The authors of The New Color Line
return with another libertarian polemic, this time taking aim at a justice system that has lost sight of its most important goals. Paul Craig Roberts and Lawrence M. Stratton warn of a "police state that is creeping up on us from many directions." There's the war on drugs, which makes it possible for federal agents to investigate people simply for carrying large amounts of cash. There's the crusade against white-collar crime, which has turned the plea bargain into an enemy of the truth. And there's outright misconduct, abetted by prosecutors more interested in compiling long lists of indictments than ensuring the fair treatment of all suspects. The Tyranny of Good Intentions
is replete with examples of how government treads on freedom through ill-willed prosecution and faceless bureaucracy. The book's overpowering sense of disaffection sometimes leads to alarmist prose: "We the People have vanished. Our place has been taken by wise men and anointed elites." The authors are swift to suggest that America, barring "an intellectual rebirth," may yet go the way of "German Nazis and Soviet communists."
Yet The Tyranny of Good Intentions is nothing if not well intended; it is full of passion and always on the attack, whether the writers are taking on racial quotas, wetland regulations, or any number of policies they find objectionable. In a jacket blurb, libertarian icon Milton Friedman calls it "a devastating indictment of our current system of justice." Roberts and Stratton, although right-leaning in many of their political sympathies, will probably find plenty of fans on ACLU-left--and anybody who cringes at the thought of unbridled state power. If the road to hell is indeed paved with good intentions, consider this book an atlas. --John J. Miller
From Publishers Weekly
According to Roberts and Stratton (both fellows at the Institute for Political Economy), our cherished individual rights are going to hell in a handbasket, delivered by politically ambitious prosecutors, misguided or malevolent bureaucrats, law enforcement agents run amok and pandering politicians. This book has odd heroes/victims: Charles Keating of the Savings and Loan scandal, Exxon Corporation (owner of the Exxon Valdez), hotelier Leona Helmsley, Michael Milken and even agri-business giant Archer Daniels Midland. The arch-villain is odder still, Jeremy Bentham, the 19th-century philosopher who popularized the theory of utilitarianism, which can be simply described as a belief in formulating public policies that result in "the greatest good for the greatest number." Bentham's villainy, the authors say, is rooted in utilitarian philosophy's role in undermining the Rights of Englishmen traceable to the Magna Carta and the Glorious Revolution of 1688 and now embodied in the Bill of Rights. Perhaps oddest of all is the characterization of J. Edgar Hoover as a paragon of morality and law enforcement restraint, qualities the authors feel are utterly lacking in today's American leadership. Roberts and Stratton will strike a nerve with this book; the government abuses they colorfully rail at--the unrestrained powers of police and prosecutors, unfair forfeiture laws, unreasonable bureaucratic regulations and police profiling, to name a few--mark a frightening departure from what most Americans consider the fair exercise of government authority. Unfortunately, in the end, the book comes off as primarily an incendiary polemic. Lost in the rhetoric of the authors' call to arms is a useful analysis of how to balance competing individual and societal interests without sacrificing fundamental rights. (Apr.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.