I’ve been listening to The Vision of the Anointed: Self-Congratulation as a Basis for Social Policy by Thomas Sowell and something he said resonated with a theme Robb has been blogging about and the latest news in Fast and Furious (H//T to Rob for this last link). Governments (actually people in general but the present context is government) will not abide by the law (or contracts) unless there is some punishment they fear if they fail to comply with the terms. When people in government spent other peoples money (OPM: pronounced “opium”) they have virtually no incentive to spend it wisely.
Had the people responsible for Fast and Furious been handed over to the Mexican Government within a week of the request being made most of the gun community would have considered justice had been mostly served. But more importantly future excursions outside the law, such as the long gun reporting rule, would have been given much greater scrutiny before being implemented. As it is the message sent is that the worst that will happen is those responsible will be given boring jobs and the whistle blowers will be punished to the fullest extent possible without bending the law too far.
As Sowell expresses it the self-anointed implement government policies with OPM, other peoples lives, and no consequences for failed outcomes except those that are truly and obviously disastrous. The outcome is as you might expect. It’s no different than letting your children run wild and giving them whatever they ask for. They end up as spoiled brats who cause problems for everyone and are incapable of functioning in society. Only as government officials they are in a position to destroy society.
Most of our government officials have “qualified immunity” which protects them from breaking the law unless they clearly should have known better. IIRC the argument is that we need to give them this sort of immunity so that “good people” won’t be afraid to enter public service. This argument never held any water for me because there is no similar immunity granted to corporate officials or individuals who unknowingly break (there are some exceptions to this) laws. And you don’t hear people arguing that “good people” are scared to become corporate executives or individuals living their lives as if they in constant fear of arrest and punishment.
Government officials, more so than individuals, need to have consequences for breaking the law. It’s working in Florida and it would work everywhere.