5/01 The Tyranny Of Good Intentions

The Tyranny of Good Intentions
Larry Pratt

How we view government has a profound affect on our liberties.

Our founding fathers looked upon government as a shield to protect individual liberties. Most of our politicians today look upon government as the engine for doing good.

This framework is described masterfully in a very important book entitled The Tyranny of Good Intentions: How Prosecutors and Bureaucrats Are Trampling the Constitution in the Name of Justice by Paul Craig Roberts and Lawrence Stratton.

The English liberty tradition of the law as a shield to protect individual liberties traces back to Alfred the Great in the ninth century. The notion of the law as an instrument of the policy of the rulers was articulated by, among others, Jeremy Bentham, a 17th century political philosopher.

One of the more visible abuses of the law in our day is the ever-expanding number of reasons why police agencies are allowed to take people’s cash, cars, houses and other property without a warrant, and without ever pressing charges. Justified in the name of giving police and prosecutors effective crime-fighting tools, the reality has become a license to steal because the proceeds of confiscation go to the very officers who carry out the forfeiture.

The Tyranny of Good Intentions describes how the Communists made the law a weapon of the ruling elite. A process to seek justice was consciously rejected in place of a process to achieve the political objectives of the Communist Party. With that in mind, the authors paint a very disturbing picture of the perversion of the legal process in the United States that is now operating all too much like that of the Soviet Union.

What is the end of this? Well, consider that one of the most horrifying features of totalitarian government is the concentration camp. Jeremy Bentham believed that people who might, because of their economic and social status, commit a crime, should be apprehended and reformed through heavy labor. Hitler and Lenin must have had Bentham on their nightstand.

So, too, might today’s English Prime Minister, Tony Blair. He is proposing that the government be allowed to confine people proactively, based on the fears of their potential danger to society.

The Bible says that only God knows the hearts of men. Our Benthamite politicians obviously believe they share that divine knowledge.