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The USA’s Trifurcated Legal System – OpEd


The FBI’s recommendation against the prosecution of Hillary Clinton for her wanton, illegal mishandling of classified information in her emails puts on display once again the reality of the so-called rule of law in the USA. This reality is, above all, that the system is trifurcated: there is effectively one set of rules for the great mass of white, middle-class citizens; another set for blacks, Mexicans, and poor whites; and, most notably, another set for the powerful and connected members of the ruling elite.


For the first group, which for the most part tries to be “law-abiding” and supportive of “law enforcement,” the laws, regulations, and cops are obnoxious at times, but not for most people intolerable. People get used to being told what they must do and refrain from doing. They may grouse about certain laws, but they remain loyal to the political and governmental system that puts those laws in place and oversees their enforcement. These people are inclined to view instances of police abuse as the misfeasance of “a few bad apples.”

The second group has a clearer view of reality. They understand for the most part that the laws and the cops are not there for their protection, and indeed are part of an overall arrangement that looks all too much as if it were deliberately designed to humiliate, oppress, and persecute them, often in the guise of enforcing drug laws or petty commercial regulations that act as barriers to their self-employment or operation of small businesses. To members of this group, the cops are an army of occupation, and the disproportionate number of blacks and Mexicans in jails and prisons as well as the various state and local convict-labor arrangements testify fairly clearly to the correctness of their perception.

L’affaire d’Hillary, in contrast, shows that the system’s kingpins are pretty much above the laws, even the laws that they themselves have made and purport to enforce equally without fear or favor. The Clintons appear for all the world, and long have appeared, as a free-range criminal family with far-reaching elite connections—who’s to say what is bribe and what is shakedown?—amounting to what might well be described with a nod to Lady Macbeth herself as “a vast left-wing conspiracy.” So even when the FBI itself has the pelotas to report in great detail on Hillary’s law-breaking, it takes upon itself the pronouncement that a prosecutor would not have a case against her.

Meanwhile, thousands of members of the first group languish in prison for lesser offenses, and millions of the second group rot in jails, prisons, and under probation for actions that ought never to have been criminalized in the first place—above all, violations of the laws against the use, possession, and trafficking in certain substances that individuals wish to enjoy and have every right to enjoy without anyone’s molestation. But the prison-industrial system is happy, and isn’t that what counts in a system so corrupt that its stench fills the earth?

Yes, Americans purport to take great pride in possessing a system “of laws, not of men.” But it’s a gigantic joke, and not a funny one at all. It’s a rotten system from A to Z, but its rottenness bears with greatest force on those who occupy the periphery of American society, less heavily on those largely ignorant and ideologically self-blinded in the great mass of white, middle-class “respectable” people, and scarcely at all on the rich, well-connected, and politically powerful. In short, even in a country that imagined itself to be different—a city on a hill, blah, blah, blah—it turns out that things work here pretty much as they work and always have worked nearly everywhere on earth. The peasants suffer abuse and oppression, and the likes of Hillary Clinton and Co. laugh about the way things are all the way to the bank and the throne.


This article appeared at The Beacon.

Robert Higgs

Robert Higgs is Senior Fellow in Political Economy for The Independent Institute and Editor of the Institute’s quarterly journal The Independent Review. He received his Ph.D. in economics from Johns Hopkins University, and he has taught at the University of Washington, Lafayette College, Seattle University, and the University of Economics, Prague. He has been a visiting scholar at Oxford University and Stanford University, and a fellow for the Hoover Institution and the National Science Foundation.

One thought on “The USA’s Trifurcated Legal System – OpEd

  • July 8, 2016 at 11:28 am

    Marx and Veblen stated clearly that the legal system under capitalism and imperialism does serve the interest of the ruling class. The class represents the financiers and their tools such as Secretary Clinton and her husband who is a war criminal. For example, financiers in USA are making huge returns and looting people funds and wealth and manipulating markets. Yet, the US Department of Justice usually penalizes them by some millions or billions for looting a trillion. In contrast, if a poor person steals a piece of bread then that poor will go to jail for some times. In short, there is nothing new in that. Yesterday, I heard the FBI Director’s view and all the questions and answers for a US Congress Committee. I thought the Republicans asked relevant questions but the Democrats were really phony and kept telling us that this process is wasting of tax payer money. In fact, it was not wasting of money but relevant for us to obtain information. Secretary Clinton had a server in her basement used for emails without authorization. Classified information was obtained by people they were not supposed to get it. The Secretary handed the FBI some selective emails and destroyed the rest of the emails. Thousands of email were destroyed. In addition, Secretary Clinton has told us that she did not send classified information but the Director of the FBI clearly said that classified emails were included. This means she was lying and if others lie under oath in USA their behinds will be in a ringer for long time. Moreover, the FBI invoke a bad line by stating that she had no intention to harm the country. But all many individuals when making mistakes they say they were not intentional and were not meant to hurt others. If you are a black person, a Latino, and Muslim, you will be told that you did hurt others and damage the country seriously with clear intention to hurt.


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