Criminal and Political Minds

If anything unites most criminals it is their belief that instant forceful action is best. Robbing, raping, murdering or assaulting others to get what one wants from them seems to them more effective than peaceful means to their ends. This is their form of immaturity and, as adults, their moral failing. (I am talking here about real criminals, not those made criminal by government via, for example, the blatantly unjust drug laws.)

Now check what it is that motivates most political action. It is to get some goal achieved without having to wait for the results of a process that is peaceful, non-coercive. You want higher wages? Get government to force employers to pay you more. You want people to stop smoking? Get the politicians and bureaucrats to ban this practice wherever they can. You want prices to go up? Get the state to enact price support measures. Or you want prices to go down? Get government into the wage and price control business. All these measures are symptomatic of the criminal mind ' the conviction that it's just fine to circumvent civilized conduct by forcing people to comply with your wishes so you can get what you want.

Of course excuses for this kind of behavior abound. This is just as true with the conventional criminal community as it is with the constituency lobbying the politicians who all too willingly serve up the muscle to them. 'We need to help the poor; the children require it; old people must have their prescription drugs; farmers, textile and furniture and other workers must have their jobs protected. Or, again, artists, scholars and scientists need to be supported since their works are so vital.' You name it, the excuse is there. And that is just what criminals tell themselves ' 'I needed the money, I had to have the satisfaction I gained; I couldn't wait until I had a job; my children needed to be fed.' It is always something.

Such policies of taking shortcuts to what are often perfectly legitimate goals if pursued peacefully are of course tempting to most people but the bulk of us resist them. Parents are often tempted to strike their children instead of taking a more patient and cumbersome approach; spouses often yell and scream at each other, engaging in verbal and psychological abuse, instead of taking a peaceful tact to resolving their differences. Nations often go to war instead of the more prudent but lengthy and arduous approach of diplomacy.

Well, there is, of course, a difference between the violent criminal and those who turn to government to get what they want ' the former do the crime themselves, thus exposing themselves to the considerable likelihood of arrest, conviction and punishment, while the latter employ the hired gun and thus get no direct rebuke from those they violate and hurt. This gun, the state, then hides behind the concept of sovereign immunity which makes it impossible for us to sue it for any activity, however violent and harmful, that has been politically authorized.

But there is, of course, a price to be paid for all the ways individual rights are violated. When people circumvent the rights of others, this creates artificial benefits for them, benefits others do not actually chose to grant. And this then produces resentment and fear that create massive efforts at circumventing the state's edicts. So, for example, employers who are forced to pay higher wages than they would choose simply refuse to embark on business ventures which creates more unemployment than would otherwise have existed. Farmers who gain subsidies create higher farm prices and drive people away to feed themselves by alternative means if possible. Firms and individuals use every conceivable means of avoiding paying taxes or complying with regulations.

The distortions to the society are legion ' it is evident from comparing the economies of countries where governments intervene more heavily with those where intervention is less Draconian. Thus, in Europe , where employers are forced to give their employees virtual lifelong employment and security, there is far greater unemployment than in the USA , where such demands haven't yet been implemented.

Perhaps the best way to grasp the situation is to recall that clich' ' a widely recognized but often forgotten truth ' that haste makes waste. These shortcuts via government lead to worsening economic conditions, in the end, just as the criminal's violence lands him in jail, most of the time, and his goal is left unattained.

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Tibor R. Machan's picture
Columns on STR: 70

Tibor Machan is a professor of business ethics and Western Civilization at Chapman University in Orange, Calif., and recent author of Neither Left Nor Right: Selected Columns (Hoover Institution Press, 2004).  He is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University.