Ethan Couch

Earlier this week, a 16 year old admitted spoiled brat pleaded guilty to stealing four cases of beer with his friends, and then driving his big-assed pickup truck drunk and crashing into a parked car, killing four people in said car. I guess his drunken friends partying in the bed of the truck were so plowed they were relaxed enough to avoid fatal injury.  The Tarrant County(Fort Worth) prosecutor wanted 20 years in prison. The brat’s parents, however, had hired a good defense attorney and psychologist who convinced the judge that the poor baby was suffering from “affluenza” and just couldn’t help himself, so he deserved a $450,000 treatment program, paid for by his parents, instead of a couple of years in the clink before having the chance to go on parole.

What is affluenza? Essentially, it’s being the child of rich parents who never set limits and let the child do whatever he wants whenever he wants. IOW, it’s being a rich, spoiled brat, as this story in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram describes in depth. The legal experts in that particular article scoffed at the notion of the affluenza defense catching on, but in the same issue an editorial says the people of Tarrant County should trust that the long-tenured judge knew what she was doing. 

That made me wonder. My darker, cynical side immediately suspected we could be seeing a lot more of this I-can’t-help-myself-because-of-my-family’s-wealth defense, and yup, there it is. The USA Today has an article describing “conflicting views” on the future of the affluenza defense, but there’s little doubt that well-heeled families will be hiring defense attorneys in the future to do just that in order to keep their precious Jr or III or Buffy or Paris out of jail.

But wait! Think of the possibilities! Why, affluenza could explain why our elected representatives just can’t help themselves in giving away public assets to private interests. The Governor of Michigan isn’t a cold-hearted capitalist bastard wanting to sell off the Detroit Museum of Art and strip pensions away from city workers; poor baby, he’s just suffering from affluenza. The Wall Street bankers who wrecked the economy with their compulsive gambling aren’t really greedy, they just have affluenza. No big deal; we should feel sorry for them, not feel like building guillotines.

Not that this is a new concept, not at all. When the old landed aristocracy still ran things, the aristocrats could do just about anything they pleased to their serfs and the peasants and usually get away with it. They wrote and enforced the laws, after all. Later, when industrialization led to the rise of the bourgeoisie, they felt the same aristocratic standard should apply to them in relation to their employees, and they still do.

Meanwhile, rest assured that some kid in the ghetto or working class suburb whose daddy either left or was imprisoned, who was allowed to run wild by his overworked single mom, and steals his mom’s car to go on a joy ride and kills somebody will definitely be locked up for a long time, if the police don’t just shoot him on the spot. The double standard of justice is glaring.

Anyway, aristocratic privilege is alive and well in America, land of the free and home of the brave. It just has a new, maybe even politically correct, psychobabble name in this age of  lying marketing. Stay tuned, you’ll see more of this.

And have a nice night.