Without Rule of Law Our Society Fails

(9AM EST – promoted by Nightprowlkitty)

America was founded by lawyers–we may be angry at lawyers but they keep us from shooting and stabbing each other when we are in conflict with each other. We need to be grateful for Anglo/American jurisprudence–it was the essential framework that helped us, for better or worse, build the greatest society in history (not the nicest, mind you). We rely on rule of law to maintain a healthy balance. Never too much law and never too little–yes, it favors the rich, generally, but human society always gives the powerful power.

Crossposted at DKOS.

Personally, I believe the economic problems we face today are directly attributable to a breakdown in law and order. I don’t mean street crime which is manageable where draconian measures have gotten some results. Mind you, I think incarcerating people is not the most efficient anti-poverty program we could have but, frankly, that’s what the American people want and the politicians were glad to provide them with a nice hefty bill for prisons whose job 1 is to degrade human beings. The current crime wave is centered on the crimes of the elites who can rob, steal, assault, defraud, run every manner of con known to man and not be brought to justice–unless, of course those crimes have other elites as victims then it’s another story. Of course, occasionally honest prosecutors will indict these criminals but they are the exception not the rule.

Joseph Stigliz is one of the best economists in the world and understands the real world better than any other economist I know of including Krugman.

The legal system is supposed to be the codification of our norms and beliefs, things that we need to make our system work. If the legal system is seen as exploitative, then confidence in our whole system starts eroding. And that’s really the problem that’s going on.

Even if corporate gangsters are caught and prosecuted their fines and penalties are seldom in line with the cost to society or a serious deterrent to other criminals–it just becomes a cost of doing business. If you’re made a billion dollars in a con you don’t mind paying ten million in fines.

Some years back we had stories of pallets full of hundred dollar bills–did anything come out of it? This story was reported in several news outlets and the following is from a Patrick Cockburn story in February of 2009 for the London Independent.

In what could turn out to be the greatest fraud in US history, American authorities have started to investigate the alleged role of senior military officers in the misuse of $125bn (£88bn) in a US -directed effort to reconstruct Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein. The exact sum missing may never be clear, but a report by the US Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR) suggests it may exceed $50bn, making it an even bigger theft than Bernard Madoff’s notorious Ponzi scheme.

“I believe the real looting of Iraq after the invasion was by US officials and contractors, and not by people from the slums of Baghdad,” said one US businessman active in Iraq since 2003.

There are many many stories about Iraq and massive corruption by contractors which we all know about but what happened to this story? Well, the MSM is only, in my view, a propaganda organ so that whoever got the money is powerful enough to keep justice at bay.

But, of course, the banking and mortgage fraud system was the really big heist and it was, without a doubt, a massive criminal enterprise organized by the Finance and Real Estate industries. We shoul have thousands of people facing trial today if there were such a thing as justice. There isn’t. And here’s the important thing to understand. The Obama administration has done next to nothing about it and the people at DKOS are still cheerleading the Democrats who have no interest in the fundamental building block of our society–without it we perish and I want to assure any of you here we will perish as a society within the next decade or two. Everyone will start breaking the law if they can get away with it. We’ll have to have a police state to stop it or anarchy and chaos. Do we continue to support corporate Democrats? Do we continue to support the criminals in the major banks? That’s what we do when we support this administration–we’re saying yes to the real princes of darkness that make Richard Perle look like the Dalai Lama.  


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  1. …. but we are heading towards a type of society where people are going to be breaking the law just to survive if the government doesn’t get its act together.

    The Republicans have the same mindset – if people are not constantly threatened by the authoritarian state, they will seek to break the law –  but they don’t see the things they do to make government worse, padding their friend’s tax breaks and making more Homeland Security infinite in expansion,  as being a way to make criminal activity more likely, they all have that fake you can pull yourself up by the bootstraps thing going for the shoeless.

    • Diane G on November 11, 2010 at 14:16

    But education and basic needs met for living would be better…. for creating a society that revered the law applied fairly and equally for all.

    Right now? We have laws against the poor, and law that does not exist for the rich.

    Its sickening, dear.

    • David R on November 11, 2010 at 15:29

    A lot of people look at criminals as being opposed to our society, or anti-social.  I think it’s a bit more complicated than that.  There is no particular reason to be opposed to society, if being a member of society meets your needs.  Insert mandatory reference to Maslow’s hierarchy here.  However, if ‘legitimate’ society is not meeting your needs, then it is only natural to either create an alternative, or join a pre-existing alternative.  I think gangs and other organized crime fit that bill.  They aren’t really complete societies, because they don’t in and of themselves provide every need, but rather are parasitic in nature, hijacking the machinery of the host to divert resources to its members that they would otherwise not receive legally.

    I think this is a useful model in a number of ways.  You can understand why organized crime will always likely exist to some degree, even in a healthier society than we have today.  No society can be perfect, there will always be some people whose needs are not being satisfied, and if there are people with similar unsatisfied needs, they will probably try to work together to meet them.  Criminals will generally be hard to reform, because organized crime will very likely do a better job of satisfying their needs than ‘legitimate’ society (and this also suggests a methodology of crime prevention which focuses on understanding and satisfying the needs of people legally who are otherwise at high risk of joining gangs and committing crimes).

    To bring this on point with Banger’s post, I think HIV/AIDS makes a good parallel.  If you’re willing to buy the society as an organism analogy, then you understand the need for a legal immune system to defend society against parasites.  Parasites divert resources, and society needs those resources to survive and grow.  One of the functions of the law is to weaken, destroy, and expel those parasites.  But if the legal system itself has been compromised, then the society is in real trouble, and one would expect to see the existing parasites grow more powerful, or new parasites develop.

    Perhaps an even better analogy might be that of cancer.  A cancer is basically a cell which has ceased to subjugate its needs as a living organism to the needs of the larger organism, and begun to appropriate resources and reproduce without consideration for the needs of the larger organism of which it is a part.  A bank which has ceased to view other citizens as customers and clientele but rather as prey has clearly made the jump from healthy cell to malignant tumor.

    Where I see this going ultimately is a fragmentation of the United States, with people eventually coalescing around smaller, local organizations as the nuclei of new governments and societies.  These may be vestiges of legitimate social groups (local governments, church groups, etc.) or more likely, former criminal organizations, which I think are more likely to have the rapacity and independence to survive a crisis.  A lot of smaller nations in similar circumstances wind up turning into dictatorships, but I suspect we may have too few people spread out over too much land area.  It may be both very attractive and very easy to simply start your own social order if the federal government fails.

    Well, thank you for taking the time to read through my maunderings.  And remember:  keep your hockey mask and leather G-string handy!

  2. can’t afford lawyers, they mostly get one appointed after…

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