Great book: The Tyranny of Good Intentions

tyranny_good_intentions original hardcover image

“That which thy fathers bequeathed thee, earn it anew if thou woulds’t possess it.”  (old Anglo-Saxon maxim).  The English legal system we who now live in the United States of America inherited, historically reflected “a [very strong] tradition of the defense of individual rights against the state,” (at least since “The Glorious Revolution” in 1688).  You’ll have noticed by now, I am sure, that the far, radical Right has long referred to President Barack Obama as either “the Antichrist,” or “Hitleresque.”  They are in fact on to something, but not the right something.  A quick comparison of the status quo in effect currently, versus the situation in Germany when Hitler was “elected,” is highly illustrative.  In post-WWI Germany, “German law reflected the tradition of a strong state as the embodiment of the community by which individuals would be granted such rights as were considered compatible with its interests.”  (Jeremy Noakes & Geoffrey Pridham, eds., Documents on Nazism, 1919-1945 (New York:  Viking Press, 1975), at p. 226-27.)  Thus, Obama, even if he desired it, could not possibly have the kinds of powers Hitler wielded in the short-lived “Thousand Year Reich.”  Or whatever the hell that freaky, Hitler-moustachioed murderous asshole who ruled Germany for a while called his horrible regime — which regime is an undeserved stain on the beleaguered German people, who have since recovered that fumble neatly, and in fact probably have less economic inequality than those of us in these United States of America.

“The character of this [English-inspired, individual-oriented, American] legal system ensured that it would be revered.  In recent times, however, reverence for our legal system is being replaced by fear, distrust, and dissatisfaction.  For example, inner-city juries routinely refuse to convict criminal defendants on the basis of prosecutorial and police evidence alone.”  Witness O.J. Simpson!

“The twentieth century’s belief in government power as a force for good has encouraged the practice of chasing after devils.  Like a national emergency, a righteous cause can cut a wide swath through the law to more easily apprehend wrongdoers.  In recent decades, both conservatives and liberals cut swaths through the law as they pursued drug dealers, S&L crooks, environmental polluters, Wall Street insider traders, child abusers, and other undesirables.  Impatience, frustration, hysteria, political scapegoating, and greed have caused police, prosecutors, victims, and the plaintiffs’ bar to grow weary of laws that protect those accused of crimes and negligence.  The question is raised, “Why should the guilty have the benefit of law?”  Sir Thomas More’s answer (as presented in A Man for All Seasons) is that when the law is disregarded to better pursue the guilty, it is also taken away from the innocent.  What are we to do, he asks, if those chasing after devils decide to chase after us?  If the law is cast down, what protection do the innocent have?  A little liberty taken here, a precedent there, and the Rights of Englishmen become history, a clear-cut area where once mighty oaks stood.”

The Tyranny of Good Intentions, How Prosecutors and Bureaucrats are Trampling the Constitution in the Name of Justice, Paul Craig Roberts & Lawrence M. Stratton, authors, ISBN 0-7615-2553-X, FORUM press, an imprint of Prima Publishing, 3000 Lava Ridge Court, Roseville, CA  95661 (copyright, 2000).

the spookiest thing, for me, as a person??  this was all written & predicted well before 9/11 or the Patriot Act, or two bizarre wars which we are still sort of in but sort of not, before Obama, before the “Tea Party,” the current crop of mad hatters & dormice… before any of it.  why aren’t we calling these guys to hear what they have to say next??????

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Filed under legal writing, notes

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