Arpaio and the Rule of Law



Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, Arizona...

Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, Arizona speaking at the Tea Party Patriots American Policy Summit in Phoenix, Arizona. Please attribute to Gage Skidmore if used elsewhere. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Maricopa County Sheriff Joseph M. Arpaio has exclaimed repeatedly that he supports the Rule of Law. But, what is the Rule of Law? Does Rule of Law require strict, blind obedience, obeying all laws completely, even bad laws? Does it mean rigid application to certain segments of society, but not to others? According to Friedrich von Hayek it does. Hayek and Ludwig von Mises were pivotal in the Austrian school of economic thought. Hayek, later a faculty member of the University of Chicago, was influential upon the Chicago School of Economics. Hayek wrote, “….because the rule of law means that government must never coerce an individual, except in the enforcement of a known rule…..” and “….the conception of the rule of law is confused with the requirement of mere legality in all government action.” Hayek also wrote, “The rule of law is not a rule of the law, but a rule concerning what the law ought to be.” This is significant, “what the law ought to be” rather than a “rule of the law”. Aristotle declared, “Law should govern”. This, obviously,  is a very ancient concept. Law should govern, not the capricious whims of one man. If the rule of law does not imply the rule of the law, what does it imply?

Another way of framing this concept is the declaration “Equal Justice Under Law”. In addition to all persons, regardless of status, being subject to the law, all persons, regardless of status, are protected by the law. Selective enforcement and unequal enforcement, is repugnant to the Rule of Law. Simply stated, the United States is a nation of laws, not a nation ruled by the whims of a dictator, at least, not yet. When a nation is not ruled by law, where selective enforcement exists, so does tyranny. Due to Hayek’s philosophy, Rule of Law has become a buzz word of the Cato institute, and Hayek’s narrow view has proliferated among the ultra conservative.

Rule of law determines everyone in society is subject to the law. Everyone, even those who enforce the law, those who write it, as well as citizens or non-citizens are subject to the law. This means law enforcement must stand by it, and the law abiding citizen, the criminal, children, foreign visitors, even the undocumented alien, is protected by it. This is how a civilized society works. Capricious or sporadic enforcement is incongruent.  Therefore, application of the law with ethnic or racial profiling involved is wrong, according to the American theory of jurisprudence, wherein justice must be applied equally and in every case. Many citizens and non citizens alike have complained that Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s deputies, with his direction, have singled them out and harassed them only because of their skin colour or assumed ethnicity. Video has captured images of persons disagreeing with Arpaio’s methods and focus being singled out and arrested for speaking  against him. They are charged with criminal trespass in open, public meetings, which they have a right to attend. This would be at least a mistaken application of the Rule of Law. At most, if intent could be demonstrated, it would be criminal. Equal Justice Under Law is a precept of the United States of America. Unless our country has devolved into an abyss of tyranny and dictatorship, the Rule of Law still survives, and Arpaio, if he acts in accordance with it, must stop his practice of discrimination against the Latino and the economically disenfranchised.

Sheriff Joe Arpaio has publically discussed his retirement. One would hope that his legacy is not a continuation of “Unequal Justice Under Law”, of selective enforcement and discrimination. The culture of abuse runs deeply in the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office. Racial and ethnic profiling in law enforcement, deaths of inmates from torture during interrogation, denial of, or inadequate  necessary medical support until the inmate must be admitted to the ER, and neglect from exposing inmates to extremes of temperature in tents, with poor nutrition, are merely symptoms of a deeper, greater disease.

In post Arpaio MCSO, a general house cleaning is in order. Policies and procedures must be examined, personnel must be scrutinized, and selective, discriminatory practices must be eliminated. The United States of America is a nation of laws. It is time to remember that.


About Stefan Jacke

MagicRobert presented me with a vellum document, composed in an insane script. We were in a well secured vault in the Michener Library. His face exploded into a broad smile, as he saw me recognize the words, "That government governs best which governs least." It was a copy of "On Civil Disobedience" in the author's own hand. The experience called to mind a conversation Henry David Thoreau had with Ralph Waldo Emerson, as Thoreau sat in a jail cell, incarcerated for protesting the Mexican War. Emerson asked, "David, what are you doing in there?" Thoreau responded, "The point is, Ralph, what are you doing out there?" Once, long ago, I jumped off of big red trucks, lifted weights, and cleaned toilets for a living. Then I wrestled drunks, ran around in circles, and got splattered with blood and all manner of body fluids for a living. Now I enjoy the stillness of early morning in my rocking chair on the porch, with a hot cup of coffee, trying in vain to forget the past. Thank you, Robert!
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2 Responses to Arpaio and the Rule of Law

  1. kwaayesnama says:

    Another great article from a dear friend of mine, he always says thing I would like to say but am not able to articulate.

  2. Another great article by Herne Speaks. Thank you my friend!

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