Wednesday, April 28, 2010

"...until they prove themselves innocent"

What do the issues of immigration and financial reform have in common? Two articles highlight the fundamental characteristic linking these seemingly unconnected concerns.

Michael Gerson, writing in the Washington Post, discusses Arizona’s new immigration law (A test of Arizona's political character). Richard Sisk, for the NY Daily News, covers the Goldman-Saks hearings in the Senate (
Senator Carl Levin to Goldman Sachs executives: 'You ought to have plenty of regrets'

Michael Gerson asserts that Arizona’s immigration law is an abomination. I have not read the bill myself, but from what I know about it, he’s right. Mr. Gerson states that “This law creates a suspect class, based in part on ethnicity, considered guilty until they prove themselves innocent.” Perhaps.

But this, sadly, is nothing new in America. Arizona is simply following this country’s dangerous drift away from objective law. Consider, for example, the so-called financial reform legislation currently before congress. Like most government regulation, the underlying premise of the Democrats’ bill is presumption of guilt.

In the Goldman-Saks hearing on 4/28/10, as reported by Mr. Sisk, Senator Carl Levin ranted in regard to Goldman’s alleged fraud: "That's why we have to do some regulations, and re-regulation." In other words, punish the innocent! All of American finance, potentially right down to the local pawn shop, will be placed under the “oversight” of a government czar possessing veto power over any and all financial instruments. Like the “racial stereotyping” that Mr. Gerson believes would occur under the Arizona law, financial stereotyping will descend on “Wall Street”. Every financial professional will now find it “harder … to live without suspicion and humiliation.” Why? Because Goldman and perhaps a few other firms behaved badly? Is this any different than the law that Mr. Gerson laments, which empowers authorities to target people based upon some undefined “warning signs of illegality”?

To paraphrase Mr. Gerson:

“This law creates a suspect class, based on participation in American finance, considered guilty until they prove themselves innocent.”

This is the essence of the regulatory state. I discussed the nature of the kind of regulation that Senator Levin refers to in my post of 3/10/10.

Those who object to Arizona’s immigration law should fight with equal vigor against the finance bill now before congress. Both are equally unjust and un-American. Goldman can be prosecuted under existing criminal anti-fraud laws, without targeting innocent financial firms and their employees with burdensome new regulations. The same goes for illegal immigrants, who after all are not criminals but have merely broken procedural laws. Like freedom of speech, the principle “innocent until proven guilty” should be defended to the death.

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