While Gene is on the lam, I'll give some props to Lew Rockwell's recent article, "Prison Nation." Did you folks realize that the U.S. has a higher rate of incarceration than Cuba? Did you know the U.S. government locks up more Americans than the Chinese communists lock up Chinese?
To deal with the objection that we need government prisons to keep crime down, Rockwell ends with this wonderful quote from Robert Ingersoll:
The world has been filled with prisons and dungeons, with chains and whips, with crosses and gibbets, with thumb-screws and racks, with hangmen and headsmen – and yet these frightful means and instrumentalities and crimes have accomplished little for the preservation of property or life. It is safe to say that governments have committed far more crimes than they have prevented. As long as society bows and cringes before the great thieves, there will be little ones enough to fill the jails.
Back in grad school I embraced pacifism mostly for religious reasons. But now that I view the world from that viewpoint, I see all sorts of confirming evidence that a punitive "justice" system, especially when run by governments, is counterproductive.
This is a bit tangential, but let me share the following experience. When we lived in Brooklyn after I left teaching (and so I was in between jobs), my wife and I were trying to find a cheap apartment. We looked at a place way way uptown, I think it was actually in Harlem.
The police there were not the friends of the residents. They were quite literally an occupying force. The ones patrolling on foot looked at passersby with threat assessment, rather than, "How can I be your public servant today, Mr. Employer?" Of course the cops who work in that area could tell you horrifying stories to explain that attitude, but the fact remains that that was the attitude.
We were crossing a major street and a cop car zoomed past. It pulled a really quick U turn and got into the other lane, going the other way. It was an incredibly dangerous maneuver; there were pedestrians all over the place. They didn't even bother turning their lights on.
The people knew to get the hell out of the way. One older guy just sort of whistled, "Wheeeew!" when the car flew by.
Some people reading this might think, "What the heck is your point? They didn't hit anyone, right?" I'm telling you, if a cop car had done that in the suburb where I grew up, in a comparably crowded street littered with pedestrians, somebody's outraged mom would have called the sheriff and bitten his head off. I'm not saying anybody would have been formally disciplined, but I bet the driver would've had a talking-to.
I don't think anybody in Harlem bothered complaining about unsafe officer driving.
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