Friday, November 3, 2006

Statist "justice" : throw the die part 1

What is the role of the "justice system" under a state? First, to exclusively enforce the arbitrary code of laws of the ruling class, and reject all others, in short: to maintain the legal monopoly. Second, to give the appearance of justice, that is to say, to condemn someone plausible for a crime, by duplicity if necessary. Third,
to slow down the growth of law down to a manageable level. It's like indoctrination in a cult- you can't give them too much at a time. Once one layer of law is assimilated, you can then continue to the next one. So the "justice system" is a safeguard against unhealthy levels of coercion, permitting the state to cruise gently from layer to layer without being derailed.

Now, the main feature of the system is its centralized authority. In a trial, the judge possesses unquestionable control over the proceedings, although of course he is bound by certain rules and procedures. This is natural, given what we have just seen. A decentralized process wouldn't entail the specific kind of outcomes that are needed for the statist "justice system". It may allow too many laws to stay on the books, or not enough laws, or refuse to prosecute someone against whom insufficient evidence is presented, or even downright reject the legal monopoly's position. The latter does exist in "jury nullification", but only exists because the concept of a jury would otherwise be meaningless, and at least in the US, and US courts do their very best to ignore it.

Another important feature of the system is the concept of a jury. Juries are a vital tool to fulfill its second purpose, which is to say, to minimize people's criticism of the system. By having twelve average Joes give their ignorant stamp of approval to complicated legal cases, the system is ensured that its judgment is acceptable to the general public as well. It does not ensure actual justice to the people involved, but their opinions are irrelevent compared to that of the population at large, who is the actual "consumer" of the system (through the maintenance of legitimacy). So juries are sort of a "market research" process, where the best scapegoats are found.

Of course, the idea that people should be coerced into being part of a jury and expected to judge someone else's coercive acts is insane, and so is the idea that twelve ordinary people are habilitated to render such judgments (especially given the low caliber of people who get past the selection process). The whole concept of it is insane, but within the statist framework it makes perfect sense. After all, the coercion of the state is supposed to be "good", "necessary" coercion in order to counter that of private individuals.

The end result of this process, therefore, is not justice, but rather convenience. It is convenient for the state to have scapegoats and to have a valve mechanism, and it is convenient for the general public to see some people executed or jailed. None of this is based on facts however. The only real use of the system is for the ruling class. This is similar to the socialized "health care system", where the most powerful either get preferential treatment, or go get treated elsewhere. It is always the rest of us who pay dearly for their power.

Let's be honest here. In the system we have today, pretty much anyone who the weight of investigation falls on can be trumped up as guilty, especially if they had cheap representation. Coerced confessions are routine (even on children), railroading investigations is routine, relying heavily on unreliable eyewitness evidence is routine, "lie detectors" and other frauds are routine.

I hope I don't even need to mention the death penalty. In the US, approximately 10% of death row inmates (between 1976 and 2004, 1012 executions and 117 exonerations) are exonerated (and who knows how many more were executed when innocent). 10% of defects would bankrupt most private companies- but for the "justice system", it's business as usual.

To summarize, the five main problems with the system are:

1. Total lack of accountability.
2. The confrontational nature of the system, which puts an emphasis on persuasion instead of facts. Corollary : the wealthy and powerful can manipulate the system better.
3. Judges have a centralized control over the proceedings.
4. The coerciveness and uselessness of jury duty.
5. Vengeance as a motivator.

In the second part, I will discuss the market anarchist/IC solution.

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