Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Inquisitorial Power

The Spanish Inquisition was one of the more ignominious moments in history, both for its brutality and its arbitrariness on behalf of the “State” and certainly demonstrates the folly of granting broad powers a State enforcement apparatus.  That The Inquisition was itself a pretext for removing undesirables from the population is well known.  What is not usually discussed, however, is why the mechanisms that granted The Inquisition “legitimacy” are very similar to the “legal process” that provides the social Order we experience in present times.

Today, we have something similar.  The physical damage (in the form of torture) has been replaced by a more “civilized” process of permanent removal from society.  Unwanted folks are simply processed out of existence, unable to affect the normal flow of commerce, and certainly not in a position to challenge the status quo, commercial or political monopoly, etc.  Foucault examined this phenomenon extensively.

The point that notions of “due process” are tenuous at best, and easily jettisoned if fear rules the mob.  The definitions underlying such notions can be easily circumvented.  In the case of The Inquisition, a confession was sufficient to “save” the condemned (regardless of physical damage dealt or the wether or not severely coercive techniqes were employed).  Today,  its “helping law enforcement” or “saving the children” that serve as catch-all legitimizers of ever-expansive authority.

And so it goes with the “War On Drugs”.  With the United States effectively acting as license grantor and as the local Pinkerton agency against would-be competitors (such as the current and present danger of medical marijuana growers in California and other places…a class of vermin that surely must be eradicated lest The United States of America cease to exist)

My stance on Drugs is fairly well known to readers here.   I put greater emphasis on freedom than on “public safety”.   However, the central question of the Drug War must be this:  Whom do you wish to make rich given a constant and immutable demand for drugs?  Americans or folks from other locales?  And why would you want to propagate this set of relationships?  Is this a national security issue or some more parochial problem? 

The apparatus of Government involvement in the “war” has taken a time-honored and predictable trajectory.  Mission creep and expansion of powers have succeeded in obviating some treasured constitutional protections (that whole “due process” and “trial by jury” nonsense have been ejected in the hallowed name of expediency.  Now, agents can seize an individual’s property indefinitely on mere suspicion of dealing or trading in drugs.   The inertia builds.

And so it goes.  The U.S. has over 250,000 people held in prison for drug charges.  Since the majority of them are felonies, they have been effectively removed from the system, unable to vote, obtain employment with a reasonable opportunity for pecuniary gain and career advancement, etc.

The Dungeon is less organized.  Torture (at least the physical kind) is less effective.  At least that sometimes ended with a confession.  This organized processing of people who follow different rules is an order of magnitude different.

No comments: