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Requiem for Law and Legitimacy

The financial crisis that erupted in late 2008 with the implosion of Lehman Brothers has left in its wake a crisis of confidence in the financial system. As a result, the current administration and its regulatory and law enforcement agencies (FBI, SEC, etc.) have been reluctant to pursue and prosecute the perpetrators of the massive fraud that led to the near collapse of the entire American financial sector for fear of further eroding confidence in the system of finance and thereby deepening the recession, possibly provoking a full blown depression.

Unfortunately, the unintended consequence of this failure to prosecute wrongdoers at the highest level of finance is that the rule of law upon which the system of American governance is based loses its force and legitimacy. It's not hard to prove that wrongdoing occurred and that no one has been prosecuted as a result. For that, one need only peruse the national news, such as this article concerning the nature of the massive fraud undertaken by most if not all of the national banks and this article concerning the complete dearth of prosecutions and indictments with respect to these frauds.

Nor is it complicated to show how this failure to act undermines the rule of law and, by extension, government in general. For example, it is impossible to justify why criminals who commit welfare fraud and steal a couple of hundred dollars from the government are routinely prosecuted and often jailed when bank executives that sell mortgages to investors then bet against those investments and profit from their failure are never even so much as arrested; in both cases, the wrongdoer violates the law, in these examples the rule against fraud.

Any system of law and governance depend upon the fair application of those laws. This concept is fundamental to our jurisprudence and, in fact, is a right protected by the United States Constitution. Where the application of those laws and the decision to prosecute crimes depends upon the proximity and access to legislators, then basic notions of fairness and justice are violated. It is these values, fairness and justice, that support the legitimacy of government and its laws; where fairness and justice are ignored for political or financial reasons, then the very foundation upon which the entire social structure rests is shaken and in danger of total failure and collapse; for where established rules are selectively and arbitrarily applied, then those same rules will likewise be selectively and arbitrarily obeyed. And where rules are arbitrarily applied and, consequently, arbitrarily obeyed, then by necessity government and its laws are rendered ineffective.

Categories: National News