Law Is Not Justice

The author Anatole France said in 1894, “In its majestic equality, the law forbids rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges, beg in the streets, and steal loaves of bread.” 

Our legal system has nothing to do with justice, it is merely a mechanism for settling disputes. Idealists would like to believe that the law is there to ensure fairness, which is romantic, but totally unrealistic. Any system that human beings devise can–and will–be gamed. Somebody, or worse, many  somebodies will figure out how to make the system work in their favour at the expense of others. These people are very competitive and see every situation as one in which one side wins and the other loses.

Take patents, for example; the original idea for patents was to give inventors an incentive–exclusive rights for a finite period of time (originally not to exceed 14 years, but now allegedly 20 years). After the patent expired, the patent holder no longer had exclusive rights and others could produce the same product without having to pay royalties to the patent owner. Prices were then expected to come down, more options become available, and everybody wins, right?

Let the games begin!

Notice that I did not mention the inventor, who may not even be a player.  Some companies claim the patents for anything their employees produce, which, incidentally acts as a disincentive for the employee to produce.

There are companies that exist primarily (or even solely) for the purpose of taking over other companies strictly to get patents. Once the buyer has the patent rights, the purchased company can be dismantled or discarded.

Drug companies are famous for taking an existing drug, whose patent is ready to expire, and making a minor reformulation so that a new patent can be granted. It’s the pharmaceutical equivalent of painting last year’s car a new color and saying it’s a whole new product, which deserves a new patent. This resets the 20 year clock and is followed, in many cases, by the patent holder raising the price by a couple thousand percent, especially if there are no alternative products.

Instead of rewarding the inventor and making new inventions available for the general good of the population, patent law–like most law–has become a mechanism for certain individuals to obtain unfair profits at the expense of everyone else.

In corrupt countries in which a small group of people control the production and distribution of drugs (e.g., cocaine, opium, etc.) these warlords or drug cartel bosses becomes rich and powerful because others have become addicted and cannot live without the drugs. In a corrupt society, these people are referred to as “the elites.”

In democratic societies, in which corporations control the production and distribution of drugs (e.g., injectable epinephrine to prevent death from allergic reactions) major stockholders and executives become rich and powerful because people with certain medical conditions cannot live without those drugs. In a democratic society, these people are referred to as “the elites.”

Elites don’t have to be evil, but we’ll discuss the role of the elites later.

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