Doug French

You always remember books that change your mind, because these books are so few and far between. We're drawn to books that reinforce what we already believe. It makes us feel smarter that an author shares our opinion and provides words we can use to make our case on the off chance that's required.

After Murray Rothbard opened my eyes at UNLV in 1990, I went on a book-buying binge that included an edition of the book you hold, Resist Not Evil. I can't honestly remember why I bought the book from Loompanics, other than the bookseller's catalog description must have in some way piqued my interest.

At the time I remember being on the fence, with a slight lean toward supporting capital punishment. The deterrence arguments resonated with me. However, it was a hard question, akin to the issues of abortion and immigration. In the end, to not support capital punishment put a person with the bleeding-heart liberals, company I didn't want to be in.

But this is the way with so many issues. Instead of analyzing the problem for ourselves, we let the group we identify with make the decision for us as to what we believe. That's a lazy way to live, requiring no thought, no study, no consideration, no introspection.

Clarence Darrow does not allow for that. He does not allow you to sit in the jury box of public opinion and let the other jurors make up your mind. Resist Not Evil is not just an indictment of capital punishment. The state is on trial, and Darrow is arguing for the prosecution.

And there is a no more passionate, articulate prosecutor than Darrow. It is impossible not to be swept away by his rhetoric. Like any good attorney, Darrow anticipates every argument, and proceeds to crush them in page after page of some of the best prose you will ever read.

Although he wrote it in 1902, Darrow anticipates the prison nation that America is today. All areas of life become part of the penal code, with an army of people operating as police, legislators, and the court system to enforce these laws through force and violence.

The state is set up not to administer justice but to punish. No victims are compensated, but the state gets its pound of flesh. Writing more than a century ago, Darrow focused on crimes against property, the predominate crime for which the state "penned" offenders at that time.

Today, burglaries, besides not being sexy, are too hard to solve, and not a cash generator for local, state, or federal law enforcement. So now it's the war on drugs that clogs America's prisons combined with initiatives from Washington to "get tough on crime."

Doug French

Doug French is is president of the Mises Institute and author of Early Speculative Bubbles & Increases in the Money Supply and Walk Away: The Rise and Fall of the Home-Ownership Myth

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