Friday, July 25, 2008

In Defense of the Anarchist

During the next two to three weeks, I will be completing work on “In Defense of the Anarchist,” which has been accepted for publication in the Oxford Journal of Legal Studies. The paper is a response to Mark Murphy’s critique of moral and epistemological arguments against the authority of law; I suggest that the anarchist is on better footing than Murphy supposes.

Professor Murphy has already offerd me some thoughtful, helpful observations. I am continuing to reflect on the best way to take account of these observations. But I would be very pleased, at the same time as I decide how best to respond to Professor Murphy, to hear from readers of this blog who might see ways in which the paper could be improved or who can think of arguments I would do well to address. Please let me know if you'd like to take a look. Thanks a lot to those who opt to offer comments.

An Embarrassment of Riches

I'm dismayed, but I probably shouldn't be surprised, at the paucity of coverage being afforded to the hearings the House Judiciary Committee began today on Dennis Kucinich's proposed impeachment resolutions (I've linked to a page displaying only some of Kucinich's proposals). It's not just the New York Times (the word "impeach" doesn't appear anywhere on the electronic front page of America's purported newspaper of record). It's leading liberal blogs, including the Huffington Post, Talking Points Memo, Washington Independent, and Matt Yglesias. To their credit, Glenn Greenwald and Kagro X on Daily Kos give the hearings something like the extensive treatment they deserve, and Politico's John Bresnahan discusses some of the day's developments helpfully, too.

It's hard not to see the deafening silence as a reflection of the intra-Beltway consensus that sensible people really can't take seriously the notion of impeaching a President for acting on the basis of what he may have regarded as raison d'etat. The supposedly "adult" view seems to be that finicky moralism shouldn't be allowed to get in the way of good-faith efforts to advance the national interest. (The enthusiasm of the Administration's supporters for "law and order" does not, apparently, extend beyond dealing with the [real or imagined] wrongs of the socially marginal.) The impeachment process, we are repeatedly assured, should not be used to settle political scores.

The reality, however, is that this isn't, isn't remotely, a close call. Impeaching George Bush and Dick Cheney wouldn't be a matter of punishing dedicated public servants for a few good-faith errors in judgment. As regards solid justifications for impeachment, we suffer from an embarrassment of riches.

Consider such examples as
  1. the manipulative initiation and prosecution of the Iraq war, reasonably seen as a predicate for murder liability
  2. the approval and encouragement of torture
Obstruction of justice, politically motivated prosecution, disregard for Congressional authority (and so for the need for public scrutiny and accountability), denial of due process rights--the range of egregious violations is enormous.

The hearings will go nowhere unless members of the public make clear to the members of the Judiciary Committee and the House leadership that they are disgusted with the Administration's lawlessness and contempt for human rights. Liberals, conservatives, and libertarians all have good reason to insist, in potentially surprising unison, that today's pre-impeachment hearings lead to serious consideration by the Committee and the full House of the case for trying George Bush and Dick Cheney and removing them from office.

Of course Bush and Cheney are about to leave office. But I believe we need to do what we can to impede their ongoing illegal conduct. And we need to make clear to their successors that becoming President does not mean receiving carte blanche to do whatever one claims to be in the national interest.

UPDATE: those interested in supporting Kucinich’s efforts by signing a petition he is circulating can do so here.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Welcome to LiberaLaw

This blog is called LiberaLaw because I’m a law professor, because I want to talk about issues related to law, and because I’m a liberal.

Liberal can mean lots of different things. I use it to signal the fact that I’m for freedom and against subordination, exclusion, and privation. The political convictions I endorse as an idiosyncratic left-wing market anarchist place me—whether altogether accurately or not—well within the lower left quadrant of the Political Compass.

But I hope people from across the spectrum will feel welcome here—left-liberals, classical liberals, libertarians, social democrats, anarchists of all stripes, Burkean and Humean conservatives, socialists, monarchists, minarchists, Marxists, paleocons, crunchy cons, and anyone else who wants to participate, and perhaps to find some unexpected common ground.