Most people accept the basic proposition that a law-abiding citizen shouldn’t be harassed or punished by the government. The almost universal initial reaction to contact with a government entity is, “But I didn’t do anything wrong!” The vast majority of Americans would consider it outrageous if they were personally hassled, fined, or imprisoned without any legal violation. In fact, leaving aside legal principles about how “ignorance of the law is no excuse,” most of us would consider it bitterly unfair if we were punished for actual violation of some arcane law we were completely unaware of.
The principle we are discussing here is the idea that coercive force should be restrained by the law. In fact, we might say that the authority to use coercive force flows from fidelity to the law, which binds both citizens and public officials.
Therefore, in order to dramatically increase the power of the State, it becomes necessary to persuade citizens to view themselves as criminals. More criminals means more enforcement, and more power. The State finds itself authorized to use coercive force against a growing number of people. The people are willing to cut more money loose for a government large enough to restrain a population of crooks.
The agenda of the modern Left is heavily oriented toward making people view their neighbors with suspicion, and even see themselves as transgressors in need of punishment and control. This is easily understood by reviewing campus-Left ideas such as “micro-aggression” and “white privilege,” which are designed to make the subjects presume themselves guilty of offenses against peaceful and just society, even when they meant no offense whatsoever. You can now be held guilty of thought-crime without even having any impure thoughts. You are taught to see your very life – lived in innocence, with good will toward all – as a crime against utopian standards of equality.
The hot buzz phrase among utopian statists for decades has been “social justice.” What is “justice,” if not the business of apprehending criminals and passing judgment against them? An adversary of “justice” is by definition a criminal, isn’t he – an enemy of society?
Radical environmentalism judges people guilty of crimes against the Earth itself – crimes they commit merely by living their lives. You’ll notice that formal accusations of wrongdoing are never leveled against anyone during the “income inequality” crusade – it’s another way to classify a broad section of the populace as criminals without due process or the demonstration of criminal intent.
The current controversy surrounding the New York Times’ dismissal of editor Jill Abramson holds executives of the Left’s paper of record guilty of sexist prejudice, even as they fumble to present logical business and managerial reasons for her termination – putting the Times on the wrong end of an inquisition they have gleefully inflicted on countless other businesses. The entire “War on Women” crusade about ostensibly unequal pay – 77 cents on the dollar according to a false statistic pushed endlessly by President Obama, although it’s not far from what the New York Times actually was paying Abramson – holds American employers collectively guilty of unfairly and irrationally paying women less than men, without considering any sound reasons for the discrepancy.
ObamaCare was premised on the notion that uninsured Americans were not, in the main, rational people making decisions to forego the purchase of health insurance – they were supposedly victims of a criminal conspiracy by insurance providers, and more broadly, a callous and unfeeling nation.
President Obama’s defenders routinely assert that opposition to his political agenda is criminal – an act of blind racism, which is one of those nebulous crimes against society we’re all supposed to regard ourselves as prone to committing. (As if Obama’s policies would be any more popular, or effective, if his skin were a different color!) We’ll hear the same assertions about opposition to Hillary Clinton being founded primarily in sexism.
The conservative targets of IRS persecution can tell you plenty about what it feels like to be treated like a criminal suspect because you have dissenting political views. For that matter, our complex and oppressive tax system penalizes plenty of behavior that no rational society would classify as criminally transgressive, awarding the Internal Revenue Service with “guilty until proven innocent” powers that no other enforcement agency possesses.
The U.S. Senate has come to a nearly complete legislative halt so that Majority Leader Harry Reid can fulminate endlessly against the Koch Brothers, who are accused of no actual crime, but are treated like terrorist subversives by Democrats – to the point where they want to rewrite the First Amendment to silence them.
The immigration issue has become an astounding inversion of legal principle, in which lawful citizens are made to feel like villains for insisting on the proper enforcement of extremely clear immigration laws against people who knowingly violated them. Absolutely no one in the “undocumented-American” community blundered across the border by accident. They fully understood the requirements of citizenship… and ignored the law. But the rest of us are told we owe them all sorts of special considerations and benefits, that it’s unspeakably cruel of us to make them “live in the shadows” or talk about deporting them – even in the case of aliens who have committed serious additional offenses, some 36,000 of which just got released by the Obama Administration. The only logical conclusion to draw from this attitude is that the citizens who insist on border security and fidelity to duly enacted immigration law are the criminals, transgressing against the “rights” – amnesty advocates routinely use precisely that terminology – of the undocumented aliens. In other words, lawful citizens must be willing to view themselves as the offenders against some cosmic standard of “justice,” in order for the amnesty argument to make a lick of sense.
The same twisted logic holds in the case of ballot security. Those who insist on stringent voter identification are treated as if they were violating some unwritten cosmic law, rather than insisting on proper enforcement of the laws against vote fraud. In fact, it is explicitly alleged that people who want secure elections are guilty of that nebulous crime of racism – they are presumed guilty of supporting a nefarious scheme to disenfranchise minorities.
In countless ways, the American people are made to view each other with deep suspicion, distrust their own moral judgment, and accept exercises of coercive government force that should be restrained by due process and the presumption of innocence. Only a population of criminals could justify the control of a State that increasingly resembles a massive, inescapable, and badly-managed prison. If Americans trusted each other more, they would be less comfortable with the sight of so many hands holding so many short leashes.