HOW THE GOVERNMENT BREAKS THE LAW by Jethro K. Lieberman

HOW THE GOVERNMENT BREAKS THE LAW

By
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

Everyone knows the Brandeisian dictum that government lawlessness breeds contempt for the law, ultimately inviting each man to become a law unto himself. But how many are fully aware of the range and consistency and multifarious methods of government lawbreaking? Or how government contrives to protect itself from culpability or censure? In what is, to the best of our knowledge, the most extensive study on the subject, Lieberman, a recent Harvard Law graduate now based in Washington, describes and illustrates with contemporary case studies the startling dimensions of government criminality, from malicious manufacture or suppression of evidence to obtain convictions to extralegal harassment of political dissidents; from misuse of public monies and abuse of regulatory agency power to unlawful appointments and flag desecration; from bribery and influence huckstering to toleration of blatantly unlawful campaign practices. And when caught playing footsie with the laws it is sworn to enforce, the government responds by denying or obfuscating the charges, by launching a whitewash investigation, by pleading necessity (usually called ""national security""), and by accusing the accuser. In a parting chapter, Lieberman proposes several logical remedies: vigorous assertion of the ""principle of openness"" (he correctly contends that the Freedom of Information Act which embodies that principle has thus far proved ineffectual); scrapping the sovereign immunity doctrine which protects the government from judicial redress by those victimized; establishment of a national ombudsman; and, perhaps most interesting, consolidation or repeal of most laws and regulations governing federal agencies (""Lieberman's Law"" says ""the lack of law in the administrative process is due largely to the superabundance of law"" -- hence his quasi-Catonic strategy). Lieberman's context is legalistic, his style forthright, his tone Naderesque. And after reading his book you're left wondering only why we haven't descended into anarchy many official crimes ago.

Pub Date: June 30th, 1972
Publisher: Stein & Day