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The rule of law: unjust and violent

By Robert Burrowes - posted Thursday, 15 August 2013

The common phrase is 'law and order' but does the legal system deal with dysfunctional social behavior in ways that keep us safe?

While diverse but eminent historical figures such as Karl Marx, Leo Tolstoy and Mohandas K. Gandhi all wrote critiques exposing the injustice and violence of legal systems, the delusion that the law is a neutral agency that delivers justice still widely prevails. This delusion persists because the legal system is a key tool in the armory of the global elite's efforts to maintain social control over the rest of us and so it invests considerable effort through some of its other tools, particularly education systems and the corporate media, to perpetuate the delusion that the law and justice are synonymous when, in fact, without the unjust and violent 'rule of law' it would take much greater effort to maintain elite power, corporate profit and the personal privilege of that tiny minority that benefits from the global system of exploitation.

At the legislative level, elite control of governments ensures that laws are written to consolidate predatory corporate control (see, for example, 'The Real Monsanto Protection Act: How The GMO Giant Corrupts Regulators and Consolidates Its Power' and the secret laws being written for the Trans-Pacific Partnership: 'What You Need to Know About a Worldwide Corporate Power Grab of Enormous Proportions'; while preventing any legal regulation in areas of significant corporate interest such as those which allow corporate tax avoidance through use of off-shore tax havens (see 'The Price of Offshore Revisited: New Estimates for Missing Global Private Wealth, Income, Inequality, and Lost Taxes').


Moreover, elite control of governments is now destroying hard-won human rights and civil liberties, as well as environmental protections (see, for example, 'Three myths about the detention bill').

And, of course, if the law was really concerned with justice then poverty and homelessness would be illegal and those in such circumstances would be immediately provided with social housing and an adequate income (perhaps by using the $US32 trillion hidden in tax havens).

In relation to judicial appointments, all individuals have a political preference and individuals appointed to the bench invariably have the perspective of those political/corporate masters who appoint them. But it is deeper than this. A political perspective is just one outcome of an individual's psychology and any person who is willing to sit in judgment of others and then inflict violence upon them (even if sanitized words like 'punishment' or even 'sentencing' are used to delude themselves about what they are doing) is a perpetrator of violence. And all perpetrators of violence have certain psychological characteristics - they are terrified, self-hating and powerless as well as devoid of love, compassion, empathy and sympathy - as a result of the violence they suffered when they were a child. (For a thorough elaboration of this point, see 'Why Violence?') Hence, to accept appointment to the bench, where one is expected to inflict violence on others, tells us all we need to know about the psychology of that individual and we can reliably predict that their legal decisions will reflect their violent personalities and their bias in favor of elite interests, whatever slight variations appear from one case to another.

In court, what constitutes 'legally permissible evidence', according to the judge, can make or break a defense testimony (thus skewing outcomes in accord with elite interests), and judges are readily observed to manipulate inexperienced juries. Moreover, legal outcomes routinely reflect the bias against 'ordinary' people (especially poor people, people of color and activists) who often suffer severe penalties (including massive terms of imprisonment, sometimes in solitary confinement) for trivial offences, while the worst corporate criminals go unpunished or, at most, suffer token punishment (see, for example, 'The Crime of Being Poor').

Even worse, those national leaders who, according to the standards set at Nuremburg, are clearly guilty of war crimes are not even charged (see, for example, 'Noam Chomsky goes over list of War Crimes for which US presidents are responsible').

In contrast, there is the case of Bradley Manning who was illegally imprisoned and tortured before being convicted by a secret military tribunal which did not allow much of his defense to be presented; and he will have further violence inflicted on him yet. Why? Manning's 'crime' is his conscience. Motivated by a deep conviction that he should expose grotesque violence and injustice by the US government and military, Manning told the truth in a courageous act of nonviolent civil disobedience (see 'Pfc. Bradley E. Manning's Statement for the Providence Inquiry').


You might have wisely seen through the legal system long ago, but I want to explain, in psychological terms, why the legal system is so dysfunctional and must be rapidly superseded as part of the social transformation that must take place as we respond to the interrelated threats to our survival.

At birth the human organism is genetically programmed with emotional, intellectual, physical, behavioral and material needs. The organism is also genetically programmed to seek to meet these needs, either individually or cooperatively in a social context and in a natural environment, to achieve self-fulfilment. And it will go about doing this with awareness and consideration if given the opportunity to do so.

However, if socialization processes and social processes – such as parental treatment, social customs, school rules and societal laws – interfere with the capacity of the individual to meet their genetically programmed needs, then the individual will develop emotional, intellectual, physical and/or behavioral dysfunctionalities, some of which will be violent.

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About the Author

Robert has a lifetime commitment to understanding and ending human violence. He has done extensive research since 1966 in an effort to understand why human beings are violent and has been a nonviolent activist since 1981. He is the author of The Strategy of Nonviolent Defense: A Gandhian Approach, State University of New York Press, 1996. His email address is and his personal website is at

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