In the 1968 Clint Eastwood movie “Hang’em High”, the first movie that Clint had a major hand in producing as vs just being an actor, there is a scene where Marshall Cooper, the character that Clint plays, is attacked by a cattle rustler. Two teenagers also being brought in for cattle rustling help Clint overpower the rustler.
They reach the town, and the rustlers are brought before the judge. Each is found guilty and sentenced to die by hanging. Clint objects that the two teenagers helped him and shouldn’t be sentenced to death. The judge allows as how it doesn’t seem fair, but the law is the law, and the alternative to rule of law is rule of gun — the sort of vigilante action that nearly resulted in Cooper’s death at the start of the movie.
That scene has stuck with me over many years. I’ve seen the truth of it many, many times. As imperfect as rule of law is, the alternative is even more horrifying. Granted, often the law is an ass. But in a democracy, the solution to that is to fix the law — not to take the law into your own hands. That path leads to even more injustice.
[As an aside, every time someone claims Clint is a “simplistic dinosaur”, I think of this scene, in the first movie where Clint controlled everything — it was made by his production company with the money he got from the preceding spaghetti westerns. Clint is a more complex man than people generally admit.]
– Badtux the Rule Of Law Penguin