gall and gumption

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Judging Crimes

I don't stop at Joel's blog often enough. This piece on slavery and the Constitution is fascinating.

We know how burning the flag flips people out. Imagine if a nationally-known journalist were to get onstage during a July 4 celebration and set fire, Jimi-Hendrix-Monterey-Pop-Festival style, to a copy of the United States Constitution.

That's what William Lloyd Garrison did on July 4, 1854. It upset a lot of people at the time, but I bet it would upset even more people today. Sixty-seven years after the Constitution was drafted, Americans could still see it as it was, as a document produced by men and accepted by other men because rejecting it wasn't a realistic option. It hadn't yet ascended to the quasi-religious status of "the miracle at Philadelphia."

Garrison, whose life is wonderfully told by Henry Mayer, called the Constitution "a covenant with death and agreement with hell."

That's the opening (aren't you curious? You should be!) of a beautifully written, linky little essay. If you read it there you'll get all the links too, which I didn't bring in this little sample.

Joel writes about criminal justice, the Constitution, and law-related matters, and also about the eccentric behavior of judges.

I think my views on democracy and the criminal law are consistent with the values of modern liberalism. The United States is several times more violent than any other developed nation. One reason, I believe, is that victims of violent crime are overwhelmingly the poor, members of minority groups, the disabled and the mentally ill. As Richard Hofstadter demonstrated half a century ago, social Darwinism remains the template for American attitudes about the proper role of government. Judging Crimes explores the strange paradox that the social Darwinist -- or, to phrase it more politely, the libertarian -- view has come to be considered "liberal" in one isolated area of American public life: the administration of the criminal law.

Go read.


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