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The power of discrimination

The word “discrimination” has an uneasy cultural pedigree, because sometimes it’s meant as a salute to good taste, but other times it’s held as a synonym for unreasonable prejudice.  Uncle Sam’s ability to discriminate works both ways.

Big Government means big laws, and Big Law – the huge, wealthy, and extremely powerful legal industry.  The volume of law has far outstripped government’s ability to enforce it.  In fact, the government doesn’t have enough resources to reliably detect violations of some very important laws.  They tell us this all the time, don’t they?  There’s no way to secure the border, detect violators of immigration law, close the loopholes in various widely-abused tax laws and welfare programs, or even secure the ballot.  Merely asking for sensible enforcement measures, particularly state-of-the-art identification systems to crack down on fraud, is often denounced as hateful or racist.  How dare you ask the government to treat all of its laws with equal gravity!

Of course, there’s scads of money available for enforcing the laws Big Government really wants to impose on us.  ObamaCare, for example, produced a gigantic surge of IRS agents to process enforcement of its extremely complex requirements.  Those people were hired into the same agency that ostensibly can’t put a dent in billions of dollar’s worth of Earned Income Tax Credit fraud.

The American people didn’t set any kind of performance test for the government before allowing it to grow larger.  We should have insisted that the existing laws be enforced evenly and fairly before letting the government write any new ones, starting at least half a century ago.  We never should have permitted the volume of law, and size of government, to reach the point where well-meaning and honorable citizens can’t possibly comply with it, and government officials don’t truly understand it.

But we didn’t take such prudent measures, so we all live at the government’s discretion now.  It’s not that hard for almost anyone to be designated as a criminal for failure to comply with some regulation he didn’t know existed.  Most of us lack the legal resources to ensure we aren’t crossing any invisible lines.  How many property owners have lost a fortune, or been obliged to spend a fortune in legal fees, because they unwittingly violated some arcane EPA regulation?

When aggressive government officials decide they want to crack down on some prominent individual or group, there are usually legal clubs available to beat them with.  If nothing else, they can be bled dry by legal fees battling a government that has unlimited tax money to finance its crusades… or, as in the case of the IRS scandal, shuttled off into regulatory limbo until they’re no longer a threat to those in power.  That’s the part of the IRS story our media keeps forgetting to harp on.  Tea Party and pro-life groups weren’t denied tax exemptions; they were trapped in endless approval processes that stretched on for years, while absurd and intrusive demands for information were employed to intimidate them into giving up.  

They’re still at it, lavishing a small band of Hollywood conservatives with the kind of attention gigantic liberal groups never seem to receive.  Conservative author and filmmaker Dinesh D’Souza has run afoul of the sort of campaign finance regulations that never seem to trouble less “controversial” figures.  He may well have violated these regulations – he’ll have his day in court, of course, and his lawyers say he did nothing worse than get sloppy while trying to put together political donations to help a friend run a very long-shot race for the Senate.  If he did break the law, he doesn’t deserve any special dispensations.  But what about the dispensations others have been getting?  What about the people who do things like disabling the security system to prevent foreign donations from flowing into their campaign websites, and never attract much notice at all?

The sleepy Leviathan State is very discriminating about when it chooses to awaken and extend its claws these days.  Laws that cannot be enforced evenly will always be enforced at someone’s discretion.  Have you noticed how often President Obama insists we have to trust his discretion, on everything from ObamaCare enforcement to NSA spying?  There is a reason wise men advised us to insist on a government of laws, not of men.  A government of laws has less room for discrimination, less ability to write confusing laws that become writs for sheer power, because they are enforced at the whim of the powerful.

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