Monday, October 10, 2011

The judicial system: The feeblest branch | The Economist

This is crazy:

A typical lawsuit now goes to trial within a couple of years, says Ms Feinstein, but that could soon stretch to five years. The backlog of traffic infractions is already so daunting that it compromises enforcement (and the deterrence of bad driving). And so on. The Californian constitution guarantees criminal defendants a right to speedy trial, but it does not technically require courts to administer civil law at all, Ms Feinstein says. So, in theory, civil adjudication could stop altogether, as it already has on one judicial circuit in Georgia. That, she says would bring about the “unravelling of society”.
The judicial system: The feeblest branch | The Economist

While pondering whether a smooth transition to anarchy is possible, I had thought of the government dismantling itself by folding up the executive branch-- leaving a court to adjudicate disputes between people, and a (possibly reformed) legislative branch to set the rules for such adjudication. Here we seem to have the opposite: the state continuing to micro-manage the lives of the people, but refusing to settle disputes. It's as if the people in charge are trying really hard to leave behind the minarchist ideal of the "night-watchman state".

Following the invasion of Iraq, I had a nagging feeling that Bush and Co. were trying to liquidate the welfare state -- Bush created large deficits by cutting taxes (retroactively!) on the rich, and then guaranteed a long term drain of the budget by invading Iraq even as we were facing a major nation-building challenge in Afghanistan. Before long, we'd have a debt crisis requiring the gutting of state economic support (ranging from Social Security to education funding), but we'd still have to pay taxes (directly or indirectly) to avoid default and to maintain the armed-forces of the state (both domestic and deployed). Our only interaction with the state would be the police-man's baton.

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