Contributing editor Lowell Ponte is a national radio talk show host and a columnist for David Horowitz’s FrontPageMag.com.
A variety of recent laws and policies, such as university “speech codes,” have been imposed with the proclaimed goal of prohibiting “hate.” They have set forth punishments for acts and crimes motivated by hatred based on a victim’s race, ethnicity, religion, disability, age, gender, and sexual preference.
Opponents criticize such anti-hate measures on several grounds. These rules are vague, and convictions can come from the sensitized eye of the victim rather than the blindfolded objective standard of justice. These rules presume an ability to read the mind of the accused and function either as Orwellian “thought crimes” or punishment for politically incorrect free speech.
Critics also observe that anti-hate measures are applied unequally. In almost all cases, for example, they are invoked to mete out additional punishment when a white attacks a black or a heterosexual assaults a homosexual, but almost never when such roles are reversed. Reminiscent of medieval societies, where crime by a peasant against a noble was more severely punished than the same act by peasant against peasant or noble against peasant, anti-hate measures in practice give some a privileged legal status over others. One recent anti-terrorism law took us a long step back toward feudalism by providing special punishment for anyone who assaults a present or former government employee, thereby affording agents of the ruler special legal protection denied to us peasants. (And is it not odd that a person can be found “not guilty by reason of insanity,” or have punishment mitigated by the temporary insanity purportedly caused by eating a Twinkie or suffering premenstrual syndrome, yet is punished more severely for having been environmentally poisoned into mind-dimming madness by racism or anti-Semitism?)
But if “hate crimes” laws are here to stay, they should be remedied for a larger sin of omission, for the secret hate implicit within them. If the sincere goal of such measures is to banish all forms of hate from our society, then all such laws and rules should be expanded to include crimes and expressions of economic hatred.
Such economic hatred takes several forms. One is verbal and policy attacks against “the rich” by populist politicians. This provides an us-against-them, divide-and-conquer way of polarizing an electorate against an object of jealousy. Such politicians are usually careful never to define a precise level of wealth or income as “rich,” knowing that for their supporters “rich” is anybody with a dollar more than they possess. As fuel, it ignites one of the ugliest aspects of human psychology, the deep-seated perversity of covetousness prohibited in the Ten Commandments, as analyzed in the classic study Envy: A Theory of Social Behavior by sociologist Helmut Schoeck.
Closely related to hatred of “the rich” are class hatred and class warfare. In this occult Marxist notion, “the rich” are not merely individuals who happen to have acquired a certain amount of wealth. They are part of a collective ruling group that is to be overthrown and expropriated, like ruling royal families of yore, so that its wealth and power may be redistributed to the working class. Recipients of privilege and mutual aid, this partly heredity class of the rich is depicted as living off the surplus wealth stolen from workers. This wealth and gain, the envious are told, are ill-gotten and should be confiscated and shared with you. But even if shared only with the government, this wealth should be expropriated because the wealthy class uses it for its own excessive pleasure or to manipulate property, goods, prices, and sock-puppet politicians to gain more for themselves and advance their global class interests. As socialist author George Bernard Shaw observed, those who rob Peter to pay Paul can always count on Paul’s support.
Hatred of Capitalism
A third manifestation of economic hatred is hatred of capitalism. Wealth in the marketplace, the envious are told, comes not from hard work providing goods and services people freely buy, but from luck wagering in the stock market casino, or from chancing to land on the right “Monopoly” square or Web site, or in the phrase of one prominent politician (Representative Richard Gephardt), from otherwise being “winners in life’s lottery.” Where would college-dropout Bill Gates and Microsoft be had his mother not happened to sit on a charity’s board of directors next to an IBM executive, who told her his company needed an operating system for personal computers? It is unfair, the envious are told, that Gates has acquired more than $60 billion and you have not. The free market, they are told, is merely a roulette wheel that is either rigged or randomly enriches those no more deserving than you are. In Nazi Germany Jews were killed for being Jews. In the Soviet Union Jews, and millions of others, were put to death for being capitalists.
Economic hatred during the past century has left a trail of death and horror as terrible as hatred based on race, religion, and other differences now included in hate crime laws. Why, then, have the authors of such laws carefully avoided inclusion of economic and class hatred from their lists of prohibited hatreds? Why have college speech codes not punished dehumanizing expressions of hatred such as “Eat the Rich” or “Down with the Bourgeoisie” or “Let’s expropriate the selfish, idle rich” as they do racial epithets?
One answer is that outlawing class hatred would banish Marxist rhetoric and teaching from campuses. Campuses where such speech codes are strictest are often ones where Marxist views are most prevalent—and where “diversity” means having faculty that includes a black Marxist, a lesbian Marxist, a Latino Marxist, and a transgender Marxist, but no professor with free-market views. A leftist activist in my community advocated removing all books that “promote violence” from our public library, but she ceased her campaign when I applauded her in the local newspaper and called for removal of all books that promote Marxism, a philosophy responsible for 100 million deaths during the twentieth century.
If the rhetoric of class warfare and “soaking the rich” were prohibited, large-scale job retraining would also be required for unemployed “liberal” politicians and union leaders. Class hatred has been their bread and butter, or more precisely their gravy train to their own wealth and power.
No such dislocations have yet happened across the Atlantic, despite the Council of Europe’s Convention for the Protection of Human Rights Article 14, Prohibition of Discrimination, based on, among other things, “property, birth, or other status.” (How sad that in drafting our Declaration of Independence Thomas Jefferson reworded John Locke’s formulation of unalienable rights, “life, liberty, and property.”)
But is it fair to extend hate-crimes protection for those who choose to be rich? People also choose their religion, and this choice has such protection.
It might be that a predisposition to be entrepreneurial and make money has an as-yet-undiscovered genetic component. Have you noticed that wealth often runs in families? Is this to be dismissed merely as it takes money to make money, or learned business behavior, or could it be from an inheritance not only of dollars but also of DNA? Perhaps some combination of genetic predisposition to risk-taking, judgment, mathematical ability, and other factors combines in such people. Have you noticed, too, that those with money and property are disproportionately victimized by thieves, kidnappers, and (to be redundant) politicians and tax collectors? Let us come down on the side of love and tolerance and extend egalitarian hate-crime laws protection to the innocent victims of economic hatred.