Criminal Justice

The Vast Divide Between Too-Big-to-Jail and Too-Poor-to-Fight-Back



I had a review out in this weekend's Wall Street Journal about the new book from Matt Taibbi, The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap. Here's how the review begins:

When the polemicist who made Goldman Sachs synonymous with a "vampire squid" writes a book called "The Divide," with a subtitle that references "the wealth gap," one may reasonably anticipate some undergraduate-style fist-shaking about income quintiles and the predatory rich. But one would be wrong. Matt Taibbi's "The Divide" is primarily concerned with the grotesquely unequal application of American justice, between the too-big-to-jail Wall Street elite and the too-poor-to-fight minority underclass. "The cleaving of the country into two completely different states—one a small archipelago of hyperacquisitive untouchables, the other a vast ghetto of expendables with only theoretical rights," Mr. Taibbi maintains, "is a terrible story, and a crazy one." The characterization is typically overwrought, but the general indictment is broadly correct.

And here is how it ends:

But at heart "The Divide" is a face-slap, not a legal brief. Though Mr. Taibbi doesn't couch it in these terms, his warning is all about moral hazard, in two senses of the phrase. When swindlers know that their risks will be subsidized, and their potential crimes will be punishable only through negotiated corporate settlements, they will surely commit more crimes. And when most of the population either does not know or does not care that the lowest socioeconomic classes live in something akin to a police state, we should be greatly concerned for the moral health of our society.

Reason on Taibbi here, including this 2007 interview.

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  1. This is an interesting and important issue, and it deserves someone more serious and a better writer than Taibbi.

    1. But it’s not considered tyranny unless people are being loaded on cattle cars.

    2. Jesus Christ, thanks so much. Now I want to kill myself even more.


    3. The kid would have gotten a less icy reaction if he shot the place up.

  2. Playing the role of “The Blind Pig” in this evening’s performance will be Matt Taibbi.

    Let’s give him a nice hand.

  3. Maybe it’s time to reflect on the fact that equality under the law has never actually been achieved. Mostly beause it’s a really, really stupid idea.

    1. How is equality before the law a stupid idea?

      1. because Hawk can’t understand it, Hugh.

      2. Should every defendant and litigant have to rely solely on court-appointed counsel? Or should the state fund every DUI defendant to pay for the same legal resources available to Kerry Kennedy?

        1. Maybe you don’t know what equality before the law means either.

        2. That has nothing to do with a person’s treatment under the law.

      3. If you don’t mind having all your laws made to apply to the lowest common denominator, nothing.

        Unless you’re getting really sick of activists for one cause or another trying to declare everything equal to everything else.

        Anyway, any time the subject comes up, I’m told that nobody believes that everyone is actually equal, just equal under the law. If you’ve already acknowledged people are not equal, why should the law pretend they are?

        And again, show me an example where any society has ever actually successfully implemented it.

        It has never in fact ever actually existed, it’s just a rallying cry for pious knuckleheads.

        1. This is meaningless garbage. What does equality under the law mean to you?

        2. Anyway, any time the subject comes up, I’m told that nobody believes that everyone is actually equal, just equal under the law. If you’ve already acknowledged people are not equal, why should the law pretend they are?

          This makes absolutely no sense. This is akin to saying that because people aren’t equal there should be different rules to the board game Monopoly for different people. WHY IS MONOPOLY PRETENDING THAT PEOPLE ARE EQUAL? Stupid board games!

          1. I always knew that damn Rich Uncle Pennybags was a closet Cosmotarian!

            1. part of the Orange Properties Mafia. Runs right along the Short Line.

          2. Yes. It’s dumb that superior people have to play be the same rules as the peasants. We should just award them Boardwalk and Park Place from the get-go and spare everyone the trouble of actually playing. That way we can get to the end state where the rich control everything faster. As it should be.

        3. In exactly what ways would you suggest that we make the law more unequal?

          It’s trivially true to point out that equality under the law has never been 100% attained by any society — no ideal has ever enjoyed that level of implementation. I imagine that whatever ideal you would replace equality with would remain similarly unsatisfied. (Curiously, your attitude is very similar to that of libertarians wrt the concept of rule of law.)

    2. You’re a really really stupid person. Please go away.

  4. Man I never even thought about it like that before.

  5. My only issue with this is that 99% of what Taibbi thinks Goldman does wrong shouldn’t be illegal in a free country.

    And just about ALL of what Goldman actually DOES do wrong is perfectly legal.

    The real gap in law enforcement isn’t between Goldman and the poor, it’s between law enforcement and other employees of the state and the rest of us.

  6. Most peoples’ perception of law enforcement and the court system comes from movies and TV. Perhaps in some vague way, people realize that reality is different, but as long as it’s just the niggers and spics, and not their special snowflake, getting the shaft, it’s OK.

    1. stuff it. no one is in the mood for bullshit race-baiting.

      1. It’s unfortunate that he went there because his larger point is correct.

        Popular entertainment wrt the police and court system are effective propaganda that convinces the average person of the general benevolence of people operating in those systems, who have to break the rules to get bad guys.

        And one of the reasons that it is so effective is that the overwhelming majority of people will never have any interaction with the criminal justice system and only rare encounters with cops.

        1. What popular entertainment would that be? Cite your sources.

          1. The Dark Knight, countless and sundry episodes of Law & Order, The Wire, etc.

            1. The Dark Knight…where the leading DA hero went bad, you mean?

              The Wire is a terrible example.

          2. The entire Law and Order franchise.

            The Dirty Harry franchise.

            The CSI franchise.

            1. Law & Order (a) went away from that in the later half and Special Victims went way afield from that; (b) Dirty Harry is 40 years old; and (c) fine, CSI, which is really about forensics anyway.

              The Wire, Breaking Bad, The Shield, The Sopranos…there’s a lot to counteract this pat narrative that it’s all that blasted TeeVee that’s keeping the proles in thrall to the police.

              1. The Mentalist, The Closer, Hawaii 5-0, Blue Bloods, Major Crimes, Castle, Bones, Almost Human, Elementary, Criminal Minds, NCIS, Justified, Cops, Americas Most Wanted, Bait Car, To Catch a Predator, etc.

                1. Hawaii 5’0″

            2. Add in NCIS, Chicago PD, Chicago Fire, all the superhero TV/movie bullshit, Hawaii Five-O, Blue Bloods, etc.

            3. Dragnet, Adam-12, The Untouchables,Car 54 Where Are You?

            4. Any show where a warrant is no longer needed because the cop says “I know a guy at L&I that would be interested in checking out your little operation here….”

        2. And one of the reasons that it is so effective is that the overwhelming majority of people will never have any interaction with the criminal justice system and only rare encounters with cops.

          Yep. Show me someone who respects the police, and I’ll show you someone who has never been the victim of a crime nor been accused of a crime.

      2. I don’t think he’s race baiting. I think he’s sincerely discussing a subconscious thought that SWPL harbor (while they may not entertain those particularly offensive terms, that they harbor those thoughts shows the vulgarity of their minds).

        1. As long as gross hyperbole serves the greater narrative, eh? That’s what the Progressives tell me too. If you want to defend that kind of rank bullshit that’s on you.

          1. I don’t think he intended those words to be an indication of his own thoughts. Perhaps they were missing the scare quotes.

            1. So what? You think it’s OK to just project gross and crude racism onto somebody else?

              1. Please just list the banned words – it’ll be faster for the rest of us. kthxbai

                1. the ends don’t justify the means.

              2. I would use the colloquialism “let’s call a ___ a _____” but I fear that even while that etymology of that phrase is innocuous, you’d still begin frothing at the mouth and labeling me a racist.

                1. where did I ever call you a racist?

                  I said race baiting is bullshit.

                  Sudden, I say again: where did I ever call you a racist?

                  1. You didn’t, and fair enough. I guess your visceral contempt for the hyperbole of Mainer2 had me thinking you were overly sensitive to percieved racism.

                    Though I stand corrected. You’re sensitive to accusations and projections of racism on others. And that’s a reasonable position to hold (even if there may be times I disagree with it).

                    1. It just makes me crazy when we get as intellectually lazy as they do. When they say that libertarians hate the X-words, that’s just vile and lazy. When we say they hate the X-words, it’s equally vile and lazy.

                2. I would use the colloquialism “let’s call a ___ a _____” but I fear that even while that etymology of that phrase is innocuous, you’d still begin frothing at the mouth and labeling me a racist.

                  I have actually had that happen to me. Literally that exact thing.
                  It was an educational lesson of sorts. I learned something about what scum progressives are inside.

          2. Concern troll is concerned.

            Cool story, bro

            1. ha! That’s it, you got me.

              it’s just not acceptable behavior to project racism onto somebody. I don’t like it when the progs to it to me every single day and it’s bullshit when someone on my ‘team’ does it as well.

              1. I’ll say this much, I don’t think the SWPL racism is the spouting hate-filled epithets nature. Hell, if anything it may be slightly more insidious. Its the bigotry of low expectations and the feeling that they’re in need of the benevolent hands of the paternalistic state. Its adopting the welfare model because you believe in the underlying inability of vast swaths of people, many who come from particular groups, are incapable of fending for themselves in a modern economy, and its a riot-control effort for fear that should the checks stop coming, their only skill for survival will be theft and pillage.

                And ya, if someone thinks along those lines, I say that’s at least as racist as the “I hate _____ people” declaration.

              2. Oh dear, TTP has missed his morning enema again. Tsk! Tsk!

          3. Yes. I.E. George Carlin.

            Given our Hispanic and Black humans beings’ representation in jails and prison as compared to their representation in the general populations, it sure does appear that the good ole USA, Land of the Free, pretty much considers them niggers and spics.

            1. racism is the only explanation you can come up with? There’s a vast conspiracy to imprison “people of color”?

              how many Indians (of India) are in prison as compared to the population at large?

              how many Arabs are in prison as compared to the population at large?

              Eastern Asians?

              Saying that America is a racist country is lazy and wrong. Looking at “disparate impact” and saying, “Racism!” is a to-the-tee Democrat tactic.

            2. Troy, we have an example here in New Hampshire. This state is literally 95% white. We have one man on death row. He’s black.

              That just seems, shall we say, unlikely.

              1. We have one man on death row. He’s black.

                That just seems, shall we say, unlikely.

                Uh, that one man beat his mother when he was 16, attempted to murder a fellow student at 16 (gun didn’t work), robbed and stabbed a man when he was 17, committed two more armed robberies a few years later, and then shot a cop. A cop who, by the way, once saved his life by giving him first aid after he was shot in a drug dispute.

                If NH needs someone to pull the lever, I’m available. He’s human garbage, and his skin color has nothing to do with that. It is his actions that have placed him on death row.

                1. Absolutely agree. I’m not against the death penalty, and if anyone has earned it, it’s Michael Addison.

                  I also don’t think it’s useful to try to achieve some social outcome by measuring disparate impact.

                  That said, New Hampshire’s last execution was in 1939. Over the course of 70 years, in a state that is 95% white, the only criminal whose crime was heinous enough to warrant execution is black. That just seems to defy the odds.

                  1. Do you have an example of NH criminal who you think deserved capital punishment, who is white?

  7. Please don’t link to that subscription-baiting POS known as the Wall Street Journal any more.

    1. Yeah, I used to really kinda like them. Not sure if they changed, I changed, or both – but aside from some of James Taranto’s stuff…they’re kinda TEAM WAR BONER and/or TEAM STUPID most of the time. Troubling.

      1. And they’re among a handful of outlets still clinging to that pay-to-read distribution model that is the news outlet equivalent of DRM.

  8. I’ll go out on a limb, here.

    Randian, is that you?

    A scold by any other name…

  9. Not sure if they changed, I changed, or both

    I got really sick of their editorial page TEAM BUSH TERROR PATROL bullshit.

  10. Oh looks like I caused a bit of a stir. Next time I’ll try to make the sarcasm more clear.

    I assumed (wrongly) that people would get my point that as long as the cops and courts are not going after me or my family, then I’m ok with that. And if they tend to focus on scary black and brown people , well that’s OK too. Imagine New York’s stop and frisk program going after well heeled white stock brokers on Wall Street, because those people tend to do coke, and we need to fight the scourge of drugs. There is a double standard, and alot of people are OK with it.

    Also, The Tone Police is a troll, and not worthy of a response.

    1. the guy who used “niggers and spics” in a completely unwarranted fashion is calling other people a “troll”.


      1. He may be using too broad of a brush, but his larger point isn’t incorrect; his stop-and-frisk example illustrates it perfectly. If average white people were targeted by the program as much as black and Hispanic people were, it would have ended (has it actually ended btw? Or does it just continue in violation of the court decision?) much sooner.

  11. Tone Police = Randian

    Ignore away.

  12. Though Mr. Taibbi doesn’t couch it in these termsunderstand it, his warning is all about moral hazard

    “Moral hazard” doesn’t exist in Taibbi’s world. To him the book is all about the big mean rich people running roughshod over the poor noble government.

  13. Most of this problem could be quickly resolved by legalizing drugs, prostitution and free speech.

    1. Yeah, the thing about victimless crimes is that nobody is going to report them, so the cops have to go LOOKING for people to bust. That really changes the dynamic.

      If the cops were limited to only investigating actual reported crimes, crimes where there’s an actual person filing a complaint, there would be an entirely different mindset.

  14. There were 2 workable solutions to the GFC:

    A – throw the arseholes in jail – regulatetoinfinity

    B – let them go bust – capitalismrulz

    People who like A hate the thought of B, and vice-versa.

    So it is here with Matt Taibbi writing a legal brief explicitly calling for the banksters to be imprisoned and Matt Welch says it is really a matter of moral hazard.

    The problem isn’t that one is correct and one is wrong, we are driving towards a cliff – we have to turn right or left before we get there.

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