We are becoming a socialist state when it comes to personal accountability.Now that, my friends, is a true, ideological conservative - a distinctly American, almost Goldwateresque critique of the criminal justice system which stands in stark contrast to the faux, "tuff" neoconservatism we hear on talk radio or Fox News.
In the wake of this year's legislative session are a variety of new laws and as always a variety of new crimes. Perpetuating the myth that making something a crime comes with no cost to the government, the fiscal notes attached to most legislation making acts criminal continue to state that there is no "direct cost" to the government or that the cost is too vague to be quantifiable. Aside from the blatant falsity of such statements is the even greater cost that accrues from the socialization of responsibility that accompanies most new crimes.
The vast majority of Americans are adamantly opposed (and rightfully so in my view) to any form of government that even remotely resembles socialism, much less communism. Against this backdrop, our country has gone through McCarthyism, the anti-communist sentiment accompanying the cold war, movements attacking proposed solutions to social problems as moving us closer to socialism, and most recently excessive government control of the auto industry and too much of the banking system. The current debate about whether health care reform will result in "socialized" medicine, and the hysteria that such a label invokes, leaves little to no doubt that there remains substantial negative sentiment about the socialization of any aspect of American life.
Despite that widely held core belief, Americans stand still and even embrace the idea that those who harm someone should be accountable to the government rather than to those they harm. The government has taken control of individual responsibility. This transformation of accountability -- from private to public -- has been fueled by every legislative session in Texas in the last 30 years. Each session, the legislature makes it harder and harder, if not impossible, for those who have been harmed to seek and obtain private redress for their harm. Instead, and in just as significant a movement in the opposite direction, those who do something that harms someone else become almost solely accountable to society through laws that make the conduct criminal. Rather than providing a forum and mechanism for one-on-one grievances to be dealt with between those involved, we have inserted government either as the sole mechanism for redress or as the only effective intermediary. We have largely socialized personal responsibility for actions that affect or harm others.
Regrettably, most self-styled "small government" conservatives these days don't have the cojones to apply their ideology to criminal justice. But historically, intellectual conservatism has been much more fearless and its principles support a powerful critique of the justice system for those, like McKinney, who aren't scared to follow their principles wherever they lead.