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IPFS News Link • Political Theory

Let's Examine Some Real Crimes Committed By Presidents

•, by Connor O'Keeffe

The indictments are the latest battle in a roughly six-year crusade against Trump that first sought to remove him from power through the Twenty-Fifth Amendment, then with espionage charges and impeachments, and that now aims to block him from becoming president again. The mantra we hear from those in politics and media who support these efforts is that nobody is above the law.

But there's an entire class of people above the law. Or who at least act like they're above the law—the political class. The hypocrisies of their effort to convict Trump and block him from holding office again reveal that the motivations are purely political—not born of some commitment to a higher moral or legal principle.

Two broad schools of thought make up Western legal philosophy. They are natural law theory and legal positivism. Natural law theory says that law exists regardless of the dictates of states. That justice is derived from nature and common to all humans. Simply put, natural law theorists argue that a crime is a crime regardless of what the state says. That makes killing another human with malice aforethought murder, for example, even when it's done with the blessings of government officials.

Many libertarians, such as Murray Rothbard, ground their moral opposition to state power in appeals to natural law. There is no special status that someone can attain that allows them to commit crimes.

The idea that nobody, not even the president, is above the law is right in line with this view. But, taken to its logical Rothbardian conclusion, equality under the law is a denial of political authority. So, it's bizarre to hear the political class use this slogan as a rallying cry when all their wealth, power, and status is built on political privilege. And they can't rightfully go after Trump for how he used his political authority because that's not unique to Trump.

The political class prefers legal positivism, which separates law from morality. According to legal positivists, law is what the sovereign political authority says it is. There may be just laws and unjust laws. But they are all valid laws in this view. Legal positivism enshrines the political class's privileged legal status above the rest of us.