Maureen Dowd’s column today hits the nail on the head when it comes to the plutocrats who are somehow still on the street. It reminded me of watching a day of the O.C. with my girlfriend and family (they bonded, I squirmed). Overall, I chose to take it as a radical Marxist critique of how the extremely rich never have to face the consequences of their actions. In the first couple of episodes we meet a character named Jimmy who’s some sort of investor who stole from his wealthy Newport friend-clients. The worst thing that happens to him is that he gets punched in the face at a debutante ball and has to pay restitution. I spent a good hour just asking, “Wait, why is he not in jail?” The teenager who uses a toy gun to hold up a gas station doesn’t get to give the money back and go back home. He’s going to jail, probably for a long time.
What Dowd points out is why I’m not yet thrilled with our psuedo-socialistic turn: we haven’t thrown the bastards in jail. Part of the reason revolutions may be necessary for real economic transformation is that the power elite are a bunch of cockroaches – they just won’t fucking die. I’m not advocating a wave of terror, but it’s worth mentioning that in China they have the death penalty for corporate crime. And though I’m skeptical about any argument for the death penalty, I’d be willing to imagine it does work as a deterrent in that case. Imagine if Madoff didn’t have to worry about maybe doing a few years at club fed, but about how he could avoid the chair. I think investors would think twice about what they were willing to do to get a set of designer paperclips or whatever.