School may be out for summer in many parts of the country, but there are stil plenty of lessons to be learned from this year’s political morass. We’ve learned that the two party system is not actually a feature of our government. We’ve learned that the two parties are actually private entities and can do whatever they want. We’ve learned that we actually do get the government we deserve. And most recently we’ve learned that the rule of law is a myth.
This has to be music to the ears of John Hasnas? Hasnas published a paper more than 20 years ago making this claim. But based on the comments I’ve seen on yesterday’s news, I wonder if anyone but me ever read it. So many people shocked, shocked I say, that the FBI chose not to indict, usually with some comment about the “rule of law”.
What shocks me is that anyone is shocked. More than 20 years have passed since Hasnas wrote his paper. While I know it may seem a bit long in the age of memes, he lays out a pretty elegant case supporting his basic argument (emphasis added):
I would argue that this ability to maintain the belief that the law is a body of consistent, politically neutral rules that can be objectively applied by judges in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary goes a long way toward explaining the citizens’ acquiescence in the steady erosion of their fundamental freedoms. To show that this is, in fact, the case, I would like to direct your attention to the fiction which resides at the heart of this incongruity and allows the public to engage in the requisite doublethink without cognitive discomfort: the myth of the rule of law.
You may be saying to yourself, “Wait, if there is no rule of law, then we’ll just revert to the rule of man, which was so terrible / arbitrary that we invented the rule of law to get away from it to have something more fair and consistent.” Hasnas argues that in fact we deceived ourselves when we created the idea of the rule of law, since who creates and inteprets that laws? Man. Confucios said:
The beginning of wisdom is to call things by their proper name.
By investing the concept of the rule of law, we’ve lost sight of what is really going on. The decision to not indict is a wake up call. Everyone is so bothered by it since it is htting on the dissonance between what we beleive to be true and what we actually see demonstrated in our reality. It’s not all doom though – Hasnas does offer a solution. But you’ll have to read the paper to find out what it is.