Dan Popp
Crime and preciousness
By Dan Popp
March 8, 2013

Men are not hanged for stealing horses, but that horses may not be stolen. – George Savile

I write often about the "Obamaphone" side of upside-down government. I've said that government "charity" is immoral, illegal and impossible. But now and then the other side of the counterfeit coin spins into view. While the government is doing what it's not supposed to do, it's also not doing what it is supposed to do. I guess I need to say what that is. It's punishing criminals.

Like government's usurpation of the functions of the church, the abandonment of its duty to enforce justice is rooted in false religion. Politicians may quote Bible snippets ("least of these," "brother's keeper," "Good Samaritan") but they do not believe the Bible (Commandments prohibiting immorality, robbery, covetousness and killing of innocents). In that Book civil punishments were few, swift and effective. There was capital punishment, of course. Banishment. Restitution. And not much else. There were no jails in ancient Israel.

Now jails may have been a good or necessary innovation – as long as they achieved the real purpose of law and government, which is to save the innocent at the expense of the guilty. But there came a time when kind-hearted reformers wanted to change prisons from places of punishment, to places of hope and change. Penal (from "penalty") institutions became "Penitentiaries" (places for the penitent). Where the old objective was to punish and thus deter crime, the new goal was the rehabilitation of broken people.

But it quickly became apparent that very, very few people are reformed in these jails-turned-hospitals. Many are made worse. And yet the Compassionate didn't look to the book they misquote to see where they had gone wrong; they added programs to teach skills to inmates, they shortened sentences, they invented probation. Justice got slow and squishy. Criminals learned to game the system. They got out of jail and killed, raped, and robbed again.

The price for all this enlightened compassion was, as always, paid by the innocent – the taxpayers and the additional victims. We are pretending to save the guilty at the expense of the innocent.

Today we have semi-acknowledgement that none of this works: Sexual predators get out of prison, but are given a virtual "scarlet letter" to wear for the rest of their lives. That's not really justice for anybody, but "We don't know what to do with them." Of course, we do.

Real justice would demand that a convict serve his full sentence whether he has been rehabilitated or not. That's the view of the moral law. Where mercy may plead for early release because of factors X, Y and Z, justice knows nothing and cares nothing about that. Real justice says that "three strikes" is two too many – we knew what kind of person we were dealing with the first time.

An upside-down view of government is one mistake with two bad outcomes. When the Obama administration recently released thousands of criminals, supposedly for lack of funds (even though Cowboy Poetry subsidies and numerous handout programs continued uninterrupted) the regime was tacitly admitting that government cannot dispense both justice and mercy. If it's going to be the Healer of All Boo-Boos, then the wicked are going to be loosed on us.


It seems that when you try to beat the sword of government into a spoon, you end up with neither a serviceable sword nor a functional spoon. It isn't just that we can't pay for both; the issue is that leftists don't want government to punish the wicked because they don't believe that anyone is wicked. In the Christian worldview people are born bad, and need institutions like government, church and family to restrain their bad impulses. In the Babylonian worldview people are inherently good, and only corrupt institutions make them act badly.

The biblical view was endorsed by the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. when he said, "It may be true that the law cannot make a man love me, but it can keep him from lynching me, and I think that's pretty important." The upside-downers think government must not try to keep people from lynching me (by deterring them with unpleasant consequences – that would be mean!); government should instead re-educate people to love me.

And thus you have the spectacle that appeared on the Sean Hannity TV show the other night, where a guest proposed that the way to prevent rape is to teach guys not to rape. (Now why didn't we think of that thousands of years ago? It seems so obvious.) Ridicule-worthy as it is, that is the logical conclusion of the philosophy that humans are good, institutions are bad, but this dangerous institution of government could be turned into a friendly collection of all of our niceness. Government could be transformed from a hand stretched out to strike wrongdoers (who are obviously only victims of society), into a hand extended to lift all of us up toward becoming the beautiful people we really are inside.

And when your wife is raped or your child is dead because liberals just can't bear to keep anyone locked up, at least you can console yourself with the fact that they meant well.

Mercy to the guilty is cruelty to the innocent. – Adam Smith

© Dan Popp


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