Oh, but in a libertarian society, the privileged, powerful, and connected would trample the rights of innocents without consequence

October 15, 2013 – 4:02 pm by John

If you haven't heard about the "Nightmare in Maryville, Missouri", you might want to make sure you read about it on an empty stomach, because it will probably make you physically sick. In brief, a 14-year-old girl and a 13-year-old girl were raped by popular older boys, one of whom, Matthew Barnett, is the son of a popular politician from the town and the other also from a well-liked, longstanding family in that town. The 14-year-old was drunk, which was partially the fault of the boys, and after being raped was left on her front lawn in sub-freezing weather (January). The Mayrville sheriff's department said they collected ample evidence, all of it pointing towards rape and endangerment of minors, and that it seemed like an open-and-shut case. But since the families of the accused, or at least one of them, are powerful and well connected, the prosecutor naturally dropped all charges against the boys*, even the charges stemming from the recording of sex acts on an iPhone and leaving the girl in sub-freezing weather, neither of which anyone disputes. Also naturally, half of the town taunted, bullied, harassed, ostracized, and blamed the victims, which I am constitutionally incapable of understanding.

[*Correction: I hear from this Dan Wetzel article that the boy who raped the 13-year-old girl—the boy who isn't the son of a politician—actually has been charged, convicted, and punished by the juvenile judicial system. I guess his family isn't powerful and connected enough. A third boy, Jordan Zech, the 17-year-old who recorded the rape on an iPhone and who participated in dropping the 14-year-old off on the lawn, was the second boy whose charges were dropped.]

One thing that can't be denied about this horrible case is that a lot of the town's disgusting reaction stems from the fact that Maryville is a small-ish, rural, close-knit community consisting mostly of families that have lived in the same town and known all the other families for generations, which (according to the Kansas City Star article) has resulted in a very tribal, outsider-distrusting, protect-their-own mentality, which I'm not sure can be diminished by any political change. (The family of the 14-year-old had recently moved to Maryville from 40 miles away.) But that mentality wouldn't explain a lot of other victim-blaming that occurs in cases that you hear about all the time around the internet. I have no explanation for that phenomenon in general. People suck, I guess?

But another thing that also can't be denied is that the very trait that Statists claim as the greatest advantage of monopolistic government is exactly what allows crimes like these to go unpunished: the girls and their families have no other recourse for justice. Their one and only option, the county court system, has decided to protect its good ol' boy network instead of fulfilling its moral and legal obligations, so now there is nothing else they can do within the law.

This clearly makes the prosecuting attorney compliant in those boys' crimes and therefore a criminal deserving of prosecution himself. This is an important point: Whatever advantage might be gained by granting the State a monopoly on criminal justice, the result is that there is no other authority to which citizens can turn when the State wrongs them. The State can't possibly be expected to treat accusations and cases against itself impartially, and we see in this instance that it can't or won't consider these families' concerns about the prosecutor at all. There is no possibility of a case being brought against the prosecutor or his office or the county—not realistically. The families of those girls can't sue the prosecuting attorney or the county or the district attorney's office or the state of Missouri for the crimes of the county, or at least that one attorney. There is a 0% chance that the prosecutor will be subject to any discipline, or even an investigation, or even a meeting, or even an email or phone call, for his cover-up of these privileged, connected boys' crimes. He belongs in prison, right next to those sociopathic scumbags, in the general population of the state penitentiary. Instead, they will likely go the rest of their lives without suffering very seriously for any of their other crimes, of which there are sure to be many.

These are direct, predictable, and all-too-common consequences of monopolistic government: the powerful and well connected trample the rights of the weak because the weak have no recourse other than the very State that is the source of the power and connections of their aggressors.

I can identify at least one other lesson about the powerful and privileged that is reinforced by this story: People in power are so used to serving that power, are so used to being completely brazen about their daily business of keeping wealth and power in the hands of the powerful few and out of the hands of the weak, dispersed masses, that they don't even see anything wrong with it, and even if they did, they wouldn't know how to conduct their business differently anyway. This complete obliviousness (or shamelessness) led the prosecutor to say, with a straight face, such things as, “There wasn’t any prosecuting attorney that could take that case to trial. It had to be dismissed.” And to call it a case of “incorrigible teenagers” drinking alcohol and having sex. And to say, “They were doing what they wanted to do, and there weren’t any consequences. And it’s reprehensible. But is it criminal? No.”

We see this obliviousness (or shamelessness) all the time in the financial sector, from the Federal Reserve and Treasury Department to Wall Street banks: Despite all the fraud and other crimes committed by billionaire CEOs, mortgage lenders, and investment banks, and despite all the wealth they have destroyed or transferred from average Americans to themselves, and despite all the outrage directed at them from average Americans, and despite politicians' claims that they'll clean up Wall Street and punish white-collar criminals, little has changed and they're richer than ever. The same is true of the National Security Agency and all of its crimes and lies: they continue to spout "9/11!" and change nothing. The same is true of the revolving door between government and lobbying and "consulting" jobs. The same is true of the War on Drugs and its murder of innocents, including pets.

The power elite in every society and in every era focus their daily lives on empowering and enriching the already powerful and rich, and they are so used to doing so that they can't even change tactics in rare, high-profile, particularly egregious situations when every sensible person sees right through them.

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