Friday, February 05, 2010

Conservative Law Enforcement

Matthew Yglesias  is noticing and commenting on the conservative view of law enforcement being revealed by the Underpants Bomber case. He notes
The underlying issue here, as I’ve been saying, is that conservatives think that any constraint on the state security apparatus is too much. They believe, contrary to all of the evidence, that the rule-bound criminal justice system can’t or doesn’t function and that things would be better if we scrapped all the rules.
Matt's observation is true as far as it goes, but this admiration of state police power, as Atrios notes, is narrowly confined. Specifically:
Conservative hatred of a civilized system of justice is based on their "othering" of criminals. The instant they feel the jack-booted thugs of the state of[sic] treated them or someone like them unfairly the squealing is deafening.
Indeed, the mere possibility that one of them could be the subject of prosecution is evidence of overreaching by the state. Or consider the case of James O'Keefe (or Scooter Libbey for that matter) and the conservative response. One can see outrage at the fact that one of there's could be arrested.  I don't think there is any mystery to this response at all.  This is exactly in keeping with the conservative dream of a Servile Society as I've discussed here and here.

What I mean by the Servile Society can be summarized by looking at the conservative dream world for taxation and spending.  On taxes they would have us eliminate all taxes on interest, dividends and capital gains and draw all government revenue from a flat tax on income.  Spending would be limited to military and police protection, which amounts to just the protection of property.  So there would be no government expeditures on the middle class wage earners.  In this world then a person who owned extensive property could cover all his yearly expenses from interest, dividends and capital gains and thus pay no taxes.  This in spite of the fact that the ability to have these expenditures is completely dependent upon the security of the property that is being provided by the government.  In short such a person would enjoy all the service that government provides, service essential to his prosperity, at no cost to the recipient.  A perfect hand-out.  The costs of providing this service then would be born entirely by those who labor for wages, and in turn they would receive no direct benefit to themselves from the government who's although they supply the governments revenue.  A privileged class of property owners and a servile class of wage earners.  This is the conservative ideal. 

First I would note that not only is this a thouroughly unjust and unfair system, but it is also the system used throughout the world for most of history and has been universally really awful. 

With regard to the points made by Matt and Atrios, the attitude toward law enforcement is perfectly in keeping with their belief in a Servile society.  Law enforcement needs to be as brutal and unforgiving toward the servile class as is needed to keep the privileged class from being afraid.  Servile insurrection is quite scary to the privileged and they need to be keep perfectly at ease.  It is part of the privilege.  But of course the purpose of law enforcement is to maintain the security of the privileged class, so it is a gross failure if it ever threatens them.  This is a view that is utterly incompatible with equality and liberty.

As a final point observation there are a couple of points that should be noted by progressives.  The distinction between serevile and privileged is not purely one of wealth. Yes generally the wealthy would be more likely to be in the privileged class, but there is no strict dividing line. The breakdown is more like an aristocracy, in which poorer titled nobles might well be looking down upon commoners who vastly surpass them in wealth.

Nor is it, in fact, entirely one of race.  Now race has obviously played a huge role in the imposition of a servile society historically and will continue to do so if the conservative tide continues to grow.  I do not pretend that race is not an issue. What I'm suggesting is that for most of the chapions of this system the master/servant relationship.  comes first, whoever is going to be the servents. As long as they get to be masters, they are not on the whole overly concerned with how the servents are defined.  Or to put it another way, most don't actually have much problem with Condelezza Rice being included in the privileged class.  The larger point here is that this servile society is more of a threat to most white folks than is often admitted.  This organization of society is very bad for everybody, except, perhaps, the privileged. 

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