July 31, 2009

Before the Law part 3

Filed under: Law, Sovereignty and Constitution — Tags: — Russ @ 9:33 am
To finish my brief account of the ways access to the law has been barred, I’d like to mention the gutting of federal and state funding for legal services.
Public legal services are an essential tool for the poor. They rely on these clinics to assist with fighting unlawful evictions, resisting predatory lenders, dealing with applications for government benefits and working out benefit snafus, obtaining protection from domestic violence, and many other things which the rich never need to think about (many of these problems tend to be concentrated among the poor), which require legal assistance the poor cannot afford.
Such clinics rely upon public funding. Federal funding has been under assault since the Republican Counterrevolution of 1994. State funding, which comes from interest on lawyers’ trust accounts (IOLTA) and from direct appropriations, is  being hit by lower interest rates and the gutting of direct funding.
So at the very time they are under siege in so many other ways, the poor also lose the wherewithal to receive legal assistance as they deal with the Law. This is a disgrace.
Access to the law is both a constitutional right and a social health necessity. When citizens are coerced into the privatized shadow legal system, or they are juridically defined out of existence as lacking “standing”, or they are denied access to a lawyer because legal representation is rationed by ability to pay, the constitution is violated every bit as much as if a criminal defendant were denied a public defender.
The principle is the same: access to the law cannot be rationed by wealth.
That it is nevertheless being rationed by wealth clearly reveals how there really is no such thing as “society”. The greed fundamentalists are throwing down the mask and revealing themselves in all their viciousness and ugliness.
The feudalists have finally come around to acknowledging the truth: that there’s no such thing as “the law”. Rather, as with everything you must ask, whose law? The answer is clear: the law is for the rich, for those who have acquired “property” in some usually dubious way.
No one with any intellectual or moral integrity would try to claim you can have law if access to the law is dependent upon money. So when we hear right wing arguments on the subject, we know we’re hearing from those who reject on principle “law” as anything other than a mercenary weapon.
Meanwhile it’s clear that at every state level the preferred response to fiscal crisis will be to beat up on the weak, as we see with every cut to already threadbare public programs.
So while government at every level can and should be working for the citizenry, it has instead, through feudal capture, become their enemy.
But nothing’s going to change if people just sit there and take it. The worst part is how easy it would be to take back the country if everyone who needs this were willing to do it. The obstructions, all of which are purely political, would prove to be flimsy in the face of any political will on the part of the public.
(The pipsqueak Hobbesians claim to want a pure free-fire zone in place of civilization. But how long would they last if we really had that? Not a day. What they really want is big, aggressive government, ponderously tipping the playing field, tilting every “market”, in favor of already-entrenched big interests, while the people, the environment, and every human value are thrown on the bonfire of gutter greed. Which is what we have today.)
The key to solving the mystery of the gatekeeper, as with everything in Kafka, is to realize that his power is only the power we give him. If the man whose door to the Law is before him simply strides in with confidence, there is no gatekeeper.
To Kafka the problem is psychological. And so it is, since the real obstacle to dealing with a political problem is to be willing to see it as a political problem, and not as some law of nature, the way the corporate enemy and its economist minions wish us to see it.
Understand that everything in society is the way it is because of political decisions, and you understand how different decisions can create a different society.
From there it’s just a matter of will.


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