Class-Action Communism

Article excerpt

There was a time when the legal profession teemed with defenders of individual liberty.

No seriously -- it did.

In his 1789 History of the American Revolution, David Ramsay recorded that of the delegates to the 1774 Continental Congress, "one half were lawyers. Gentlemen of that profession had acquired the confidence of the inhabitants by their exertions in the common cause." Perhaps Ramsay's point was that only by such exertions could lawyers overcome the suspicions of the other colonists. In any case, it's difficult to argue with the proposition that John Adams and Patrick Henry are worthier exemplars of the legal profession than Alan Dershowitz.

Artful digs at the legal profession abound in Shakespeare's works, the most famous of which is: "The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers." This classic "lawyer joke" was uttered by "Dick the Butcher," a murderous henchman of Jack Cade, a petty criminal-turned-revolutionary. Cade and what Shakespeare called his "rabblement" were depicted as sort of a 15th century Khmer Rouge, giddily murdering anybody who impeded their path to total power. They justified their crimes by invoking the utopia they intended to build -- why, according to Cade, once he was installed as ruler, all things would be had "in common," and the city's sewers would "run nothing but claret wine"!

Obviously, those who were the custodians of the law would have to be annihilated in order to bring about Cade's envisioned Communist utopia. This didn't mean, however, that the profession of "lawyer" would be done away with; it would simply be redefined. In one scene Cade presides over a mockery of a trial before killing one of his victims, so as to make it "legal." Shakespeare thus foreshadowed the show trials carried out by Communist butchers like Josef Stalin, who never lacked for lawyers willing to help build the total state.

Where Stalin used show trials, some modern totalitarians make use of class-action lawsuits and extorted settlements -- the most significant example being the $246 billion settlement between the tobacco industry and 41 state governments. While lucrative settlements of ludicrous class-action suits are common, the tobacco settlement pioneered what could be called taxation by litigation. Settlement funds were disbursed to participating states to fund social programs. In addition, a large chunk of the settlement haul -- nearly $12 million -- found its way into the coffers of the Democratic Party, as trial lawyers enriched by the deal paid off political co-conspirators in the extortion scheme.

In his book Between the Alps and a Hard Place, professor Angelo Codevilla of Boston University describes how a squalid coalition used the tactics of class-action Communism to tax the citizens of Switzerland in order to enrich the Democratic Party and some of its key political allies. …