Relationships between people should not be viewed as a power struggle. Those who fall in the trap of understanding relationships as a struggle for power risk forgetting justice. Thus they may transgress in the pursuit of power. Relationships between people are characterised primarily by justice or injustice, good and evil. Accordingly, when contemplating a course of action, we should not ask not so much whether it increases or diminishes one’s power, but whether the action is just or unjust, good or evil, whether it is permitted by faith or forbidden.
It is not right to say that might is right. To say that might is right is equivalent to saying that justice is on the side of the stronger. This means that justice is whatever a person with power says it is.
Why do people turn and return to crime? Demoralisation or depression is a factor. It follows that if we could raise depressed people’s spirits, there would be less crime. Successful crime prevention therefore requires helping people attain and remain in high spirits. We have to help troubled persons attain and retain high morale.
How market forces have affected us may be seen in the widespread practice of plea-bargaining. Plea-bargaining consists of striking a bargain between the accused and the prosecution. The accused agrees to plead guilty, and in exchange for the guilty plea, the prosecution agrees to press a lesser charge.
On the surface, plea-bargaining seems like a good idea. It speeds up the judicial process and helps to clear backlogs of cases. Plea bargains help in cases where it might be difficult to get a conviction due to lack of evidence. With a plea bargain, the prosecution is likelier to get a conviction.
The judges and juries are spared having to make uncertain and possibly wrong decisions about whether the accused is guilty or not. For the accused, the advantage is that the possibility of being convicted of the original and more serious charge is eliminated.
The problem with plea-bargaining is that justice is compromised. In a plea bargain, the accused is convicted of an offense he did not commit, and no one is actually charged with the offense that allegedly took place. What message does this practice send to potential criminals?
It sends the message that they can bargain their way out of taking full responsibility for their actions. This awareness can have the effect of making criminals bolder and thus encourage more crime. The criminals know that, in the event of getting caught, they may be able to bargain their way to a lesser sentence.
This will damage the morale of the law-abiding citizens. They may become more cynical, and their respect for the law will diminish. Members of the families of the victims may lose faith in the system and be tempted to take justice into their own hands.
Another example of state intrusion into people’s private lives can be found in the legal system of many nations. In the case of torts and lesser offenses, the citizens have the right to seek legal redress. The moment a serious transgression takes place, the state assigns takes over the right to prosecute on their behalf. What is the rationale for this practice? This practice should be discontinued. The right to prosecute should be returned to the citizens. The state has the right to prosecute in cases where the state is itself the injured party. Thus the state may prosecute treason, damage to public property, and related offenses. Too often there is a disproportion between the crime and the punishmnet.
Why are laws insufficient to guarantee good conduct? Laws make people do things or stop people from doing things by threatening consequences. If people believe that they can avoid the consequences by violating the law when no one is looking, what is there to stop them from doing it? The answer is religion. This is why religion are required in addition to laws to govern people’s behavior. The fear of God restrains people from doing the wrong thing even when they think no one is looking.
The law in the industrial countries makes it an offence to use the word ‘trust’ in a misleading way when a person’s money is at stake. Why does the law not also make it a criminal offence to use the word trust in a misleading way when a person’s marriage is at stake? Why this double standard? Is the betrayal of trust in a marital agreement a lesser offence than the betrayal of trust in a financial agreement?
There appears to be a trade-off between freedom and equality. Thus, the countries that emphasize equality tend to do so by limiting freedom, while those countries that emphasize freedom tend to have less equality. Although, no doubt, there are states that hardly appear to have either.
What exactly is the public interest? It is what is good for everybody, not just what is good for a particular section of society. What guarantee is there in a system based on the pursuit of private interest that the public interest will not be sacrificed? The degradation of the environment is just one example of how the interest of the public (a contamination-free environment) can sometimes give way to the interests of private businesses.
Modern political thinkers set up models of states that started by asking how men live rather than by asking how men should live. The first question has a moral dimension, while the second does not. By starting with the first rather than the second question, they effectively separated ethics from politics.
The political problem in democratic societies can be defined by saying that it consists in the need to reconcile the various demands of different groups that make up the society. It is a system where different interest groups compete for political influence. Groups form around a common interest, or a common ethnic background. There are labor unions, professional unions or associations. Last but not least, there are different political parties, all of which have ideas on how best to solve the problems of the country.
The advantage of pluralism is that people are free to form into groups and promote the realization of the collective interest of the group. The disadvantage is that not all people belong to an identifiable group or, if they do, not all have the knowledge or ability to organize themselves and get a hearing. Even if some groups are successful in organizing themselves, they may be too small as a group to compete successfully with larger groups.
Part of the political problem in democratic societies is to reconcile public interest and private interest. People have the right to attend to their private interests. Public servants are expected to do what is in the public interest, and to refrain from using their public positions to advance their personal interests. Making sure that the public interest is not compromised when people pursue their private interests is one of the responsibilities of the government.
Freedom is the ability to reach one’s goals with minimum interference from others, including the state. Modern liberal democracy guarantees many freedoms. People are free to speak their minds and to publicize their views. They are free to form into groups such as political parties, labor unions, professional organizations, and clubs. Citizens of democracies are also free to worship according to their traditions. They are free to move from country to country, as well as up and down the social ladder. They are also free to pursue their self-interest.
Democracy is a regime in which the majority of the citizens decide which political faction or party will rule. In other words, government requires the consent of the governed. Governments are selected at regular intervals through elections. Every citizen of voting age has exactly one share of the political power, one vote. The government is representative in the sense that an elected group of persons, the members of a legislative assembly, represent the interests and act on behalf of the citizens.
Features of democracy include various freedoms, plus a commitment to respect basic human rights. In democracies, people have the freedom to speak, associate (form political parties), worship, to enterprise, to assemble, and the freedom to publish their views. All these freedoms are necessary to prevent and safeguard against various forms of dictatorships. Other features of democracies include equality before the law, right to a fair and speedy trial, freedom from arbitrary arrest and detention, and the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty.
The difference between constitutional democracies and regimes based on various form of political bullying is that the people in democracies have succeeded to a greater degree in transcending the notion that we owe our allegiance to people rather than to principles.
Justice is a state of the soul and the soul of the state. The law cannot establish long term political stability without justice.
The world is in bad shape. If we could only change it and make it a better place to live. The good news is that it can be done. The best way to change the world is to change oneself, because we are part of the world. Our control over ourselves is far greater than our control over other people.
Modern empires have risen and fallen faster than ancient empires, probably because of the use of advanced military technology.
Political historians have identified many causes of war and fighting in general. The desire for possessions such as resources, the preservation of freedom, the desire for glory or recognition have all been identified as causes.
Is political idealism dangerous? Idealists are people who value ideals more than material possessions. This puts them beyond the reach of those who are accustomed to controlling others through disbursements of material incentives and disincentives.
Many leaders tend to surround themselves with yes-men. If they had integrity, they would not agree to problematic requests by the leader. Especially, they would not agree with requests that violate justice. If the leader himself is not a person of principle, the most influential persons in the community will also likely be unprincipled. Another problem which arises out of this practice is that when the leader is about to retire, there are not many persons of integrity that can take his place.