The State: Judge in its Own Cause

by Kevin Carson
The State: Judge in its Own Cause

At a 2011 press conference President Obama, in response to a question about Bradley (now Chelsea) Manning, said “We are a nation of laws. We don’t let individuals make decisions about how the law operates.

Is this really a nation of laws, though? There’s an old legal principle, “nemo iudex in causa sua,” which translated into English means “no one should be the judge of their own cause.” But in fact all the laws theoretically limiting the state’s power are interpreted by — wait for it — officials of the state.

The state is, in a very real sense, judge in its own cause. Consider what the security community’s classification system amounts to, stripped of its phony veneer of “public safety” and disinteredness. The U.S. government, to further the interests that control it, commits atrocities and crimes against the peoples of the world. It then decides for itself how much of its criminal activities it will allow its own domestic population — supposedly its sovereign masters to whom it is accountable — to know about. If one of its functionaries possesses the career-killing handicap of a conscience and feels morally bound to let the people know what kinds of criminal stuff “their” government is really doing, the same government that’s doing all these awful things also sets the criminal penalties for clueing in the American people to what it’s doing.

The commission of the actual military, intelligence and diplomatic crimes themselves, the classification of documents that evidence those crimes, and the setting of civil and criminal penalties for revealing wickedness in high places — all these things are done by officials of the same government.

During the administration of Richard Nixon, who was less vindictive toward whistleblowers than our current President, Daniel Ellsberg leaked the Pentagon Papers, a collection of classified documents showing how the United States had inexorably increased its involvement in Indochina ever since the French withdrawal, lying to the American people about the situation the whole time. That secret decision-making process, uncovered by Ellsberg after the fact, cost over 50,000 American and millions of Vietnamese lives, and turned most of south Indochina into a dioxin-soaked hell.

In 1953 the CIA helped overthrow Iran’s elected government — an act which eventually led to the Islamic Revolution of 1979 and thirty subsequent years of war and tension in the Gulf. It led indirectly to a bloody war between Iran and Iraq in which millions died, creating a regional political climate that at times threatened superpower war. It was only in the past month — sixty years after the fact — the CIA officially admitted it had written a check to be cashed with the a**es of the American people.

In the late ’70s, under Zbigniew Brzezinski’s foreign policy leadership, the U.S. began backing Islamic fundamentalist rebels against the Soviet-friendly government of Afghanistan, resulting in a Soviet-backed coup and subsequent invasion reminiscent of what the U.S. engineered in South Vietnam in 1963-1965. The explicit goal of Brzezinski’s move in the “Great Game” was to get the USSR bogged down in its own sucking chest wound of a counter-insurgency war, with the possible side-benefit of destabilizing control in the largely Muslim southern republics of the Soviet Union. Other unintended consequences of this brilliant chess move included the rise of al Qaeda and the 9/11 attacks. Even after 9/11, though, Brzezinski still said it was worth it. Funny thing is — I never heard of the American people getting a vote on it.

The farce is made even more absurd by the fact that high-ranking officials like Obama do, in fact, break the law whenever they feel like it — with impunity. At the same press conference where he gave the quote above, Obama said: “… I have to abide by certain rules of classified information. If I were to release material I weren’t allowed to, I’d be breaking the law.” But Obama does that all the time. The movie “Zero Dark Thirty” is chock full of classified material leaked with the full complicity of the Obama administration. Last I heard, nobody was in prison, or holed up in an embassy, or had their plane forced down, pursuant to an effort to track down the leakers. Government illegally leaks classified information all the time, to smear its enemies or promote its propaganda line, and heads don’t roll for it. Because, you know, government.

That’s the way it works. The government commits crimes, classifies all the evidence of its criminal activity, and punishes anyone with the audacity to tell you about it. The government is judge of its own cause, every step of the way. This is not a government of laws. The state is the opposite of law.

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12 responses to “The State: Judge in its Own Cause

  1. Nick diPerna

    It’s Pope Obama, not President Obama.

    “The beginning of wisdom is to call things by their proper name.”

    ― Confucius

  2. I see so the crimes of the Communists in Indo China are “really” the fault of the United States.

    • If i remember rightly, the USA was “very unwilling to get involved in France’s imperial troubles and post-colonial wars and mongeries” in South East Asia.

      It was the Nazi pig fascist Kennedy that “escalated” USA involvement in Vietnam: and it was Nixon (perhaps this is why they hated him and wanted him dead?) that got the USA out of Vietnam.

      Does anybody old enough here, remember that I am right about this?

  3. Brzezinski was right.Should we have left the Russians in charge of Afghanistan? If not for the west propping it up,the Soviet Union would have collapsed decades earlier.

  4. “Who watches the Watchmen”?

    Well, I did, and I think Zack Snyder did the best job with the source material possible, but enough of that.

    The problem with any governance system is oversight. Anarchists thus conclude that the solution is abolition of the State, which may be true, but is it possible to find a solution within Statism? This may be important for libertarians, as it seems that within our lifetimes at least, very radical solutions like anarchy are unobtainable and thus the preserve of a handful of politics nerds debating on blogs and forums. I think libertarians need to focus on the near future; rather than aiming at some grand goal in the far distance, which is utterly unforeseeable, we need to seek solutions that may be achievable on the timescale of years and small numbers of decades.

    The problem for current governance structures is this; closing the loop. Progressives always think the answer to local bad governance is a “higher power”. So, the problem to the States with “Jim Crow” laws was intervention by the Federal Government. But what if the Federal Government were also Jim Crow-ised? Then, they would turn to a higher power again, such as United Nations and “international law”. But what if that goes bad too? We then have a global tyranny and no further “higher power” to sort it out.

    The idea of democracy is that the answer is oversight by the people; the loop is closed. The governent oversees the people, and the people, via the ballot box, oversee the government. A loop of oversight. But the actual experience of democracy that we have learned in the couple of centuries of serious implementation of it is that it does not work very well. The people get one vote every five years or so, choosing between members of an organised political elite, and as a result have very little real oversight of the State.

    Another solution which has been to some extent tried has been “oversight comittees”, as in the House of Commons, or attempts at oversight by civil society groups, or oversight by a nominally “independent” judiciary. But every time, the same problem rears its head; the members of such committees, civil groups, judiciaries, etc, are drawn from the “ruling elite”. You will find that the people on the committee are Baroness This, or the CEO of That Corporation Ltd. Nobody is going to ask Fred Bloggs, plumber from Penge, or indeed Ian B, to be on it. Civil society pressure groups follow their own agenda, and are, in the modern “Third Sector”, just as much members of the ruling elite, and indeed more powerful than most official politicians. Judges are equally co-opted; they are people who dine and drink with those they are meant to oversee.

    I am increasingly drawn to solutions predicated on sortition. This system has a proud tradition in the West, in our system of trial by jury. The principle of jury trial is not to ensure that the jury are not biased, which is impossible. It is to ensure that the jury are not co-opted by the State, and thus not biased in any predictable direction. Since the members of a jury are utterly unpredictable, the jury cannot be “stacked” with sympathisers to a particular point of view. By comparison, Roosevelt infamously spannered the US Supreme Court by threatening to stack it with New Dealers; the mere threat was enough to ensure future compliance with “The Switch In Time That Saved Nine”. This sort of skullduggery would be quite impossible for a non-appointed body.

    So, perhaps such a principle might help us significantly improve the States that we currently live in, in a pragmatic manner. Let us suppose that we want some oversight of the operation of the NHS. Currently, the method would be to appoint a committee of worthies- politicians, insiders of various kinds, Baroness This and Lord That, CEO of BigSomething PLC. People who are elite connected.

    Perhaps instead, we should appoint an oversight body by lottery, like a jury, and handsomely paid for this public service. Perhaps, in order to ensure some expertise, we might insist that some proportion is drawn from those licensed to practise medicine, again chosen by lottery. The key point being that it would be impossible for anyone to “get themself on the committee”. It would be pure dumb luck.

    The general argument against this is that the quality of the general population is too poor; that they are uneducated, lazy, venal, stupid, etc. My response to that is that my own experience of my fellow Britons is not so negative, but even though some of them have those characteristics, it always seems to me to be a smaller proportion than those who currently achieve political power; and if we really do not trust the intellectual capabilities of the populace, presumably we shouldn’t be allowing them to vote or sit on juries either.

    I have long been arguing that the House Of Lords should be replaced by a House Of Lottery; I cannot think of anything better than a second chamber full of the currently politically excluded with the power to smack the Commons down. I think the principle could be fruitfully extended to “targetted oversight” also. And, while radical libertarian and anarchist solutions seem as far in the future as ever, this is I think something which might be more achievable.

    I wonder what other Libertarians think of this idea.

    • Another insightful post Mr B. I didn’t realise it was you responding to one of my Telegraph comments a few weeks ago. And was unaware that you are a bit of an expert in gender issues.

      “My response to that is that my own experience of my fellow Britons is not so negative.”

      My experience is the opposite – I have never met anyone in my neck of the woods who understands basic economics or is even politically self-conscious – that includes people in authority. The working class are too stuck in day to day survival to be concerned about issues not directly within their visible sphere (tradesmen who’ve seen their income reduced by 75% without murmuring a single complaint). The middle class use their extra leisure time and energy to demand more and more concessions from government at the expense of less vocal groups. But maybe my evaluation is somewhat skewed and limited?

      Personally, I think the only thing that can save us from creeping totalitarianism is a renaissance, a national crises or some technological/scientific breakthrough that helps level the playing field.

      • I’ve been called many things in my life, most of them unprintable, but never an “expert”.

        As to the general population, I think we are too hard on them. We are politics and economic nerds, and thus tend to think worse of those who aren’t. But the general population seem to me to be no more ignorant than the elites. The point is that they are not at least all malignant in the same direction. A committee by lottery would contain many voices, rather than the single progressivist voice that the current ruling class has. To be honest, I sometimes wonder if I’m more of a populist than a libertarian.

    • “if we really do not trust the intellectual capabilities of the populace, presumably we shouldn’t be allowing them to vote or sit on juries either.”

      I find people are very good at making decisions that directly affect their local communities, that’s why I’m attracted to localism. But when ‘people power’ is used to gain advantages over other groups through state power (or manipulated to support foreign policy etc.) that’s when problems arise and democracy fails in my view.

    • Ian B – I wholly agree re sortition. My own thoughts have been moving in that direction for many years.

    • “is it possible to find a solution within Statism?”

      The kind of model that is forming in my head (which is constantly being revaluated) would be, as previously mentioned, a kind of localism where communities are able to make decisions that directly affect their communities.

      As for foreign policy, it would be entirely voluntary contribution based. When people see the actual cost of wars and dubious foreign aid, they will be less likely to fund them – the wallet is one of the most sensitive organs in the human body according to G. Edward Griffin…. I also find it absurd that public bodies such as the BBC, Arts Council, Universities various (un)charities etc.. are publicly funded when they should be entirely voluntary contribution based. School should not be compulsory, and schools should only receive funding based on the number of pupils they attract and parents they get on the board. Catchment areas are a insane idea leading to social segregation.

      Central banking/quantitative easing needs to be outlawed – where financial risks are socialised, and the public are taxed through hidden inflation (especially the poorest). Basically, a decentralisation of power is the way forward towards a more rational and responsible society as I see it.

    • Brilliant.

      For what reason, have you, IanB, not been already appointed Principal Secretary of State for War?

      What’s wrong with this country? Why are not you there now?

      • I thought I was getting the “Dealing With Holders of PPE And Other Enemy Class Degrees” portfolio?