This is a transcript of my comments on the air on Saturday afternoon (August 10, 2019), with the news of Jeffrey Epstein's death being initially reported.
One of the most useful concepts that I learned in school, specifically in economics, was "ceteris paribus". Now what that means is "all else being equal"; and in my mind, we need the phrase because all other things aren't equal. They just aren't ever.
All else being equal, I like it drizzly and 65 degrees, but I don't want it that way at the Fair.
All else being equal, I would rather eat candy than Brussels sprouts, but not when I'm having a steak for dinner.
All else being equal, I want fewer cars parked around the fairgrounds so I don't have to walk as far, but not if it means nobody comes and they shut down the Fair.
So all else isn't equal. It's never always equal.
Ceteris paribus, all other things being equal, yeah, the world is better off without a person like Jeffrey Epstein in it. Certainly, if he is guilty of all the things of which he is accused -- and that list wasn't getting shorter, it was getting longer and longer and it suggested heinous crimes against children, some of the most reprehensible things that you could possibly imagine people doing at the expense of other human beings. Vulnerable human beings.
But here's the thing: The world is better off without a person like that, but not if it comes at the expense of justice. And it's not better off, necessarily, if it excuses a failure to keep him alive in prison.
I do not ever like to hear about a prisoner being killed, because I know that there are innocent people who are in prisons now. That doesn't mean I think they're all innocent, not by a long shot. But I know that in a just society, we say "Well, there's the chance that somebody could be wrongly accused and wrongfully convicted." We know it's happened. That's why I'm fundamentally uncomfortable with the death penalty, even if there are people who I think deserve it for sure. But I'm not comfortable with it, because if we make mistakes, we have to account for the fact that we make mistakes and it is probably better for ninety-nine guilty people to go free than for one innocent person to be punished -- or certainly be put to death.
So I don't want to see anybody dying in prison. I don't think that's acceptable, and I don't think as a society we should be OK with that.
He should have been -- and I thought was -- on suicide watch, so that shouldn't have happened.
And it's not OK if this departure from this Earth for Jeffrey Epstein means that there are a million conspiracy theories that emerge out of it. I've already seen a million conspiracy theories already popping up on some social media. There are people who, of course, now want it to be a Clinton conspiracy -- which, by the way, if they were that good at conspiracies, how come she didn't win the Presidency? Come on, get your story straight.
And then there are people on the other side saying it's a Trump conspiracy. Oh, for crying out loud, people. Fundamentally, the question is: Are people safe, wherever they go? And the thing is, we shouldn't be OK with people dying in prison, no matter of what causes.
That's not OK, and certainly not if this denies his victims a chance to get some form of closure or resolution on their suffering. That isn't OK.
And it's not OK if this makes people callous about the idea of suicide. We can't let ourselves as Americans, as people, as civilized people in particular, get OK with being defined by the worst of those among us.
There are terrible people among us. There are awful people, doing terrible things. But by and large, I think most people are good. I remain resolute in my belief that ninety-nine out of a hundred people are fundamentally decent, good, and trying to do their best -- typically, doing the best they can for themselves and their families, and oftentimes for the people around them.
They are generally, I think most of us, good. One out of a hundred, maybe one out of two hundred, maybe even less than that, but let's just say for round numbers one out of a hundred, is a psychopath. One out of a hundred is a sociopath, one out of a hundred is out to hurt other people and has no remorse.
You know what? We should be able to lock them up. We should be sure that they are out of the way of the rest of society, not hurting other people. That's a healthy way for society to respond.
But it's unhealthy for us to assume that anything less than ninety-nine out of a hundred of us are just doing our best and are good people and deserve justice and deserve a system that works and deserve a system that says that if things go wrong against us, as much as we may want personal retribution, as much as you may want to personally choke the person who did something wrong to you, that you can trust that the justice system will find a way to punish them appropriately and deter other people from doing it.
And maybe, just maybe, sometimes we can actually reform the people who are in the system as well. And we should hope for that too.
If Jeffrey Epstein and his suicide takes away that option for those victims to get some kind of closure and some just resolution in what happened, that's not OK.
Ceteris paribus, all other things being equal, the world is better off with a guy like that not among us anymore. But not if it denies people the chance to see justice done and to get closure and to see resolution to their suffering.
We cannot let ourselves be defined by the worst among us. Nor is it healthy for anybody to start trafficking in the conspiracy theories, in the belief that "Whatever came to him was what he had coming to him". Well, maybe, but we didn't get to see the justice system work. And the process matters as much as the results.
You may even believe that he deserved the death penalty, but it still would have been better to see the process work, so that justice could be done transparently, openly, honestly -- where everybody could have seen it and where there was accountability, including accountability for people who aided and abetted him and who participated in the bad things that he did.
This denies us some of that opportunity to get true, just closure, and I'm just not OK with that.