“I don’t know this law,” said K. “So much the worse for you, then,” said the policeman.
A REPUBLIC BUILT ON THE RULE OF LAW
By E. Justin Smith
Image (above), “The Trial” (1962), starring Anthony Perkins. Photo from hopelies.com.
The argument lies in what role the government has in all our lives. But to take this conversation seriously, we have to define what “government” is. Or what was the selling point of government? The selling point was a government of, by and for the people as I understood it. Whether we believe that regular people have an active role in policy making or not is a discussion for another time. But, that’s the gist of what we were led to believe and that’s what those from the military have sworn to protect.
What we have is in strong contrast to any assemblance of a government by the people. It is a government of, by and for the influential. The influential who finance our representatives’ campaigns. Those who ensure tenure to lifetime politicians who protect their interests and promote their laws. It is for those same conservative, private property owners and business elites that the government is writing ever more laws for! The saddest example of all is the Private Prison Industry. If ALEC isn’t solid enough evidence of how the private sector elites manipulate government for capital gain, I’m not sure what is.
To compartmentalize the government as some free standing institution that’s impervious to outside or special moneyed interests is naive. Our current political mechanism depends on it. The entire political spectrum was uprooted from its foundation and relocated about a hundred miles closer to New Fascism City. The left writes as many laws as the right. Only their laws bring inefficient welfare or entitlement programs to the poor while the conservatives bring preferential treatment and protectionism to the rich. Nobody wins. Accept for those having the most influence on a government that legislates its own laws. The ones who blame big government for all our problems are generally the same individuals who influence and coerce the government into legislating some of the most socially, environmentally and economically disastrous laws to begin with. Back to square one.
About 1.9 million pages of legislation were written during the 112th Congress. According to one source, “January 1st 2010 was a big milestone in this scary look into the future with the introduction of 40,627 new laws that went into effect throughout the nation and its territories.” That would mean about 800 new laws on average, in one year, per state.
“Did you really think we want those laws observed?” said Dr. Ferris. “We want them to be broken. You’d better get it straight that it’s not a bunch of boy scouts you’re up against… We’re after power and we mean it… There’s no way to rule innocent men. The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren’t enough criminals one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws. Who wants a nation of law-abiding citizens? What’s there in that for anyone? But just pass the kind of laws that can neither be observed nor enforced or objectively interpreted – and you create a nation of law-breakers – and then you cash in on guilt. Now that’s the system, Mr. Reardon, that’s the game, and once you understand it, you’ll be much easier to deal with.” – Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged
Ignorance of the Law is No Excuse: There have been attempts to tabulate how many laws we have; including 3,000 criminal offenses, under 50 titles and 23,000 pages of federal law. Starting in 1982 the Department of Justice spent two years compiling how many criminal laws there are on the books and still failed to complete the task. Ask anyone. No one can give you an accurate count of just how many laws we have on the books in the United States at any given time.
Added to the federal statutes against criminal offenses are thousands of more laws pertaining to state and civil statutes. From 1947 to 2014 anywhere between 5,000 to 22,000 bills annually are proposed in Congress. Yes, we are a Nation of Laws, but who does the law protect?
I don’t need protection from gay people who want to get married, shop in my store or adopt children. Nor do I need protection from a terminally ill cancer patient growing marijuana in his basement; responsible gun owners, or that 8 year old girl selling lemonade on her front lawn. And, I don’t need Congress wasting my time and tax dollars passing laws naming airports after Ronald Reagan, libraries after Bill Clinton and streets after Martin Luther King. Ironic isn’t it? We murder great people and then name streets after them.
What we could use protection from are corporations and the business elite. We could use protection from the crony-capitalism that’s destroying our government and our economy. Protection from life-time career politicians who make laws for the benefit of the few. The ten percenters who usually affect the sustainability of the vast majority that really doesn’t care about the petty issues they waste our time and taxes debating about in Congress.
We legislate tax laws specifically designed as temporary vehicles of assistance in times of war or natural disasters. Estate and gift taxes were enacted and repealed on three separate occasions: 1797, 1862 and in 1898. The (temporary) Estate Tax was enacted again in 1916 to subsidize America’s role in WWI and has yet to be repealed. Previous attempts to tax tobacco were met with resistance only to resurface again as a response to the Union’s mounting debt during the Civil War. Excise taxes were levied on tobacco and other non-essential items by 1862. All but tobacco taxes were eventually repealed, making tobacco one of the largest sources of revenue for the Federal Government to date.
Do a search. See how many obsolete laws and Executive Orders are still on the books; how many favor certain factions and business interests. See how many laws have nothing whatsoever to do with crimes against humanity or protection from tyranny and oppression.
LAW ENFORCEMENT: TO PREVENT CRIME OR PRESERVE ORDER?
A couple of points: If we are a nation of laws then we need mechanisms for the enforcement of laws. Hence our Municipal Police Departments and our Departments of Public Safety. Add to that a multitude of other law enforcement agencies; from policing our highways, parks and wildlife, to alcohol, tobacco and firearms. Not to mention the agencies surveilling our web searches, bank accounts and phone calls.
“There is no one in the United States over the age of 18 who cannot be indicted for some federal crime. That is not an exaggeration.” – John Baker, Louisiana State University Law Professor.
When we consider the purpose of policing are we talking about fighting crime or preserving order? There are distinct differences. From the book entitled, In Search of Criminal Responsibility: Ideas, Interests, and Institutions, Nicola Lacey writes, “So all three conceptions of property crime, larceny, embezzlement, are comprehended by the modern law of theft, implying a more comprehensive and flexible protection for property rights in a fully capitalist economy. Hence, the conceptual as well as the material contours of criminalization have tracked the changing interests of a capitalist economy to a remarkable degree.” – Source
Of course the interests of the “commercial society” must be protected. But, the commercial society has narrowed in numbers as a result of private coercion by the special, or capitalist interests. They lobby for and manufacture laws designed to preserve their own monetary interests as they continue to blame government for regulations and laws that interfere with their own freedom of movement.
From Eastern Kentucky University’s Police Studies Online, you can download an eBook entitled The History of Policing in the United States, by Dr. Gary Potter. He also makes references to the nineteenth century or the early origins of policing. Mob violence in retaliation to African and European immigrants, not to mention the growing disputes between business or capitalist interests over labor. In developing urban areas drunk and disorderly behavior or prostitution accounted for a reasonable amount of public scrutiny. Violent crime per se was not on the rise and the war on [insert your propaganda model here] poverty, crime, drugs, terror and Democracy had not yet developed into the special interest behemoths that they are today. The attention given to crime in contrast to the preservation of “social order” may be apparent in this excerpt by Dr. Potter when he writes:
“More than crime, modern police forces in the United States emerged as a response to ‘disorder’. What constitutes social and public order depends largely on who is defining those terms, and in the cities of 19th century America they were defined by the mercantile interests, who through taxes and political influence supported the development of bureaucratic policing institutions. These economic interests had a greater interest in social control than crime control. Private and for profit policing was too disorganized and too crime-specific in form to fulfill these needs. The emerging commercial elites needed a mechanism to insure a stable and orderly work force, a stable and orderly environment for the conduct of business, and the maintenance of what they referred to as the “collective good” (Spitzer and Scull 1977). These mercantile interests also wanted to divest themselves of the cost of protecting their own enterprises, transferring those costs from the private sector to the state.”
The dominant logic seems to favor legality over morality; and the question is no longer about whether it’s right or wrong, or how it will impact society as a whole. The trend has become to ask if it’s legal or not and can we get away with it? And if not, we had better pass a law to make it legal or illegal quick, ’cause we could be makin’ a ton of money on this one!