Walter Russell Mead at the American Interest takes note of the Long Island Rail Road disability scandal, and notes its connection with widespread financial crime.
Michael Lewis has an article in Vanity Fair detailing the looting of California by its public employees. He sums the problem up close to the end, noting he had seen the same mentality in the Wall Street scandals he has written about- “It’s a problem of people taking what they can, just because they can, without regard to the larger social consequences.”
Just taking what they can, because they can, and nobody can stop them. Sounds like Mafia behavior to me. But why? Isn’t there some moral mechanism that limits anti-social behavior in most people? Indeed we depend for the functioning of society most on people’s self-control rather than the legal or judicial system. How does that become widely decayed?
The psychology of crime is a vast subject, but I can point to one widespread cause. Public employees are very proud of their high pay and benefits and very attached to them. Any attempt to reduce or restrict them results in a spasm of rage and fury, as we have seen in Wisconsin, and as we saw in California during Schwarzenegger’s Year of Reform- Lewis neglects to mention the year of angry ads the unions ran on TV.
Public employees believe themselves to be very special people. They are serving the public. They are not out for themselves, but only to benefit their community and society! They help countless people live better lives! They deserve excellent pay and benefits, because they are good people doing good things. This belief doesn’t have to be measured or tested on anything like time worked or results achieved; the fact they work strictly 8 to 5 and the community is no better, and probably worse than when they started means nothing.
The libertarian inside a Wall Street financier will tell you that moving capital is an inherently good and necessary function for society, and he doesn’t need to justify himself in any other way. If he made a transaction, it by definition benefited both parties, or it would not have occurred. But beyond this he is usually a liberal- always a “social” liberal, and usually a “fiscal” liberal.
Being a liberal- whether you are a six figure public employee or an eight figure or more investment banker- makes you a good person, by definition. As in Protestant tradition, you need to believe, but modern liberal tradition ads that you should express these sentiments at the appropriate times, as part of the fight against racism, sexism, and homophobia. Nothing else is required. Believe, and speak when required.
And being a good person, you deserve good things, and lots of them. You’re not like that vast legion of slack-jawed racists in the red states. Your high income and fine lifestyle only show what a good person you are.
Liberalism is a moral belief system without any internal control on behavior. It simply serves as mind and social control for certain purposes. The ease it provides the believer in becoming a righteous person is the source of its popularity and power. But a moral belief system also needs to provide a check on anti-social behavior no LIRR retiree would dream of calling a black person a nagger, or even suggesting an end to affirmative action. But there is nothing in the liberal creed that stops him from getting a doctor to sign something saying he can’t sit or stand. The money is there, it was set aside for people like him, and he deserves it! So maybe his back doesn’t hurt that much, but it hurts sometimes, so he should get the money. Everybody’s back hurts sometimes, but better not bring that up, it would sound like you don’t value the incredible contributions and sacrifices LIRR retirees have made.
Liberalism is the controlling moral code, creed and religion in the West. To reduce government spending is actively immoral; to question the personal behavior of minorities, women, or sexual deviants is evil; and to question the wisdom or conduct of the governmental or financial elites is foolish, as they obviously know what’s best for us. This system can’t be changed without major social upheaval. The upheaval is coming, but whether it will be enough to change the system remains to be seen.