Saturday, July 16, 2011

No Justice: The Nanny State Becomes the Police State

I recently finished a book by a friend and business associate that discussed his time in jail. He was arrested based on a false accusation and investigation and before the smoke cleared even a little bit, he spent some time in jail. His book was very interesting and it was also revealing. It gives the reader a look into a world that most of us do not know anything about, and one that we all hope to never experience.

One of the most revealing parts of his experience was the attitude of the jailors toward those confined there, and the attitude of the general public toward those who have been arrested. The assumption is one of guilt, even though most of those confined have not yet been charged or gone to trial. The general public has forgotten that in the United States, a person is to be presumed innocent until he is actually convicted of a crime. He does not have to prove his innocence in court, rather the state must prove that the person is guilty using standards of evidence and judgment. But Americans have forgotten about the presumption of innocence and assume that if a person is hassled by the police--even if he is not arrested--that he must have done something to deserve it. In this way, presumably innocent people are deprived of their liberty and dehumanized even though they are often completely innocent of any crime.

This attitude is one of the core components of our rapidly developing police state: a state in which peace officers who have sworn an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States and the Sovereign State in which they work have, in the time of a generation, morphed into quasi-militarized "law enforcement officers" who ignore the rights of the citizens whose rights they are purportedly hired to protect. And the rights of the accused are not much understood or honored by either the operatives of the police state itself, nor by citizens, who generally do not realize how much danger they are in of being dragged into its tyranny. Lately, even the Constitutional protections that the accused enjoy have been deliberately removed by the courts.

The sheer number of people who have had their liberty removed for weeks or months before ever going to trial is another sure indication that we are rapidly becoming a police state. In the United States now, most of those so confined are accused of "crimes" determined by fiat, "crimes" in which no one's rights were even remotely close to being violated. Many of these are drug law violations, and often a person's rights are removed for long periods of time due to an accusation of possession of a small amount of an "illegal" substance, which now carries sentences that are often greater than those handed out for severe child abuse. In some ways, the possession or use of an "illegal" substance has become a life sentence, creating a permanent underclass, because the penalties have become so severe, and other sanctions meted out by the federal government have become so limiting that the individual cannot overcome them over a lifetime, even if he is a minor child at the time of arrest. More often than not, an individual's probation is indeterminate and full liberty is only restored if and when a social worker determines that the person has been rehabilitated. In such cases, a court is only peripherally involved, and the case is not determined by any rational standards of evidence judged by a jury at all. This indeterminate "sentencing" is a complete violation of any just standard, and plays havoc with the rights of the accused.

All of this stems from the soft tyranny of the Nanny State, and can always be expected to become the hard tyranny of the Police State. It is injustice pure and simple.

Justice requires that each person is treated as equal under the law. Further, the law itself is unjust if the legislation is intended to limit the freedom of an individual for purposes other than the protection of the rights of all individuals.

The very assumptions of the Nanny State--that there are some people wiser and better than the individual, who therefore should be enabled to control the choices and actions of individuals for their own good--are antithetical to the very concepts of liberty that the United States was founded upon, and fly in the face of the Constitution written to create a government whose sole purpose is to protect those rights. It is up to each competent adult to determine what his or her own good is, and the bar to declaring incompetence should necessarily be very high. No matter how much a person who is different in some way might disturb us, and no matter what we think of his or her decisions, we ought to be very wary of removing liberty for light or transient reasons.

The very concept of a "justice system", which is a product of the Nanny State, is a contradiction in terms. There can be no "system", no collective method of determining innocence or guilt, no "system" of mandatory sentencing, or of required rehabilitation standards that is just. The purpose of justice is not to cure social ills or to rehabilitate individuals. It is to make a judgment about the responsibility of an individual for an action that violates the rights of another, and to exact a penalty upon that action in accordance with the severity of the violation.

Justice must be individual or it is not justice at all. Justice must always refer to the law, which must be applied equally to all, or it is not justice at all. Justice requires that the law be knowable and uncomplicated, and that a person must be able to know ahead of time whether a contemplated action is a violation of the law. Justice requires that the individual merits of the case be considered, and that the evidence be weighed by a jury of peers of the accused; that is those who live in the same community, know its standards, and its weaknesses.

We are seeing a great deal of evidence that the Nanny State that has been established in order to impose the ideas of some of us upon us all, applying a soft tyranny of rules and regulations, is rapidly becoming a police state. Those conservatives who were content to remove the rights of those who ingest socially unapproved substances are now dismayed to watch storm troopers from federal agencies raiding Amish dairy farms to stop us all from ingesting unpasteurized milk or locally produced chickens. Those liberals who have been content to remove the property rights of individuals who disagree with them about diversity, are now dismayed to watch police officers cum storm troopers wrestle individuals to the ground and arrest them for the crime of standing on their own property and observing the actions of the police themselves.

Most of us stand idly by now while our friends and neighbors are presumed guilty for fear of contradicting the monster that we have created,and thereby being subject to the meat grinder of the "justice system". Many of us implicitly favor mob rule over the rule of law, calling for the blood of the innocent when a jury rules that the state has not made its case, because the news media has already tried and convicted the defendant in the court of public opinion. We presume to make judgments based on little evidence, and to condemn people because of the emotional impact of the crime itself, rather than on evidence of guilt or innocence of the accused.

Thus we have come to the place where, as a friend posted to my Facebook Wall:
"When they took the 4th Amendment, I was quiet because I didn't deal drugs. When they took the 6th Amendment, I was quiet because I was innocent. When they took the 2nd Amendment, I was quiet because I didn't own a gun. Now they have taken the 1st Amendment, and I can only be quiet." - Lyle Myhr
If we treasure our freedom, we need to know our rights, and their basis in the principles of Liberty. We need to understand that the protection afforded to the accused protects us all, and to to remove the rights of accused imperils all of our rights. We need to remember that a little bit of liberty is like being a little bit pregnant--either we act on our rights or we don't have them. And most importantly, we need to understand that justice is a more exacting standard than is goodness, and being "good" in the face of injustice will always turn us to evil.


Allen Cogbill said...

It seems that the Feds are now working hard on dispensing with that pesky 5th Amendment, as well. As explained by this nice presentation, the 5th Amendment, although much maligned by some, should be regarded as critically important, especially by those who are completely innocent.

Elisheva Hannah Levin said...

Thanks, Allen! I worry about all the amendments, including the 5th!