The End of the Law

The end of the law is the end of the law. In other words, the primary purpose of the law is not that the law be followed, nor that the law not be transgressed. These concerns are secondary. What is primary is that a particular order function. That’s what the law is used to achieve.

Where it functions truly, nothing is regarded (by the order, at least) as being wrong. And since nothing is regarded as wrong, there is nothing to be made right, nothing to enforce. And because there is nothing to enforce, the law can cease to exist. Even its courts and police can disappear. Their job is done. That is, their job is done according to the order and those who benefit from it. Most people may disagree. But most people, according to the order, don’t matter. So, where the order is functioning (according to the order) no law needs to be enforced. This is why so many things, in spite of the deadly harms they cause, are unregulated. This is the way this order wants things to be. It’s profitable.

Taxes are not collected, for some. Environmental regulations are not enforced. Slumlords operate in clear violation of the law. Police murder with impunity. And so on. These aren’t bugs, as they say. These are features. This is our capitalist, faux-democratic society.

This order, of course, has nothing to do with justice. And the law, as we see daily, hourly even, is ignored where is does not bolster the order of profit.

A tool of the order, the law is wielded in the order’s interest. And its power is limited by the order. And even if a chastened order, chastened by public outcry, for instance, changes its laws, as happens from time to time, its chasteness soon wears away and it begins to ignore these changes. We see this again and again. It reverts to its old ways. Where order is achieved, the law is not enforced.

Now, when people transgress the order, insisting that the water, the air, the health of the environment be protected, for instance — well, this threatens the order. And so this is when the police are called in.

An instrument of law and order, the police are nevertheless not bound by the law. For the lawlessness of the police is part of the order. That is why the law isn’t used to genuinely restrain them. As far as the order is concerned, those laws don’t need to be enforced. The capitalist order recognizes this limit of the law. For this order, this is the end of the law. For justice, however, the end of the law is another story.

Elliot Sperber is a writer, attorney, and adjunct professor. He lives in New York City and can be reached at and on twitter @elliot_sperber