Why The Law Won’t Save Us From The Police State

whistleblowersVia Salon, Chase Madar on the limits of a legalistic outlook:

Law remains our litmus test. Very often the mightiest anathema we can muster for something we oppose is that it’s “illegal” or, even worse, “unconstitutional.” One of the first reasons given for the Iraq War’s wrongness is it’s “illegality”; today, the mass surveillance is denounced as “unconstitutional.”

These condemnations pack all the fierce visceral impact of Ned Flanders trying to curse. Would the Iraq War have been redeemed by a permission slip from the UN Security Council? Were the sanctions against Iraq, which killed hundreds of thousands, okay because they were in conformance with the UN charter? And even if the NSA surveillance is ruled unconstitutional is this really the problem with it? And what if the courts determine, as is entirely possible, that the NSA surveillance is legally permissible?

We urgently need to remind ourselves that “lawfulness” is never an indicator of wisdom, efficacy, prudence, or even justice. 99% of what led to the 2008 financial crash was perfectly legal, transactions working within the law according to legal incentives (and progressive calls to fix the financial system with more criminal prosecutions both misdiagnose and underestimate a systemic problem). Most of the horrors disclosed by Wikileaks — like the slaughter in the Apache helicopter video — are also legally permissible according to the laws of war as they actually exist.

The law is not nothing, but it sure as hell isn’t everything. The NSA scandal shows that freedoms are far more than legal phenomena, and that any successful pushback against the creeping police state will have to be based more in politics than in law.

10 Comments on "Why The Law Won’t Save Us From The Police State"

  1. Simon Valentine | Sep 7, 2013 at 9:15 am |

    the spirits of the continent seek back to their roots and the physical must follow.

    it was said they would destroy, and there is more destruction to come.

    even ants cannot march without disorder as a wave to their particular existence.

    the lies of the large are many, and truth is nothing but spirits.

  2. BuzzCoastin | Sep 7, 2013 at 11:50 am |

    it’s pretty obvious
    elite Homelanders are above the law
    especially the political servants of the elites

  3. I agree, it is sooo obvious, especially given that SCOTUS ruled in Bush v. Gore (2000) that American citizens did not have a consitutional right to vote, hence the lack of a Florida recount, and recently, in Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission ruled that corporations have an unlimited right to vote!

  4. Jin The Ninja | Sep 7, 2013 at 4:18 pm |

    the law is enacted by the state.
    laws are enforced by the state.
    the law serves to extend state powers.
    why then, would the state limit itself via its own mechanism?
    the police state is the penultimate form of statehood.
    the state cannot peacefully coexist with a free society.
    the state must dominate the individual, and control the collective.
    this is a state’s function.
    we cannot all be as naive as chris hedges.

    • Ah, but you are missing one vital fact: the state gets it’s sovereignty from the people. In essence, the people give permission to the state to make and enforce law. However, many in the state bureaucracy would disagree, and those are the ones who need to get out, or be kicked out.

      • Hadrian999 | Sep 12, 2013 at 2:32 am |

        Nobody pays much attention to John Locke these days

      • Jin The Ninja | Sep 16, 2013 at 11:31 am |

        a republic is democracy thwarted. consumer choice of the two big brand names parties (really just subsidiaries of the same multi-national) is an illusion of consent. you cannot reform what is fundamentally flawed and broken. the people exist, not the state.

  5. DeepCough | Sep 7, 2013 at 5:35 pm |

    “Every law is an evil, for every law is an infraction of liberty.”
    ~Jeremy Bentham

    • melvin lafleur | Sep 11, 2013 at 6:53 pm |

      just for aggravation’s sake what is a stop sign? is it a law? is it an infraction on you selfish liberty in order to promote the safety and self interest of all who cede that bit of liberty?
      i have no idea who jeremy is but there are books everywhere that people quote wise sayings from. quite pithy but rarely appropriate to any specific situation especially in today’s complicated and crowded world.

      • DeepCough | Sep 12, 2013 at 10:18 am |

        You’re right, it was real fucking lazy of me to do a quote with an extremely obtuse meaning outside of its original context. Let’s look at the PATRIOT Act. This law has made it perfectly legal for the government to circumvent the Fourth Amendment to conduct warrantless wiretapping of American citizens, which is the reason why telecommunication companies like AT&T and Verizon were given retroactive immunity for their complicity in wiretapping cellular phones on behalf of the National Security Agency. So, in this context, Jeremy Bentham’s quote is entirely correct. Or do you still wanna split hairs on the constitutionality of stop signs at fourway traffic intersections?

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