Judicial Secrecy: Where Justice Goes to Die

The traditional depiction of Lady Justice is a woman wearing a blindfold to demonstrate impartiality. In her right hand she wields a sword (symbolizing swift punishment for the guilty). Her left arm holds aloft a scale to weigh the opposing sides’ cases — publicly, for all to see.

Over time, American judges have become increasingly inclined to demand that the public itself wear the blindfold, and that the opposing parties wear gags.

Headline, New York Times: “Supreme Court Stays Out of Secret Case That May Be Part of Mueller Probe.”

The Court refused “to intercede in a mysterious fight over a sealed grand jury subpoena to a[n unidentified] foreign corporation issued by a federal prosecutor who may or may not be Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel investigating the Trump-Russia affair.”

Headline, Sacramento Bee“California judge will keep Planned Parenthood names sealed.”

The judge says he’ll “punish” anyone who reveals the names of the alleged victims in the prosecution of two anti-abortion activists charged with secretly taping them in conversations regarding procurement of fetal tissue.

Headline, CNN: “‘El Chapo’ Guzman jury will be anonymous, judge rules.”

Before the trial even began, the judge pronounced Guzman guilty of “a pattern of violence” that could cause the jurors to “reasonably fear” for their safety.

Headline, ABC News: “Federal judge warns she may impose gag order on Roger Stone, prosecutors.”

The judge doesn’t want the flamboyant Stone, charged in the Mueller probe, treating his prosecution as a “public relations campaign” or a “book tour.”

Secret proceedings. Secret subpoenas. Secret juries. Secret alleged victims.

Always with excuses, some more or less convincing than others.

And all flagrantly in violation of the First Amendment’s free speech clause and the Sixth Amendment’s public trial clause.

Nowhere in the Constitution is there mentioned any prerogative of government to operate in secret or to forbid public comment by anyone.

From what source do these judges claim to derive the powers they’re exercising? Certainly not from the taxpayers whose expense they operate at. Nor from the public they claim to serve.

To allow such secret judicial proceedings invites corruption and makes a mockery of the conception of justice the courts supposedly exist to uphold.

Paired with secret police operations (how many times have we heard police chiefs refuse to answer simple and germane questions to “protect an investigation?”), such proceedings constitute the necessary elements of a police state as ugly as any in history.

If American freedom is to stand a chance of survival and recovery, judges who engage in this kind of misconduct must be removed from their benches, stripped of their robes, and punished harshly — after the speedy, and very public, trials they’re entitled to, of course.

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Without Profit, There Would Be No Investment

Among the numerous fallacies embraced by socialism, one of the most notable is completely ignoring the value of investment and risk. Socialists love to talk about the value of “labor” and how profit is made on the backs of “labor,” but they ignore the fundamentals of human nature and of how the market actually works.

Labor doesn’t invest in building a widget factory. Labor doesn’t take the risk of widgets going out of style or being supplanted by something new in the market. Labor doesn’t pay for health and safety inspections. Labor doesn’t take the hit of depreciation.

Labor is paid first, before any profit is seen. Labor loses nothing when the factory burns down. Labor makes no investments and takes no risks, and therefore labor is not entitled to share in the reward. Labor makes a direct trade of time and skill for money. Beyond that, labor has no claim on the possible profits which a capitalist’s investment and risk may generate.

To be a laborer rather than a capitalist is a choice. It is a safe choice in which risk is traded for certainty and the possibility of profit is traded for the guarantee of wages. Most people are both laborers and capitalists. We engage in some direct trades of time and skill for money but we also make investments—be it in the stock market, bonds, cryptocurrencies, or even a loan (with interest) to a friend or neighbor.

Profit is not earned through labor. Wages are earned through labor. Profit is earned through investment and risk. The socialist sees this as unfair, but the socialist cannot explain why anyone would undertake a risky investment if there were no possibility of profit. Instead, the socialist is forced to embrace central planning as an alternative to all the productivity of the free market.

The socialist would have “the state” take on all the risk of investment in industry, infrastructure, research and development, and all other such things and then selflessly distribute the profits it will theoretically generate to the people—the laborers—regardless of what role or lack thereof they played in the generation of said profits.

What could possibly go wrong?

Everything, as it turns out. Unlike capitalists, who regularly fail, go bankrupt, and lose everything, the state cannot afford to take such significant risks. The state lacks the motivation of the capitalist and so it recoils when faced with the same odds at which the capitalist would jump. Even if one ignores the corruption and inefficiency which are endemic to all states, the state is just too risk averse to make meaningful gains in any sectors where it has primacy.

The possibility of profit is what makes investment and risk worthwhile. Without it, there is no incentive for investment and risk, and without investment and risk, there is no societal advancement, no innovation, and no wealth creation. People aren’t going to risk their resources unless the reward for doing so outweighs the risk. That’s basic human nature.

Contrary to what you may have heard, socialism doesn’t “work on paper” any better than it works in practice. It just doesn’t work, period. Attempting to remove profit from human existence removes the motivation which drives humanity to improve itself. Even if socialism didn’t fail catastrophically (as it always has when put into practice), it would, at best, still lead to the devolution of mankind as productivity ground to a halt. That’s not a future anyone should advocate.

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Entrepreneurial Innovation and Crony Corruption

It always starts with entrepreneurial innovators breaking new ground and establishing new avenues for the expression of individual liberty and private initiative. Then, as soon as some of the companies established by those innovators grow sufficiently large and influential, the biggest protection rackets operating in their respective territories (i.e., states and their military-bureaucratic regimes) stop fighting them and proceed to corrupting them with subsidies, “public contracts”, unofficial monopoly privileges, etc.

As a result, such companies become increasingly inefficient, unresponsive to the wishes of their clients, or downright opposed to their original mission statements. As soon as that starts happening, the representatives of political protection rackets start clamoring for imposing “regulations” on the whole industry – that is, subjecting it officially and comprehensively to the dictates of institutionalized aggression. Having been long since thoroughly corrupted, the high-ranking officers of the companies in question happily concur, thereby driving the last nail in the coffin of free competition in the industry under consideration. The ones who have opened new avenues of individual liberty are now all too willing to close them indefinitely.

This is what happened in the mature period of the Industrial Revolution, and this is what is happening now in the mature period of the Information Revolution. However, it follows from the very character of the Information Revolution that today we can be more aware than ever of the recurrent nature of this perfidious process. By the same token, we can also be more effective than ever in finally stopping its recurrence. Crony corporatism is an extension of statism, and statism is an enabler of crony corporatism – thus, tools and resources originally created to promote individual liberty (and knowledge about threats to it) must be used to their fullest in denouncing statism and its pseudo-market allies, lest they be converted into their opposites. If there has ever been a perfect time to renounce statism altogether and be particularly vocal and decisive about it, thereby possibly ending its corruption of libertarian entrepreneurialism, it certainly is right now.

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Redeem the Evil Days

Have you ever wondered how our time will be remembered?

You start to ask this question a lot if you’ve read a lot of history. The passage of time can either paint a positive or negative picture of how you and your fellow humans spent your time and your lives.

Will people remember the time we were alive as a time of freedom, justice, progress, and beauty? Or will they view our time with regret and shame, seeing how we failed to prevent evil or do good?

The world is a good place. But this good world is still littered with corruption, untruths, hatred, contempt, and all kinds of pain. People are still enslaved. Governments and soldiers still kill and maim. People still starve, good work remains undone, and children still have to sit through school.

We might say that our “days are evil”. But we wouldn’t be the first.

This is a phrase from St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians* which recently caught my eye. But there’s another one tied close by:

See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.

“Redeeming the time.”

I typically dislike the King James Version, but I love this wording. These are some words of hope. As is typical, Paul had ways of saying things which resonate beyond his religious audience.

So often we think of our “era” as something far beyond our control. But in the end, an era (from a historian’s point of view) is only the human actions and reactions that make it up.

We can by our lives redeem the evil days in which we live. We can change this time – at least as far as we are concerned – from a time of evil to a time of goodness. And we can redeem the time and “the days” by redeeming each day with the littlest of action: small kindnesses, small moments of integrity, small recognition of human dignity, small tellings of the truth.

Originally published at JamesWalpole.com.

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Kavanaugh: A Little Perspective, Please

“I’m not going to ruin Judge [Brett] Kavanaugh’s life over this,” US Senator Lindsey Graham told Fox News’s Chris Wallace on September 23.

“How much evidence is required to destroy a person’s life?” conservative columnist Marc A. Thiessen asked in the Washington Post a few days earlier, weighing in on the same controversy.

“Ruin?” “Destroy?” Really?

Kavanaugh stands accused of, as a high school student, attempting to rape another high school student.

Did he do that? I don’t know. You probably don’t know either,  nor do the 100 US Senators now weighing his confirmation.

Decades after the alleged incident, only a few people could know. It really comes down to whether one believes the accuser and those who say they were there or that she disclosed details to them, or whether one believes Kavanaugh and those who vouch for him.

I’m not going to express an opinion on the accusation, because I’m not qualified to offer anything but a gut feeling based on watching from afar.  Those 100 Senators, who really don’t have any choice but to express their opinions with their votes, are going to vote with their parties or on their own gut feelings as well.

But the hype … wow. In what universe does not getting a gig as one of the nine most powerful judges in the United States equate to having one’s life “ruined” or “destroyed?”

Brett Kavanaugh knocks down $220,600 per year as a judge on the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. Absent impeachment proceedings, his job is safe, and even assuming such proceedings a 2/3 US Senate vote to convict on the basis of a decades-old accusation not related to corruption is extraordinarily unlikely.

If he is somehow forced or pressured off the bench, he’s a guy with options.  He’s a graduate of exclusive schools (Georgetown Prep and Yale) and a former partner at a $3 billion law firm (Kirkland & Ellis).

If he’s not confirmed, he’ll command five- and six-figure speaking fees, large book advances, talking head “analysis” gigs on cable news shows, etc. He could probably build a lucrative new career doing nothing but whining to conservatives about how he was robbed of a SCOTUS position.

Don’t worry too much for Brett Kavanaugh. He’s going to be fine.

Given his expansive views of government power to surveil, confine, and interrogate both Americans and foreigners, though, the rest of us might end up regretting his confirmation.

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The Fatal Flaw

The following is an imaginary interview with an Interviewer and a Citizen. Although imaginary, it does not lessen any of the deductive reasoning processes involved. Deductive reason applies if one is looking for clarity. If the reader is not interested in clarity, stop reading now. It is not my intention here, to prove the cause and effect between the problem and its result—only to point out what I consider to be a devastating flaw in the minds of most people.

Interviewer: We all have a sense of morality within us. Without having to define it explicitly, would you agree that there are two different positions one can take in regards to morality, as follows: A) you take morality into consideration in the decisions you make in life and that’s important to you and it should be important to everybody else; B) to you there is no such thing as morality since it’s just a man-created idea but doesn’t really exist.

Citizen: I do take morality into consideration. Those who do not are actually amoral or without morals. One should be careful of those who are without a sense of morality, since they can “justify” any act of cruelty or harm that is perpetrate by one human against another.

Interviewer: Since you are the person being interviewed, let’s assume that the answers to my questions are your own opinion from now on. Since you are concerned with leading a moral life, would you steal from your neighbor and why?

Citizen: No, since stealing is immoral.

Interviewer: How do you define stealing or theft?

Citizen: The taking of another’s property without their permission whether by force or by the threat of force.

Interviewer: Do you believe that the act of using theft, force or fraud against another, is immoral, and as such, you would never sanction or condone it, even if your neighbors gave you permission to commit those acts?

Citizen: I believe and agree with that.

Interviewer: Would you sanction or condone it if everybody in the nation gave you permission to commit those acts?

Citizen: Absolutely not.

Interviewer: When the majority of the nation, through the vote, gives you permission, through your representatives, to sanction or condone and enforce theft, force and fraud, do you then consider it as moral? Realize, according to your definition of theft and your condemnation of theft, that all taxation is theft.

Citizen: When the majority considers it as moral, then it’s okay. It’s in the Constitution.

Interviewer: Do you understand how you’re contradicting yourself? How can you believe one thing and then espouse its opposite at the same time and believe that they are both true?

Citizen: Everything is relative. Everybody knows that. Why can’t I hold contradictory beliefs as part of my belief system?

Interviewer: You can hold contradictory beliefs in your mind but that isn’t what makes them true or a path to success, since recognizing a contradiction is showing that an error has been made and errors are things leading to bad results— to be avoided. There is a word for such a philosophy. It’s called hypocrisy.

I call the revelation or exposure of this person’s hypocrisy and contradictory beliefs, The Fatal Flaw. It pervades the minds of almost every citizen. I quote, “the point is that in respect of the relation between the theory and the actual practice of public affairs, the American is the most unphilosophical of beings. The rationalization (use of reason) of conduct in general is most repugnant to him; he prefers to emotionalize it. He is indifferent to the theory of things, so long as he may rehearse his formulas; and so long as he can listen to the patter of his litanies, no practical inconsistency disturbs him⎯indeed, he gives no evidence of even recognizing it as an inconsistency.” Our Enemy, The State by Albert Jay Nock, (page 12).

Most Americans come to conclusions randomly. They believe what they read in the newspapers, depending upon which newspaper they read. They see the corruption, lying and cheating that goes on before their very eyes and haven’t the foggiest idea of what goes on behind the closed doors of government. Yet they espouse their own opinions about how to solve the nation’s problems. The Fatal Flaw is responsible for class warfare, domestic war, international war and most of the conflicts between people. My fellow Americans, first get rid of your Fatal Flaw and the solutions will automatically follow, as you realize that the only path to peace and harmony in the world is through the Science of Voluntaryism. The Fatal Flaw is responsible for the devastation that awaits the human race.

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