Saturday, July 21 , 2018, 12:42 pm | A Few Clouds 71º


Randy Alcorn: Tipping the Scales of Justice a Powerful Feeling

A sense of justice seems innate to the human species. Almost as soon as children can speak they express an understanding of fairness, and loudly protest when they perceive something as unfair.

Those protests are never louder than when rules that apply to everyone are not equitably enforced. “Not fair!” is the indignant complaint we hear from children.

More and more, we are hearing that complaint from adults too — most recently when the FBI’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s mishandling of classified information concluded that her offenses did not warrant criminal charges.

The investigation, however, did expose — or confirm — Clinton’s mendacity, self-serving carelessness and entitlement arrogance.

More important, this episode exposes that justice in America is not always blind. Law enforcement has tremendous discretion about when and against whom to apply the law.

In the Clinton case, the chief federal prosecutor, Attorney General Loretta Lynch, quickly accepted the FBI’s conclusion that Clinton was not criminally negligent.

Less prominent citizens involved in mishandling classified information have not been beneficiaries of such lenience.

But then, the scales of justice can be tipped by the weight of purse and power. FBI Director James Comey all but confirmed this when during his news conference announcing the decision in the Clinton investigation he said:

“To be clear, this is not to suggest that in similar circumstances, a person who engaged in this activity would face no consequences. To the contrary, those individuals are often subject to security and administrative sanctions. But that is not what we are deciding now.”

Maintaining justice is one of the most crucial functions of government. But, what is justice?

Justice is fairness guided by truth and reason. In the context of social order, it is adherence to principles of law based on fundamental ethical standards that appropriately and impartially reward and punish.

Justice is so essential to civil society that its absence describes evil. Nothing so quickly inflames human anger into outrage as does the perception of injustice, which has always been the great detonator of civil disobedience and rebellion.

Societies that fail to address chronic injustices — real or perceived — are eventually subject to upheaval of one sort or another.

America might be headed for such upheaval, but the case of another venal, dishonest, self-serving politician benefiting from tilted justice is not going to send people into the streets.

What will and has is a more personal, injurious and menacing manifestation of injustice — abusive police power. Nowhere in society is the power of the state felt more directly than in the interaction between law enforcement and citizens.

The questionable use of lethal force by police, mostly, but not always, against black men has been exposed as epidemic.

The fabric of society is being frayed by the persistence of this obvious, egregious injustice. It ripped wide open in Dallas last week.

However, the most pervasive injustice in America is that which allows economic interests to exploit and endanger society with virtual impunity.

Corrupt Wall Street bankers cheat the public; major corporations knowingly allow their defective products to kill and maim hundreds of people; energy companies grossly pollute the common environment; pharmaceutical corporations cross-market their products for purposes that they know will endanger the health of customers — yet virtually no one goes to jail.

For the benefit of employers and millions of foreign nationals, immigration laws go largely unenforced year after year, but the futile war on drugs is enforced with crusading vengeance, overflowing prisons and confiscating private property from innocent citizens.

Thousands of military veterans of misguided, unnecessary wars, fought more for the enrichment of special interests than for “our freedom,” end up in the streets and without the medical care promised them, while the nation spends billions of tax dollars on superfluous armaments, worldwide military bases, and to support repressive, corrupt foreign regimes.

Politicians award themselves raises and lavish retirement benefits, cut taxes for the wealthiest citizens, subsidize profitable corporations, but warn that Social Security and Medicare are excessive drains on the treasury?

The Hillary Clinton case is emblematic of the dynamics that foster such injustices — corrupting greed, narcissistic entitlement and arrogant privilege.

We like to believe in American egalitarianism, but in fact we are a stratified society — and becoming more so. There is an economic aristocracy for whom justice is just another commodity that can be bargained for and bought in legislatures and litigation.

The best justice costs more. Lawyers and court costs are expensive. Ambitious prosecutors are too often more concerned with winning cases than with pursuing justice.

A citizen of modest means is at a disadvantage in court. A wealthy person or corporation, however, can mount long, costly defenses. Prosecutors, reluctant to sustain such expensive, time-consuming legal battles, will often settle out of court.

Is justice served?

Justice in America is the best money can buy. You just need to have the money. Don’t expect either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump to seriously address injustice. They are both beneficiaries of it.

— Randy Alcorn is a Santa Barbara political observer. Contact him at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address), or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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