21 July 2011

Book Review

The Tyranny of Good Intentions by Paul Craig Roberts and Lawrence M. Stratton

The Tyranny of Good Intentions is an incredibly sobering read that details just how fascist the current “justice” system has become in America.  In order to show how far America has fallen, the authors first detail “the rights of Englishmen,” a concept upon which the bulk of the American legal system is predicated.  The authors explore Blackstone’s legal philosophy in some depth, which, in my opinion, is a mark of excellence.  Blackstone is an oft-neglected jurist even though his commentaries were one of the most popular books in America in the late eighteenth century, and his philosophy undoubtedly leached over into the American system.

After showing what was, the authors next show what is.  Rule of law has been replaced by rule of convenience and trial by jury has been replaced by plea bargains.  The penal code does not exist to ensure justice, but to give prosecutors leverage in targeting people for prosecution.  Prosecutors don’t even have to target actual criminals.  Thanks to the vagaries of some statutes, prosecutors are pretty much able to get a guilty verdict on anything [Note:  Three Felonies a Day does a very thorough job of showing how this is the case].

Additionally, prosecutors love plea bargains because they can easily use them to get easy convictions on lesser charges.  Criminal litigation is very expensive and time-consuming (whatever happened to the 6th amendment?), and so prosecutors are able to essentially blackmail targets into pleading out.  The common threat used by prosecutors is to overstate their case against the defendant and then promise to go easier on the defendant if he pleas to a lesser charge.  Most people accept the bargain because they view conviction as inevitable, and so they pick the lesser sentence.  Prosecutors also offer leniency in exchange for testimony, which has the effect of causing those who have been charged with lesser crimes to commit perjury favoring the prosecution because it makes their sentences lighter.

With these distortions in place, it should be obvious that the legal system that exists today is not concerned with justice but rather with conviction.  The current system has little resemblance to its origins, and the bloodlust of the public has led to a leviathan that favors an unduly harsh stance against the accused (as opposed to an unduly harsh stance against the guilty). It has reached the point where an accusation of criminality is almost as bad as a conviction.  Consequently, the view has gone from “innocent until proven guilty” to “presumed guilty unless proven otherwise.”  This is not healthy for any society, and is a sign of fascism to come.

In all, this book is a necessary albeit depressing read.  The book is chock-full of relevant law and cases, and presents a clear history of legal decline.  Furthermore, this book is predicated on a clear-eyed and consistent philosophy of natural rights, which makes its analysis spot-on and useful.

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