The Tyranny of Good Intentions

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Craig Roberts and Lawrence M. Stratton have just released an updated
edition of their highly acclaimed book, The
Tyranny of Good Intentions: How Prosecutors and Bureaucrats are
Trampling the Constitution in the Name of Justice
, which
was first released in 2000. The first edition of this book was praised
by G. Gordon Liddy, Milton Friedman, and Alan Dershowitz; I can
not think of many books that have been praised by such a diverse
collection of people from across the political spectrum.

The authors
have revised their reporting on some cases that have moved forward
in the legal system since the first edition was released; the Microsoft
anti-trust matter for example, and they also added two entirely
new chapters. One deals with various new cases of abuse of citizens
rights over the past eight years since the first edition, and the
other chapter is devoted to the abuse of the constitution and the
law by the Bush administration since the tragedy of the 9/11 World
Trade Center bombings.

The purpose
of the book is to explain to the average citizen how the law became
the shield that protected the population from tyranny, and then
how this shield was lost in recent times. It explains how, as Roberts
argues, Americans once enjoyed the protection of what were termed
“the Rights of Englishmen” by 18th-century jurist Sir William Blackstone
which gave us a rich tradition in both law and politics that guaranteed
our rights and freedom. Roberts also explains how the thought of
Jeremy Bentham, the 19th-century philosopher who popularized the
theory of utilitarianism, has worked to erode these rights in the
interest of expediency and efficiency.

Roberts and
Stratton convincingly argue that conservatives and liberals alike
use prosecutors, 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 abroad to unleash our military
upon – even if for the best of intentions. This book shows how the
rich and important such as Charles Keating, Leona Helmsley, Michael
Milken, Exxon, and Archer Daniels Midland Corporation are victimized;
and the book also outlines horror stories that happen to the "regular
Joe" just like you and me. It is a chronicle of the unrestrained
powers of police, prosecutors, unfair forfeiture laws, and unreasonable
bureaucratic regulations which have the status of laws that should
only be passed by accountable legislative bodies.

One of my favorite
chapters was the one on "crimes without intent." It is
an ancient concept that one must have a "guilty mind"
to be guilty of a crime and this protects us from being punished
for accidents or acts that were innocent in nature. It is natural
for children in grammar school to instinctively claim, "I did
it on accident!" when something happens. In this chapter there
are many high-profile cases, but also little-known cases from our
history that paved the way for the abuses of today. 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. The idea that nothing can
be made a crime by a law enacted after the fact has been lost to
modern Americans.

There is a
chapter on legal torture, and this was written before we learned
the CIA was torturing people all over the world in secret camps.
This torture is different however; it is the forcing of plea-bargaining
on almost all defendants, approximately ninety five percent here
in the USA. 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, if one could pick between
so many different types of injustice. Roberts and Stratton also
cover the overturn of attorney-client privilege. The book also has
a chilling chapter outlining the raw ambition of those involved
in our justice system where obtaining a great record of convictions
trumps the finding of truth. Prosecutorial misconduct naturally
plays a major part, but that is not the entire story in this sad
report on abuse of our rights.

In the last
chapter, one of the new ones for this edition, Roberts covers the
abuses of the Bush administration such as the PATRIOT Act, denial
of Habeas Corpus, indefinite detentions, torture, and secret evidence.
He covers the case of Sami Al-Arian here in Florida which shows
the witch-hunt nature of anti-Arab hysteria by the government. It
is a clear case of the law being used as a weapon of persecution
in this land where everyone is supposed to be equal before the law.

This book is
one that every American should read; it clearly shows the real nature
of our so-called justice system and lets one know that the justice
system you learned about in civics class is long gone; if it ever
was that way in our lifetime. For your own protection you need to
know what the government can do to you and your loved ones, be you
millionaire or working class poor; read this book.

1, 2008

Joseph Potter
[send him mail] lives
in Florida and teaches in a small private school.

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