In a town hall meeting on Tuesday, Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Calif.) was asked about how the government should deal with financial misconduct. He proudly declared, “Well first of all, for a criminal practice there has to be a gun. It’s pretty simple.” Somebody should have told me earlier that criminal law was so simple: no gun, no crime.
What do arson, robbery, larceny, burglary, destruction of property and financial misconduct have in common? They can all ruin lives. Oddly enough, none of them necessarily involve guns, and yet, that pesky last one — financial misconduct — is the only one not considered criminal. McClintock's doctrine is an arbitrary approach to crime. Our current system of law does not remotely support it. The federal government outlines many criminal activities that have nothing to do with guns. See above for examples.
More importantly, even if McClintock's statement were accurate, he would be using a questionable moral standard to evaluate criminal activities. It is unjust to arbitrarily target activities involving a certain object (in this case, guns) and mark them off as the only form of crime. Crime is not simply about guns, finance, money or any one specific object or idea at all. Crime is when human rights and freedom have been infringed upon unethically and intentionally.
If we're going to be logical in how we compare two crimes, we can refer to social reformer and philosopher Jeremy Bentham. Most of the crimes I mentioned earlier like arson and robbery involve unlawfully taking, destroying, or transferring property. Wall Street swindled the American people out of billions of dollars, which cost our economy trillions.
The important question when analyzing crime is one of intent, not of guns. There are a variety of laws outlining financial crimes that have an obvious scent of malicious intent. However, upon distinguishing between financial misconduct and financial crimes, we consider the financial crisis.
In the end, McClintock's point is neither philosophical nor legal. It is political, and should not be taken seriously. All one has to do is examine the donors from the financial sector who pour billions into the pockets on both sides of the aisle. McClintock is simply hiding from those who sign his paycheck. A move to punish Wall Street is akin to political suicide.However, politicians must prove they're not puppets, and are capable of meaningfully responding to Wall Street as it brought this nation to its knees while nobody responsible went to jail.