A Word in your Ear

The word tonight is ‘legal’

After we sold half the agency to a Boston outfit in 1983, I used to spend qute a bit of time in a restaurant there called Legal Seafoods. I always assumed its name originated from having to highlight the fact that the catch had been legally landed and inspected, but if anyone from this fine City – and Boston is a beeeyoootiful town – is reading this, perhaps they could advise me. Anyway, it was a cool place selling A1 seafood. Thirty-three years ago.

This seemed to me a good place to start, because the person who dreamed up the title may not have known it, but he or she was a born adman: the rule ‘take the generic satisfaction of the sector, and set out to own it’ isn’t the only strategy for a brand; but saying your seafood is ‘legal’ – legal being allegedly a term without gradations – means that you are pukka, but the others might be bootleggers trying to sell you everything from poisonous ink to Hepatitis A. It kind of says you are the safe best rather than just a safe bet.

It says ‘legal is indivisible’. Hold that thought.

When you dive into Google looking for idioms using the word ‘legal’, it’s amazing how few there are. Far more common are idiots using it – as in, “Well OK, if you want to get legal, I’ll see you in Court”. But as so often, within the contemporary usage, and the human element, lies the problem.

‘Legal’ is, stictly speaking, an absolute. But while you might aver that it plays in the same league as ‘pregnant’ and ‘dead’, it doesn’t really. One can say that there should be no further comparative levels between legal and illegal, and linguistically that’s true. But legally, whether something is legal or not is based on um, a legal intepretation of usage and precedent. And that interpretation is going to be decided by a member of our species.

This is not true of pregnancy and death. They are natural, whereas laws are man-made. Everything man-made reflects, for good or bad, somebody’s personal agenda. And when laws are made (a) by a person ignorant of, or uncaring about, consequences – and/or (b) by those concerned to protect their privilege rather than the rights of the citizen….well, hmmm, yes – quite. Then the term ‘legal’ will continue to mean ‘being in conformity with the law of the land’…..but must cease to mean, in any meaningful way, ‘being for the greater fulfilment of mankind as a whole’.

Definitions of legality are constantly in conflict with humanity’s preference for stratified tribalism, changing cultural mores, and violence.

In a world where the entire concept of legality has been perverted by politico-corporate ends and philosophical fashion, we can ‘take legal action’: but the legal outcome may well lack both wisdom and natural egalitarian justice. We may apply for ‘legal aid’, but if ruthless ideology fails to fund the process, then an unjust outcome will almost certainly be the unhappy fate of the accused or complainant who lacks the funds of the powerful.

“I am here in a purely legal capacity” is, almost certainly, a lie the second it departs the speaker’s lips. For the speaker is a lawyer, and the real meaning of the mendacious assertion is likely to be, “I am here to ensure a victory for my client, and thus a bigger fee for me”. He is not there to ensure that justice prevails.

So here’s where I arrive in conclusion:

Legal is a profession. Justice is an aspiration.


This examination of the word ‘legal’ isn’t just onanism for its own self-abusive sake. It’s applicable right across the board of Western culture, and inclusive of most contemporary issues that bedevil it.

The verdict of ‘Joint Enterprise’ is legal grounds for a murder conviction, but an affront to Justice. https://twitter.com/jengba

The denial of State Pensions to 50,000 1950s UK women is technically legal, but morally indefensible. WASPI

The EC has passed two laws affecting Greece’s heroic handling of refugees – for whom the Greeks have no legal responsibility. The two EC laws are both spiteful and contradictory. Keep Talking Greece

The UK Home Secretary Theresa May and her keeper David Cameron remain keen to cement in the offence of Non-Violent Extremism (NVE) as a cornerstone of the British legal system. It will make the prosecution of NVEism legal, but it will not stop it being an oxymoronic nonsense. Fictitious Liberty 

There is an old saying, “Most humour is generated by the difference between human aspiration and human achievement”. It’s a good rule of thumb, but not in these cases. And even less so when one surveys the cases where ‘Might is Right’ rules each and every aspect of legality and justice.

Technically, the European Union is a legal entity. But on any basis involving reality, it isn’t. The ECB daily ignores the illegality of fiscal interference in the affairs of member States. The EC’s accounts are completely illegal, because in twenty years not a single auditing firm has been willing to sign them off. The Eurogroup currently dictating socio-fiscal policy to Greece is an entity formed by Wolfgang Schäuble with no legal right under EU law to exist at all.

The European Union is not even a Sovereign State. ClubMed bondholders have learned that reality the hard way.

Without objectively functional legality, there can be no justice. If a Sovereign State can make illegal war against innocent foreigners ‘legal’, then Justice will not be done, let alone seen to be done. If an organisation that is not even a Sovereign State can form a Standing Army, then that Army can be employed ‘legally’ to oppress every citizen. If the  term ‘legal’ can be perverted by the mortal infection of relativism, then there cannot be a discernible Rule of Law, or indeed any genuine form of equality before that Law. And without the Rule of naturally egalitarian law, there can be no civilisation.

Connected at The Slog: Trump v Sanders is well within the bounds of November 2016 reality

24 thoughts on “A Word in your Ear

  1. Another of our wonderful constructs, is the law. Very much “Custom & Practice” from the times of Lords & surfs. Just & legal, yes, fair & equitable it has never been… “Enclosures Act” anyone? That will do nicely thanks..!


  2. I have read and followed much of Robert Arthur Menard’s work and Nobby is quite correct. However, if you are considering studying his work in any detail I can equate that decision to taking to taking the red or the blue pill, be warned.


  3. The fact that laws are man-made seems to escape many of my fellow middle-class Canadians. There is outrage that someone would contemplate ‘breaking the law’, no matter how egregious or unjust the legislation. Once the law-makers are suborned by the elites, the law ceases to protect us peons and is used as a weapon with the might of the state behind it. I remember clearly my disillusionment during the Law Society Finals course when it was made clear that, particularly in civil actions, the size of the war chest was the decisive factor in almost all cases. Justice seemed irrelevant and any concern over ‘rich man’s justice was deemed quaint. The erosion of Legal Aid in the intervening years has made this even more true.

    I consider that the ‘Rule of Law’ has effectively disappeared south of the border. So much legislation has been passed, and so much ordinary activity has been criminalised by the appalling plutocracy that most ordinary U.S. citizens are estimated to unknowingly commit three felonies a day. In this situation, there it is at the discretion of the ‘authorities’ to decide who to target, and they can destroy the life of whoever they wish. I love the suggestion of a comedian (I forget which one) that there only be ten laws allowed. If a legislature wished to introduce another one, the least popular in the list would have to be jettisoned.


    In my experience, the legal profession has a great preponderance of those with a loose attachment to ethics. This may well explain the number of legally trained politicians and the state that the western world finds itself in.


  4. Great blog.
    PS: I have eaten in Legal Seafoods in Boston in the ’80s and I totally agree, great and delicious seafood, at unpretentious prices served with gusto and great care but not too up itself.


  5. The Law is an ASS.
    Of course it is. We learn to work our way around the system. Free to be a slave? Certainly not.
    Posession is nine tenths of the law – especially our thoughts and our income.
    Don’t let them think that we are the lobster in the tank that can be chosen at will by the diner and thrown into a pot of boiling water.


  6. A politician who does not temper the urge to regulate with the instinct to maintain is hostage to the law of unintended consequences, one might think. Currently, the speed and direction of so much legislation invites us, all too frequently, to suspend our disbelief about the word ‘unintended’. Too much law can only equate to bad law, else the populace is in some way intrinsically recidivist. I have some sympathy with General James Oglethorpe, who founded the colony of Georgia on behalf of King George II, for his decision to do without the legal profession in order to be “free from that pest and scourge of mankind called lawyers.” However, democracy seems destined to drag an ever larger cartload of regulation behind it, but for the good of whom?


  7. The concept of legal tax avoidance always amuses me. Ricoh is right that we learn to find our way round he law. That can take the form of bending it to the point that one cannot be sure if it is broken or not. Most of those perpetrating legal tax avoidance have no idea if it works or not. The punters are happy to bow to the superior wisdom of their tax advisers. The tax advisers cross their fingers behind their backs and think about the fat fees. Knowing that even if HMRC do decide to test if it’s legal it will take ten years to sort out. Google have shown our corporation tax system is broken. Jimmy Carr already showed our personal tax system is broken too. Time to turn the legal clock back to zero and start a new game?


  8. John, I am truly sorry but someone has to do this; the gag goes, “What’s the difference between unlawful and illegal?” – “Unlawful means against the law but illegal’s a sick bird” It’s spoken, see, so it works. No? I’ll get me coat.


  9. And in the same vein, what’s the difference between ‘Involved, and Committed’? Well, take bacon and eggs, the chicken is involved but, the pig is committed.


  10. “I do not wish to speak ill of the gentleman, but I have heard it said that he is an advocate”. Ascribed to Dr; Johnson but i have not been able to find the source.

    When I lived in the East End of London there was a fruit and vegetable supply company with the name “Principle Purveyors”. I had many a happy moment imagining who their Customers might be.


  11. john
    Legal is a profession…..like prostitution?
    I have great trouble keeping up to date …Is it me ?..or isis/are things spinning out of orbit?


  12. @Hiero

    I’ll try not to. I’m just glad I read you correctly. I am curious as to why you were up at 1:29 a.m. on a Monday morning though.


  13. By the time I’ve got the kids fed and watered, bathed and into bed, and done some essential clearing up, not that you’d notice, the hour is necessarily late but I linger in order to allow my mental processes to change gear and to have some time to myself – before getting up at 7 to get them off to school.. Also, my mother was a bat.


  14. @Hiero

    Wow. I hate to think where my mental processes would be under that schedule. They barely function with a full eight hours sleep as it is. Perhaps Thatcher was right :-)


  15. @Canexpat

    Well, the odds could possibly have been in her favour there – let’s face it she was wrong about practically everything else! From my reading of your comments in general, I’d say that your mental processes are working just fine ;)


  16. Great blog, John.

    @Canexpat: Churchill said “If you have ten thousand regulations you destroy all respect for the law.”.
    The current amount of laws, of course, far, far exceeds that (paltry) number.
    A German TV programme I chanced upon about rent laws had a lawyer (specialised in that subject) with a book the size of a dictionary to hand which contained just those laws.
    Citizens breaking three laws a day? I would posit the number is far, far higher – everyday whilst travelling to work I witness drivers who speed (€Variable), don’t indicate to change a lane (€15), and drive over solid white lines (€75), that’s three straight away.
    Still, trying to keep pace with the overbearing amount of cans-and-cannots for my company was one of the reasons I (finally) woke up and, as Churchill said, my respect for the law has subsequently been extirpated.


  17. Got to agree. My personal daily plan is not to care whether I’m breaking the law or not. Being subject to so much awful ‘legislation’ mostly because the politicians want to be seen as important and powerful. Makes me rebel (non violently) against their ego’s. Fact is that I wonder what they would do if we all ignored the idiocy and refused to pay the fines… They sure as hell don’t have the finance to lock up all of the taxpayers…


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