Freedom Stands on the Foundation of an Independent Judiciary

The key to establishing an authoritarian regime is executive control over the judiciary.

Power corrupts. No office or institution or individual can totally and forever be trusted with unlimited power, and to impose the burden of such mindless trust upon any human or institution would constitute an unfair temptation. It follows that freedom is a plant that will wither in the political desert lacking transparency. Transparency is the bright sunlight that allows the political garden of freedom to grow. But transparency–officials acting openly so citizens can monitor their behavior–is not enough to cultivate freedom any more than plants can grow, even in sunlight, without roots to transfer nutrients, and the taproot of freedom is the independence of the judiciary.

Power is radioactive. Just as uranium is a bountiful source of electricity, so is political power a bountiful dynamo for generating social development. But just as uranium can either slowly pollute or devastating explode and destroy the physical environment, so can political power slowly pollute or suddenly devastate the social environment and the system of government.

To minimize the threat of political power turning malignant, modern societies employ both illumination from outside the government and portioning out of power within the government. The former facilitates public monitoring of the public’s chosen representatives; the latter balances different groups of power-holders off against each other. Awarding some powers to states, some to the center, those unspecified to the people; awarding some powers to the executive branch, some to the legislative; and–most importantly, ensuring that no one and no institution is above the law by protecting the independence of the judiciary from the rest of the executive branch are the control rods that enable the radioactive fuel of social development to be consumed without a political explosion.

If control over the judiciary is the key to dictatorship, then the independence of the judiciary is the key to liberty. Liberty requires much more: an informed and committed populace, a marketplace of ideas in which media and individuals may safely criticize leaders, elections not for sale and open to reform movements…but the internal ability of the government to discipline itself by protecting the judicial professionals from corruption by officials is the most crucial weapon for the defense of the people’s liberty.

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Senator Jeff Flake:

A lot of people are concerned about where we’re going … the vitriol that we now see daily, the kind of behavior that the President has exhibited, saying over the weekend, or on Friday, saying the FBI should go after the President’s political adversaries….To have a President say that, that is not normal and we shouldn’t accept it as normal.

Senator Lindsay Graham:

The president of the United States is in charge of the executive branch, it’s not his job to be telling the attorney general to be prosecuting a particular individual or group. It is the attorney general’s job to do that….We have a rule of law that is independent of political influence, and when you call on your attorney general to prosecute your former opponent, that is crossing the line

Senator John McCain:

We are asleep in our echo chambers, where our views are always affirmed and information that contradicts them is always fake. We are asleep in our polarized politics, which exaggerates our differences, looks for scapegoats instead of answers, and insists we get all our way all the time from a system of government based on compromise, principled cooperation and restraint.
All the while the associations, rules, values and aspirations that comprise the international order we have superintended for three-quarters of a century are under gathering attack from regimes that desire a world less just and less free and more corrupt. And they are under attack from forces within liberal democracies themselves, parties that preach resentful nationalism rather than enlightened self-interest, nativism rather than equal justice.

Senator Elizabeth Warren:

Slurs, lies & trash talk won’t stop the FBI from doing its job. This isn’t a dictatorship. It’s our democracy. And it’s stronger than you.

Senator Bob Corker:

President Trump’s pressuring of the Justice Department and FBI to pursue cases against his adversaries and calling for punishment before trials take place are totally inappropriate and not only undermine our justice system but erode the American people’s confidence in our institutions.

Former Attorney General Sally Yates:

DOJ not a tool for POTUS to use to go after his enemies and protect his friends. Respect rule of law and DOJ professionals. This must stop.

 

 

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Real Radicalism

You think the Greek left is “radical?” Think again.

The elite bias of Western media constitutes an overwhelming and insidious obstacle to solving problems. BBC, for example, calls the surging Greek reform party Syriza “radical.” Similar comments fill the pages of U.S. papers. What is radical about a party that wants peaceful, democratic reform of an outrageously slanted economic system that punishes the poor while rewarding the rich? It is high time for Western elites to crawl out of their cocoons and face the music that they are responsible and will burn the house to the ground if they don’t start making repairs.

If people get sufficiently desperate, the West may in fact end up with radicalism. Here is what radicalism looks like:

There will be no more calm chit-chat about financial “haircuts;” rather, bankers will face the guillotine. Banks will be nationalized, and the lucky bankers will retain their positions on modest bureaucratic salaries. That’s not really radical either, in truth, and the next step will be burning the banks to the ground or maybe just jailing the bankers. How does Guantanamo for Bankers sound (on the grounds that they are exempt from prisoner-of-war constraints because fraudulent foreclosing and gambling with society’s future amount to terrorism)? If we had a system based on “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need,” Jamie Dimon would have a distinctly different lifestyle. How many unemployed people could live on his $25M salary?

What the West is suffering from today is rogue capitalism on a binge of consuming the economic seed corn. Putting people on unemployment and tricking them out of their homes and cutting social support in order to feed the military-industrial monster surely do further enrich the 0.1% but at the cost of weakening the country. Uncontrolled exploitation by the rich has provoked revolution before, and it can happen again. Unfortunately, as anyone who has read Gulag Archipelago knows, revolutionary anger can easily lead us astray. That is not a future to anticipate with nonchalance. No one ever claimed the New Deal was perfect, but it was a socio-economic compromise agreement that rich and poor could both live with. Over the last generation, the rich have broken that agreement. It is time for the elite to wake up before it brings back real, old fashioned class war.