Monday, December 11, 2006

Law as 'Reason' or as 'Violence'?

The other day, I received an alumni fund-raising letter from my old law school. It opened with a post-September 11th quote from a present faculty member who praised our current civilization, declaring that one of its most impressive accomplishments has been the development of a "legal order committed to resolving disputes between humans by reason and not by violence."

There is nothing particularly remarkable in this man’s observations: one would find virtually unanimous agreement with such sentiments at any gathering of lawyers, judges, politicians, or other professional groups. What is noteworthy in his words is how far removed they are from the reality they purport to describe. Like so many of the litanies and bromides by which most people sustain their faith in systems such as the state, these words have a reassuring quality to them, at least as long as one does not examine them closely.
He then proceeds to examine them closely.

Guess what?