“Better is a little with righteousness
Than great revenues with injustice.”
— Proverbs 16:8
Law American Style
Consider the legal quicksand entrapping the following three men (1): In 2009, H. Beatty Chadwick, a lawyer himself, in jail for nearly 14 years; Manuel Osete, a businessman, in jail for 3 years; Martin Armstrong, an investment-manager, in jail for 6 years. What legal commonalities bind these three prisoners? None ever had been convicted of a crime. None tried for a crime. None even charged with a crime. Yet, all were imprisoned indefinitely as the consequence of pronouncements by judges who remanded them to jail for “civil contempt”.
America On Fire
Lawyer-judges incarcerating Americans for 14 years without a crime having been committed should give one pause for reflection. Is there any wonder that America is a nation on fire . . . on fire with anger? An increasing number of productive, taxpaying American citizens view themselves as insidiously having been subjugated by power-hungry politicians, petty bureaucrats, and avaricious lawyers who continue to undermine the Constitution and to destroy American Tradition for their own self-aggrandizement. Some of these citizens are not just feeling angry (emotion). Some are speaking stridently and publicly (verbal behavior). More importantly, some are taking action (instrumental behavior) . . . fortunately, non-violent, in the main. Witness the Tea Party and its supporters.
Two Simple Equations
To understand the position of lawyers amidst this political, economic, and social conflagration, it is helpful, if not necessary, to place the issue into a scientifically-oriented framework. Doing so involves two, simple equations.
The first is a basic law of behavioral science, the Law of Effect . . . B = f(x) under c.(2) It states that behavior is a function of its consequences in a given context. Want more of a behavior? Reward it. Want less? Don’t reward it. The controlling variables are context and consequences. [For a detailed description, see Chapter 7 in the novel, Inescapable Consequences (www.inescapableconsequences.com).]
The second is a method to resolve problems in living . . . both societal and personal.
[(-4) + (4)] = 0.
Minus four (i.e., Context, Antecedents, Behaviors, Consequences) plus four (i.e., Problem, Goal, Plan, Measurement) equals zero.
Minus four refers to applying the four steps of describing the situation in question . . . the negative. Plus four refers to applying the four steps of resolving the problem therein . . . the positive. The sum equals zero . . . no problem, at all. We can apply these, two equations to the American legal system.
B = f(x) under c
Lawyers shoulder a professional responsibility to their clientele . . . a responsibility that many critics claim most honor in the breach. A fundamental question is, Should those administrating the law . . . lawyers . . . be creating it? Whereas it may have been advantageous for lawyers to have participated in creating the country by providing a more precise framework for a new federal government, has it become disadvantageous for contemporary lawyers to maintain the position held by their predecessors? Are they now abusing the privilege of their profession?
From a scientific point of view, American law currently represents poor contingency-management. As judges and legislators, lawyers create the context in which they themselves operate as well as the consequences governing their own operations therein.
The context of American law reflects human behavior. Behavioral science from the biobehavioral orientation describes the natural laws governing that behavior. By employing natural law in order to manage contingencies properly, we Americans can reform our legal system. How? It’s as simple as the ABC’s.
Minus Four: Context and the ABC’s
CONTEXT: Lawyers dominate American society. Tens of millions of frivolous lawsuits await judicature. Thousands of arbitrary, whimsical, capricious, and contradictory judicial decisions await further pronouncements by unelected judges. American law has deteriorated to the point where predatory lawyers now file lawsuits in the United States against foreign nationals for acts committed on foreign soil against other foreign nationals . . . events having nothing to do with the United States, its citizens, or its legal system.(3) This kind of egregious behavior represents “lawyerism”. It is destructive to America.
The term, lawyerism, refers to the domination of a nation by its legal class. That domination allows lawyers to create and promote a self-serving system of positive self-reinforcement. Does America remain a nation of laws, or has it been deformed into a nation of lawyerism . . . for lawyers and by lawyers? A strong case can be made that the answer is the latter.
On the societal level, lawyerism condemns the rest of a nation to live under a system both unfair and unjust. Unfair because it creates a privileged, social class . . . a legal aristocracy that legislates and administrates laws and rulings favorable to itself at the expense of everyone else. Unjust because it flagrantly disregards the stated obligation of lawyers to protect their clients . . . not to defraud them. Worse, it allows little redress to those whom it abuses.
On the individual level, lawyerism promotes outright fraud. The scientific guidelines of specificity, objectivity, and accountability largely are missing, especially the last . . . accountability. American law denies financial accountability. Clients have no means of assessing the true time and real effort devoted to their cases by those “learned, legal professionals” whom they pay. Worse, contingencies generally operate against lawyers working efficiently and effectively . . . the less the time (i.e., “billable hours”), the lower the fees.(4)
Are there, nevertheless, some ethical lawyers? Yes. Some of them also are competent. A relative few, even outstanding. As a group, however, ethical lawyers seem to be the minority. That observation reflects the context and consequences that we Americans allowed the legal profession to create. B = f(x) under c. The behavior of lawyers is governed by the same natural law that determines the behavior of the rest of us. As it is asked in the Lord’s Prayer, lead us not into temptation.
Much to our detriment, the legal context leads lawyers into temptation. Societally and individually, it promotes self-serving, inefficient, and corrupt behavior.
More frighteningly, many of the rankest, most odious members of the most despised of all professions seek public office and become the controlling segment among, as Mark Twain characterized them, our native criminal class . . . politicians. Lawyers comprise less than 1% of the American population but 40% of the Congress.
Accordingly, might a prosecutor justifiably file a case against current American law? Mr. Twain likely would answer, “Yes.” The prosecutor’s charge might read along the following lines: “The United States of America is a democratic republic founded upon a constitution and the laws derived therefrom. The American public hereby charges that those who administrate the laws . . . namely, lawyers . . . have usurped control of the system for their own personal benefit to the detriment of their fellow citizens and, by doing so, have ignored that constitution and have enacted laws that have attacked the document that they have sworn an oath to defend.”
Having described the context and levied the charge, the prosecutor could further his case by analyzing how American law functions in terms of the ABC’s . . . Antecedents-Behaviors-Consequences. Firstly, however, he should define his terms.
An antecedent is an event preceding a behavior, an event that becomes the occasion for that behavior to occur. A behavior is an action by a living organism upon its environment. A consequence is an event following a behavior, an event that influences the future strength of that behavior. It is vital for understanding to recognize that antecedents derive their power from consequences. Having defined his terms, he now can ask, How does American law function?
ANTECEDENTS: Societally, human conflicts act as antecedents or prompts for lawyers and their agents to pass a myriad of continually changing laws and regulations amounting to “Lawyers’ Full-Employment Acts”. Individually, human conflicts act as antecedents for lawyers on behalf of clients to file lawsuits . . . many trivial if not totally unfounded. It is in the self-interest of American law to create and exacerbate human conflict not to resolve it. As the saying goes, in a town with one lawyer the lawyer starves; in a town with two, both feast.
BEHAVIORS: On a societal level, elected politicians pass an increasing number of laws and unelected bureaucrats draft an increasing number of regulations. On an individual level, tens of thousands of plaintiffs file tens of thousands of lawsuits against tens of thousands of defendants.
CONSEQUENCES: Social, political, and economic firestorms that destroy a nation. Historically, lawyerism represented a major factor in destroying the Roman empire.(5) Today, the American republic is its victim. With hundreds of thousands of often self-contradictory laws and regulations, it has turned America into a nation of criminals, witting and unwitting. It has pitted individuals against commercial enterprises; commercial enterprises against other commercial enterprises; and individuals against other individuals.
Who wins? Lawyers. For them, the consequence is positive reinforcement . . . profit, power, and position.
Who loses? Society. For the rest of us, the consequence is negative reinforcement destroying the societal and individual good upon which lawyerism feeds.
1. Jones, A: “No Charge.” The Wall Street Journal, 08 January 2009, page A10.
2. Thorndike, EL: Animal Intelligence: Experimental Studies. New York: Macmillan (1911).
3. See, for example, Finnerty III, JG and Merrigan, J: “Legal Imperialism”. The Wall Street Journal, 28 February 2007, page A15.
4. See, for example, Koppel, N: “Lawyer’s Charge Opens Window on Bill Padding”. The Wall Street Journal, 30 August 2006, page B1.
5. Gibbon, E: The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. Initially published in 1776.
To be continued.