Persuasive Doesn’t Mean Complete

I didn’t comment on the recent hate crimes legislation considered by Congress that would’ve included sexual orientation because I hadn’t considered it enough to have anything intelligent to add to my previous thoughts. I’m not saying what I wrote earlier is correct or the final stance I’ll have. I just hadn’t thought about it more.

While Congress considered the recent bill, Kip posted an interesting analysis based on gambling courts and how criminal justice punishes the same crimes differently based on the circumstances. I’m not wholly convinced, although I admit I can’t clarify exactly why. I’m beyond the simplistic view that such laws punish thought, but I’m still not ready to commit to embracing such legislation. I will say that, as long as we have such legislation at the local, state, and federal levels, sexual orientation should be included in every hate crimes law.

That’s a long way of introducing today’s column by George Will, which is about hate crime laws.

Hate-crime laws are indignation gestures. Legislators federalize the criminal law in order to use it as a moral pork barrel to express theatrical empathy. They score points in the sentiment competition by conferring special government concern for more and more particular groups.

That seems mostly correct to me on its surface, but it improves when considering Mr. Will’s opening statement.

Political entrepreneurship involves devising benefits to excite or mollify niche constituencies.

Politicians govern out of a degenerate self-interest rather than an adherence to the Constitution. This is our most significant political problem, and I don’t see anything in the recent debate over this legislation (i.e. President Bush’s threatened veto) to suggest otherwise. That’s getting in the way of the real debate. We should discuss hate crime laws, but not be afraid to accept that, if hate crime laws make sense, any and every hate-motivated crime should be included. If they make sense, we should apply those laws with a fair and equal hand.