We have gotten to the point where raw power has become the foundational principle of governance — the ruling class does whatever they can get away with, which is quite a bit. A picture of a monster stack of all the Obamacare regulations was recently circulating on the Internet, and I think it was Jonah Goldberg who made the observation that such rule is indistinguishable from lawlessness. I have trouble expressing my level of agreement here, but I think it would be something like amen to the seventeenth power.
Then the Cyprus debacle happened. The European Union demanded that bank accounts in Cyprus take “a haircut” in exchange for the next bailout, though they are now signaling “flexibility” on the issue because their stealing appeared to be stealing to too many people. We shall see what happens. I suspect that flexibility simply means slippery. Now bank accounts used to be private property, pure and simple, but not any more — whatever happens.
And you probably don’t need to be reminded that the money that was going to be used to bail out Cyprus was money that was stolen from somebody else, oh, weeks ago, and so we will not let that detain us. So the Cypriots wanted this bailout, see, paid for by some German sap or other, and they had a bunch of plump bank accounts of their own just sitting there. What did you expect?
When you attempt to govern a society of thieves with an elite corps of thieves trying to manage the whole affair, sooner or later a fight is going to break out over the swag. We are probably past the point of no return, and Europe most certainly is.
And so what we are seeing are the finishing touches being put on all the preconditions of a robust underground economy. There are two elements of this that should concern us — the first is the establishment of the economic incentives for a strong underground economy, and the second is for the lawlessness of the ruling class to become so apparent that even evangelical Christians start to participate in that underground economy, with Romans 13 remaining in their Bibles.
By underground economy, I mean things like undeclared income mysteriously not showing up on tax forms, paying contractors in cash, barter systems developing, and so forth. With the new Obamatax registering in paychecks over the last few months, look for the expected revenues to (unexpectedly) drop. It may take a little bit for the adjustments to be made, but they most assuredly will be made. It used to be that it was only to the advantage of a recipient to be paid under the table, with a much higher risk being taken by the one who paid him. But now it can easily be to the clear advantage of the one who pays him as well. It used to be that a business owner would put his whole business at risk if he made illegal payments. But now his business is at a much greater risk if he doesn’t. Under such circumstances, what could possibly happen? Put on your thinking caps, children.
Someone might say that this will be countered by robust law enforcement, with IRS agents fanning out over the country, auditing as they go. But in the new order auditing will be for political enemies and for settling scores, not for those who simply break the law.
This is because when a nation descends into Third World levels of corruption, it descends all the way into that kind of corruption. The society grows into a new shape, one that needs the corruption in order to survive. The rulers who make this nickel and that dime illegal know that they need large numbers of people to disregard them in order for them even to survive. But because their public discourse is now so riddled with envy, they cannot afford to say so. So they denounce the wealthy as a sop to their public constituency, and they wink at those running the illegal economy — the one that is keeping them all afloat. And so it was that Hugo Chavez, champion of the downtrodden, died with two billion dollars in his pockets. That was quite a surprise for the nurse who had to go through his things. What a shock. No idea.