Thoughts on the competency, legitimacy, and mentality of American law, and other legal things

Over the years I have thought a lot on the competency and legitimacy of American law.  I particularly have great and tremendous doubts about its mentality and logic, which seems horribly warped and oddball to me.  Here are some of my thoughts on it (I may of mentioned some of this in previous articles):

THE PROBLEM OF LEGITIMACY

To be frank, American law doesn’t impress me all that much and I don’t look to it highly nor do I acknowledge it as an authority.  In other words, I do not look at American law as the “final answer” or “final solution” to problems.  As a general rule, I don’t give much credence to American law and treat a lot of its judgement’s much like the statements from tabloid magazines . . . more likely to be ridiculous than something to take seriously.  I particularly don’t like this warped oddball mentality hovering over me with its “pretended authority”.  In short, American law has not earned my respect and belief.  In fact, my feelings and observation is that American law has largely failed in earning respect and belief from most of the people.  This is something that it really needs to do.

What all this more or less means is that law cannot be considered legitimate until it has earned the respect and belief of the people.  Notice the word “earned”.  I have always had this belief that law needs to earn respect.  Generally, though, law does not earn respect but only demands it, regardless of whether it is right or wrong.  This is particularly so in larger societies.  But, regardless of this, I tend to believe that any “true law” is a law that has earned the respect from the people.  Since this has not happened in the U.S. it means that American law is not a “true law”.

I think I’d call American law an “expedient law”, done out of necessity and expediency. This, though, still does not make it any more “true”.  If anything, “expedient law” is a type of law that has been degraded and broken down because of necessity and expediency.  This is why I consider American law a degraded and broken down form of law.  Though it may “somewhat work” it still hasn’t earned respect and, accordingly, it is cannot be considered a legitimate form of law.

MECHANIZED LAW”

Much of law nowadays, it seems to me, is what I often jokingly call “mechanized law”.  Law is basically treated like its a machine.  Its a mentality that has qualities such as:

  • It is abstract, to the point of being mechanical or mathematical, in its mentality.
  • It gets too wound up in details, to the point of ridiculousness.  There are too many “technicalities” based in things like wordings, grammar, policies, and a multitude of other things.
  • It tends to be divorced from the real world.
  • It creates a false reality where all of its principles work:  the “legal world” (see below).

What we see then is a mentality that lacks wisdom.  Instead, legal matters are treated more like an engineering or mathematical problem.  Overall, its a mentality that appears much like “if a equals b then go to c; if b does not equal b then go to d”, and so on.  More than once, after listening to lawyers and judges, have I said statements like this:  “what are they doing, trying to figure the motion of a spacecraft through space with tragectories, forces, vectors, and that?”  I’m waiting for the time when they will start using mathematical formulas and equations to solve legal problems.

In my worthless opinion (as anything I say that conflicts with the law will be made worthless in some way), the “mechanized law” mentality makes law incompetent.  It does this a number of ways:

  • It does not cater to “human reality”.
  • It is not based in human culture, belief, etc.
  • It tends to neglect “actual real-life conditions”.  That is to say, everything is compared to the philosophy of the “legal world” and how it interprets things.
  • It lacks wisdom and common sense.
  • Its too based on their own legal logic.

These tend to make “mechanized law” inefficient from the human world standpoint and, subsequently, it often tends to be in error.

The problem, though, is that the “mechanized law” mentality is something that works well in a massive social system, which is why it is so prevalent.  In fact, one could say that it makes it necessary.  In other words, “mechanized law” is competent for a system but its not competent on the human level.  This is where it horribly fails.  Its here that I primarily dispute it.

THE “LEGAL WORLD”

The “mechanized law” mentality is based in what I call the “legal world”.  This is an image of the world, and how it works, based on legal principles, ideals, and other miscellaneous legal details.  It is literally a world view, very much like what science or religion has created.  Over the years, the “legal world” has become so massive that it has, in some sense, become a whole other abstract image of the world.  It is the “world view of lawyers”, so to speak.  The problem is that the “legal world” does not match the real world and human reality.  It is simply too abstract and based too much on its own intellectual principles and ideas.  This is not how the real world works, though. This is the basic problem of the “legal world”.

I find the “legal world” not all that convincing.  This is because of things like these:

  • It has become so complicated that a person has to go through years of schooling just to understand it.
  • Its something that is never taught to the common people.  The “legal world” is something the legal system keeps to itself like some secret holy relic.  Most people haven’t a clue about its principles.  But, we must remember, we are judged by this unknown secret mentality that only lawyers understand!
  • It often does not follow societies beliefs and principles.
  • It tends to neglect real world and human reality.
  • It tends to cater to specific beliefs and points of view, such as liberalism, which often does not reflect the people themselves.
  • It is too reliant on abstract, mechanistic, and math-like thinking.
  • It relies on thinking that is unique to its logic, policies, and points of view.
  • It lacks wisdom.
  • It views its rulings as “final!” and the “last word!” as if it were the word of god.

I find, though, that one of the reasons why its not convincing is that it is not based in a “right” or a “truth”.  Law is actually based in expedient need.  In other words, law does not solve things by being “right” and “true” but more in the context of “its the easiest way to solve the problem”.  This is because the primary purpose of law is based in these things:

  • To end conflicts and disputes between people as simply as possible and without violence.  In this way, law is rooted in an expediency or a necessary need.  This, in actuality, is the real “need” of law, not that it is “right” or “true”.
  • Law tries to impose its principles in any way possible.  In this sense, we could say that law is based in a desperation, of trying to make a judgment that “works”.
  • It uses any form of authority to achieve this.  In this way, law is a handmaiden of the current existing form of authority.  Whatever authority is in power is what is used.  Since authority changes through the years the authority law uses changes.
  • The law is often “forced” upon people, usually the people who are adversely affected by it.   In fact, many people have judgement’s forced upon them that they, themselves, do not understand or believe in.  All they can say is, “they say the law says this is a crime”, but they don’t understand it.  I’ve seen this many times.

In this way, we could say that law is a desperate form of expediency, that is generally forced upon people, with whatever authority works, in order to limit conflict.  In this way, the law is not motivated out of “right”, as is commonly supposed.  Accordingly, one should not look at the law as a source of “right”.  Its purpose is to end problems as quickly as possible so they do not get out of control. 

THE “LEGAL ENIGMA”

We see, then, that “right” and “truth”, in actuality, do not figure that well into law.  We could then say that law is based in these three things:

  1. The use of whatever means to prevent conflict.
  2. The use of whatever authority to bring this about.
  3. The use of whatever control to enforce it.

This creates what can be called “legally justified right”.  That is, they are justified by these conditions.  What this does, though, is to create an illusion of the “right” in law.  In actuality, its a myth of right.  One could actually say that “legal right” is whatever works to accomplish those three things! 

This “legally justified right” is the beginning of the false reality of the “legal world”.  With this “legal right”, of whatever works, the false reality is given credence and truth and value.  But, as I said, the “legally justified right” is not based in an actual “right” but in “expedient need”.  These are not the same.  One could compare it to the saying “might makes right”.  The “might” of “legally justified right” makes it “right”, not that it is, in actuality, “right”.

This reveals a basic problem in law, which I call the “legal enigma”.  Basically, law is not motivated by “right” and, as a result, if never completely “right”  nor does it try to be.  But it must be firm in its rulings, asserting that it is “right”, using whatever authority is needed, in order to prevent disputes from getting out of control.  But, because it is never completely “right”, there is often a “fuzziness”, vagueness, or uncertainty that follows many legal disputes, rulings, and so on.  In other words, the fact that it is not motivated by “right” tends to cast a shadow over law of uncertainty.  To put it another way, law pretends at being “right”, with all the pomp of authority, when all its doing is trying to prevent conflict in whatever means possible . . . in actuality, these are at odds with each other. 

THE “SINGLE PATH DILEMMA OF LAW”

Because of the conditions of law, the legal system has to pretend that its rulings are the only and right path and in which there are no alternate or different paths.  This is what I call the “single path dilemma of law”.  The fact, though, is that there are always other paths and points of view that can always be taken in any legal ruling.  Things that cause these other paths and points of view include:

  • Different forms of beliefs. 
  • Different forms of authority.
  • Different schools of thought in law itself.  Just in American law, alone, there are different schools of thought of how this or that should be interpreted.  In this way, we see that law is not a science.

Because of these things most judgments of law can be disputed.  In fact, one could very well say that there are multiple paths that can be taken in most rulings.  In addition, all these different rulings can be viewed as “right” in some way or another.  But, law has to create a “single path” in order to enforce itself and be effective.  It has to “pretend” one ruling is correct over all others when, in actuality, it is not.  This, really, shows that the “single path dilemma of law” is really a continuation of the “legal dilemma”.   Law “pretends” that there is only one path to take (that is, its ruling, its decision, its points of view).  In actuality, this is not the case.  In this way, law is actually “pulling the wool over our eyes” with its “single path”, making it appear as if this is all that there is. 

In addition, in enforcing this “single path” it continues the false reality of the “legal world”, creating its own “truth” when, in fact, there are many.  As I said, a lot of the mentality of the “legal world”, that I have seen, tends to assume that there is a “single path” in law.  I get the impression that many lawyers and judges view law as a “single path”, never even considering that there can be other directions and points of view.  This tends to cause a narrow mindedness in law and in lawyers, I’ve found.  Its one of the things that puts the mentality of law under question.

THE PROBLEM OF AUTHORITY IN LAW

In order to work, law must have authority.  Over the years, there have appeared a number of different forms:

  • Religious authority.  This is law based in religious belief and principles.  We see this in Judaism and the Middle East, for example.
  • Cultural authority.  This is law based in cultural traditions, customs, and so on.
  • Political authority.  This is law based on political theory.  This is very prevalent in the U.S. and Britain.
  • Logical authority.  This refers to “legal logic” and is primarily restricted to the legal world.  In other words, it is a logic that only lawyers and judges understand.  This means it is part of the “legal world” and “mechanistic law”.

What authority is used depends on the time, place, and conditions.  In many cases, multiple authorities are used or combined in some way.  In the U.S., for example, political and logical authority are often combined.

A problem that is inherent in a large population is the problem of authority.  Typically, the larger the population, and especially the more diversified, the more authorities there are.  What one person may accept as authority is not accepted by another, for example.  In addition, the authority accepted by the legal system is not necessarily the authority accepted by the common people.  As I said above, the “legal world” tends to be removed from the real world.  Because of this, many legal rulings are using authority and logic most people don’t really accept and often aren’t even aware of.  This makes the question of authority a difficult situation in large populations.  This, it seems to me, is one of the reasons why law has sunk deeper into its “legal world” and “mechanistic law” mentality.  It gives them an illusion of a “solution” that makes sense to the legal system.  In other words, in a large population, there tends to be a degradation in religious, cultural, and political authority.  These can be called “social authorities” as they represent social authority.  Because of the degradation of these “social authorities” the law has increasingly had to turn inward into itself, away from “social authorities” and, accordingly, has had to rely on its logic and principles as a basis of its rulings.  In this way, the effect of a larger population is for law to rely increasingly on logical authority.  This has slowly turned into “mechanistic law” over time, where law is treated as a “logical problem” than an act of wisdom.  Its also made law more reliant on its own world its logic creates (the “legal world”).  In addition, because it has turned increasingly inward to its own logic it has increasingly become removed and alienated from everyday life. 

Oftentimes, because of the problem of authority of law its not uncommon that the authority the law uses must be forced in whatever way it can.   In other words, they choose the authority and impose it upon you.  I call this “legally forced authority”.  This is because they are “legally justified” not only their authority but its imposing upon you, even though you haven’t a clue what it is . . . they are satisfied in their mind (another example of the “legal world”).

The best condition, of course, would be where the authority used in law is known and understood by the people being judged.  In a large population, this is becoming less and less attainable.  Many of us listen to the rulings of law and are completely appalled.  “I don’t agree with that!” or “That’s ridiculous!” are common remarks.  I often feel that the people in the legal system, particularly judges, should listen to what people say about their system.  Very few people, that I know, agree with many rulings and tend to view them as biased or motivated by money.  In other words, most people view the legal system as corrupt in some way.  Because of this, its not something to rely on and its rulings are not to be taken seriously.  This point of view is so impactful on the perception of the legal system, and its authority, that it amazes me that the legal system hasn’t looked at it seriously.  I tend to believe that this is because the legal system lives in its “legal world” much like a hermit crab lives in its shell.  It shows a great divide between the “legal world” and the real world.

FLUID AND CONCRETE LAW

The “mechanized law” varies with the form of law.  In some forms of law the “mechanized law” mentality causes endless problems.  In other forms, it may even be beneficial.  To me, there appears to be a spectrum in law, with these two extremes:

  • Fluid law.  This are conditions which there are often many different ways of interpreting things.  This is seen a lot in social situations, such as dealing with marriage, family, and criminal law.  This form of law has a bad reputation for being “right”.
  • Concrete law.  This are conditions are typically not social in orientation, but involve non-human type of things.  Examples include trade, business, property, patent law, and similar law.  In this form of law “mechanized law” is often beneficial and has helped a lot.

Most of the failure of law is in fluid law.  Since this is more social based, the problems associated with this law are reflective of social problems.  My opinion is that law cannot really solve social problems that well but yet it tries to.  When law is used as an “attempt” to solve social problems, such as divorce law or racial problems, it often only succeeds because its rulings are “forced” upon people.  The fact that they have to “force” their rulings shows that it is not a “solution”.  In actuality, I do not view the law as sufficient authority in social matters and do not assume any of its rulings are “correct”.  I have never turned to the law as a source of how society should be and I believe there is a reason for that.  But one of the effects of its increasingly having to force its rulings in social matters is that it has increasingly “acted” as if it was the solution to social problems.  In this way, the law has often “pretended” to be the “authority in social matters” which it is not.  I often get a chuckle how law often tries to pretend to solve societies problems with its rulings.  With what I have seen of the rulings and decisions of law so far . . . so what!  Who cares what they think.  But the problem is that they are the ones who judge us!

THE PROBLEM OF KNOWING THE LAW

The law will make judgement on you whether you know the law or not.  I have always maintained that a person cannot be held accountable by a law they did not know existed.  This, to me, is common sense but we must remember that the “legal world” is removed from the real world and tends to not know what common sense is.  Remember its based in “expedient need” . . . it must make a ruling and it must be “right” according to its dictates and citing its authority.  This attitude in law tends to negate common sense.

I have always felt that a person should have some understanding of what the law expects of us.  In my life, I have had absolutely NO instruction into what the law expects me to do or not do.  All that I have learned was from hearsay or personal inquiry.  I have always jokingly said that I held the legal system “negligent” because of its failure to instruct the people what it expects them to do.  I have even went further and said:  “the legal system has been so negligent in its teaching of the law that it is not competent to make judgements.”

But there’s even more to the lack of being taught the law.  As I have looked into the legal system on my own (as the law surely wouldn’t teach us anything), I have often been appalled by their logic, mentality, and point of view.  Reading many court cases is often like reading some oddball, bizarre, and weird science fiction stories about aliens.  In science fiction stories about aliens they have to “make up” things for the aliens, often going into the bizarre and ridiculous.  To be frank, that’s what a lot of court cases look like!  The logic, points of view, etc. sound almost “made up” by the lawyers . . . they just “dress it up” with legal jargon, principles, and such to make it sound legitimate.  Many of us have heard the logic used in the courts and said, “are you kidding?”

Some of the things that have been ridiculous include:

  • What they admit and do not admit as “evidence”.
  • The procedures of the courts and how they are held.  For example, I’ve been appalled how, in some cases, everything must be done in a certain limited period of time.
  • The role and actions of the lawyers.  I’ve been appalled watching how lawyers twist and warp things to their advantage.
  • The logic and mentality they use.  Often, the logic doesn’t make any sense at all.
  • How they use the laws own “legal authorities” and policies as a basis of everything.  Often, the common people are in complete dark about it all too!  They are as if watching this play before them spoken in a foreign language.

More than once have I stated “what the crap?” after reading court cases.  Its quite clear that the legal system lives in its own world and that there is a gap between the legal system and society.

THE DILEMMA OF LAW

It seems, to me, that the current legal system seems based in conditions like these:

  • A smaller society.
  • A society where authority is defined.
  • A society where the culture is more unified.

With these conditions, law is more a part of culture and everyday life.  In conditions like this, law works better.  This is because of things like this:

  • People know the law.
  • The law is based in the culture.
  • The authority of law is accepted.
  • Its judgement’s are accepted.

Unfortunately, the conditions that cause these no longer exist.  In other words, the legal system is actually based in conditions that were existing centuries ago.  As a result, it assumes the same things, even though conditions have changed.  Some of the things that have changed include:

  • Society has become a mass society.
  • There are too many points of view, beliefs, and such.
  • There has been a breakdown of culture.

These new conditions do not match the conditions that the law is based in.  Regardless of this, the legal system is still functioning as if it is still centuries ago.  The new conditions has put a great dilemma in the legal system.

The reaction to these breakdowns primarily seem to be in the creation of “mechanistic law” and the “legal world” with its abstract disconnected thinking  . . . law is turned into something like math.  This “mechanistic law” and “legal world”, of course, treats society like a system, a big machine.  Accordingly, people and their problems are treated that way as well, as part of that machine.  On the surface – that is, on an abstract, mechanistic, and system level – it seems to work.  But it fails on the human level.  As a result, I don’t see modern law as a solution to human problems.  What this more or less shows is that, with the new conditions created by mass society and such, law is really ceasing to be a solution to human problems and problems between people as it was in the past.  In other words, law has changed primarily by becoming more ineffective.  It seems, to me, that law is primarily a “forcing” than a solving.  What’s worse, its a “forcing without understanding” in many cases.  Many people are forced to do things they don’t understand or never even knew about.  This all shows how disconnected law is.

WHY LAW CONCERNS ME

Apparently, I’m the only person who really says anything about the law. What most people do is grumble about it.  No one really seriously looks at it.  Many people tend to distance themselves from the law saying things like “its corrupt” or “its all about power” and such. They are really only expressing their helplessness to it.  In other words, most people don’t have any interest in it and tend to distance themselves from it.  But I seem to be particularly concerned about it.  I tend to feel it is a result of a number of things such as:

  • I can see that there is a deeper relevance in the nature and meaning of law.  Its not just policies, rulings, judgments, and such.  It goes deeper.
  • As I have looked at other cultures (that haven’t broken down like the U.S.) I can see that there is naturally appearing close association between law, culture, and everyday life.  I can see that law is a significant contributor to life and how to lead it.  In this way, it makes law a significant part of life.
  • The power of law.  There is a lot of abuse of power in American law, of manipulation, corruption, distortion, etc.  It doesn’t take a genius to see that.
  • I am appalled by what I see in American law.  The absurdity, ridiculousness, and such is embarrassing and disgraceful to me.
  • The deeper meaning of it all.  I very well know that the “mechanistic law” and all that, shows a breakdown of this society.  It says a lot about this country.
  • The fact that I believe in law.  I believe in what the law represents and want to believe and respect it.  Much of American law, though, isn’t giving me that much cause to do that.

At the base of all these is really a concern about the nature and meaning of law.  I seem to be the only person, that I know, who inquires about these aspects of law.  I don’t look at law as policies, procedures, and such.  I look at its meaning in life and what its nature is. Looking at things from this perspective makes things look totally different.  I know, from conversations with people, that my looking at things in this way reveals a whole other side to it that people don’t see.  It makes me look at law more seriously.  I also look at it as reflection of who we are.  In addition, I see it as something that affects us and our life.

AFTERTHOUGHT

Overall, what I seem to see in law is a basic disconnect between the law, authority, culture, everyday life, and the people.  My feelings is that this is far more bigger and serious than it seems.  In fact, this great disconnect is one of the reasons why law figures less and less in peoples minds.  In most cultures, there is such an association between the law and culture that they are often intertwined.  As a result, it figures in peoples everyday life and everyday behavior.  In the U.S. the law has become so disconnected, and the “legal world” has become so extensive, that there is less and less an association between the law and culture.  As a result, the law isn’t even a thought in peoples minds and doesn’t figure in everyday life.  Because of this, many people do not know if this or that is illegal.  Just in the past several weeks, for example, I’ve heard several discussions where people were wondering what a person is supposed to do legally in certain situations while driving.  Basically, no one knew!


Copyright by Mike Michelsen

This entry was posted in Current affairs and events, Law and legal stuff, Modern life and society, Society and sociology, The U.S. and American society and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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