When the Chinese dissident, Chen Guangcheng, arrived in the United States to study law, the first document he turned to was the Declaration of Independence. As Chen explained, “China is on the march toward rule of law and democracy, and when that time comes, concepts like this will play a vital role.”  Sadly, our own Supreme Court has forgotten these lessons. 

While most of us are familiar with the Declaration’s assertion that “We hold these truths to be self-evident . . .” we are less familiar with the Declaration’s list of “repeated injuries and usurpations” committed by King George that the colonists felt compelled to list as basic grounds for declaring their independence from Great Britain. Key among these was the basic lack of fairness in obtaining justice for everyday grievances.  Chen’s recent op-ed in the Washington Post underscores how fundamental a fair legal system is to human dignity and his study of the Declaration offers a timely reminder of what we have lost at the hands of Corporate America. 

The Declaration minces no words in telling King George that he has established “an absolute Tyranny” over the colonists. As stated in the Declaration:

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury: 

These very grievances found their way into the Constitution of the United States, with the establishment of an independent judicial branch, judges with life time appointments, and the right to Trial by Jury enshrined as the 7th Amendment to the Bill of Rights. For consumers, these rights literally no longer exist. 

Substitute Corporate America for King George and you have arbitration. Corporations, enabled by a highly politicized Supreme Court, have established their own judicial powers. They have selected arbitrators dependent on the will of corporations to pay their fees, and have deprived you, in all cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury. 

As dissidents like Chen Guangcheng look to our own Declaration to understand their inalienable rights, we would be wise to take a look ourselves and recognize that forced arbitration is a new Tyranny that has emerged upon the land. It’s time to declare your rights anew. Make yourself count.