This Affluenza Bullshit

 Topic: This Affluenza Bullshit

Most of you probably remember the kid who did not have to go to jail for killing four people because his lawyer argued that he was too wealthy to “do well in prison.”  It actually worked. Let’s talk about this for a moment, because he is not the only rich kid who failed to understand that doing bad things makes bad things happen to you.

First of all, nobody does well in prison. It’s fucking prison. The whole point is to make you as miserable as possible so you do not break the law again. (Whether or not this works is actually addressed in the essay “The Distinction Between Justice and Vengeance,” found elsewhere in this book.) It is supposed to suck. It will not suck worse for him just becaue his parents are rich. Humans need to pay the consequences for our actions in order to evolve into better people. Depriving him of those consequences is not doing him any favors; he will never learn that drunk driving is wrong and you should not do it. I guarantee he will do it again, having learned nothing.

The American criminal justice system is skewed heavily in favor of the wealthy. Most crimes are punishable by fine, meaning that if you have enough money, you can basically do anything you want and then throw money at the consequences until they go away. A good criminal defense lawyer costs more than the average person can afford, so access to justice is limited to those with money. (Public defenders are a joke: overworked and underpaid, their only tactic seems to be offering a plea bargain.) So we have “affluenza:” the inability of rich people to understand the consequences of their actions. Although the term was coined later to refer to my first example, the kid who went to Singapore and committed both theft and vandalism, but received a lighter sentence because the poor thing did not realize it was such a big deal there and had no idea what the punishment was, is pretty much suffering from this same made-up affliction.

Here is why this is bullshit, and why it matters. Everyone, even chimpanzees and rats, can learn to understand that actions have consequences. It is well-established behavioral science. If your parents chose never to teach you accountability, it is the fault of your parents, not their money. They are just horrible parents.

I even have a solution to this problem: A mandatory test you must pass before you are allowed to reproduce. This test would be available everywhere, for free, and would ask questions about how you plan to raise your child, and whether or not you believe in basic concepts like fairness and personal responsibility. It will ask if you can afford to support the child financially, and of course we would assist those who could not, but if you have too much money, you have to answer extra questions about your views on consequences and using money to get out of trouble. If you get accidentally pregnant, failing the test would mean you gave up your right to raise your child and had to hand it over to somebody who knows what the hell they are doing. It may sound a little harsh, but I know of at least two women who should never have borne children, especially to the men they were with. We need to be a little more judicious on where our next generation is coming from. I am not talking about eugenics; it has nothing to do with genetics on any level. It is down to your character and how you see the world. Racial diversity is essential, as it helps maintain a more robust system.We need a multi-cultural, ethnically diverse but most importantly benevolent generation, raised by parents who agree not to do stupid shit like let them get away with anything or beat the hell out of them for no reason.

We also need to stop expecting teachers to raise our children. If your kid has behavioral issues, it is your responsibility to teach him how to be a better person, not his teacher’s. Just like most public defenders, most public school teachers are overworked, with more students than they can handle, as well as underpaid; they do not have the time to deal with half a dozen kids who just cannot behave. I do maintain that there should be a mandatory class in every high school that teaches basic skills like cooking, cleaning, sorting your laundry, caring for a baby, maintaining a bank account, and filing your taxes. I know that some schools offer some of those skills, usually in elective classes that end up being mostly made up of girls. But it is clearly not enough; we are thrusting kids into adulthood with inadequate preparation, and it shows. But the concept of personal accountability starts at home, not in the classroom.

If everyone was held equally accountable for their actions, and made to suffer real consequences when they do harm, we would be living in a much more civilized society.


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