06 Aug Lawlessness in America
“With lawlessness condoned and the Rule of Law in tatters, American democracy is sliding downhill.” – The Lonely Realist
Stability, social cohesion and national unity depend on the Rule of Law, a cornerstone of American democracy requiring that laws be fair, that they be understandable, and that they be enforced evenhandedly with a minimum of corruption. Americans have been taught that no one is above it. The reality today is otherwise. America’s laws are more remote, more complex, more intrusive, and more power-centric than ever before, with the result that law enforcement is increasingly more uneven and unfair. The Rule of Power now trumps the Rule of Law and law and order has lost its meaning – it’s mostly talk with little follow-through. History shows where that leads. When you ignore the political commentary, the politicizing and the sloganeering, the realities are scary!
Violent crime skyrocketed in America in 2020, most visibly in American cities where it increased by 33%. Violent crime in 2020 also rose by 20% in the suburbs and in rural areas. Although the crime sprees of 2020 might be explained away by the impact of the COVID Pandemic, increases in crime throughout America have persisted in 2021 and 2022. The problem is that the causes are not being addressed, not in big cities, small cities, suburbs or rural areas …, and the consequences are all-too apparent. Although one reason for the rise in NYC violence was the Manhattan District Attorney’s poorly-conceived policy of selecting categories of crime that would not be prosecuted, America’s Federal, State and local legal systems all are so overburdened that reduced prosecution, and all-too-often no prosecution, is the norm. When added to the nationwide police officer shortage, it is not surprising that lawlessness has become a nationwide epidemic. There is no such thing as successful partial law enforcement …, which is precisely the conclusion of the Wilson and Kelling “broken windows” approach to law enforcement that was successfully implemented by NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani in the 1990s. Today, there simply are too many laws, too few police officers and too few judges. Declining belief in the law and its enforcement presages increased crime. Although far left cries of “Defund the Police” have exacerbated perceptions of the problem, murders have risen comparably in cities run by Republicans and Democrats. Despite the hype, it is both the left and the right that have fallen short when it comes to law and order. The fact is that crime in America will not decrease without action from the top down. This is not a political issue. It is a national disgrace that speaks to a breakdown in leadership in government, sports, entertainment, and business. Examples abound!
America’s richest person, Elon Musk, is a serial scofflaw. He has shown undisguised disdain for America’s laws, and yet has a positive public profile. He therefore is a role model that many Americans seek to emulate …, including insofar as non-adherence to the law is concerned. Government agencies have successfully pursued him for flagrant legal violations. The resulting fines have had no effect on his behavior, because even fines totaling hundreds of millions of dollars are chump change to a man worth hundreds of billions of dollars. The most recent example of Musk’s contempt for the law is his attempt to walk away from his contractual obligation to purchase Twitter, a transaction that he had boasted was altruistic – to further free speech. Twitter’s lawsuit to compel Musk to complete the purchase (for $44 billion) will go to trial in Delaware next month. What will happen when the Delaware Chancery Court, the most respected judicial forum in America, rules that Musk must purchase Twitter pursuant to the terms of his contract (which TLR rates as a high probability) and Musk refuses to do so (which TLR rates as a real possibility)? Sure, $44 billion is only a fraction of Musk’s net worth, but Musk doesn’t like being told what to do and his legal track record to-date indicates his disdain for society’s rules. Others will surely emulate his actions.
How about American sports, a pursuit that many believe to be a bastion of fair play? Bill Belichick, the famed coach of NFL’s New England Patriots, has cheated again and again. When caught for the first time in 2007, he paid the largest fine ever imposed on a coach. He is not alone in his disdain for society’s (and his sport’s) rules. Alleged sexual wrongdoer Daniel Snyder, the owner of the NFL’s Washington Commanders, fled the country rather than testify before Congress. Stephen Ross, the owner of the NFL’s Miami Dolphins, was found to have flagrantly violated NFL rules and was fined $1.5 million (an inconsequential sum for someone with a net worth of over $8 billion). What lessons about cheating and the Rule of Law are Americans to learn from its sports leaders?
Former President Donald Trump has said that “I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters,” a boast that Americans now fully appreciate. Impeached twice, investigated by Special Prosecutors and Federal and State authorities, the former President has proven that he indeed is above the law. In issuing blanket pardons before leaving office, President Trump also confirmed that those associated with him are above the law. In issuing those pardons, he ignored the Presidential clemency process by granting at least 84 out of 94 pardons to individuals with whom he had a personal or political connection, issuing only 7 of his 94 pardons on the recommendation of the Office of the Pardon Attorney. Guilt or innocence was irrelevant. Jury verdicts similarly were ignored. Blind justice apparently isn’t blind. But, then, perhaps President Trump was merely emulating former President Clinton who taught Americans the definition of sex when he testified under oath that “I did not have sexual relations with that woman”?
TLR has highlighted the proliferation of arcane federal laws and regulations that illustrate how cluttered, confusing, chaotic and complex American law has become …, and how even minimal enforceability has been gutted by Congressional budget cuts. Stories abound of senior government officials who, when asked how an especially difficult tax or insurance or environmental provision can be enforced, learn that the answer is that it isn’t. The more laws, the greater the number of loopholes and opportunities for fraud. For example, it’s estimated that Medicaid and Medicare are defrauded to the tune of more than $80 billion each and every year. The fraudsters understand that the system is broken. Americans need to understand this as well …, and America’s politicians need to actually address the problem.
Contempt for the law promotes lawlessness that undermines democracy … and that’s precisely what’s been happening to America.
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Finally (from a good friend)