If you agree that we need justice reform, would you embrace a system where all attorneys get paid the same (like Medicare for all) and the poor don’t get a public defender but have access to all lawyers?
The problem with the justice system is not really the lack of access to lawyers, so making lawyers available to everyone free of charge is not the answer (indeed, once you make lawyers available to everybody free of charge, the justice system will only be made worse). Why?
First, and most fundamentally, nobody likes to be told how much he/she can charge for his/her/their services. While it is true that greedy people may feel this way, brilliant people also feel this way. All of us should want to see the cream rise. As has been noted many, many times before, if you needed life-saving surgery, you would want the best doctor your money could buy. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a the doctor, a lawyer, a butcher, baker, or a candlestick maker; nobody likes being told how much he or she can charge for their goods and services. Let the market set the price, not the government, for crying out loud.
With the exception of preventing monopolies from taking advantage of people, the government has no business in setting prices. Indeed, when the government tries to set prices, everyone suffers, including the government (and government suffering should be among the least of our worries). Caps on pricing are caps on quality, caps on excellence, caps on liberty and freedom, period. Socialized medicine, for example, makes mediocre healthcare available to all and ensures that healthcare stays mediocre. Free of charge lawyers for all will just ensure that lawyers are mediocre and stay that way.
Second, even people with access to lawyers get shafted more than flawed human nature should cause. Why? Because the justice system will never be just without just people administering and participating in it. There are insufficient just people administering the legal system, and even their numbers are dwindling. No judge, clerk, law enforcement officer, prosecutor, defense lawyer or defendant should be unjust in his/her conduct. The most brilliant attorney in the world is of no use to you if you’ve got a corrupt or apathetic judge deciding your case or if you’ve got a lying litigant and a complicit attorney spinning lies that your judge and/or jury believe.
There are too many people out there who, but for the lack of moral instruction and example, would themselves be moral and ethical people. Too many people, however, are willing to make the sacrifice that morality, honor, and good character require. An honest day’s labor for an honest day’s pay is considered laughable today. “Do what is right, let the consequence follow” is impossible for short-sighted, purely self-interested people to understand, as is “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” I commend The Gods of the Copybook Headings to you too.
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