The Price of Eliminating Consequences

Victor Davis Hanson
American Greatness

Recently there were some remarkable online videos of a Portland, Oregon good Samaritan confronting shoplifters and forcing them to dump loads of their pilfered goods.

More stunning, however, was the sheer outrage—of the thieves!

They pouted. They screamed. They resisted. How dare anyone stop them from stealing anything they wished.

The criminals entertained no fear of any consequences for walking out with bags of things that were not theirs. They had no care that mainstreaming their habits would undermine the entire fabric of society.

What is common to the pandemic of smash-and-grab, carjacking, fighting on airliners while in flight, and deadly Saturday night shoot-outs is this same apparent assurance there will be no consequences.

That expectation of exemption is why the Antifa thugs in Atlanta were so bold in their latest violent attacks on the police.

And why not, after the 120 days of rioting, looting, arson, and assault in summer 2020 which resulted in few Antifa indictments, fewer convictions, and almost no imprisonments.

The “broken windows” theory of policing in the 1990s and 2000s showed how the failure to punish even minor infractions soon leads to escalation to more violent crimes.

The homeless take for granted that ancient rules forbidding urination, defecation, fornication, and injection on the sidewalks do not apply to them. Is it any wonder that they increasingly are not victims of circumstance but victimizers of innocent passersbys?

Yet deterrence is not just eroded from the bottom up, but also from the top down—and by an elite who assume it will never be subject to the chaos it wrought.

Former FBI Director Andrew McCabe admittedly lied on four occasions to federal investigators, apparently with the prescient expectation he would never be prosecuted.

The same hubris was true of former CIA Director John Brennan who admittedly lied under oath to Congress—twice—with absolute impunity.

The former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper not only lied under oath to Congress, but crowed that he gave the “least untruthful” answer. He too faced zero consequences.

Could the FBI and the CIA recover their tarnished reputations if their directors knew in advance they would go to jail for lying under federal oath?

Sometimes the problem is not just the absence of sure punishment for criminal behavior, but the asymmetry of penalties.

Why are some violent criminals released from custody the very day they punch, club, or shoot innocents, while others committing lesser offenses are not?

Nations are no different from people. Without expectation of a severe reaction to their provocations, they only escalate their aggression.

Why are athletes who choose not to be vaccinated barred from competing in the United States, while 6-7 million illegal entrants were waved in without passports, vaccinations, or COVID tests?

And once those millions south of the border saw a few thousand illegally cross with impunity shortly after Joe Biden was inaugurated, then they followed en masse.

Why does the Mexican government shrug when the United States asks it not to greenlight illegal immigration?

Why does Mexico City tolerate factories inside Mexico producing lethal fentanyl pills for export northward that kill over 100,000 Americans a year?

What sort of deterrence would stop millions from illegally entering the United States or Mexican-manufactured fentanyl from killing more Americans in the last decade than all the dead in all our wars since World War II?

Should the United States tax the $60 billion in remittances sent back yearly to Mexico, mostly by those who are here illegally and so often subsidized by our own state and federal entitlements?

Should America declare cartels international terrorists, extradite them, and bar all their accomplices and abettors from the global banking system?

China knowingly sends Mexico the raw ingredients of fentanyl, believing it is a win-win strategy of enormous profits and lots of deaths of America’s youth.

What would deter China from its nonchalant aggression? Still more concessions? More ignoring the Wuhan origins of the COVID pandemic?

Or would the expulsion of 350,000 Chinese students from American universities stop their fentanyl exporting? Or prohibiting Chinese companies with ties to the Communist government from buying American farmland?

Apparently, the more technologically sophisticated and affluent, Americans became, the more their elites believed they could change ancient human nature that is fixed and predictable across time and space.

They redefined criminality as either a lifestyle choice or reimaged the criminal as one with legitimate grievances against the society he subverts.

The more the Biden Administration ignores those harming us abroad, the more they interpret it as American weakness, if not decadence to be further exploited.

The result is the predictably dangerous present.

When our state and federal governments allow criminals and foreign nations to injure with impunity their own law-abiding citizens, is it any wonder the civilized world we once knew has vanished—replaced by the Hobbesian rule of the wild?

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35 thoughts on “The Price of Eliminating Consequences”

  1. You are right. We can no longer ignore the consequences of bad policies. This utopian experiment had degraded society into a chaotic mess. No laws and no consequences. I suppose some of this starts with raising children. For a few recent generations, children have been coddled and there have been no boundaries. Of course we love and support our kids, but you can’t expect good outcomes with allowing, or permitting children and young adults to do whatever they want. Thank you for another excellent article, though it’s disheartening to see what we’ve become.

  2. It’s ok. They are victims of systemic racism. And as long as it’s a property crime and the victim is insured it’s just a down payment on reparations. If you don’t agree, turn on your tv or pick up paper and your morally superior opinion leaders will tell you that this the case. Forget for a moment that these are the same folks who tell you to follow the science on Monday morning and a man can be a woman and give birth Monday afternoon. Disagree with either proposition? They advocate to suspend your 1st Amendment rights immediately.

    When enough people say ” enough” and demand an end to fraudulent elections things will change. Until then, consider this the “new normal” that public ignorance and apathy has wrought.

    Nice business you have there, be a shame if you had a fire… wink wink nod nod

    1. And it also gives you the clue: hit them in the purse! Nice University you go there! Be a pity if someone had to tax the ever-living heck out of its multi-billion dollar endowment… Nice Federal pay schedule you got there. Be a shame if the top two brackets got wacked off… Nice job at Raytheon you got waiting there for you. It’d be too bad if you was to be banned by law from acquiring it for seven years after your left the military!

      1. Making university endowments financially responsible for student loans would be a huge step in restoring the credibility of a degree.

        Finding politicians with both the will to enact a measure like this and the stones to withstand the pushback may be difficult.

        Far easier to cancel debt and put the cost on the national credit card while there is still time

        Nice thought though

        1. Second thought: need a showman who can hold up charts of how many tanks could be bought for Ukraine from the Yale endowment. Then he can show another chart showing how much of America’s student debt could be paid off by the top 10 University endowments. Something that would make it hard for the Universities to squawk.

  3. I did not know this, but if accurate it deserves special attention and widespread publication:

    “China knowingly sends Mexico the raw ingredients of fentanyl, believing it is a win-win strategy of enormous profits and lots of deaths of America’s youth.”

  4. David Shuford

    Well said, Dr Hanson. The absolute immunity of our progressive elites from the consequences of their actions may be fatally toxic to our republic. Unfortunately the average “gimme stuff” Democrat voter will make it difficult to turn this trend around. All we can do is to keep fighting the good fight.

  5. Without a set of standards we cannot measure society. Rule of law provides a standard by which individual members of a society interact in their personal and business conduct. Social conventions and generally accepted personal behaviors provide standards of social conduct we accept and expect of ourselves and of other members of our society. And so it goes, society organizes itself according to such standards and must either enforce those standards or suffer the instability of unchecked human behavior. Consequences matter because they apply those standards by which a society operates. If there are no consequences for an individual to rob a bank and steal the savings of others then the consequences of allowing such an action means the banks will lose customers. After all, why should I trust you with my money if you fail to keep it safe or civil society allows others to steal it? Consequences are two way streets, they apply to those whose behavior is at odd with society and applies to a society who will not invoke said consequences. We are social animals just like wolves or cows and every society including animal ones have rules for individuals who are a part of the wolf pack or herd. The consequences of braking those rules is exclusion from the group and that usually means death.

    1. Yeah. Problem is that Marx poked a hole in this argument by saying “why is it the rich who always get to make the rules?” After that, the dyke burst and the mannerist/utilitarian argument has been reeling ever since. Neo-Marxism finished off other arguments by saying “what you call divine sanction or natural law or the will of the people is just a cloak to disguise your own interest in acquiring power at the expense of others. Without a handy argument to pin a moral up or down, all rules are now subject to: “Acccccccctualllllly, you’re only saying that because you’re White, Male, Cis, Buggie, Judeo-Christian, or their tool….”.

  6. Bravo, BRAVO, Professor Hanson — You put the hay down where the goats can get it with this essay carefully laying out America’s most serious problems. I hope this essay is Part one with Part two giving us some resolution how to fix things. As a starter, I most strongly recommend Donald Trump as POTUS in 2024. I sincerely think this man is the last hope for the America in which we grew up!

  7. The is all planned by the leftist elite Democrats who hate America. But, alas, the end plan is to have the majority of Americans wanting the elites to take ever more control. Then, the leftist elites will crack down and institute the Great Reset as laid out in the books by Klaus Schwab (The Fourth Industrial Revolution; Covid-19: The Great Reset; The Great Narrative) and in a nice pie chart on the web page of the World Economic Forum. Glenn Beck has a book (The Great Reset) that explains the plan very well. Essentially, no area of your life – and I mean none, zero – will be left for you to control. (The food you eat, or are not allowed to eat, the size of your family, when and where you can go locally or for a distance; how much what kind of energy you can use, or not use; what you can and what you cannot say, and on and on). Yes, illegals and likely terrorist freely crossing the border, electrical stations being disabled by gunfire, Americans dying of illegal drugs freely crossing the border, everything mentioned in the above article, and the many tragedies occurring each day are all a part of the plan to totally disrupt a society where actions have consequences so the people beg to give up their freedoms to the elites. Yes, it is unconstitutional. But why do you think they want to pack the Supreme Court?

    1. This is also a reply to David S & William B

      If you believe that the outcomes of 2020 general election & 2022 mid terms were fair and accurate, so be it

      If you do not then any effort that is not dedicated to election integrity is a distraction. The only way to change the trajectory of the culture is to defeat the politicians that curate it.


  8. Michael J Chilson

    Excellent as always,The sureness of punishment it the only deterrent to these individuals.,As An ex big city cop i made the move to a rural area where the Law is respected.

    1. Right on BILL! Close the dang border for starters, and I do mean close the entire thing, using the military if needed! No border, no sovereignty in America! I’m sick of law breakers running the country with no repercussions whatsoever when they lie to us, i.e. “the border is closed”, sounds from Mayorkas, right on the heels of a story showing massive crooks walking in like it’s their country! Enforce the border with armed shooters, rubber bullets and lots of them if you try to get here!

  9. Erik Vestville

    Good heavens my dearest VDH – I woefully don’t know enough people with brains to read and comprehend your missive. We may be in deed doomed.

    1. Not yet! People like Uictor’s job is to make these sorts of arguments drawn from their own knowledge and that of others of their class. As readers, it’s our job to evaluate the plausibility of their arguments, add our own knowledge, and pass that synthesis on to those around us either by direct sharing or by recasting the arguments in a way they can understand. That’s how they do it: University–> Media and big tech –> Managerial Class and Entertainment Industry –> Masses.

  10. I read and hear of the terrible consequences about those who die is drug use. E g fentanyl use but have not really heard what demographic is most at risk. Who should we be particularly concerned about as the most likely partakers of these drugs. I think is high school and college aged people. Would you please enlighten those of us in rural areas about this? I really read and listen to your astute analysis of our past wars and current societies. Thanks.

  11. Thank you Dr. Hanson, yet again you shine a light on all the dirt that is America today.
    Do you think we are just reverting to the norm? As you so rightly point out human nature is unchanging and societies like Athens and The American Republic so rare…
    Maybe the optimism has faltered but there are points of light shining out. I take hope each time I see Americans great and small stepping up to fight back.
    Wishing America the best from across the pond.
    Courage my American cousins!

  12. The long overdue “reset” is upon us….it will become tribal….and it won’t be race or ethnicity or religious tribes…it will be Hobbesian in that the strongest will defend or assault the others that are strongest…small arms until the ammo runs out…then swords, bows, clubs and chains. Back to nature, the way we were for tens of thousands of years, before the Sapiens’ Cognitive Revolution only 20,000 tears ago.(“Sapiens: A Brief History of Human Kind).
    Our current administration is doing it negligently or on purpose…but to what purpose? Are they that stupid or that evil? Both “haves” and “have nots” see it…will they do something? Like vote responsibly? At least cast their vote? Or continue in their apathy? We’ll see.
    My sons and grandsons…Get and stay aware, fit, armed, and trained!

    1. This comment a literal replay of the old race theories and devolution anxiety that produced the fiction of Robert E. Howard, Clark Ashton Smith and H.P. Lovecraft. They, in turn, ended up fueling Icke’s grand conspiracy theory. Fun lit, bad history and prediction of the future. I think we do have a serpent man on the site though. Do we?

  13. Excellent summary, again, by VDH!
    For background on what we will devolve into read “Sapiens: A Brief History of Human Kind”

  14. Behavior modification 101.

    It works in families, school classrooms, and in general society.

    Set clear standards for what is acceptable. Let all know what is expected in terms of civil behavior.

    Establish clear and unambiguous punishments for those who choose to ignore the rules.

    Enforce those punishments with utmost consistency with fairness to all. Never waver, rarely make exceptions.

    In our current society, we have none of this. We can no longer rely on the “civil society” to keep people in check. We need to use the stick.

    I was a public school teacher once, many decades ago. The simple plan outlined above works in the class room and would work in our society at large.

    I never had discipline issues in my classes. I also never had to raise my voice, despite having huge classes. Yelling at kids is a sign of weakness.

    Yes, I agree it is all about well understood and unambiguous consequences for bad behavior. Until that is fixed, we will continue to crumble.

  15. Rachael E Martinez

    Has VDH ever considered a political future? I believe someone like him could change the path to destruction the US is currently traveling down. He’s what this country needs.

    1. Thomas O'Brien

      What Victor does and running a country Rachael, are two very different skill sets. As the great Thomas Sowell once said , “I would make a lousy politician.” (Paraphrased)

  16. Passersby not passersbys. A typo, which I only mention because it is the first one I have ever found. Obviously the content is way more important so please don’t eviscerate me for mentioning it. Keep up the good work, I always learn so much!

  17. What do you make of the thief’s reaction to the good Samaritan in Portland? I’ve read that some people are outraged that the thief was scared, but I think the reaction is more evidence of the thief’s mindset. The thief seems to think that they can get away with whatever they do, and that they don’t have to worry about any consequences. I think this is why so many people are getting involved in crime, because they think there won’t be any consequences. We need to start teaching kids that there are consequences to their actions, and that they need to be responsible for their own actions.

  18. As an aside, Portland and much of Oregon has been captured by the extremist forces of the Left, namely Antifa. Eugene, OR had been their unofficial “headquarters” for decades. This organization is an example of actual domestic terrorism but they have been blithely ignored by the politicized, corrupt FBI. They have yet to face any meaningful consequences for their part in the BLM riots that rocked America in 2020, nor other attacks they’ve orchestrated since. Including, some claim, their role in the events of Jan. 6th.

  19. Cicero would be proud of our most articulate & sensible polemicist. But, some remember his fate, and hope for you to avoid assassins. Beware the reach of the Nomenklatura etc….

  20. Human nature of fallen man being corrupt /depraved as Christ stated the reason we the sheeple
    wont hold our elected officials accountable or as Thomas Jefferson put it bind them from mischief
    is to do so would only remind then that they too are accountable before a holy & just God so
    they turn a blind eye to the spiritual wickedness in high places destroying US by evil design

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