QotD: More Equal than Others Edition

David Gregory will not be prosecuted for brandishing a high-capacity magazine during his matinee of political theater a few weeks back, despite the fact that not only was this against the local law, but his staff had called the authorities and knew it was illegal. “Prosecutorial discretion,” we’re told.

Another David, David French (of National Review, the US Army JAG Corps, and the American Center for Law and Justice) is honest enough to acknowledge that such a prosecution would have been absurd, but notes that “so is the law under which he would have been prosecuted. In fact, if absurdity were a defense to prosecutions or other adverse legal actions, an enormous swathe of our regulatory state would be swept away. ” (Not that this would be a bad thing, mind you.)

But then he offers us the QotD:

Can we even speak of the rule of law as a meaningful concept when we combine an explosive regulatory state with near-absolute prosecutorial discretion? As many others have noted, the regulatory state makes ever-more conduct — even benign conduct — unlawful, while absolute discretion grants the prosecutor the right of the King’s pardon. Overlay that legal reality with a stark red/blue divide, and the situation is ripe for the most base forms of political and personal favoritism.

Remember back at the Democratic convention, when they announced that “government is the only thing we all belong to?” Well, they meant it, but they forgot to mention that they wanted to belong to it as rulers, and the rest of us would belong not as citizens, but subjects.



About profmondo

Dad, husband, mostly free individual, medievalist, writer, and drummer. "Gladly wolde he lerne and gladly teche."
This entry was posted in Politics, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to QotD: More Equal than Others Edition

  1. Huck says:

    I take issue with your rulers-citizens-subjects line, ProfMondo, as that’s not really born out by anything but figments of your imagination, especially if you think that interpretation only applies to Democrats; but that’s for another thread. What I’d like to discuss a bit is the meaning of the idea that government is something we all belong to. Maybe the better claim is that America is what we all belong to; but what is America without its government? Seems to me that, although they are not quite the same, the one cannot exist without the other. It does stand to reason that a concrete representation of America is the government selected by its citizens and run by its citizens. Outside of that, I guess we are nothing but a bunch of tribalists with allegiance to our own peeps, however we choose to define what constitutes our “own” (whether by race, region, language, cultural practice, religion, etc.). I’ve always argued, political scientist that I am, that what really makes the U.S. so unique and exceptional in the world is that we define our social contract exclusively by a shared political culture in such a way that not only permits our freedom to be such a diverse place to live, but which also vigorously protects that diversity. Of course, there are those in our country who define America in ways that tend to elevate factors such as religion (Christianity), language (English), etc., above shared political culture (government, if you will) — and these are the ones who might be thought of as holding on to a ruler-subject mentality, but these are also the ones who tend to think of diversity and multiculturalism as liberal claptrap and tend to identify as socially conservative Republicans and vote accordingly. You can cynically mock the “government is the only thing we all belong to” line, but I think most people not only understand the meaning behind this statement (i.e. we all belong to “America”, governed of, by, and for its people), but would probably agree with it at a fundamental level of American political culture and would actually chafe at any other way to homogenize the identity of America and of individual Americans.

    • profmondo says:

      First of all, when the combo of suffocating regulation and selective enforcement (as in l’affaire Gregory) exists, putting some folks effectively above the law, then yes, the citizen/subject distinction is relevant.

      As for our differing readings of the DNC line, I would observe that had the line been “Government belongs to all of us,” I wouldn’t have objected — indeed, I would have agreed. But that isn’t what it said. Words mean things, and I don’t belong to the government. Nor do Mrs. M or the Spawn. We are not wards of the State. Government exists to serve us and to protect rights that exist a priori (case in point — I am not granted the freedom of speech or the right to self-defense; the government is forbidden to interfere with my right to speak or protect myself. Again, that’s the difference between citizen and subject.) That it has increasingly overstepped those bounds and seems to be sprinting toward a Tocquevillian soft despotism may be the fact of the matter, but it isn’t something we should celebrate.

      I further disagree with the conflation of America with the government. It might be so were this a direct democracy/majoritarian tyranny (and that seems to be what many people think we either are or should be), but that’s not what the U.S. government was designed to be, nor is it anything I would desire.

      As ever, thanks for dropping by!

  2. Pingback: The Government and the Nation: Thinking Out Loud | Professor Mondo

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s