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The Protection Racket

Last weekend, Jeff Tucker put out a really good article on LewRockwell.com, on the State’s so-called criminal justice system, and its sanctimonious claims to protect us, especially the poor and oppressed. He writes:

If you think about it, it is inherently implausible that the state could be an effective administrator of justice, for which there is a supply and demand like any other good. Shortages, inefficiencies, arbitrariness, and underlying chaos all around are going to be inherent in the attempt.

Because we are dealing here with the meting out of coercion, we can add that inhumane treatment and outright cruelty are also likely to be an inherent part of the system.

Even so, nothing had prepared me for what I witnessed in the courtroom the other day. …

… I got an education. It turns out that in a courtroom packed with criminals, not even one of the people who appeared before the judge was a danger to society. Nearly all were in for victimless crimes. The two who had perpetrated actual crimes ?? petty theft from Wal-Mart and the local mall ?? could have easily been dealt with without involving the state. So far as I could tell, the place could have been emptied out completely and our little community would have been no worse off, and massive human suffering could have been avoided.

But that’s not the way it works. These people, overwhelming black and poor but dressed very nicely in the hope of impressing the master, found themselves entangled in the web and thereby elicited the glare and killer instinct of the spider. How painful it was to watch and not be able to do anything about it.

The machine continued to operate. The judge hardly looked up, not even to notice how much these nice but exceedingly poor people dressed in an attempt to impress him. They and their lives meant nothing. It was all about keeping the machine working.

Finally 11am rolls around. The court had already raised for itself about $20,000, from my calculation. The judge says that there will be a short recess before he hears the not-guilty cases, mine among them. He will then assign public defenders to those whose income is low enough and then schedule jury hearings.

In other words, I would have to wait and then return at some later date.

My kids, who came with me, persuaded me that this was hopeless and ridiculous and very costly. I should declare my guilt and pay the $200 and be free. They didn’t want their Dad entangled anymore in this system. This is what I did, and I was free to go and join the multitudes who put up with this system of blackmail and money extraction every hour and know better than to attempt to use the system to challenge it.

Most people in my position would have never gone to court, and thereby they will never have seen just how cruel this system is for the poor, for minorities, and for everyone who gets tangled up in this web of coercion and legalized plunder.

But now I understand something more fully that I once only understood abstractly. I see how utterly ridiculous it is to think that the state can be the right means to help those who are poor or living at the margins of society. The state is their enemy, as it is for everyone else.

— Jeffrey Tucker, LewRockwell.com (2007-12-15): How the Justice System Works

Read the whole thing.

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