The Tyranny of Good Intentions

There are a lot of good books out there by people that I don’t totally agree with. Today I would like to take a look at one of those books. This little treasure was written by a couple of fellows who are not market anarchists nor even Classical Liberals in my estimation, but rather they would probably be called “old right” conservatives. They wrote a book describing how the American justice system went wrong and give detailed examples to make their points. I have read the book twice and enjoyed it both times.

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Paul Craig Roberts and Lawrence M. Stratton wrote the book in question. It is called “The Tyranny of Good Intentions: How Prosecutors and Bureaucrats are Trampling the Constitution in the Name of Justice“, which was first released in 2000 and then updated in 2008. The authors had a chance in the updated version to revise their reporting on cases that had moved forward in the legal system after the release of their first edition of the book. As a bonus they got to look at the abuses of the Bush administration – one of my favorite parts of the newer edition. The book deals with abuse of citizens rights in general, plus the one chapter is devoted specifically to the abuse of the constitution and the law by the Bush administration since the tragedy of the 9/11 World Trade Center bombings. There are no Obama administration abuses listed due to the 2008 publication date of the updated version.

The book explains to the average, non-lawyer citizen how the law once was the shield that protected the population from government tyranny and then, sadly, how this shield became a club to beat the citizens with in recent times.The book covers how Americans once enjoyed the protection of the “Rights of Englishmen” and how those rights have been lost. The book covers the tension between the position of Williiam Blackstone which gave us a rich tradition in both law and politics that guaranteed our rights and freedoms, and the position of Jeremy Bentham, the 19th-century philosopher who popularized the theory of utilitarianism, that has worked to erode these rights in the interest of expediency and efficiency.

The book convincingly argues that conservatives and liberals alike use prosecutors, judges, police, regulators, ill-conceived laws, and the courts to destroy freedom and justice as they seek evil monsters to slay here at home, just as we seek monsters to destroy with our military in the middle east. The title of the book comes from the fact that sometimes these people may very well do these things with the best of intentions even as they destroy the rights of the citizen. The idea that these freedom destroying crazies are “doing it to protect us” has become a cultural mantra since 9-11.

On the domestic side, this book shows how even very powerful people and organizations like Charles Keating, Leona Helmsley, Michael Milken, Exxon, and Archer Daniels Midland Corporation are victimized. Roberts and Stratton then proceed to show how the powerless, average citizen is rolled over and victimized by the so-called justice system. The book is a chronicle of the unrestrained powers of police, prosecutors, and judges. It is a chronicle of unfair forfeiture laws, and unreasonable bureaucratic regulations which have the status of laws that should only be passed by accountable legislative bodies.

One of the best chapters is about the “crimes without intent.” It is an ancient concept that one must have Mens Rea or a “guilty mind” to be guilty of a crime. This concept is supposed to protect us from being punished for accidents or acts that were innocent in nature. Another chapter deals with retroactive law; the fact that one can commit an act that is perfectly legal today, and yet becomes an illegal act in the hands of an unscrupulous prosecutor tomorrow.

The book covers the forcing of plea-bargaining on almost all defendants. This chapter is a chilling look at the basic reality of the modern “justice system” in our country and may be the most important chapter in the book. Of all the types of injustice, making a man plead guilty to a crime that he knows he did not commit must be the most evil and heinous. Roberts and Stratton also document the modern overturning of attorney-client privilege, the raw ambition of those involved in our justice system, coached lying by police and other government experts, and the lack of regard for the truth of guilt or innocence of the defendant. Instead of seeking truth, obtaining a great record of convictions is all that counts today and the finding of truth is seemingly of no regard at all. Prosecutorial misconduct naturally plays a major part in all of this, but the rot runs throughout the system

This is a book that covers the law being used as a weapon of persecution in this land where everyone is supposed to be equal before the law. It may be a little dated since this is 2013 and even the updated version was published in 2008, but it is a treasury of facts and ideas for you to consider. Each chapter can stand alone which makes reading the book easier for those of us with limited reading time. I recommend that you consider reading this small volume if liberty is one of your interests.

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