Rich, the rich, and respect for natural and political law

By Bruce Walker
web posted February 19, 2001

How odd! While Democrat leaders in Congress try to shame President Bush for offering tax relief that even helps the rich, their erstwhile leader, Bill Clinton, is giving lame excuses for pardoning the greatest criminal violation of our tax system in our nation's history by a billionaire contributor to the Democrat coffers. As if this weird Democrat doublethink needed a rhetorical explanation point - the billionaire Democrat's name is Rich.

The contrast of these two actions typifies the differences in how Republican and Democrat approach government. Republicans propose to change the law so that successful people who follow the rules can keep more of what they earn; Democrats propose to pardon those successful people who not break the rules, which makes the very point of passing tax laws meaningless.

The approach to taxes is particularly egregious in how Democrats and Republicans approach the twin issues of legislation and enforcement. Democrats hound through selective prosecution of tax laws those conservatives and conservative organizations who oppose them, while Republicans seeks to change the laws, and enforce them equally, so that limousine liberals get the same statutory tax break as middle class conservatives, and enforce the laws so that Jesse Jackson and Barbara Streisand get audited no more frequently than Steve Forbes and Mel Gibson.

Republicans and conservatives take tax laws, regulation, and minute legislation because they have every intention that everyone - including their friends - will obey the law. Democrats and liberals simply ignore laws that hamstring them (consider the first actions of the Republican Congress: making the laws that affect ordinary citizens also apply to Congress, not just Democrats in Congress, but everyone in Congress - why hadn't liberals done this long before?).

Look at almost any policy issue and the same pattern appears. Federal and state governments have enacted many commonsense statutes regarding firearms. Seventy years ago would have been sufficient, if actually enforced, to keep felons, lunatics, and children from acquiring guns and ammunition. Democrats are not demanding new laws because new laws are necessary; they want new laws so that the power of selective enforcement to intimidate those law abiding citizens can be used as an instrument of government coercion (consider that "dangerous criminal" Linda Tripp, whose "crime" was protecting herself from a vicious, rogue government).

The difference is even deeper than the bumper sticker retort: "If we outlaw guns, only outlaws will have guns." Conservatives have value systems which make much of what liberals try to legislative superfluous. We tell how children, as our parents told us, not to smoke cigarettes; not to get drunk; not to take addictive and destructive drugs. If we were raised with guns in the home, our dads taught us gun safety lessons that came from heart. We also learned about "hate crimes" and "sexual harassment" when our moms washed our mouths out with soap or made us apologize to someone we had offended.

If we all behaved decently towards each other, then we would need very few laws. This was the theme of both those Judeo-Christian values which inspired our Republic, and this was the structure of the Roman Republic upon which our Founding Fathers placed so much confidence. It is true that God did not give the Jews just ten commandments, but rather hundreds, but Rabbi Hillel, when asked to summarize all Torah while standing on one foot did so easily with a statement very close to the Christian Golden Rule, and the Beatitudes and Parables of Jesus are equally quite simple. The Romans had their Twelve Laws, which were conspicuously placed where all literate Romans could see and understand them.

This emphasis on reason, clarity, brevity, and simplicity in law does not reflect ignorance of the complexity of life, but rather a special awareness of its complexity. The legal elegance of these approaches resembles the elegance of great scientific thought, which ever seeks the least cumbersome and most comprehensive laws, and the elegance of classical music, which in its conformity to a few rules of tone, pace, melody, and harmony create beautiful symphonies.
Chess has very few rules, but potential board configurations in a game or thirty moves easily exceed the memory capacity of every computer on Earth.

Even language is a handful of symbols and a few rules, but these allow Shakespeare, Kafka, St. Aquinas, and software engineers to work magic. Many of the rules of language are not essential. Consider the intellect and persuasion of the Founding Fathers and early patriots, whose spelling, capitalization, and grammar were notoriously inconsistent, or consider Winston Churchill's clever response to a critic who noted that Churchill's sentences sometimes had prepositions at the end: "That," he replied "is something up with which I will not put!"

Law, of course, is composed of language, and that micro-managing of law which liberals love is reminiscent of Orwell's micro-managing of words. Human interactions, that sphere of law which political enactments try to regulate, are likewise simple enough for a Kindergarten student to grasp, but comparable of perfectly governing almost the entire range of human interaction. Problems do not arise in a Kindergarten class when these few rules are given; problems come when children ignore the rules, or worse, when the teacher is constantly adding exceptions, amendments, and ad hoc distinctions.

How does all this tie into the Rich Pardon while Democrats insist on soaking the Rich? When liberals constantly tweak laws and rules to achieve policy goals, the process is fundamentally flawed. The IRS and tax lawyers are notorious for heated debates about the number of angels who can dance on the head of a pin. Liberals and all fellow travelers on the Left who believe that giving average citizens new marching orders every week or every month cannot possibly enforce those orders.

The first victim is respect for law and government itself. The key to civil and decent society is not so much enforcement of the law as compliance with the law: Ordinary people agree to follow clear and reasonable limits on behavior for the common good.

March Rich and then wife Denise in 1986
March Rich and then wife Denise in 1986

Pardoning Marc Rich and while insisting an unfair and incomprehensible tax system define tax crimes both undermine that moral authority essential to good government. We stop teaching our children to obey laws whose meaning is unclear, whose ethical content is uncertain, and whose execution is unfair. Democrats equivocate about the evils of envy and embrace enactments and executive actions which reinforce the notion that differences flow only from cabals of wicked, greedy men, and we cease perceiving our government as the handmaiden of civil society and ordered liberty, and see it as a danger to those noble goals.

The resulting cynicism is unfair. Except for Slick, Clown Prince of Arkansas, no other American has ever treated the Presidency and its vital role in executing government with contempt. We have had our share of Presidential nebishes, but men like James Buchanan, Benjamin Harrison, John Tyler, and Chester A. Arthur were good men who took their special chance to honor their office seriously. They understood something that the "very intelligent" Clinton never grasped: The American President is more than Head of Government; he is also Head of State - our monarch, our moral guiding star.

But the "Spin of Sin" (which all that Clinton's War Room really represented) has infected - mortally infected - his political party. When Democrats one whines about good people condemning the Head of State for breaking his moral covenant with Americans, then those same Democrat whiners begin considering ethical flaws as virtues. So the Democrats' newest used car salesmen - Daschle & Gephardt - celebrate envy by ridiculous posturing beside a Lexus, while the nation ponders why their party's best champion has just pardoned the worst violator of those very tax laws.

Help, of course, is on the way. The distinctions between Dinosaurs and Democrat are fading so fast that perhaps Demosaur is the best moniker for Daschle, Gephardt, Rodham, et al. Clinton's last days in Washington resemble, as much as anything else, the last days of a dead German Chancellor, who wrote meaningless orders and moved imaginary military units around on an irrelevant war map before General Zukhov's armies overwhelmed the elderly or teenage or shell shocked remnants of a once powerful army.

Some new party or perhaps some better system than political parties for conducting the business of democracy will emerge from the debris of this broken party and this defeated man, this "genius" who led Democrats from one Stalingrad to another and who ultimately adopted the numb propaganda mantra of Imperial Japan during the last two years of its Pacific War: "Advancing to the rear"

The absurdity of passing laws based on no moral foundation, laws enforced much like the Mafia "enforces" its orders and codes, and laws so confusing and confounding that only augurs of the legal profession can divine their intent will combine to lead to a true "re-forming" of the system. All the fine men and women that President Bush has gathered around him are up to this task.

The cowards, liars, braggarts, thieves, and cheats of the Left have had their role to play in this grand drama - but not the roles they envisioned. If it was right to thank wickedness for its cautionary example, then we should thank Bill Clinton, Marc Rich, Jesse Jackson, and all the other rascals whose hubris has brought them down. Conservatives, however, do not relish mendacity and corruption, even when it benefits them politically; we celebrate only those simple rules and laws woven into the fabric of reality itself, which dictate the inevitable triumphant of what is good.

Victory is good, and we are winning, winning, winning. But just as it is better to have no crime, than to have police solve crime, so it is better if liberals do not destroy lives (their own and their victims) than to stop them from waging war on reason, decency, and honor. Like most wars, it is preferable to conquest and enslavement (the only alternative they offer us), but when they are finally, utterly humbled, then we will enter a Golden Age of differences without bitterness. That is, ultimately, the purpose and promise of America.

Bruce Walker is a frequent contributor to The Pragmatist and The Common Conservative.

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