McCoy: It's about the battle, Claire, not the prize.
Kincaid: He blind-sided a half-witted judge on behalf of the head of a mob family. You're acting like it was some kind of noble cause.
McCoy: It's part of the game.
Kincaid: Excuse me? Last I looked it was about justice.
McCoy: That's merely a byproduct. Boy scouts seek it, effective prosecutors do their best to avoid thinking about it.
There's a distinction I've been wrestling with when it comes to my good government theorizing, which I've best expressed as the difference between policy and structure. The quote above (from Law & Order) gets at the distinction. In this case, the goal is justice. Kincaid advocates justice by policy, working justice into the decision of when and how to prosecute a crime. McCoy suggests that the adversarial trial system is structured to produce justice, so justice can be (and indeed should be) ignored; it will fall out of a competition between a prosecutor and a defense attorneys whose goals extend no further than the court room.
Another example is democratic government, which can be said to be better than other forms because it is structured to produce beneficial laws. A benevolent dictatorship or monarchy relies on policy decisions, which are suceptible to any number of flaws. A democracy, while slower moving and less efficient, has the benefit of being structured to produce consistently good outcomes.
To my mind, the ideal systems are those that produce what they're meant to produce structurally. They're much harder to design, but designed properly they are much more resilient to corruption and gaming, and indeed attempted gaming is what makes them work.
Is this the right disctinction? Is it a coherent distinction? Are there better labels than structure and policy for the concepts I'm describing?