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Friday, September 25, 2015

The Lunacy of France

Anatole France
In its majestic equality, the law forbids rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges, beg in the streets and steal loaves of bread.«La majestueuse égalité des lois, qui interdit au riche comme au pauvre de coucher sous les ponts, de mendier dans les rues et de voler du pain.»

This quote of Anatole France’sThis page of the Nobel Laureate’s most famous quotes is well worth reading to the connoisseur of well-spoken lunacy. For example, it was not the Marquis de Sade, but France who said that Suffering—how divine it is, how misunderstood! We owe to it all that is good in us, all that gives value to life; we owe to it pity, we owe to it courage, we owe to it all the virtues. is often cited as profound critique of the concept of neutral law applying equally to all without regard to status. It is said to rip the mask of hypocrisy from that notion and expose it for what it is: a mere rhetorical whip wielded by the 1% against the rest of us.

In a similar vein, the ideal of neutral law is often attacked on the basis that criminal law, while facially neutral, results in the disproportionate incarceration of African-Americans and Hispanics.That is statistically true. It is also to a similar degree statistically true that the criminal law results in the disproportionate incarceration of men and young adults, though strangely that rarely raises the ire of the Social Justice Warrior. This, it is implied, proves that the criminal law is a racist weapon wielded to control certain ethnic minorities.

Yet, it is hard to see how these arguments could be valid. For the law, in its equality, majestic and true, enjoins the pencil-necked as well as the brawny from assault. It disallows rape to women and men alike. It promises the most severe punishment for murder to the blood-thirsty and the pacifist.

Is one to conclude from this that the law is nothing more than a conspiracy by the pencil-necked, women, and pacifists—whom the law allows to do as they please—against the brawny, men, and the blood-thirsty—whose freedom it so cruelly constrains?