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“With a law such as this, enforced only against the poor or honest man and violated with impunity by every rich scoundrel and every corrupt politician , the machine did indeed seem to have its yoke on the neck of the people.” — Theodore Roosevelt
Theodore Roosevelt made this statement during a speech while he was president of New York City’s police commission during the 1890s. He was speaking about a law forbidding the sale of alcoholic drinks on Sundays. Prior to his tenure, it had been largely ignored. But it was ignored at a price. Saloon keepers and bar owners paid off local officials. Not just with money, but with political support. The only time the law was enforced was against political opponents of those in office or those too honest to pay bribes.
Roosevelt had the law strictly enforced. He was not opposed to the sale of alcohol on Sunday. He was opposed to allowing its sale illegally. He viewed it as a law that had to be enforced, whether he approved or disapproved of the law. If the people wished to purchase alcohol on Sunday, let the legislature repeal the unpopular law. In his view, to ignore laws led to contempt for the law and opened the door to corruption — where laws could be used to punish the disfavored.
The wisdom of his position can be seen today, nearly a century and a quarter after Roosevelt made this speech. It is obvious the laws are being enforced unequally. The privileged can ignore them with impunity, while the disfavored feel its wrath. Corrupt politicians use unequal enforcement of the law as a tool to control the public, as if the American public were medieval serfs rather than citizens of a free society. We can see 2020 as an attempt by the elite to restore feudalism with them in the role of the nobility, and the patents of nobility being the credentials of the credentialed class — degrees from the appropriate “special” universities.Published in