Michael Hicks

Michael Hicks, Bureau of Business Research

The essential basis of an economy is trust. As the founding father of economics, Adam Smith noted an economy “... can seldom flourish in any state in which there is not a certain degree of confidence in the justice of government.” Our modern world subsists almost wholly on a high degree of trust in the justice and capacity of government, business and households.

Thus, among the many crimes committed by the insurrectionists of Jan. 6, 2021, was a full-fledged attack on the American economy. It was an assault upon the “confidence in the justice of government” not only by a few tens of thousands of protesters, but among far too many elected officials, including members of Congress and the president. It is they who must reckon with an event whose lawlessness demands terse retelling.

On Jan. 6, 2021, our Congress and vice president met to fulfill a solemn, if mostly symbolic, constitutional duty to certify election results from states. Outside, on the streets of our Capitol, the president caused to assemble a crowd of many tens of thousands. This angry crowd was fueled by dozens of political groups and members of Congress. These people were carefully groomed for weeks to believe the Big Lie, that the 2020 election was fraudulent or stolen.

Nearly every elected official of the Republican Party participated in this Big Lie. For many, the support amounted to no more than what first seemed a banal statement about electoral fraud. For others, including the president, a dozen senators and two-thirds of the House, it was a full-throated, unambiguous, immoral and deeply anti-American falsehood.

Filled with the deceptiveness of this Big Lie, stoked by the fiery rhetoric of the president, this crowd attacked Congress. They stormed the physical center of American democracy with calls to kill the vice president and members of Congress. They paraded both Nazi and Confederate flags through the halls of Congress, something Hitler’s generals could never imagine. They disgustingly tore down Old Glory, replacing it with a Trump banner. They hunted members of Congress, stole classified information and defecated upon the walls of Congress. Meanwhile, others amused themselves by bludgeoning a dying police officer with the American flag. This was not a protest, nor was it an accident. In the words of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, it was sedition and insurrection.

The U.S. election of 2020 was not fraudulent or stolen. Every elected Republican leader knew this when they awoke on Jan. 6. They knew it in November, and they know it now. Some Hoosiers, like Vice President Pence, Sen. Young and Rep. Bucshon backed away from the Big Lie and its anti-American message before the insurrection started. Against what we now know were threats of terrorism they fulfilled their duty and oath of office. Others scurried away from the Big Lie only after Congress was stormed.

But, amid the stench-filled, bloody and battered Halls of Congress, four Hoosiers were among the more than 100 members of Congress who voted to sustain the Big Lie. They must now explain how this vote was consistent with their oath to support and defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic. I do not believe they can do so convincingly.

As I write, the assault on our republic and our economy continues. Due to this insurrection, nearly a full infantry division has been deployed to defend the Capitol. This is the result of the Big Lie and the inability of the Republican Party to confront the historic lawlessness of President Trump. It is time to do so, and make clear to every American citizen of the historic danger this insurrection brought to our nation.

Now, I don’t wish to draw any false equivalence between this insurrection and other dark days in American history. When compared to 9/11, Nixon’s resignation or Pearl Harbor, this insurrection is a far graver risk to our Constitution. The Big Lie brought to Washington, D.C., a violent mob, a president and members of Congress willing to sustain a pernicious and vividly obvious lie to thwart a peaceful transfer of power. Not since Gettysburg has our Constitution been more at risk.

It is too early to judge the damage this insurrection has done to our economy. The dark forces that assembled a crowd to attack the Capitol remain among us, damaging “confidence in the justice of government.” No one understands the risk to our economy better than American businesses. Rarely, if ever, has the America’s private sector responded as quickly and forcefully as they have done so this week.

Those who propagated lies about the election find themselves shedding financial supporters. Eli Lilly, Walmart and General Motors have all suspended support for those who voted against the certification of the 2020 election. More will follow suit, eviscerating future political campaigns. A number of insurrectionist groups, masquerading as conservative organizations, will disappear in the weeks to come. America’s businesses are keenly aware that our Constitution provides the platform for free commerce.

Likewise, those platforms of insurrection on social media find themselves unwelcomed from the marketplaces that enabled their communications. Those who stoke insurrection find themselves without access to social media accounts. The same Constitution that protects their right to speak does not obligate the rest of us to do business with them. They deserve the same commercial consideration an al-Qaida propogandist or Joseph Goebbels would receive — none.

I am guardedly hopeful we can contain the economic fallout of this insurrection. It comes at a difficult time, with the nation battered by a global recession and pandemic.

The best way to limit damage is to punish traitors and demand that those who spread the Big Lie renounce their dishonesty. We must acknowledge that the Constitution — not race, ethnicity or religion — must be central to our identity as an American. And finally, we must all acknowledge the results of a just and fair election that brought Joe Biden into office. We must also never forget this terror-fueled attack on the United States of America and its aim to damage “confidence in the justice of government.”

Michael J. Hicks, Ph.D., is director of the Center for Business and Economic Research and a professor of economics at Ball State University. Contact him at cberdirector@bsu.edu

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