Soros: It's the "Serious Science"
behind his "reform prosecutors"
The chaps at The Wall Street Journal have helpfully published an oped by George Soros defending his financing of “reform prosecutors.” Here is what Soros argues:
We need to acknowledge that black people in the U.S. are five times as likely to be sent to jail as white people. That is an injustice that undermines our democracy.
We spend $81 billion every year keeping around two million people in prisons and jails. We need to invest more in preventing crime with strategies that work—deploying mental-health professionals in crisis situations, investing in youth job programs, and creating opportunities for education behind bars.
In recent years, reform-minded prosecutors and other law-enforcement officials around the country have been coalescing around an agenda that promises to be more effective and just. This agenda includes prioritizing the resources of the criminal-justice system to protect people against violent crime. It urges that we treat drug addiction as a disease, not a crime. And it seeks to end the criminalization of poverty and mental illness.
The most rigorous academic study, analyzing data across 35 jurisdictions, shows no connection between the election of reform-minded prosecutors and local crime rates. In fact, violent crime in recent years has generally been increasing more quickly in jurisdictions without reform-minded prosecutors.
Serious scholars researching causes behind the recent increase in crime have pointed to other factors: a disturbing rise in mental illness among young people due to the isolation imposed by Covid lockdowns, a pullback in policing in the wake of public criminal-justice reform protests, and increases in gun trafficking.
The question, of course, is whether, say, “black people in the U.S. are five times as likely to be sent to jail as white people” because of racial and economic injustice or because a century of progressive government programs has blown the lower classes to smithereens.
Let us just say that “experts disagree” on all that. Meanwhile crime is going up, and the job of government is to stop people that commit crimes.
The whole point of the criminal justice system from police to courts to jails is that it is an admission of failure. Society has failed to socialize a bunch of people — usually young men. Meanwhile, society needs to protect itself from their depredations.
One fine day, our serious science and our social science practitioners may find out how to socialize angry young men, and treat drug addicts. Alternatively, eevil racist-sexist-homophobes may prove that angry young men and drug addicts are a natural consequence of big government social science practitioners and progressive activists and their billionaire funders. But that time is not yet. And meanwhile, we have to protect law-abiding citizens from predators.
Protecting law-abiding citizens from predators means some kind of criminal justice system, with all its flaws. And yes, whatever the criminal justice system, it will fall heaviest on the poor and the oppressed: in particular lower-class young men.
Let us review the history of criminal justice. Originally, let us say, it was simple revenge. If someone damaged you and yours, you damaged them right back: a eye for an eye. Then we progress to something like Wergild, “the value set in Anglo-Saxon and Germanic law upon human life in accordance with rank and paid as compensation to the kindred or lord of a slain person.” Then we progress to the lord holding court at the manor with a jury that already knew the evidence. Then we get to our modern jury system where it is assumed that the jury needs to hear the evidence.
And back in the old days criminals were executed. Now criminals are imprisoned. And, per Soros, we now want to treat criminals as if they are sick, as indeed they are. But I think the progress in punishment issues not from moral progress but from economics. In the old days criminals were executed because society could not afford to imprison them. Now we propose to treat criminals for mental-health problems rather than merely incarcerate them because we can afford it.
But why? Why does Soros do what he does? I ponder this all the time, and today I think it is because of status. Clearly, being a funder of progressive activism garners a George Soros a lot more status than the libertarian efforts of the Koch Brothers.
And there’s a “taking care of business” aspect. George Soros is a successful speculator — a successful Jewish speculator. It really helps for a speculator to do whatever he can to make sure that the mob never shows up at his door. Today, pretty obviously, the way to do that is to worship the progressive gods. Next week, who knows?