Consequences for their actions

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.

8 thoughts on “Consequences for their actions

  1. If anything government employees should be held to a higher standard and penalties should be harsher for them.

  2. How about one step further…

    1) Implement term limits
    2) No “qualified immunity”
    3) Every regulation signed by the head of the department that drafted it and that person can be personally sued or prosecuted

  3. I’m thinking that some sort of kidnapping process like the one that was tried a couple of decades ago by BATF on Mexican nationals but from north to south would be in order.

    Braden, that would be helpful, but the government lawyer opposing that idea has only to say one little phrase to the judge hearing the case, and he rolls over as if there were pictures of him and a donkey doing an unnatural act: “This would open the floodgates of litigation.” No citation to authority, no carefully crafted argument, no refutation. Just threaten the judge with a crowded docket and he becomes the lion under the throne instead of an “independent judiciary”.

    But somehow imparting the same liability to governmental employees as private employees have would go a long way towards making the little tyrants more circumspect about the exercise of that unfettered governmental power.

  4. @Windy Wilson

    You’re right. I live in a fantasy land because as you identified, the over-used legal system would have a 10,000 fold increase in business over night. My proposals about suing officials would never pass legal scrutiny.

    On second thought, if it did become acceptable to sue governmental officials for stupid laws and regulations, then the government would grind to a halt. Maybe the bugs in my crazy proposals are actually features!

    I would be delighted with term limits for ALL governmental officials and that would include the bureaucrats who figure out how to poorly implement the poorly written laws.

  5. Have you read or listened to the audiobook of Sowell’s A Conflict of Visions yet? I wish I’d read that one first, but instead I started with Vision of the Anointed.

  6. @Kevin, Yes I have. Plus a couple others. And I have several others in the Audible.com queue after son James said he wanted everything that was available from Sowell.

  7. Actually, I’d argue the opposite. “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

    The 14th amendment gives qualified immunity to all citizens. The concept of strict liability is unconstitutional. Holding anyone more responsible than regulators, cops and judges is unconstitutional.

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