There’s a long running American idea regarding the justice system. The idea is that we are all equal under the law and there is justice for all. Those words sound really good. They have a nice ring to them. But the problem is we live in reality.
As you probably already know, there is such a thing as inequality. And it’s not always evil. In fact, inequality is natural. I know a lot of people are going to be upset at that. A lot of people are going to be up in arms about that idea. They can’t accept it. They can’t even think about it. A lot of people can’t even wrap their mind around the possibility that injustice and inequality is really the state of the human condition.
But hear me out. Have you heard of the 80 20 rule or the pareto principle? If you haven’t, it’s no big deal because it’s all around you. If you look at the typical NBA team and pay attention to the points scored by that team, I can guarantee you that only 20% or even less of the people on that NBA teams roster account for 80% or more of the points earned by that team.
This is not an accident. This plays out in any kind of human endeavor. Whether we’re talking about making money, getting more dates from pretty women or handsome guys, losing weight, getting good grades, you name it!
As long as it involves some sort of societal reward, there will always be this disparity. In fact, in the third world or even in the United States, 20% of the population own 80% of the wealth. 20% of professionals own 80% of income in their profession. So on and so forth.
You have to have this context in mind when looking at the inherent fairness of the American justice system. If a rich person can not hire the very best attorney, and I’m not talking about theory here. I’m talking about people like Michael Jackson during his criminal trial as well as OJ Simpson during the time when he was accused of murdering his wife.
What do these people have in common? Well, they’re both famous and they’re rich. And what happened? That’s right! Both of them got off the hook. Both of them acquitted. Is this an insult to the concept of justice for all? Does this delegitimize our conceptions of the American justice system?
No! It doesn’t! All it shows is that if you are rich, you have the resources to buy the very best legal services so you can get the outcome you’re looking for. How’s this any different from a person going to a plastic surgeon, paying really good money so he or she can get the very best professional possible and getting good results?
On the other hand, somebody with a limited budget goes to somebody with less experience or somebody who has been sued for malpractice and basically rolls the dice and hopes for the very best. I know it sounds unjust and in a perfect world, everything would be equally distributed in terms of outcome.
But we don’t live in a perfect world. It’s a good idea when it comes to asking ourselves why the American justice system favors the right to focus more on how reality actually is instead of what we wish it to be.
The truth is, the American justice system favors the rich the same way as the economic system favors the rich or the academic system favors the rich. Talking about the academic system, let me tell you, even Harvard University, which issues probably the very best diploma you could ever get on planet earth, will let you in if your parents or you yourself donated north of a hundred million to the school.
How’s that for the rich being favored by the system? The justification for that is that your gift qualifies you for admission because you are essentially donating to a worthy cause. That hundred million dollars that you donated to Harvard University can fund so many professors. It can fund so many researches that can possibly touch and improve the lives of millions of people all over the world.
Do you see how this works? So it’s not really a question whether the rich get the very best things in life. Believe me. That’s always been the case. Those hieroglyphics in Egypt and the carvings on Aztec ruins and Chinese temples (and many others) all tell the same story: the right get the best of life and everyone else settles for the crumbs.
Of course, hierarchy is always part of the human experience because when you look at how you view other people, you are probably sizing them up and putting them in a hierarchy. If you do it, how can you be so sure people in general shouldn’t do it? The truth is, hierarchies exist for a reason. They simply reveal the natural distribution of rewards in any human society.
The Pareto Principle or 80/20 Rule will always be in effect. There will always be people at the bottom, the middle, and of course at the top. This was the case in the past, this is the case right now, and this will continue to persist long into the future.
So if you are worried about whether the justice system favors the rich, maybe the better question to ask is “how do I scale up the net worth ladder so the system works for me instead of against me?”
Believe me, this is probably going to be more productive than just railing at injustice, unfairness, and everything else rotten with ‘the system.’ You’d be just as effective as an old man shaking his fist at the sun in the middle of a very hot summer day if you were to assume that attitude.
The issue is how can we ensure that the justice system operates optimally for the rest of the population.