Let's assume that John Edwards is guilty as charged. Does that guilt deserve up to thirty years in prison? Friedrich Nietzsche said that we should "mistrust those in whom the urge to punish is strong." That would be the United States, the biggest jailer in the world. I should think that a simple felony conviction with one year and a day in prison would be more than enough. Of course, they could also fine Mr. Edwards appropriately: cost of trial, cost of incarceration, etc.
He would be a convicted felon then. I seriously doubt that he would ever run for public office again, if he was legally allowed to. He would be disbarred and not allowed to practice law again. How much more punishment does he need?
Yes, if he is actually guilty of the charges, then he is a sneaky, low-life, egotistical person and misused political campaign money. But other than that, who was physically or financially harmed? And up to thirty years in prison? Many murderers get off with less than that. Murderers! People who kill other people for no good cause!
Of wooden men and Nuremburg Nazis
Henry David Thoreau, in his essay, “Civil Disobedience,” said the following of public servants:
The mass of men serve the state thus, not as men mainly, but as machines, with their bodies. They are the standing army, and the militia, jailers, constables, posse comitatus, etc. In most cases there is no free exercise whatever of the judgment or of the moral sense; but they put themselves on a level with wood and earth and stones; and wooden men can perhaps be manufactured that will serve the purpose as well. Such command no more respect than men of straw or a lump of dirt. They have the same sort of worth only as horses and dogs. Yet such as these even are commonly esteemed good citizens.
When it comes to the so-called war on drugs it seems to me that the policemen, government drug agents, and prison guards could be such wooden men. They don't think about what they are doing, at least not deeply. They just follow orders and the law. The vast majority of people arrested for drugs have not violated the rights of other people. They are either mere users, or merely offer a product to willing customers, just like the tobacco and alcohol makers and sellers. How can non-violent, non-larcenous, consensual adult behavior be criminal? You may find it to be immoral, but that is a religious term and that would make drug use a sin, not a crime.
Law does not equal justice. Once it was a crime to be homosexual . . . or, at the very least, to get caught at being one. Once it was a crime for a woman to be pregnant without having a husband. Once it was a crime to not go to church on Sunday, or to do any unnecessary work on Sunday. Once it was a crime to help slaves escape slavery. (At the same time is was legal to own slaves!) All those crimes, except the last, were based on religious beliefs. None of them were solidly grounded in the right of private citizens to do what they wanted just so long as they did not violate the rights of others: Inalienable rights. We do not veiw those laws as just and proper now.
And so the drug warriors are carrying out their duties, happy to have a job, even though the people they are arresting, prosecuting, and imprisoning have only committed sins. They are not thinking. They are only following the law and could just as well be machines rather than rational, logical men.
And, when it comes to following the law, they could also be compared to the Nuremberg Nazis. At the trials of certain Nazis at Nuremberg, Germany, after the end of World War II, those on trial claimed that they could not be guilty of any crime because they were only following orders. Those conducting the trial relied on Principal VI to negate the Nazis claims of innocence. Principal VI states: The fact that a person acted pursuant to order of his Government or of a superior does not relieve him from responsibility under international law, provided a moral choice was in fact possible to him.
What is the moral choice in a nation where lip-service is given to inalienable rights and where the choice is to either arrest or not arrest someone who has not and is not violating the rights of others? Well, if we really don't have inalienable rights--the complete ownership and use of our bodies and minds as adults (not minors) where such owenership and use does not violate the rights of others--then arresting and incarcerating otherwise honest, peaceful citizens presents no problems . . . because it's the law.
But if there is such a thing as inalienable rights, then only wooden men and Nuremberg Nazis can, with clear conscience and a devotion to their superiors, follow the unjust and illegitimate laws that destroys so many lives, so many families, so many communites. And I am not defending drug use per se. I just know, from many, many years of research, that the so-called war on drugs is really a war on rights and causes more harm than the drugs would to those who would choose to use them if they were legally available to adults.
And don't forget that alcohol and tobacco are recreational drugs. Tobacco use has been substantially reduced without making it illegal. And when we made alcohol illegal, during the Prohibition Era, murder rates soared, poisoned liquor was sold, anyone with the money to buy it could, even teen-agers, and corruption was rampant, much like what is happening today with the new prohibition.
You can read more of this Myth of Inalienable Rights here.