We must be vigilant that the law is not used to harass or destroy political opponents. A Wall Street Journal editorial As much as this morning says. But this does not make rulers or former rulers above the law like dictators.
Fear of Leviathan – the all-powerful state modeled by Thomas Hobbes – and a certain mistrust of those in power are inseparable from the classical liberal and libertarian tradition. A rule of law has developed which applies equally to government rulers. Constitutional framework to prevent statcrats from treating public race as their personal belongings. (public race, meaning “public affairs” in Latin, ultimately giving rise to the word “republic”.) Countervailing powers and institutions provide incentives for statescrats not to pursue authoritarian temptations. We have good reason to think that controls Over The government has become very weak. (Nobel economist FA Hayek did important work in that area.)
The strongest argument against the state—all levels and branches of government—is that there is no way to prevent even liberal rulers from nurturing a democratic leviathan that will become impossible to control. (See Anthony de Jassay, the state.) As the Latin poet asked, “Those who watch the guard?”
From this perspective, the truly dangerous abuse of power is not the constraints imposed on rulers and their agents. This is not to search the home of a former ruler who is clearly suspected of having stolen public documents related to his tenure. public race. It is rather than an abuse of power aimed at ordinary citizens, who are entangled in a web of minute and complex laws and regulations. Looking only at the federal government, the number of restrictions and obligations contained in the Code of Federal Regulations (as measured by the number of words (“shall,” “must,” “may not,” “require” or “prohibited”) from less than 500,000 in 1970 (the first year data are available) to more than 1.3 million in 2021 (according to the latest version of RegData, created by Patrick McLaughlin at George Mason University’s Mercatus Center). About 8% of American adults have a criminal record, meaning they’ve had it their entire lives.” Criminal offenders” remain (Sara KS Shannon et al., “Growth, Scope, and Spatial Distribution of People with Criminal Records in the United States, 1948-2010,” population, Vol. 54 )
Note that none of the recent presidents and very few politicians have done anything about this evolution, or even indicated a desire to do anything. Even the “law and order” types, overtly covertly, target their harshness at groups of citizens they dislike, not at those in power.
It is mainly the rulers and government agents who need to be monitored and controlled, including the Justice Department and the FBI, and what a former president did during his term.
As I’m completing this post, The Wall Street Journal revealed that Mr. Trump had just invoked the Fifth Amendment—perhaps repeatedly as his acolytes often do in various proceedings—in an unrelated matter of “fraud” being investigated by the New York attorney general. Trump declared:
I once asked, ‘If you’re innocent, why are you taking the Fifth Amendment?’ Now I know the answer to that question.”
Better late than never, but this guy was the president of the United States! Let us hope that American institutions can resist the 2016 election of Donald Trump in order to protect individual liberties.