The Power of Lawlessness
This column by ACRU Senior Fellow Robert Knight was published July 10, 2016 by The Washington Times.
Moral anarchy takes many forms.
It can percolate upward, when petty crimes are ignored by the authorities.
This used to happen routinely under progressive leadership in New York City, where litter, graffiti and boorish public behavior signaled the real and present danger of more serious crimes like muggings, murders and rapes.
Beginning with policing minor violations, crime-busting U.S. Attorney Rudolph Giuliani restored order while serving as New York’s mayor from 1994 to 2001. Ask any resident or New York visitor about the city’s atmosphere pre- and post-Giuliani.
An exponent of the “broken window” theory pioneered by the late political scientist James Q. Wilson and criminologist George L. Kelling, Mr. Giuliani reasoned that allowing minor crime such as subway fare evasion, trash-filled gutters, public drinking, public urination, and “squeegee men” who shake down motorists leads to disrespect for the law and major crime.
As the city was literally cleaned up, crime of all kinds dropped. The streets became safer and more pleasant in many areas. It may not last, however.
Lawlessness from the top down is another problem. That’s when people see injustice at the highest level, lose faith that everyone is equal before the law, and come to believe that the ruling elites operate above any legal restraints. This spawns the corrosive, popular calculation that, “if they can get away with it, why should I obey the law?”
Think for a minute about the nearly 1,000 Internal Revenue Service employees who were caught cheating on their taxes but kept their jobs.
Some even got raises and promotions, according to an Inspector General report issued in May 2015. Or how about IRS officials like Lois Lerner, who blatantly and unethically targeted conservative nonprofits in order to advance her party’s fortunes, but suffered no penalty whatsoever. Now be a good little citizen and pay your taxes to a government run by people who hold you in utter contempt.
Alas, we must do that no matter how strongly we feel. It’s the law. Jesus Himself said to render unto Caesar. His subtext, however, has been forgotten by many in power; Caesar should get only what he is due —- no more.
Much has been written about Hillary Clinton’s miraculous escape from criminal charges despite a litany of actionable violations with regard to missing emails, destroyed servers, outright lies and the spectacular conflict of interest posed by her husband’s airport meeting with Attorney General Loretta Lynch days before she and FBI Director James Comey dispensed her Get Out of Jail Free card.
Hillary’s skipping away from yet another scandal that would have destroyed any other politician except her equally Teflon husband is in line with Clinton family tradition. Set aside for a moment the millions in foreign dollars flowing into the $2 billion Clinton Foundation. While president, Bill Clinton seduced a young intern and got away with it, famously saying that his answer under oath depended on “what the meaning of is, is.”
The role model in chief’s insistence that his form of adultery was no big deal sent a green light to young people to engage in similar behavior without moral restraint. The physical consequences of that revolution in sexual ethics are still unfolding in sad visits to doctor’s offices across the land.
What the ruling elites do unfortunately affects those of lesser means for good or ill. As Psalm 12:8 says, “The wicked walk on every side, when vileness is exalted among the sons of men.”
It’s not just the politicians’ malfeasance that degrades the public. America’s popular culture has done a number on civility, with celebrities parading their libertine lifestyles, popularizing profanity and obscenities, lionizing materialism and openly corrupting children. With a few exceptions, we’re a long way from Frank Capra’s uplifting celebrations of virtue.
The rich and famous don’t pay the same price that their less well-heeled audiences do when they fall into addiction and abusive behavior. The celebs check into pricey rehab clinics while someone else watches their kids. The chumps who buy the tickets that make Hollywood rich wind up in family court, a relative’s basement, jail or worse.
“Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue,” French writer Francois de la Rochefoucauld wrote in the 17th century.
America’s ruling elites once had enough respect for the public to live as hypocrites. That is, they projected wholesome values while keeping their sordid lives secret. Right now, they don’t seem to give a flip.
As we get the Big Wink from the Clintons and their enablers in the ruling elite who are seemingly above the law, we can only pray that their Maker will inspire them to at least rise to the level of hypocrisy.