Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Thieves’ Guilds

     If you’ve read any of David Eddings’s fantasies, you might have encountered the concept expressed by the title of this piece. And if you’re moderately well educated, you’re aware of the principal function of a guild. That gives Eddings’s notion a particularly piquant irony.

     Medieval occupational guilds existed to protect their members from occupational competitors. They often possessed a de facto legal privilege to use force to do so. That made them extensions of the State: a status for which they often paid a heavy fee to the “official” rulers.

     Today we don’t have guilds of that sort. Instead we have licensure: The State plays arbiter over who can offer what services to whom, and extracts a fee from those it permits to operate. In effect, it steals one of the peaceable man’s rights – the right to earn a living as best he can – and sells it back to him...or not. Over the century behind us, licensure has expanded to cover more than 1100 different occupations.

     Very few significant occupations remain unaddressed by licensure. However, there is one unlicensed occupation of massive significance...the most lucrative of all.

     No one needs a license to run for elective office. Whether it’s local, state, or federal, the requirements for assuming an elective office are spelled out in plain English in the relevant Constitution or charter. Normally, they reduce to three:

  • The candidate must be at least X years old.
  • He must be a citizen of the United States (to become president, a “natural born” citizen).
  • He must reside in the relevant locality (and in some cases, must have done so for a minimum interval).

     A candidate who attains elective office can begin to steal at once.

     What’s that you say? A public office is a public trust? Such offices should be occupied solely by men of unquestionably high character? I can’t disagree. But all too often, it turns out to be exactly the other way around.

     Consider the percentage of our federal legislators that are exceedingly rich men. Many of them didn’t become rich until they were elected to Congress. And despite Honore de Balzac’s fervent declaration, while it isn’t quite true that “Behind every great fortune lies a great crime,” you could bet on it without going against the odds.

     The principal attraction of political office is power. However, more often than not those who acquire such power will use it to benefit themselves and their families materially. The corruptocrat who will be inaugurated into a stolen office tomorrow at Noon is only the most prominent example before us. His political mentor, who is likely to use him as a puppet, was himself no slouch in that business.

     Allow me to recount a tale from an old book: Quentin Reynolds’s book Courtroom, a legal biography of the great defense lawyer Samuel Leibowitz, who later became a judge in the Brooklyn courts. The segment I have in mind concerns the murder trial of one Joseph Scutellaro, a building contractor who operated in the 1930s and 1940s in Hoboken, New Jersey. At that time, political power in Hoboken was tightly gripped by the McFeeley family, described by Reynolds as follows:

     The McFeeley family represented the Hague machine in Hoboken. The McFeeley family? Well, there was Mayor Bernard J. McFeeley; his brother, Police Chief Edward J. McFeeley; Police Captain Bernard McFeeley Jr.; Police Lieutenant Dennis McFeeley; James McFeeley, contractor; and David and Joseph McFeeley of the Hoboken Law Department.

     Broadly, in that period you had to have the good will of the McFeeleys to get anywhere or do anything of even modest consequence in Hoboken. The demonstration:

     Joseph Scutellaro, a small, dark, intense-eyed man, also lived in the city of Hoboken. He and his father operated a small building concern. They were prosperous in a modest way and their future seemed assured. Then father and son made a grave mistake. Frank Barletta, a member of the City Commission, broke with the McFeeley machine and ran as a Republican. Both Joseph and his father campaigned for Barletta. But Barletta lost and so did everyone active in his campaign. Suddenly the Scutellaros found that they couldn’t get any contracts. If they did manage to pick up a small job here and there, the people engaging their services found they couldn’t obtain the necessary building permits at City Hall. Finally not a single vestige of a once-prosperous business remained. No other contractor would hire either of them.

     The story gets worse from there. Without going into details, the Scutellaros were even denied public relief. Poormaster Harry Barck, a loyal cog in the McFeeley machine, simply refused to disburse it to them despite repeated applications. In consequence the whole Scutellaro family, which included two minor children, neared death by starvation. When Scutellaro appealed personally to Barck, the Poormaster suggested that Scutellaro’s wife become a prostitute.

     The tale doesn’t end there. Joseph Scutellaro was arrested and tried for the murder of Poormaster Harry Barck. Despite Leibowitz’s efforts, he was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to two years in prison. What became of his family is unrecorded.

     Sometimes it seems the world is wholly made of irony. As its substance is at least one-third nickel-iron amalgam, what remains is hardly an obstacle.

     These past four years, we have enjoyed the tenure of Donald J. Trump as President of the United States. Trump is one of two presidents in the past century to attain that office without having held any other elective or appointive public office; the other was Dwight D. Eisenhower. He’s also the first man in at least a century to leave that office a poorer man than when he arrived in it.

     Trump campaigned as a political outsider, one who would “drain the swamp” that the federal government had become. He strove mightily to do so, and despite considerable opposition from the swamp-dwellers and their political protectors, he achieved a great deal. But he never had the allegiance of the political Establishment: the men and women who deemed federal power to be theirs by right. Given his outsider status, he could not have imagined that they would approve of him...and they did not.

     We have witnessed the Establishmentarian rejection of Trump and all he represents. The silent acquiescence of a great part of the Republican elite to the theft of the presidency makes clear that while there is no “official” licensure for elective office, the unofficial mechanisms of Washington were incensed by his rise and determined to see him fall.

     Trump ran for president knowing that it would be so. He knew that he, his whole family, and every element of his many enterprises would come under attack. He knew that should he win, the attacks would escalate to previously unimagined heights. He accepted that that would be the price.

     But the price might not have been levied in full quite yet. The Establishment doesn’t merely want to see Trump removed from office; it also wants to prevent, in perpetuity, any other outsider candidate from doing what Trump did: The privilege of stealing from the public must be reserved to us and us alone! The most effective way to deter non-Establishment candidates for high office is to present them with the prospect of paying an exorbitant price.

     What the thieves’ guild we call the political Establishment has in mind for Trump, his family, and his business interests once he’s departed the White House can easily be imagined, in magnitude if not in all its details. Pray for him.


Stuart said...

The truly sad (and instructive) part is that no one in America - the prime beneficiary of his efforts - will come to his aid.

Kye said...

The fascists will haunt him and hurt him the rest of his life. God Bless Donald Trump.

Col. B. Bunny said...

A fine post, Fran. It reminds me of a criminal client I once had. For some reason I don't recall he gave me a certain phone number for himself. There was a better number for him and I used that as necessary but I still don't know why he gave me the first number. At some point he earnestly requested that I never use the former number as it was used by some people whom he described as violent and humorless gentlemen of the first rank who would not have appreciated some strange lawyer calling them out of the blue. I assumes he was describing the local branch of the Dixie Mafia. All of which is to say that there was a apparently a formidable alternate power structure that it was as much as your life was worth to cross. They weren't inside the government. Or, rather, I suspect they didn't need to be. Suffice it to say that any office holder who pursued "good government" ("googoo") to the point of interfering with these lads probably would receive a quick education in who really runs things. The "boys on the track" in Arkansas of long ago thought that they could collect the dope being airdropped in the night and paid a high price for interfering with the livelihood of such earnest gents.

On the national scale, one can begin to understand why it is that something as patently destructive to the white majority as open borders and as patently beneficial as mandatory e-Verify just never seem to get dealt with. This kind of thing is part and parcel of our Sacred Democracy.

Linda Fox said...

I get some portion of my income from TWO different licensed fields - teaching, and insurance sales.
If I were smart, I'd slide under the radar, and enable my flow of income.
Being a daughter of a Rebel WV-er, I say "F" that, and dare them to come after me.
I won't starve (unless the predictions in my updated Gates post come true). The privilege of living as a Free Woman is worth it.

Steady Steve said...

Let's face it. We either take our country back from the illegitimate and soon to be oppressive government we now have, or down into darkness and slavery we go. Ask yourself if you are cut from the same cloth as the Founders. Then do as they would.