Does the Law Morally Bind the Poor?
Or What Good's the Constitution When You Can't Buy a Loaf of Bread?
Publication Year: 1996
Consider the horror we feel when we learn of a crime such as that committed by Robert Alton Harris, who commandeered a car, killed the two teenage boys in it, and then finished what was left of their lunch. What we don't consider in our reaction to the depravity of this act is that, whether we morally blame him or not, Robert Alton Harris has led a life almost unimaginably different from our own in crucial respects.
In Does Law Morally Bind the Poor? or What Good's the Constitution When You Can't Buy a Loaf of Bread?, author R. George Wright argues that while the poor live in the same world as the rest of us, their world is crucially different. The law does not recognize this difference, however, and proves to be inconsistent by excusing the trespasses of persons fleeing unexpected storms, but not those of the involuntarily homeless. He persuasively concludes that we can reject crude environmental determinism without holding the most deprived to unreasonable standards.
Published by: NYU Press
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What are the pros and cons of living in a broken trash compactor? The advantages are actually many and substantial. The danger of electrocution, for example, is less than that of sleeping near a 600- volt electrified train rail...
1. Does the Constitution Morally Bind the Poor?
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This chapter explores a crucial, but largely undiscussed, problem in American constitutional jurisprudence. The problem is not difficult to state: Many Americans live through remarkable deprivation and disadvantage. Their stories differ widely...
2. The Progressive Logic of Criminal Responsibility and the Circumstances of the Most Deprived
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We know that the pull of gravity differs on the earth and on the moon. Can the pull of moral and social gravity also vary with place, even within what is nominally the same society? This chapter will argue that it...
3. Desperation and Necessity: Les Miserables on Trial
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Let us suppose that the argument of the previous chapter was utterly mistaken. Even the most severely deprived persons could then be said to typically bear moral responsibility for their criminal acts. Of course, standard defenses...
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At the beginning of this book, we met a person who lived, disastrously, in a temporarily broken trash compactor. This book has tried to redeem some legal space for such persons. It is difficult to be entirely satisfied...
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Page Count: 288
Publication Year: 1996