on June 5, 2003
Interesting book, but at length it sounds more like one of the sob stories it purports to outline. It should be made clear that the book is not a book in a traditional sense, in that the thesis is delineated at the introduction but the bulk of the text is composed of short essays. Additionally, it's not entirely clear who the main audience is intended to be.
While Mr. Dershowitz certainly covers his topic well, less than halfway through the book his argument becomes repetitive and muddled. The controversy he rails against in one section could be used to support reasoning in another.
The author does not go into depth to explain why lawyers or justices take, or do not take, the positions they do. In this sense it is little more than a critique of society and the system. We in the public have been lead to believe that the justice system is adversarial. If so, then it is the responsibility of a good attorney to provide a zealous prosecution of his case - be it prosecution or defense - not necessarily to offer a responsible or truthful conclusion. Mr. Dershowitz does not address this issue. Thus, ultimately there is very little substance to his material.
on November 6, 2003
For a man as educated and intelligent as Mr. Dershowitz, this was a surprisingly uninteresting and dull account of a very important issue. While I agree with Dershowitz's main tent -- our society has become less responsible in many ways, and that our law is a reflection of that -- his essays were, to put it mildly, insipid and boring. I realize that the mediums that he choose to broadcast his message -- newspapers -- constrain his ability to express his sentiments in all the proper nuance. (For instance, George Will, a respected columnist, writes for general audiences but never hesitates to express his comments in the language such comments deserve).
Also, after you have read one single essay from Mr. Dershowitz, there is absolutely no reason to read another one. Each essay talks about the same subject in almost the same fashion: that the abrogation of responsibility will ultimately result in the end of the rule of law (which requires that we be responsible for our actions) and democracy (which posits that elected officials are ultimately responsible for their actions). I would encourage careful readers to instead look at James Q. Wilson's "Moral Judgment: Does the Abuse Excuse Threaten our Legal System." Wilson's book goes into far more depth on this issue, offering theoretical and practical support for his arguments. Plus, Wilson is far more interesting. : )