‘There is a great deal of ruin in a nation,’ said Scottish economist Adam Smith in 1777. Today, we begin a long ramble down the road to ruin to look at how much ruin there is.
The trial of Derek Chauvin, a white former police officer in Minneapolis, for the murder of George Floyd, a black man, brought out hints of the ruin to come.
On the Trumpified right, a man in a police uniform can do no wrong. He is the avatar of law and order…of stability…the Praetorian Guard protecting the status quo and exalting the power and glory of the people who control it.
But since the Trumpistas are no longer running the show, the more immediate danger has shifted to the other side — the zealots on the Biden bandwagon.
Process before outcome
On the left, it was proclaimed high and low that Mr Floyd died because of systemic racism. Joe Biden said he prayed for a guilty verdict. This was a remarkable admission…as if he had no faith in his government’s criminal justice process.
But in a civilised society, the process is more important than the outcome. The justice system is based on the idea that you are presumed innocent until proven guilty. No one knows in advance. If they did, why bother with a trial at all?
Instead, a trial — like a market or an election — is designed to discover something — the truth. Until discovered, it is unknown.
Biden didn’t think he had to wait. He hadn’t attended a single day of testimony, but he was sure he knew the correct verdict.
Nancy Pelosi — perhaps drawing on her early years at Notre Dame (a Catholic girls high school in Baltimore) — saw Floyd’s death in biblical terms. He had ‘sacrificed’ himself, she said, so that others might have life and have it more abundantly…
Thank you, George Floyd, for sacrificing your life for justice.
Huh? Was it worth dying just to convict Derek Chauvin? Why not just not die and leave Chauvin a free man?
The ‘sacrifice’ idea only makes sense if the goal goes far beyond putting Chauvin behind bars.
Contrary to the Christian faith, and to thousands of years of jurisprudential, moral, and philosophical enlightenment, today’s activists want to put a whole race of people — whites — on trial.
They are responsible, say the prosecutors, not only for Floyd’s death, but for a long list of crimes, from slavery to Nagasaki.
Communism, the Inquisition, the Crusades, Nazism, Brutalism in art and architecture, sugary cereal, plastic in the ocean — the white race is where the buck stops for them all.
The typical white man is flummoxed. He doesn’t hate black people. He didn’t kill George Floyd or throw a plastic water bottle in the Pacific. Why should he take the rap?
But collective guilt has a long and sordid history. At the time of the Great Sacrifice — the crucifixion — Pontius Pilate asked the Jews if they wanted him to release Jesus.
No, they replied. They preferred to have Barabbas — a thief — spared. As for Jesus: ‘Crucify him. Crucify him. His blood is on us and on our children!’
Jesus had made it clear — especially in his story of the Good Samaritan — that all people would be judged by God individually.
It didn’t matter that he was a Samaritan; he who had come to the aid of the man in need, while others passed him by.
The law, too, has long recognised that people should be held accountable for their own crimes, not for those of others.
But civilisation walks backward from time to time. Centuries after the crucifixion of Christ, pogroms against Jews were excused as ‘justice’ for the collective guilt they bore.
Taking it a step further, in Poland during the Second World War, the Nazis made it a collective crime to give aid or comfort to Jews. Not only would the person who committed the infraction be punished, but so would his whole family.
Likewise, when a German soldier was killed by Polish partisans, a whole town might be massacred in reprisal.
And now, collective guilt is back. ‘White privilege’ is to blame for everything from higher COVID-19 death rates in black neighbourhoods to higher incomes in white ones.
(Dear, long-suffering readers must be wondering what this has to do with the economy…but hold on…we’re getting there.)
When civilisation goes into reverse, the means get upstaged by the ends. People lose confidence in the integrity of the process; they want results.
If what is most important to you is ending systemic racism, for example, or saving the planet…or winning a war against terrorists…or preventing a bear market on Wall Street, for that matter…you might very well conclude that any means necessary is OK.
Murder? Theft? Counterfeiting? Price fixing? Redistributing income? Sure, why not?
In the news yesterday was this report from Business Insider:
‘Warren Buffett caught the attention of the World Economic Forum’s Executive Chairman Klaus Schwab, who said he’d like to “have a discussion” with the billionaire investor.’
Uh-oh. Schwab wants to give Buffett a good ‘talking to’. Why? Berkshire Hathaway CEO Buffett is not on board with using shareholder money to signal management’s virtue:
‘Last year, Buffett said companies should focus on creating shareholder value, and not invest in social causes like climate change. “This is the shareholders’ money,” he said.
‘Schwab said the “art of good management today is to create a balance” between shareholders, and stakeholders, as in society as a whole. He said for companies not buying into the stakeholder concept, they’re going to be “on the wrong side of history”.’
Why hold back?
Meanwhile, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen lit up like a lighthouse. Reuters reports:
‘U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen on Wednesday pledged to aggressively tackle climate change using all the tools at her disposal, warning that a failure to do so effectively and promptly could undermine economic growth.
‘“We are committed to directing public investment to areas that can facilitate our transition to net-zero and strengthen the functioning of our financial system so that workers, investors, and businesses can seize the opportunity that tackling climate change presents,” Yellen said.’
When you think you know what is most important, you’re not going to let a few ancient rules stand in the way, are you?
And when you think you know how to improve the world — for you have the TRUTH — why hold yourself back? Why not insist that everyone and everything get in line?
More to come…on the road to ruin…
For The Rum Rebellion
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