There was a time when saying, “This is a nation governed by law“, brought honor and pride.
That statement was associated with many others, such as, “All persons are equal before the law“, that emphasized that the same rules applied to everyone, regardless of economics, education, race, or any of the other attributes that in various times and places have been used to diminish the access of some to justice, opportunity, and fair treatment.
Many in this country still hold to those principles, for which I am grateful. As one who grew up during the Civil Rights Movement, I honor the courage of those who used the rule and power of law to move a society toward justice. That journey is not complete, but equality before the law has been a powerful aid along the path to freedom.
But freedom and equality, as with physical health, clean dishes, a mowed lawn, and a bug-free code base, are not persistent states. They require constant scrutiny and action, both preventative and corrective.
Legislative corruption threatens to replace the bright vision of rule by law with the dark specter of power for sale to the highest bidder. Uncontrolled lobbying and so-called “campaign contributions”, unlimited terms of office, and the apparent willful technological ignorance of many in congress, threaten to bring the grim scenarios of the cyberpunk genre to reality.
I do not advocate violating the law. I respect the need for a society to have structures in place by which creativity–artistic or technical–can be encouraged. And that includes paying fairly for its benefits.
But I regard as misguided any attempt to pervert our legal process to allow preemptive or punitive action without due process. I regard as toxic to health and progress the attempts to provide artificial protection for obsolete business or technological structures that resist change simply because people with money want to keep making more money in the same way.
And I regard as fatal to any virtue in the concept of rule by law the risk that our legislative, regulatory, and enforcement institutions are for sale.
But don’t stop there.
(And now, back to our regularly-scheduled programming…)