Forbes has it right today in its first graf about the distasteful Richard Scrushy:
"NEW YORK - Innocent until proven guilty is still the norm in American justice, unless, of course, you are an accused drug dealer, terrorist, immigrant who looks like a terrorist or someone accused of murder. In those kinds of cases, many have been locked up before trial or have had their assets frozen. Business executives like Richard Scrushy, the fired chief executive of HealthSouth, are not on this list, so a federal judge in Alabama, exercising the default option, said he can have access to all of his assets as he prepares to defend himself against civil and potential accounting fraud charges that have been swirling around the company he founded in 1984."
Ah, yes. The danger posed by illegal immigrants to the average American citizen is immeasurably greater than the danger posed by the pillagers of pensions, the superheros of larceny, the inflators of bubbles... Not.
Let's compare a couple of randomly selected drug crimes:
Here's a story from Deerfield, Illinois. Officers there seize some 106 pounds of "high grade" marijuana. The officers immediately slap a street value on it -- as is customary -- and put five people in prison who were in the business of selling it. "If convicted, the five arrested men could face prison sentences of between six and 30 years. At a March 24 bond hearing, their bonds were set at $10 million, according to a statement released by the Deerfield Police Department."
And here's a drug crime from the Star Ledger in New Jersey:
"Citizen helps cops with arrest Thursday, May 08, 2003 A vigilant resident armed with a cell phone led Bayonne police to arrest a Jersey City man on drug charges, reports said. An unknown resident called police headquarters at about 4:30 p.m. Tuesday and said three men had just completed what appeared to be a drug deal on 17th Street and Avenue C, reports said. The resident stayed on a cell phone and told police the men were walking west on Andrew Street toward Kennedy Boulevard, reports said. A patrol car headed to the area, and officers saw Heston Hazelwood, 23, of Fulton Street, who appeared to be unwrapping something in his hands, police said. The officers showed their badges to Hazelwood, who dropped a cigar to the ground and put something in his pocket, reports said. The officers recovered a small bag of suspected marijuana from Hazelwood's pocket, reports said. Police said Hazelwood asked the officers, "Just let me go. It's only trees," using a slang term for marijuana. Hazelwood was arrested and charged with possession of less than 50 grams of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia, reports said."
The bet here is that Hazelwood will serve more time for trees than Scrushy will serve for robbing HealthSouth of about 10 to 100 million dollars.
We searched about in Montesquieu for an appropriate comment on Scrushy. Here's one:
"Les gens des conditions les plus basses ne d�sirent d'en sortir que pour �tre les ma�tres des autres.
Il en est de m�me de la frugalit�. Pour l'aimer, il faut en jouir. Ce ne seront point ceux qui sont corrompus par les d�lices qui aimeront la vie frugale; et, si cela avait �t� naturel ou ordinaire, Alcibiade n'aurait pas fait l'admiration de l'univers. Ce ne seront pas non plus ceux qui envient ou qui admirent le luxe des autres qui aimeront la frugalit� : des gens qui n'ont devant les yeux que des hommes riches, ou des hommes mis�rables comme eux, d�testent leur mis�re, sans aimer ou conna�tre ce qui fait le terme de la mis�re.
C'est donc une maxime tr�s vraie que, pour que l'on aime l'�galit� et la frugalit� dans une r�publique, il faut que les lois les y aient �tablies."
Eventually, a threshold of inequality is crossed. We are crossing that meridien in this country, and we will reap the results, and we will not like it.