Capital Commentary is a weekly current-affairs publication of the Center for Public Justice. Published since 1996, it is written to encourage the pursuit of justice. Commentaries do not necessarily represent an official position of the Center for Public Justice but are intended to help advance discussion.
Magna Carta at 800
by David Koyzis

Article Summary:

This year marks the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta, a seminal document in our constitutional history. Magna Carta was largely conceived as a list of concessions that a group of barons sought to extract from their reluctant king. Nevertheless, it began a centuries-long process, first laid out in Deuteronomy 17, that would progressively realize the principle that the king must rule under the laws of the land and that his subjects possess immunities which he cannot violate.

What Magna Carta and its successors could not do, however, was to stem the tide of an individualism that identifies justice not with a divinely established norm for political life, but with satisfying the potentially shifting wills of citizens. Further, it makes it more difficult for governments to recognize that justice calls for protecting the rights of communities as well as of individuals. Nevertheless, the Great Charter is more than just another antiquated document, but continues to have relevance to constitutional governance in the twenty-first century.

What are some of the most significant parts of this ancient document? How has it affected the evolution of constitutional liberties over time? How can we continue to build upon this foundation a just public order that respects and protects a diversity of offices and responsible agents, both individual and communal?