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Sweet Old Lady

Ronald Reagan once said “It is time to restore the American precept that each individual is accountable for his actions.”  Personal Responsibility has long been held as a conservative value and rightfully so.  Society wants, and needs, people to be accountable for their actions.

As a kid, I used to absolutely love going to the local five and dime store with my Mom.  Perry’s, a local store in Dayton, Texas, was a huge store and had everything you could imagine.  To a young child, the store was full of wonder and opportunity.  Even though I was very young, my mother would allow me to wander the store by myself while she shopped.  I spent countless hours in the toy aisle, but I also explored every other part of the store just dreaming about what I could do with a new pair of rubber boots or a new pocket knife.  I loved that store and I was always so excited to be there.

But, I was also terrified.  I was terrified of this one sweet old lady.  She was a store employee and a “spy.”   She was an elderly woman in horn rim glasses and she followed me wherever I went.  She tried to hide, but I always knew that she was there.  Her presence was a dark cloud that hung over me as I wandered the store and was constantly reminded that “if you break it, you buy it.”  Even though my mother trusted me, that sweet old lady was always around to hold me accountable if I were to actually break something.

Because I was so scared of her, I never bought a broken item.  I actually never broke anything.  But, I  always knew that I would be held accountable if I were careless and something did break.  Although I had a healthy fear of that sweet old lady, her mere presence served as a deterrent and a constant reminder that I should be careful not to break anything.

Personal responsibility is a good value.  “If you break it, you buy it” is a good rule.  No one should have to bear the financial burden of someone else’s careless or negligent act.

The same principle applies to injuries caused by someone other than you.  Injuries caused by others lead to financial harms and losses.  Sometimes, these financial harms and losses can be overwhelming.  The same rule of “you break it, you buy it” should apply in this situation.  The one who injured, or “broke” you, should be held responsible and accountable to pay for your financial harms and losses.

Conservatives stand firm on the constitution – rightfully so I must add – and most Texans are strong believers in the Constitution.  Just dare to take away their gun and you will see what I mean.  But, while they strongly – and again, rightfully – defend the 2nd Amendment, they allow their own “conservative” politicians to trample all over their constitutional rights to freely access the courts.

The 7th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states “In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed $20, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved.”

Juries exist to hold wrongdoers accountable for their actions.  Juries are the sweet old lady in horn rim glasses who actively serve as a deterrent and a strong reminder to be careful, to act appropriately, to consider the safety of others, to make safe products, and to treat patients with the proper level of care.

Even though she terrifies us at times, the jury system is a necessary and vital tool that our forefathers were right to preserve.  Personal responsibility is a good conservative value.  But, when people fail to accept responsibility for their actions, the jury system is there to hold them accountable.  She’s a sweet old lady.