Class Based Injustice In The United States

2802 words - 11 pages

For centuries, analysts of law have debated virtually every attribute that encompasses the term. Although debate concerning law is often reduced to bickering over semantics, the need for law and its application has changed drastically throughout time, causing it to have many different definitions. When discussing "law" it is always important to disclose some sort of definition as to what law is in accordance to the topic of discussion. This aids comprehension and helps to avoid misinterpretation of what exactly is being referred to when the term is used. However, the failure to assign certain adjectives or a clear definition to law forces the opposition to address the thrust of the argument, rather than attack the given definition, which is often done. In addition, as said by Crazna Skapska, "enthusiasm for law without adjectives is based on the strong conviction that there are some adjectives which annihilate the meaning of the nouns to which they are added." That having been said, rather than enter into the much-exhausted debate concerning what law should or should not entail, I will only say that the "law" I am interested in is that of law in the United States. More particularly, and perhaps more importantly, the institutions within the legal system in the United States that blatantly oppress minorities and support class-based inequities in its society.

What justification is there, if any, in criticizing law in a system that is regarded by many as the greatest in the world? If one investigates only the surface of E.P. Thompson, or Martin Krygier's writings concerning the rule of law - perhaps none. E.P. Thompson insists that the rule of law is an "unqualified human good," and then goes on to say "To deny or belittle this good is, in this dangerous century when the resources and pretensions of power continue to enlarge, a desperate error of intellectual abstraction." (Thompson p. 266) Although what he is referring to as being an "unqualified human good," is that aspect of the rule of law that imposes "effective inhibitions upon power and the defense of the citizen from power's all-intrusive claims." Even at the heart of Thompson's characterization of the rule of law it seems, to be an "unqualified" human good, the rule of law should either (1) be universally good (have no negative impact on any given society, and no negative characteristics that could apply to its nature), or, (2) as Jeremy Bentham states, it would have to be good "inandofitself." For Bentham, the only good that is "good inandofitself" is happiness, and even its utmost supporters agree the rule of law alone does not bring happiness. On the matter of whether law is "universally good," Morton J. Horwitz states rather eloquently

"I do not see how a Man of the Left can describe the rule of law as `an unconditional human good.' It undoubtedly restrains power, but it also prevents power's benevolent exercise. It creates formal equality - a not inconsiderable...

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