Protecting the Rule of Law
American justice depends on the widespread belief that the blindfolded lady (Themis, the Greek goddess of justice and law) is, indeed, blindfolded and not putting her thumb on the scale. Yes, American justice may not be perfect and historical abuses exist, but Lady Justice has been a blessing. Unfortunately, our faith in her justice is now being shaken.
That Lady Justice has been enlisted in the political fray by the Left to crush opposition is now undeniable. How else can one explain the Department of Justice’s indifference to the Biden family's criminal behavior while turning a weak case against former President Trump into a felony-laden Threat to Democracy? Or harshly punishing January 6th participants as “insurrectionist” while ignoring the far more violent BLM-inspired riots? And it is relentless. When Elon Musk began complaining about government/Big Tech collaboration to censor dissent, Washington “suddenly” discovered that Elon has violated laws regarding his discrimination against hiring of non-U.S. citizens and using corporate funds for his personal residence.
Nor is the Lady’s thumb on the scale purely a federal matter. The quest to incarcerate President Trump began with Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg indicting him for a litany of minor offenses cobbled together into a long list of alleged felonies. Bragg, ironically, is well-known for downgrading the felony offenses of violent criminals into misdemeanors and then releasing the miscreant with no cash bail. The Georgia case against Trump is due to an overly ambitious county prosecutor.
Even everyday cop-on-the-beat policy has now succumbed to weaponization. As the George Floyd episode illustrated, police officers making the smallest mistake in apprehending criminals risk becoming criminals themselves while cities that once tried to control BLM riots have been successfully sued by these “largely peaceful protestors” for millions. Vandalizing a Robert E. Lee statute is legally protected but hanging a rope over a tree that might appear to be a noose is a punishable hate crime. In sum, not only is Lady Justice peeking and tilting her scales, but she is now using the sword in her Left hand, to smite political enemies. The Lady has gone woke.
This politicization of Lady Justice is not the end of Justice, only the end of the state’s monopoly on dispending bias-free justice. As such, it is a backward step in sustaining American civil society and the cost of this transformation far outweighs any short-term political gain.
Those who doubt this damage should visit a Third World nation to experience life without the rule of unbiased law. In today’s Haiti “rule of law” means what the street gangs can forcefully extract while in much of sub-Sahara getting “justice” entails making the right bribes to local warlords. In such venues locals know that reporting a crime to the police is pointless since the cops may be the culprit. Meanwhile, American businesses operating there make payoffs to accomplish what in the U.S. would be handled by lawyers in a court of law.
What happens when the government-administered rule of law loses its legitimacy? In many instances, people take the law into their own hands. Buy a gun, practice target shooting, and solve carjacking on the spot. Or join with others for vigilante justice outside the legal code so, if squatters refuse to leave the local park, burn the tent city down and intimidate witnesses into silence. Then there are parallel governments where those formally in charge no longer guarantee public safety. The Mafia with its own code, tax collectors, courts, and methods of enforcement is the classic example. Ironically, it was often said that even during New York City’s worst crime waves, the Little Italy neighborhood was totally safe since no hoodlum would dare trespass on the mob’s turf.
This absence of state supplied law and order will be disastrous for the poor though some of the destitute may initially relish lawlessness. For them, being free to shoplift or take drugs openly may be enticing but the personal consequences will, eventually. be disastrous. Yes, a poor person may now loot the local Nordstroms with impunity, but given that “freedom,” why should Nordstroms open a nearby store or allow him to enter it? What if he steals the Gucci handbag and it, in turn, it is stolen from him by a bigger and stronger looter? What then? Settle it with a shootout? Call the cops?
A world lacking rule of law and its neutral enforcement would be rule by predators. In the words of Thomas Hobbes, life would be solitary, nasty, and short. There would be no 911 available even if your phone had not yet been stolen. Why would any supermarket locate nearby if it were defenseless against criminals? The few neighborhood stores would be fortress-like with super high prices to offset the cost of doing business in this jungle. What company would locate where employees were terrified to leave after dark? No parent would send their child to a school in such an unsafe wasteland.
Nor would the rich benefit from the collapse of neutral state-supplied justice. How would companies settle disputes? Imagine a world where Elon Musk’s gun-toting “crew” would trash Facebook’s headquarters to settle “a beef” versus filing a lawsuit? Tech billionaires would now live in super-safe compounds, surrounded 24/7 by armed bodyguards, while their children are chauffeured to school in armed convoys.
Our economy would collapse. Business decisions would just reflect who momentarily controlled government, so the stakes of winning or losing an election becomes gigantic. Many of the rich would move their money offshore where it is safer. Politics would become Third Worldish. Microsoft might spend billions to help elect thousands of loyal toadies lest rivals capture the Department of Justice and arrested Microsoft employees for imaginary crimes. With the stakes so high, tactics now unthinkable in U.S. politics -- assassinations, kidnapping, threatening families and the like would be mandatory, just as they are in many nations bedeviled by dysfunctional economies. Groups like ANTIFA and Proud Boys would organize into for-hire private armies to serve the highest bidder.
Corrupting justice is a dangerous game where the short-term benefits easily obscure long-term costs. It is one reason why so many immigrate here -- they want to escape paying bribes for everything while risking their life for imaginary offenses. State-supplied unbiased law and order is part of the Golden Goose that makes Western Civilization possible. It should not be a weapon for political advantage, though it is tempting to use it as such. Today’s Republican victims might be in charge next year, and it will be their turn to incarcerate Democrats for murky crimes while civil rights leaders suddenly discover new-found tax liabilities. Then sides will change again, and with time nobody will recall what the statue of Lady Justice was or what she stood for. Was she a forgotten women who invented the balance scale? If things continue, brute force almost invisibly will replace the rule of law, and America will slide into Third World chaos and violence. Why trust the courts if you know that the fix is in? Time to put the Lady’s blindfold back on and take her thumb off the scale.