A sweeping, vituperative examination of how the United States, a nation that prides itself on the rule of law, has devolved into an essentially lawless country.
“It’s not only possible, but likely, that all three branches of government are controlled by criminals,” writes Gibney (A Generation of Sociopaths: How the Baby Boomers Betrayed America, 2017), a former lawyer who is now a venture capitalist. “At a minimum, it cannot be proved otherwise, for the simple reason that no one truly knows what the criminal laws of the United States contain. The U.S. Department of Justice, charged with enforcing federal criminal law, can’t even count the number of criminal provisions.” Consequently, most nonlawyer citizens—and even many lawyers—cannot know precisely when they have crossed the line into criminal activity. In the early portion of his outside-the-box yet cohesive diatribe, the author constructs a philosophical foundation for his thesis. Then, chapter by chapter, he eviscerates the American criminal justice system, including police, prosecutors, public defenders, private defense attorneys, law professors, and judges. Gibney also focuses his penetrating gaze on the maze of noncriminal law, slamming arbitrary presidential powers, executive branch rule-making, trial and appellate courts, and the privatized proceedings known as arbitration. Regarding the presidency, he writes, “the greater executive power becomes, the larger the possibility for error. After decades of expansion, the presidency has become a near-impossible job, reposed in one beleaguered and often unstable person.” Throughout the readable text, the author illustrates his criticisms by skillfully employing relevant analogies and metaphors, and his humor is subtle and mostly effective. Defenders of the alleged rule of law in the U.S. often point to the concept of American exceptionalism; Gibney effectively attacks this idea with examples showing how laws are administered more clearly in other nations. At times, the book is eerily timely, as when the author discusses alleged national emergencies invoked by occupants of the White House.
A keen, lively deconstruction of the American legal system’s seemingly countless flaws.