefully building on what we created ourselves, or have taken advantage of others work.

  3. “professor at the University of Chicago named Tom Ginsburg chose to debunk the Magna Carta on its 800th anniversary. “Stop Revering Magna Carta,” Ginsburg tells us. ”

    one could speculate that Mr Ginsburg doesn’t revere it because it specifically forgave debts by widows and orphans to Jews – …

    but rather, I think this is just another step in the ‘long march’ to completely dismantle and discredit western civilization.

    • Replies: @Wizard of Oz
  4. @oh its just me

    You are right Mr Roberts even if Magna Carta depended mostly on myth much of it stoked by the eloquence of Sir Edward Coke in the reign of James l. It was purportedly revoked by the Pope then published by William Marshall when Henry lll was a child. Even the 1297 version was stripped back and nearly all of it repealed. But the insistence on the pre-existing understanding that, anointed of God or not, the king was bound by rules became through rhetoric and repetition and perhaps a few famous cases (I’m speculating, but habeas corpus would surely be a fruitful source of headline grabbing cases). Then its very antiquity would have added potency as rule of law ideas gradually accumulated strength throughout the 17th and 18th centuries. Think Bannockburn, Kosovo, Hastings.

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