Tuesday, December 19, 2017


     Certain pathways in logic are irresistibly seductive. One of them, which forms the core of today’s screed, is the following:

“If it’s okay for him, it’s okay for me.”

     Now, as logic, there’s very little wrong with it. The crux of the matter lies in that insidious little word if.

     Part of the social binder usually called respect for the law arises from whether the law is applied uniformly. A law that some persons are allowed to violate with impunity will elicit little or no respect, at least in a society that doesn’t recognize a privileged class. Shortly after the people realize that some law is being enforced against some but not others, there will arise a personal ethic that treats that law as something to be broken when it’s advantageous, as long as the penalty can be eluded.

     A society in which a great many laws are known to be selectively enforced will lack respect for the law in general: i.e., the lack of respect will not be confined to a particular set of laws. Over time the privileged ones will become bold: they will openly use their privileges for personal enrichment and aggrandizement at the expense of others. The ambitious man will strive to enter their ranks, or to emulate them from without. The “little guy” will sense that he’s become prey for the mighty; he will bend his efforts away from production and toward evasion and concealment. It’s then that Hari Seldon’s assessment looms large for that society:

"The fall of Trantor," said Seldon, "cannot be stopped by any conceivable effort. It can be hastened easily, however. The tale of my interrupted trial will spread through the Galaxy. Frustration of my plans to lighten the disaster will convince people that the future holds no promise to them. Already they recall the lives of their grandfathers with envy. They will see that political revolutions and trade stagnations will increase. The feeling will pervade the Galaxy that only what a man can grasp for himself at that moment will be of any account. Ambitious men will not wait and unscrupulous men will not hang back. By their every action they will hasten the decay of the worlds." [Isaac Asimov, Foundation, emphasis added.]

     Isaac Asimov was writing about the extremely far future...or so he thought.

     I have two articles in mind today, one of which is a month old:

     The father of the UCLA basketball player who was arrested in China for shoplifting sunglasses appears on CNN to explain why he feels President Trump did nothing to help his son get released from Chinese authorities.

     I can’t blame anyone who disdains to watch the video above. It’s long and irritating, and most of it is disposable. But the fuel for the furor it evoked lies in LaVar Ball’s assertion that Stealin’ be okay, no big deal:

     “As long as my boy’s back here, I’m fine,” LaVar Ball told ESPN. “I’m happy with how things were handled. A lot of people like to say a lot of things that they thought happened over there. Like I told him, ‘They try to make a big deal out of nothing sometimes.’ I’m from L.A. I’ve seen a lot worse things happen than a guy taking some glasses.”

     Where do you suppose LiAngelo Ball got that attitude? Where do you suppose LaVar Ball got it?

     I’ve written before about the role of privilege in creating a class structure. Indeed, privilege, whether de jure or de facto, is at the heart of social class. The representations of the SJWs, the redistributionists, and miscellaneous bleeding hearts notwithstanding, it has nothing to do with one’s income level:

     A class is defined by its legal and social privileges. The aristocrats of medieval times were not distinguished by their lineages or their deeds, but by the things they were allowed to do, without penalty, that commoners were not. There is reason to believe that the majority of medieval aristocrats were fairly responsible stewards of their lands and of public order within them. That does not justify the creation of a class of men who could wield high, middle, and low justice over others, but who would normally escape all consequences for deeds for which a commoner would be severely punished.

     The American response to the failings of traditional aristocracies was the Rule of Law: the fundamental principle that the law must treat all men impartially, regardless of their identities or station in life. The old shorthand for this principle was "blind justice," meaning that the law must not see one's person, only one's deeds. In a society that respects the Rule of Law, a king would stand in the same dock as a trash-hauler, were the two accused of the same offense. All that would matter would be the evidence for their guilt or innocence.

     In the absence of a scrupulously observed Rule of Law, classes with differing degrees of privilege will emerge. The flourishing of the members of each class will be influenced, often heavily, by the class's privileges and how effectively they can be exploited. Men being what we are, we will be moved to use those privileges in our own interest, both against competitors within our class and against other classes.

     I cite that passage with a distressing frequency. I can’t avoid it; it’s a fundamental element in the grand explanation of why American society is disintegrating.

     But wait: there’s more! The GOP’s tax reform package has elicited a lot of talk about that perennial shibboleth of the Left, “fairness”...but this time, they’re concerned with “fairness” toward the already well off:

     I turned to the personal financial adviser, who had begun to offer his two cents.

     “It’s a disaster. I mean, it’s what you would expect from Trump and the Republicans. It rewards rich people and hurts poor people.”

     “As I said, I haven’t paid attention to the specifics. What does it do?”

     “Well, I don’t really know yet, but I know it’s going to hurt poor people in California. It takes away the mortgage tax deduction and it no longer allows us to deduct our state income taxes from taxable income for our federal income taxes. It’s so destructive.”

     Further inquiry revealed that, when he said “poor people in California,” he actually meant that it was going to be a problem for him, personally. For laudatory reasons that I won’t divulge here, he’d extended himself financially to live in our middle-class-by-Marin-standards neighborhood, so he has a large mortgage compared to someone in, say, Bakersfield or Abilene.

     Bookworm lives in California’s Marin County, an exceptionally well off region. I hear a lot of the same crap from my Long Island neighbors.

     The tax laws have been used to privilege debt incurred for home ownership – mortgage debt. That constituted a more or less explicit subvention to the most prosperous Americans. It becomes more explicit when we consider this facet of it: Second “homes,” even if used only as vacation getaways, are included in the deduction. Indeed, a mortgage undertaken to finance a trailer or motorhome would qualify for the deduction.

     So those who have benefited from this provision of the law are squealing like stuck pigs about its curtailment.

     Smart people know when they’re getting away with something that others aren’t. Most such people are, shall we say, other than candid about it. All the same, theft through the action of a third party remains theft – and “If it’s okay for him...”

     The federal government has taught us something about getting away with theft: Let us do it for you. Privileges pertaining to taxation and finance have been piled one atop the next until it becomes impossible to square the aggregate with any conception of either property rights or respect for the law. But the moral effect on the nation cannot be averted merely by transferring the agency of theft to a well armed third party. He who receives the stolen goods is morally complicit in the burglar’s deed.

     I was recently ejected from a local “social network” for daring to say what you’ve just read. Ponder that for a few moments over your coffee.

1 comment:

Linda Fox said...

One could easily prove that, in many Progressive enclaves, there is Black Privilege. Non-White, non-Asian people are extended privileges:

- calling White people racists, without proof
- insisting that ALL who disagree with them are Fascists, and deserve to be beaten
- committing crimes (vandalism, arson, assault) on camera, without penalty
- rigging up a phony Hate Crime, being caught at it, and evading being charged
- hounding White people out of their jobs, without penalty

Those are just a few of their privileges.