Thursday, December 5, 2013

Justice for All — Landowners, That Is

People wonder why the courts work as slowly as they do, and such comments are often phrased in terms of “what’s wrong” with the justice system that it takes so long to decide some of the simplest things. The slow pace is designed into the system, though. In most of the world — essentially wherever the Roman and Cyrillic alphabets are used — we use versions of the post-Roman justice system. This is based on Roman law but adapted to the needs of Medieval Europe, when landowners were at the heart of society. The system was based on the assumption that the people involved in the disputes it settled would be landowners. It wasn’t a problem to take a long time deciding the disputes because a landowner wouldn’t be going anywhere.  But this system is adapted only with difficulty to a world run by workers, and this is especially evident when you look at corporations. When giant corporations are taken to task, the workers (mostly executives and officers) who got the company in trouble are likely to be long gone before the case comes to trial, never mind the five years of appeals that may follow. As for intentional criminal enterprises organized as corporations, they have rapid money movement written into their business plans, so they can arrange to be broke long before the prosecutors come around.