With Liberty and Justice for Some: How the Law Is Used to Destroy Equality and Protect the Powerful

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9780805092059: With Liberty and Justice for Some: How the Law Is Used to Destroy Equality and Protect the Powerful

From "the most important voice to have entered the political discourse in years" (Bill Moyers), a scathing critique of the two-tiered system of justice that has emerged in America

From the nation's beginnings, the law was to be the great equalizer in American life, the guarantor of a common set of rules for all. But over the past four decades, the principle of equality before the law has been effectively abolished. Instead, a two-tiered system of justice ensures that the country's political and financial class is virtually immune from prosecution, licensed to act without restraint, while the politically powerless are imprisoned with greater ease and in greater numbers than in any other country in the world.

Starting with Watergate, continuing on through the Iran-Contra scandal, and culminating with Obama's shielding of Bush-era officials from prosecution, Glenn Greenwald lays bare the mechanisms that have come to shield the elite from accountability. He shows how the media, both political parties, and the courts have abetted a process that has produced torture, war crimes, domestic spying, and financial fraud.

Cogent, sharp, and urgent, this is a no-holds-barred indictment of a profoundly un-American system that sanctions immunity at the top and mercilessness for everyone else.

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About the Author:

GLENN GREENWALD is the author of several best sellers, including How Would a Patriot Act? and With Liberty and Justice for Some. Acclaimed as one of the 25 most influential political commentators by The Atlantic and one of the Top 100 Global Thinkers for 2013 by Foreign Policy, Greenwald is a former constitutional law and civil rights attorney. He was a columnist for The Guardian until October 2013, and is now building a new media organization. He is a frequent guest on CNN, MSNBC, and various other television and radio outlets. Greenwald's NSA reporting in 2013 has won numerous awards, including the top investigative journalism award from the Online Journalism Association, the Esso Award for Excellence in Reporting (the Brazilian equivalent of the Pulitzer Prize), and the 2013 Pioneer Award from the Electronic Frontier Foundation. He was also the recipient of the first annual I.F. Stone Award for Independent Journalism in 2009, and the Online Journalism Association Award in 2010 for his investigative work on the arrest and detention of Bradley Manning. Greenwald is a frequent guest lecturer on college campuses and his work has appeared in many newspapers and political news magazines, including The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and The American Conservative.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Introduction

As a litigator who practiced for more than a decade in federal and state courts across the country, I've long been aware of the inequities that pervade the American justice system. The rich enjoy superior legal representation and therefore much better prospects for success in court than the poor. The powerful are treated with far more deference by judges than the powerless. The same cultural, socioeconomic, and demographic biases that plague society generally also infect the legal process. Few people who have had any interaction with the justice system would dispute this.

Still, only when I began regularly writing about politics did I realize that the problem extends well beyond such inequities. The issue isn't just that those with political influence and financial power have some advantages in our judicial system. It is much worse than that. Those with political and financial clout are routinely allowed to break the law with no legal repercussions whatsoever. Often they need not even exploit their access to superior lawyers because they don't see the inside of a courtroom in the first place—not even when they get caught in the most egregious criminality. The criminal justice system is now almost exclusively reserved for ordinary Americans, who are routinely subjected to harsh punishments even for the pettiest of offenses.

The wiretapping scandal of 2005 provides a perfect illustration. In December of that year, the New York Times revealed that officials in George W. Bush's administration were eavesdropping on Americans' telephone calls and e-mails without warrants or judicial oversight: a felony punishable by up to five years in prison and a ten-thousand-dollar fine for each offense. The lawbreaking could not have been clearer, yet virtually nobody in the political and media class was willing to call those acts "criminal," much less to demand legal investigations or prosecutions.

This was a depressingly familiar pattern for several decades and became particularly pronounced over the last one. America's political and business establishment presided over a series of extraordinary crimes that brought the United States political disgrace and financial ruin: the creation of a global torture regime; the systematic plundering by Wall Street, leading to the 2008 economic crisis; the serial obstruction of justice by high-ranking political officials; the fraudulent home foreclosures by the nation's largest banks. Yet in almost every instance, the perpetrators were shielded from any legal consequences. As these events clearly demonstrate, America's political culture not only provides strategic advantages in the legal system to political and financial elites, but now actually grants them immunity when they knowingly break the law. This license—awarded by the same political class that created the world's largest and most merciless prison state for its poorest and most powerless citizens—represents not just a departure from the rule of law but a fundamental repudiation of it.

 

The central principle of America's founding was that the rule of law would be the prime equalizing force, the ultimate guardian of justice. The founders considered vast inequality in every other realm to be inevitable and even desirable. Some would be rich, and many would be poor. Some would acquire great power, and many would live their entire lives virtually powerless. A small number of individuals would be naturally endowed with unique and extraordinary talents, while most people, by definition, would be ordinary. Due to those unavoidable circumstances, the American conception of liberty was not only consistent with, but premised on, the inevitability of outcome inequality—the success of some people, the failure of others.

The one exception was the rule of law. When it came to the law, no inequality was tolerable. Law was understood to be the sine qua non ensuring fairness, a level playing field, and a universal set of rules. It was the nonnegotiable prerequisite that made all other forms of inequality acceptable. Only if everyone was bound to the same rules would outcome inequality be justifiable.

So central is this founding principle that most Americans absorb it by osmosis via numerous clichés: All are equal before the law. Justice is blind. No man is above the law. We are, in the words of John Adams, "a nation of laws, not men." For Adams, either the law is supreme in all cases, or the arbitrary will of rulers is. Adams and the other founders viewed the preeminence of law over individuals—all individuals—as the only protection against the tyranny that American colonists had launched a revolution to abolish. For that reason, American political liberty was always inextricably bound to the notion that law reigns supreme.

It would be difficult to overstate the essential place of the rule of law in the American political tradition. A principal grievance against King George III was his unilateral power to vest in himself and those he favored the right to act outside of the law. The goal of the American Revolution was to replace this arbitrary will of the monarch with unbending equal application of law to everyone. "Where, say some, is the King of America?" Thomas Paine, the great American revolutionary, asked in his 1776 pamphlet Common Sense. His answer:

Let a crown be placed thereon, by which the world may know, that so far as we approve of monarchy, that in America the Law is King. For as in absolute governments the King is law, so in free countries the law ought to be King; and there ought to be no other.

Alexander Hamilton did not often see eye to eye with Paine, but on this he heartily agreed. "The instruments by which [government] must act are either the AUTHORITY of the laws or FORCE," he wrote in 1794. "If the first be destroyed, the last must be substituted; and where this becomes the ordinary instrument of government there is an end to liberty!" Like Paine and Hamilton, Adams, in his 1776 Thoughts on Government, put the rule of law at the top of his list of core principles for a free and legitimate government: "The very definition of a republic is ‘an empire of laws, and not of men.' . . . Good government is an empire of laws."

That last line may at first glance appear simple and even trite, but it contains a critical insight. The supremacy of law is not just one among many instruments of good government; it is good government itself. The converse is equally true: in the absence of the rule of law, good government cannot be said to exist.

To be sure, there may be exceptional situations where the rule of men might produce better outcomes than the rule of law. A truly magnanimous tyrant, a benevolent dictator, might conceivably lead to more positive results than a regime of unjust laws rigidly applied. Historians can point to emperors who exercised absolute power while advancing the interests of their subjects and the territories they ruled. Nevertheless, such societies should not be confused with "good government," dependent as they are on the fortuitous emergence of an unrestrained leader who is both well-intentioned and relatively immune from the corrupting effects of power (and, even less plausibly, immune from the absolutely corrupting effects of absolute power). A country that prospers by vesting absolute power in a leader who happens to be benevolent could just as easily come under the control of a malevolent leader the next time around. And when that happens, as at some point it surely will, a society without the rule of law will have no means of redress short of violent revolution.

What's more, even the most well-intentioned leader will eventually abuse his power if he is not constrained by law. Indeed, and somewhat paradoxically, a ruler's belief in his own virtue actually renders abuses of power more likely, since he can rationalize all manner of arbitrary and capricious measures: I am good and doing this for good ends, and it is therefore justifiable. Power exercised corruptly inevitably degrades and destroys even genuinely benevolent intent.

The founders understood that magnanimity is very rarely an enduring safeguard against the corrupting influences of power, and because they understood this, they insisted on the rule of law as the only effective weapon against such temptations. "Why has government been instituted at all?" Hamilton asked in Federalist 15. "Because the passions of men will not conform to the dictates of reason and justice without constraint." Thomas Jefferson wrote in 1798: "In questions of power, then, let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution." Adams, in 1772, put it this way: "There is danger from all men. The only maxim of a free government ought to be to trust no man living with power to endanger the public liberty." Four years later, his wife, Abigail, memorably echoed the same sentiment in a letter to him: "Remember, all men would be tyrants if they could."

The rule of law does not guarantee good government: an empire of unjust laws can be as tyrannical as an empire of men, perhaps even more so. But though the rule of law is not sufficient by itself to ensure a just and free society, it's absolutely necessary for it. For that reason, a nation that renounces the rule of law has rendered tyranny not only likely but inevitable.

The fundamental requirement of the rule of law is equality: the uniform application of a set of preexisting rules to everyone, including the rulers. But like the term rule of law, equality under the law has become merely a platitude, a phrase recited without much appreciation of its significance. Everyone claims to believe in it, but hardly anyone remembers what it means. And yet the demand that all be treated equally under the law was no secondary concept to the founding of the United States, but its crux, and it is not difficult to understand why.

What the founders feared most was that ...

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Descrizione libro Metropolitan Books. Hardcover. Condizione libro: New. Hardcover. 304 pages. Dimensions: 8.3in. x 5.5in. x 1.1in.From the most important voice to have entered the political discourse in years (Bill Moyers), a scathing critique of the two-tiered system of justice that has emerged in AmericaFrom the nations beginnings, the law was to be the great equalizer in American life, the guarantor of a common set of rules for all. But over the past four decades, the principle of equality before the law has been effectively abolished. Instead, a two-tiered system of justice ensures that the countrys political and financial class is virtually immune from prosecution, licensed to act without restraint, while the politically powerless are imprisoned with greater ease and in greater numbers than in any other country in the world. Starting with Watergate, continuing on through the Iran-Contra scandal, and culminating with Obamas shielding of Bush-era officials from prosecution, Glenn Greenwald lays bare the mechanisms that have come to shield the elite from accountability. He shows how the media, both political parties, and the courts have abetted a process that has produced torture, war crimes, domestic spying, and financial fraud. Cogent, sharp, and urgent, this is a no-holds-barred indictment of a profoundly un-American system that sanctions immunity at the top and mercilessness for everyone else. This item ships from multiple locations. Your book may arrive from Roseburg,OR, La Vergne,TN. Hardcover. Codice libro della libreria 9780805092059

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