Across South Carolina yesterday, headlines proclaimed an urgent desire on the part of the state’s so-called “business community” – led by the S.C. Chamber of Commerce – to put Palmetto lawmakers to work on its top agenda item for the 2021-2022 legislative session.
Is it long-overdue tax relief? Reductions in oppressive fees and fines? The elimination of job-killing regulations and onerous government mandates?
No … none of that.
“South Carolina business leaders want a hate crimes bill this year,” The Greenville News blared.
“Walmart and other companies push for SC hate crime law,” headlined The (Columbia, S.C.) State.
“South Carolina companies to lawmakers: Pass hate crime bill,” observed The Associated Press in a recap that was featured prominently on the pages of The (Charleston, S.C.) Post and Courier.
Wait a minute … am I missing something?
Businesses in South Carolina have been absolutely rocked by the impact of the coronavirus pandemic and its subsequent societal shutdowns. Am I really to believe this is the first item on their agenda coming out of the downturn?
My news outlet has covered this issue before, but the push to pass a state-level hate crimes bill has clearly begun in earnest. Should it, though? After lawmakers spent the first month of their session passing a state-level abortion ban (one that was blocked by the feds before it was even signed), is the S.C. General Assembly’s next move really going to be the passage of a duplicative statute that seeks to criminalize thought?
Do lawmakers not have anything more pressing on their plates?
Apparently not …
On one level, I get it. It’s hip to be “woke.” To signal our “virtue.” To condemn the easily condemnable – and to receive plaudits and front-page banner headlines from the media for doing so. That takes zero thought or effort – as does canceling anyone who dares to utter so much as a syllable of common sense opposition to the prevailing “herdthink.”
But as a small business owner in the Palmetto State – one who recently began signing the fronts of people’s paychecks – I must dissent.
First, as mentioned, this legislation is duplicative. The federal government already has expansive hate crime statutes on its books (18 U.S. Code § 249). Also, as the case of convicted white supremacist murderer Dylann Roof made abundantly clear, federal charges preempt state charges – especially in high-profile cases.
Why pass a law only to see the federal government trump it with its own statute?
Duplicative charges filed by multiple jurisdictions for the same offenses make no sense – and raise real sovereignty questions. More practically, they require the appropriation of large amounts of law enforcement and prosecutorial resources that could be devoted elsewhere.
I’m not saying hate crimes don’t exist. They do. In an editorial following the deadly assault against the Tree of Life – Or L’Simcha synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in October 2018, this news outlet made its position on them abundantly clear.
“Targeting people on the basis of race, faith … or any other reason … is abhorrent. Evil. And yes, hateful.”
But hate is not a crime unless/ until it manifests itself via the violation of another person’s life, liberty or property. When hatred compels someone (anyone) to act in such a manner, it becomes a criminal act – irrespective of what its underlying motivations were. Or who was targeted by the hate.
We also need to remember this is not a one-way street. Those who call out “hatred” in one case but ignore it in another are definitional hypocrites.
Oh, and not all “hate crimes” are created equal …
I’ve often written that “crime is crime” and that some degree of hate is required for the commission of most violent crimes. Adding superfluous charges in the hopes of criminalizing the thought processes that ostensibly led to their commission strikes me as silly – to say nothing of creating a slippery slope to, well, criminalizing thought.
More to the point … since when did this become the top priority of the “business community” in South Carolina?
The last time I checked, South Carolina businesses cared more about the anti-competitive state and local taxes foisted upon them by their “Republican-controlled” legislature – taxes which continue to hold them back on a daily basis when it comes to providing jobs and incomes to all Palmetto residents.
South Carolina has the highest income tax in the southeast. And one of the highest sales taxes. On top of that, its gas and vehicle taxes are incredibly regressive.
Where is the S.C. Chamber on these pressing issues? Making matters worse, that’s where.
In addition to fixing the state’s inequitable, anti-competitive tax code, South Carolina businesses also want their leaders to stop blowing money on crony capitalist giveaways and command economic boondoggles – as well as perpetually rewarding failed bureaucracies (including the nation’s worst government-run school system).
They also want the government to stop over-regulating them – especially now that the worst of the Covid-19 ravages are behind us.
Is this really so complicated?
It is certainly admirable to take a stand for justice. And to condemn racism as a moral evil. But to presume that passing superfluous, state-level hate crime legislation is going to help effectuate justice or eliminate racism in South Carolina is naïve. And to presume such duplicative legislation is the top priority of businesses in the Palmetto State is downright delusional.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR …
Will Folks is the founding editor of the news outlet you are currently reading.
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