On the main TAC site, we’re running an essay by Glenn Greenwald in which he complains that well-connected elites have used the law to game the system in their favor, to a destabilizing degree. Excerpt:
[S]omething has indeed changed. It’s not that Americans suddenly woke up one day and decided that substantial income and wealth inequality are themselves unfair or intolerable. What changed was the perception of how that wealth was gotten and so of the ensuing inequality as legitimate.
Many Americans who once accepted or even cheered such inequality now see the gains of the richest as ill-gotten, as undeserved, as cheating. Most of all, the legal system that once served as the legitimizing anchor for outcome inequality, the rule of law — that most basic of American ideals, that a common set of rules are equally applied to all — has now become irrevocably corrupted and is seen as such.
While the Founders accepted outcome inequality, they emphasized — over and over — that its legitimacy hinged on subjecting everyone to the law’s mandates on an equal basis. Jefferson wrote that the essence of America would be that “the poorest laborer stood on equal ground with the wealthiest millionaire, and generally on a more favored one whenever their rights seem to jar.” Benjamin Franklin warned that creating a privileged legal class would produce “total separation of affections, interests, political obligations, and all manner of connections” between rulers and those they ruled. Tom Paine repeatedly railed against “counterfeit nobles,” those whose superior status was grounded not in merit but in unearned legal privilege.
After all, one of their principal grievances against the British King was his power to exempt his cronies from legal obligations. Almost every Founder repeatedly warned that a failure to apply the law equally to the politically powerful and the rich would ensure a warped and unjust society. In many ways, that was their definition of tyranny.
If you read the comments, a couple of readers are put out that TAC would publish something by a well-known leftist. Another reader finds it “an absurd irony” that we would publish an essay by an openly gay man (Greenwald) on the same page as a column by Pat Buchanan in which he cites gay marriage as one reason the country is going to hell in a handbasket.
Me, I’m thrilled TAC published Greenwald. To hell with identity politics. If a left-wing gay man is speaking truth, then let’s give him a microphone. Why shouldn’t conservatives be concerned about a legal and economic system that is unjust? Note that Greenwald is not saying that people are upset because some are very rich, and many are not. Americans have always been more or less fine with that. He’s saying what’s got the American people so upset is the sense that the wealthiest are getting away with something illegitimate (note his quoting Sen. Dick Durbin’s saying that the big banks “own” Congress).
If conservatives can’t see what is wrong with that, and what is dangerous to our constitutional order, to say nothing of the moral health of the country, then we are in big, big trouble. If it takes a left-wing homosexual lawyer to say it, and to say it well, then so be it. Big old religious and social conservative troglodyte me, nobody’s idea of GLAAD’s poster boy, am proud to be on the page with him. And I’m glad that TAC is willing to take chances like this. Principle is more important than party loyalty, and ideas more important than identity politics. This is especially true in a time such as this, when both the Left and the Right seem stuck in such ossified ideological positions. We need to have more willingness to think creatively, to re-think first principles and even to stand with people with whom we usually disagree when they’re right about something — even if it breaks tribalist decorum.
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