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March 17, 2014

Comments

Absolutely. Shameful. Some day, decades from now, when this is a historical period to be studied people will wonder what the hell we were doing maintaining such barbarism while believing ourselves to be The City on the Hill, the beacon of freedom.

State. Federal.

And of course, the invaluable wikki.

Links for all.

At $30,000/year we could release a lot of these folks, pay them the $30,000/yr. for the balance of their sentence (with extensions for good behavior), and admonish them to sin no more.

The prison guards could be put to work building something other than prisons, the capital costs of which, I believe, are not captured in that number.

Socialize the profits, privatize the costs. That's the way to go. The reverse surely is a dismal failure.

The only prayer for reform is this:
- liberals hate the impact on minorities of current sentencing practices.
- conservatives hate the enormous cost of current sentencing practices.
- libertarians hate locking anybody up period.

On the other side,
- the commercial prison lobby is big and their financial lobbying clout is growing.
- most of the population thinks the crime rate is high and growing (even though it has been dropping for years).
- as a result, most politicians are extremely leary of being labeled as "soft on crime."

Eventually, the conservative distaste for the cost of out growing-out-of-control prisons system will overcome their determination to be "tough on crime." Eventually, but probably not real soon.

I'm pretty much for a progressive decriminalization and legalization of drugs for philosophical reasons. So there's that.

But practically, prison time for drug use is crushing an entire segment of the population into the cycle of poverty. It's atrocious.

Drug crime is ubiquitous, but the prison burden rests primarily on the poor that can't afford a decent lawyer.

Even after prison, they are saddled with restitution, have difficulty finding work, locking them into poverty. If they are a parent, their children lose parents for years, and even if returned eventually, are stuck in poverty.

If they end up in foster care...that's not great either. I've only met a few people that went through foster care. Every single one of them had awful experiences.

Lost economic productivity from the prisoners. Grim obstacles for their children. All to ban drugs. Which are readily available despite the costs and encroachments of the DEA.

Drug crime is one more excuse to violate individual rights:

http://www.popehat.com/2013/11/07/what-is-the-quantum-of-proof-necessary-for-police-to-rape-and-torture-you-in-new-mexico/

On top of it all, prisons are expensive, guards are expensive. It's money we don't have and should be spending better.

Not to mention the ancillary crime caused by the drug trade. In the US and in other countries. We could gut the mexican cartels by making drugs legal in the US. We could remove a primary revenue source for violent gangs.

Our "war on drugs" isn't just atrocious. It's stupid. It's damaging to the country. It's a level of moral and economic masochism that defies belief.

And, sorry for the rant.
Specific suggestions:
Progressively decriminalize and than legalize drugs.
Defund the DEA
Reform the plea bargain system

libertarians hate locking anybody up period.

That's not actually true though, is it?

I mean, the biggest libertarian in the House, Ron Paul, has spend decades in Congress and has produced no significant legislation on reducing incarceration. Nada. Zip. Zilch. The same is true for Rand Paul in the Senate. The biggest libertarian donors, the Koch brothers? They've done nothing on these issues. They've got billions of dollars and they've spent zero of them working on prison issues.

The Koch brothers spend money on things they actually care about. They're happy to spend millions of dollars on a cancer research center at MIT because they care about cancer research. They spend zero dollars on prison reform because they don't care about those issues.

Libertarian voters may talk about prison reform, but they don't actually care because the libertarian politicians they keep electing don't care.

Well we de-criminalized pot out here in the Soviet of Washington. So maybe our incarceration rate will drop. An interesting phenomenon: some of the old time pot heads are continuing to grow and sell outside the law because they have an outlaw mentality. They don't want to go legit after all the years of feeling like outsiders. Its too much like going respectable or maybe they don't want to deal with the bureaucracy.
,

Eventually, the conservative distaste for the cost of out growing-out-of-control prisons system will overcome their determination to be "tough on crime."

You forget the other way out, an old favorite on the Right:
More death sentences with a heavily curtailed appeals system. It's the appeals that drive the cost up, so it has been an old demand to get rid of them. Plus, prisons are (from that POV) still far too comfy (free food, shelter and medical care and no real coercion to hard life-shortening labor). I have heard opinions that any prison where the inmates would not prefer to get executed is far too lenient. And there are still too many restrictions on medical experiments without consent on inmates (selling their organs would also provide some extra revenue). May take some time to get rid of the surplus but it will reliably put the US in #1 place again there. White collar business and political crimes are of course to be exempted. This is a Kristian(TM) nation after all.

Our "broken and dysfunctional corrections system" is fed by a broken and dysfunctional legal system, which enforces laws created by a broken and dysfunctional legislative/executive system. It's broken and dysfunctional all the way down.

I would compare our government to a computer running an old OS, which hasn't been rebooted in ages. Memory leaks have accumulated, every application you ever tried is still running in the background, and even if it was a decent OS when it came out, all it's exploits are well known, so your computer is just lousy will viruses and malware. We're desperately in need of a reboot. But, how to get a clean reboot, when the system is already corrupted? A difficult question.

"I mean, the biggest libertarian in the House, Ron Paul, has spend decades in Congress and has produced no significant legislation on reducing incarceration."

Ron produced very little legislation, period. The leadership hate him so much that essentially every bill he ever introduced died in committee, without ever getting a floor vote. You ARE talking about a guy whose own party has encouraged people to run against him, after all.

Turb, I think it's more that libertarians have higher priorities. Just because they hate locking people up doesn't mean that reforming the sentencing system is their #1. (See also Brett's comment just above.)

I'd generally agree with thompson. Except I would add "futile/unwinable" to the list of reasons to get rid of the War on Drugs.

And the other thing that we need to seriously re-think it the Three Strikes laws. Grant, for the sake of discussion, the desirability of removing career criminals (i.e. those who will never change) from the streets. Even so, as implemented it is way too broad a net that is being cast. For openers, what constitutes a "felony" is a pretty broad category -- even after you eliminate all the drug offenses.

Eventually, the conservative distaste for the cost of out growing-out-of-control prisons system will overcome their determination to be "tough on crime."

i doubt it.

being "tough" is apparently a big part of a good "conservative's" public personae. gotta be tough on crime, terrorist, poor people, kids, people who look at you funny, etc..

Judging by behavior, another part of being a conservative is using tax dollars to fund private businesses, particularly if such funding has the effect of destroying good paying jobs. Much of the appeal of private prison is that they are non union. Supposed to be cheaper for the tax payer, but we actually get less for our investment since when you go private your taxes pay for profit, lobbying, big administrative salaries and the loss of good paying union jobs which has a negative effect on the local economy.

Laura, I think you need to distinguish between fiscal conservatives and various other kinds. For fiscal conservatives, spending government money, even on private businesses, is still a bad thing. For others, there are other priorities, of course.

But fiscal conservatives, in that sense, are a significant portion. In fact I would say that, along with social conservatives (who want government to do lots of stuff, albeit mostly not stuff that involves spending money . . . except on enforcement), they make up the bulk of the conservative voters.

Contrast Texas with a Republican governor, where prison populations have been reduced enough to close a prison, and California with a Democrat governor where the prisons are bursting at the seams.

Prison guard unions also lobby for measures that will keep prison populations high.

I realize that there is a diversity of ideas. But I'm looking at actual policies that get implemented. You are correct about prison guards having a stake inkeeping prisons open. One of the sad facts out our prison economy is that prisons in some states have been built in ares as a boost tot he local economy. That's the case in Washington where rural prisons are the main support of rural economies. They are in fact a replacement for the timber industry.

@ CharlesWT, check this: http://www.californiaprogressreport.com/site/californias-radical-de-incarceration-experiment

Contrast Texas with a Republican governor, where prison populations have been reduced enough to close a prison, and California with a Democrat governor where the prisons are bursting at the seams.

This claim set off my bullshit meter. Sure enough, it's bullshit.

"Democrat governor"

Does this thing have a spelling function?

So after stealing our precious effing tax dollars all of these decades to imprison as many Americans of certain classes as possible, while doing their best to minimize punishment for white-collar crime AND demonize faggot soft-on-crime, politically correct "Democrat" politicians, who themselves are useless in their inability to tell their opponents to STFU, the big swinging d*cks in the Republican Party, having cut taxes and revenue, discover the lying, stinking, f*cking error of their ways and now chop their own d*cks down to size to spite their straight faces.

I guess we're all Progressives now.

This is an interesting and important discussion, IMO.

From a libertarian perspective (my own at least) I would say that a large part of the problem is that more government = more laws. I'm sure that the attorneys here would agree that there are now so many laws carrying the possibility for jail/prison for violation that almost every citizen in the country is in jeopardy of doing time. Don't believe that? Well, I'll bet you can't quote all of the laws out there that are addressing your behaviors; not in this life time any how.

The fact is that there are volumes on top of volumes of these laws between the federal and local levels of government. Government rarely takes such a law off the books. The trend seems to be to make the penalties stiffer and to add new laws.

That said, I think we would really need to do a thorough breakdown of the violations for which citizens are serving time. Drugs at 20% or so, yes. And this is largely stupid. What of the other 80%? If these are largely violent offenders then the problem is not so much the penal system and law makers, but something in our culture.I don't have time at the moment to do the research, but I'm sure someone will.

Agreed totally that prison is a brutal hellish experience to the point where being sentenced to doing time probably should fall under cruel and unusual punishment. How is getting raped and/or shanked just punishment? It's sick.

Only recently a judge got sentenced to a long stay in prison for a longterm quid pro quo with a private prison company to 'keep their beds filled' by sending juveniles there (hundreds of them over the years). It would be an unwise bet to think that he is/was the only one in the country doing stuff like that.
Btw, how many prisons get built 'in expectation' and then have to justify the investment? Or shorter: what role does 'demand creation' play here.

If these are largely violent offenders then the problem is not so much the penal system and law makers, but something in our culture.

Lead levels aside, the more we leave those at the bottom of the economic scale to fend for themselves, as many current policy prescriptions tend to do, the more they will fend for themselves.

Beyond that, even if we assume 20% are in prison for non-violent drug offenses, how many more violent offenders are produced for the next go-around, be they the same people who went to criminal college while in prison for drugs or their less-parented children?

(And who's this "Shirt" person, anyway? I'm watching you, pal....)

Btw, the length of the penal code is not necessarily an indicator for the flow of incarceration. My guess is that an overwhelming majority of sentences are based on just a handful of laws.

(And who's this "Shirt" person, anyway? I'm watching you, pal....)

Indeed. A solid drive by response to a typical ChasWT drive by comment.

"Lead levels aside, the more we leave those at the bottom of the economic scale to fend for themselves, as many current policy prescriptions tend to do, the more they will fend for themselves."

I tend to agree, but there are highly complicated and much debated sociological issues at play in that stew.

I see that there was indeed a link to wikki at the beginning of the thread by bobbyp that breaks out by violent/non-violent incarcerations. I would think the immediate opportunity here lies with the non-violent class.

"Btw, the length of the penal code is not necessarily an indicator for the flow of incarceration"

Maybe, maybe not. The data would tell.

I'll bet you can't quote all of the laws out there that are addressing your behaviors

In short, there are enough laws on the books that everybody is guilty of violating some of them. (And that's ignoring the speed limits, which practically everybody violates routinely. The speed limit on freeways here is 70. The CHP officers I know say that their threshold for stopping someone for speeding is . . . 83 -- too many tickeets otherwise.)

And what that means is, whether you get charged depends at least as much on who you irritate as on what you actually have done. Let me anticipate Brett by saying that this is an indication of something seriously wrong in our legal system.

Seriously wrong from the perspective of the ruled, seriously right from the perspective of the rulers. To quote Ayn Rand,

“There's no way to rule innocent men. The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren't enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws.”

The key point here, is that, while the system is broken and dysfunctional from the standpoint of the citizen, the ruled, it is getting better and better from the standpoint of the rulers. The interests of the citizen, and those running the government, are at odds, and the government is gradually, (Not so gradually anymore.) adjusting everything to be more to it's liking.

We're sliding into a police state, and we're already more of a police state than most people want to face.

I'm glad to see for Shirt's link that California is making efforts to reduce prison populations. Especially that of juveniles. But they still have a federal court order hanging over their heads due to overcrowding.

I don't see anything in bobbyp's link to contradict what I said. Perhaps I missed it.

There would be fewer people in prisons if the local jurisdictions that put people there had to pick up part or all of the tab for keeping there.

I would think the immediate opportunity here lies with the non-violent class.

Yes. The only thing I was trying to add was that doing something today to reduce the numbers of non-violent prisoners may well also be doing something to reduce the numbers of violent criminals/prisoners tomorrow, which is above and beyond the immediate benefits.

Indeed. A solid drive by response to a typical ChasWT drive by comment.

I was thinking more about the handle, which could be seen as a shorthand for mine. I'm just protecting my brand.

Well, that's true to a point, Brett, but you need to remember that we're a representative republic, and "ruler" and "ruled" are fungible categories. And a lot of the ruled are all too keen on aligning themselves with the class of their peers who are the primary pool of rulers, and - like the zero-sum game it isn't - view things as better for themselves simply because things have gotten worse for some Others around them. To meet your quote with another quote:

In its majestic equality, the law forbids rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges, beg in the streets and steal loaves of bread. -Anatole France

Sure, the system is broken, and sure, it hurts the citizenry at large. But pretending that it hurts everyone but some distinct and alien ruling class - let alone hurts them to the same degree - is laughable.

The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals.

so fucking stupid.

what part of my drive to work on public roads was made possible by cracking down on criminals?

I don't see anything in bobbyp's link to contradict what I said. Perhaps I missed it.

I didn't either, but didn't look too close. I did, however, use Ctrl-F to find the part on Texas:

Some of the most substantial prison reductions have taken place in conservative states like Texas, which reduced the number of inmates in its prisons by more than 5,000 in 2012. In 2007, when the state faced a lack of 17,000 beds for inmates, the State Legislature decided to change its approach to parole violations and provide drug treatment for nonviolent offenders instead of building more prisons.

I'd contrast that with the recent reductions in CA prisons which were ordered by a federal judge. The overcrowding was so bad there were 8th amendment issues. Recent news on the issue.

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/11/us/court-gives-california-more-time-to-ease-prison-crowding.html

Shirt's link seems to be fairly selective in the data it presents, and didn't give me an impression of the data found here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prisons_in_California

I think it's fair to say CA has a problem with prison overcrowding. I'm less familiar with Texas, but I'm going to go out on a limb and say it's probably too high. Oh, so it is:

http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2012/08/14/162208/texas-has-nations-largest-prison.html

I am, however, not interested in getting into whether "conservatives" or "liberals" are better at reducing prison populations.

Because its silly and meaningless. As wj pointed out, there is likely *broad* support for prison reform, and I don't just mean on this blog.

But I am struck by the number of comments that basically write off "libertarians" or "conservatives" or "liberals" as the problem, when the problem is we're locking up a significant portion of our population.

"And what that means is, whether you get charged depends at least as much on who you irritate as on what you actually have done."

Yep. That's the way it works - must work given all the laws that everyone is breaking. It's also why AAs are disproportionally represented in the prison population. They tend to commit violent crimes, which piss off everyone (since I'm sure racism in justice is going to be a hot topic here sooner or later). Vice, small time drugs and white collar crime not so much as long it's kept to a dull roar and behind closed doors. Bring it out onto the streets and you're likely to have a LE reaction.

"Yes. The only thing I was trying to add was that doing something today to reduce the numbers of non-violent prisoners may well also be doing something to reduce the numbers of violent criminals/prisoners tomorrow, which is above and beyond the immediate benefits."

Agreed to the extent that having a criminal record and associating with criminals induces a downward spiral of limited legal opportunity and a psychological habituation/acceptance of criminal activity due to immersion in that subculture. I don't know what that extent is.

"There would be fewer people in prisons if the local jurisdictions that put people there had to pick up part or all of the tab for keeping there. "

There is a lot of truth here. I have a business associate who is a retired detective (he used to work in a mid sized city) and a friend who is the sheriff in a semi-rural county. Both have noted to me in private conversations that federal dollars have altered the way they "police". A couple decades ago or so they used discretion concerning who they would arrest and for what (see my first paragraph here). Now with potential federal dollars on the line, the trend is to arrest as many as possible for whatever you can. Neither is happy with the arrangement. One is retired, of course and just observing and the other is trying to navigate the politics to do a job in a manner that he feels is fair and reasonable with his constituents in mind; not to mention his own conscience (he is a pretty good guy by nature).

Federal dollars, mandatory minimum sentencing, three strikes, etc. are all the work of big government and are all increasing the incarceration rate.

Prosecutors love mandatory minimum sentencing laws because they can use them as leverage for a plea bargain, avoiding the trouble of a trial. Also, they can use them to coerce arrestees into rolling over on someone else. Even if they have to pick them from a phonebook.

It's true that prison reform is popular. Let's just hope that it's still popular even though Eric Holder has some constructive ideas about it.

An interesting fact from the first article: "Although the federal prison system is larger than that of any single state, it holds only 10% of American prisoners."

The federal government can certainly do a lot with sentencing reform, but states governments bear much of the responsibility for prison conditions.

sapient:

Thanks for the links. Well worth the read. Pointing back to the concept of broad support:

The high cost of mass incarceration has attracted attention from both left and right. In March Rand Paul, a Republican senator, and Patrick Leahy, a Democratic one, introduced the Justice Safety-Valve Act of 2013, which would let judges impose sentences below the mandatory minimum. In July Mr Leahy, along with Dick Durbin and Mike Lee, a Democrat from Illinois and a Republican from Utah, introduced the Smarter Sentencing Act of 2013. It would, among other things, shorten mandatory minimums and expand the safety-valve.

I'd say Holder's proposals are a good step but don't go far enough. Not that that is his fault, action needs to come from congress.

Three strikes and you're out policy was not the work of big government, but rather in many cases the work of medium sized State government at the behest of grassroots militant citizenry, via initiatives to change State Constitutions.

I'll bet if I looked into it, I'd find the initiatives were placed on the ballots for the same reason anti-gay marriage initiatives were placed on ballots -- to get conservative white voters stoked to the polls to elect law and order Republicans.

Willie Horton.

I don't see anything in bobbyp's link to contradict what I said. Perhaps I missed it.

Your comment clearly implies that Texas is "doing a better job" of managing and/or reforming it's prison system and further imply it is in some way related to the party affiliation of their respective governors.

I might add there is no such thing as a "Democrat Party", so that marks you as a bullshit partisan right there.

But I digress. California's incarceration rate went off the charts starting in 1980 (see chart in link provided below). They spent a lot of money and built a lot of prisons. I'm sure wj can testify to that. Perhaps he could also give us some background on Prop 13 and how that hobbled state finances during that period. Also, California has reduced its prison population more than Texas has....though I'm not sure if the prisoners they have shipped to other states counts in that figure.

Texas seems to be reforming, but their incarceration rates are still quite high. See link below for a different take on the role of the Texas prison system.

Our current prison system disaster is a direct result of the conservative "War on Crimes Committed by (some) People. You know who these people are. At the same time our country decided that we should give all our money to rich people....leaving the rest of us to shoulder the burden of paying for all this stuff. That the People are highly resistant to paying higher taxes while taking home flat or reduced real wages should come as no surprise.

As everybody seems to be saying here, there are a lot of factors in play, but if you want to play the partisan blame game, well I'm more than willing.

da' links.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prisons_in_California

http://www.austinchronicle.com/news/2010-08-20/1070701/

Shirt's link seems to be fairly selective in the data it presents...

How so? I didn't see that in the wikki link you provided.*

*two can play this game.

Countme-In, "Three strikes and you're out policy was not the work of big government, but rather in many cases the work of medium sized State government at the behest of grassroots militant citizenry, via initiatives to change State Constitutions."

Who says "big government" is only federal? A state can have big government to, IMO.

Big Government:

noun
1.Derogatory chiefly (US) a form of government characterized by high taxation and public spending and centralization of political power
2.Government perceived as excessively interventionist and intruding into all aspects of the lives of its citizens.
3.Any political organization or bureaucracy led by Democrats*


* I jest, I jest on this last point - mostly any how ;-)


if big government does something at the behest of its citizens, how is the size of the government the issue?

isn't government *supposed* to be responsive to its citizens?

if its citizens want things that aren't such a good idea, and government *doesn't* do it, isn't that an unresponsive government?

and what does the size of government have to do with any of this?

my take on "three strikes" is that a lot of people wanted it, for reasons that have little to do with whether it is a useful or effective policy, and therefore we have it.

make law in haste, repent in leisure, to coin a phrase. but that doesn't mean we can't get rid of it now if we now consider it to be a bad policy.

I might add there is no such thing as a "Democrat Party", so that marks you as a bullshit partisan right there.

Mental slip. I didn't know it was even used as an epithet until I Googled it.

"if big government does something at the behest of its citizens, how is the size of the government the issue?

isn't government *supposed* to be responsive to its citizens?"

Only within certain strict limits.

Just because a sloppy drunk wants yet another drink (for the road), the responsible bartender doesn't get to set him up with a double and then hand him his car keys.

Nor should a lender sign off on a loan a prospective home buyer can't afford just because the home buyer wants it.

If 51% wants a law that says they get to rape and pillage the other 49%, they don't get to have that just because they want it.

If people want to do something about "crime" and they demand to throw their neighbors in prison for life for three relatively minor drug convictions, they shouldn't get to have it just because they want it.

Sometimes someone needs to be the responsible adult. We don't have a wise philosopher king filling that role, we do have, however, a Constitution. A lot of people don't like the C because it doesn't, by its letter, allow the government to give them all the stuff they want - it's the bartender that cuts you off when you've had enough. So they pretend it's irrelevant, not up to the needs of modern times.

They want the irresponsible barkeep that will serve them to point of fatal toxicity. So we have three strikes laws, photographers impressed into service at events that offend their convictions, senseless wars of revenge in Iraq and Afghanistan, out of control crony capitalism, the ACA, GITMO, domestic spying..........lots of useless, expensive and liberty denying BS.

Russell, I got carried away and failed to directly answer your question; what does the size of government have to do with it?

If the government were small it would not have the capacity to interject itself into every minute aspect of every area of civil life. Nor would the people look to it for a solution to every issue that bothered them. This should be obvious.

Ive had this pet idea for awhile: make the public defenders office the *only* form of representation available to criminal defendants. Theory being that the only way to draw the attention of the middle and upper classes to a problem with services is to make *them* clients of that service. I suspect that we would find a sudden interest in funding these services adequately.
Also, the legal equivalent to the police "blue wall" that protects DAs (and police) from consequences for their misconduct needs to end. Not sure how to do that one- when we need one DA to charge another in order to get the ball rolling, it's almost like we need an alternative justice system to watch the watchers. Pitchforks anyone?
I mean, I do think that we incarcerate way too many people, and that this is partially a result of draconian drug laws, insane mandatory sentences + informant plea bargains, etc. But Im just as concerned about things that are real offenses eg the recent 'affluenza' vehicular homicide case (in normally criminal-unfriendly Texas, no less), where being connected or well-off can mean the difference between a juvie court's slap on the wrist and a life-changing jail sentence. Where having the money to pay for treatment becomes the equivalent of 'easy jail'.

If 51% wants a law that says they get to rape and pillage the other 49%, they don't get to have that just because they want it.

If 51% want to rape and pillage, they repeal the law preventing rape or pillage. The Constitution does nothing, in that event, to disallow rape or pillage.

In fact, this situation is an unlikely one since 51% of most populations would be uncomfortable with rampant rape and pillage. Even if they liked to rape and pillage themselves, being raped and pillaged is less amusing, so they would insist on a law against it. See how well civilization works?

So we have three strikes laws, photographers impressed into service at events that offend their convictions, senseless wars of revenge in Iraq and Afghanistan, out of control crony capitalism, the ACA, GITMO, domestic spying..........lots of useless, expensive and liberty denying BS.
And I must note
Big Government:
noun

I will add a fourth definition, consistent with the most common usage I see on the net:
4)When Government does stuff that I personally wish it did not do

They tend to commit violent crimes, which piss off everyone (since I'm sure racism in justice is going to be a hot topic here sooner or later). Vice, small time drugs and white collar crime not so much as long it's kept to a dull roar and behind closed doors.

I observe that the serial frauds perpitrated on Wall Street produced vast amounts of pissed-offedness, and yet resulted in almost zero prosecutions. That is, selective prosecution is not just a result of AAs 'tending to commit violent crimes that piss everyone off'. Also, you may want to look into eg capital punishment as applied to white murderers v black murderers, etc.

As russell's post indicates, the "drug war" is the most serious problem contributing to the unacceptable incarceration rate. Figuring out a sane drug policy is a huge challenge. I'm an advocate of regulated legalized marijuana. That's simple, and would solve a lot of problems and (we hope) is happening.

The more difficult issue is how to deal with dangerous addictive drugs. The current regime doesn't work well. Treatment programs, etc., are great, but they don't address the issue of keeping supply away from vulnerable people. Treatment doesn't always work, and sometimes damage is irreversible. Medicine and science, rather than criminal law, is probably the answer. I'm not sure how we will ever get from here to there though. Destigmatizing hard drug use (in the short run) seems like a bad idea to me, since social stigma is one of the most powerful deterrents to destructive behavior.

"From a libertarian perspective (my own at least) I would say that a large part of the problem is that more government = more laws. I'm sure that the attorneys here would agree that there are now so many laws carrying the possibility for jail/prison for violation that almost every citizen in the country is in jeopardy of doing time. Don't believe that? Well, I'll bet you can't quote all of the laws out there that are addressing your behaviors; not in this life time any how..."

That doesn't even begin to explain why the US has such a disproportionately large prison population compared to virtually anywhere else in the world.

I observe that the serial frauds perpitrated on Wall Street produced vast amounts of pissed-offedness, and yet resulted in almost zero prosecutions.

Although you observe that, it turns out that most of the stuff that happened on Wall Street was not illegal.

The problem with "big government" is that sometimes it just isn't big enough.

"so fucking stupid.

what part of my drive to work on public roads was made possible by cracking down on criminals?"

Well, I don't think that's a stupid question, as such, (Maybe unthinking.) but if you want to so characterize yourself, who am I to argue?

The public roads were built with taxes. Which is to say, they were built by the government making a criminal of anybody who doesn't give it money.

They were built on land obtained by eminent domain, which is to say, the government obtained the land by making a criminal of anybody who refused to sell.

The government has two powers: It can make suggestions, which anyone can do, and it can issue orders, which is to say, it can make a criminal of anyone who doesn't do as they're told.

But, of course, it goes beyond that. Because we are all of us genuinely guilty of crimes, (Because there are too many laws to keep track of, and ignorance is no defense.) the government can, by the simple expedient of selective prosecution, jail its enemies, and even a close examination will show the outcome to be nominally justified, because the enemies get jailed over things they really were guilty of.

Hm, maybe I won't argue with the way you characterized yourself, somebody does have to be "fucking stupid" to not grasp that point.


The use of hard drugs do not need to be desigmatized to have a policy that has been proven to work.

http://www.cato.org/publications/white-paper/drug-decriminalization-portugal-lessons-creating-fair-successful-drug-policies

The more difficult issue is how to deal with dangerous addictive drugs.

1. We could start by treating this particular form of addiction as a public health issue, not a criminal one.
2. Heroin could still be a controlled substance, but when addicts are identified, we could set up a system whereby they could come to a clinic and get their "fix" at no charge, no questions asked. The addict is free to try and live a semblance of a life as they see fit, or not. But at least they wouldn't have to sell their bodies or steal stuff to maintain their habit. Plus-no "hot shots".
3. Then we work to get them into a treatment program.

Just a napkin plan suggestion.

Well, I won't read Glenn Greenwald as proof of anything, jeff, but I looked at a Spiegel article, and it appears that the Portuguese model is promising.

"Mental slip. I didn't know it was even used as an epithet until I Googled it."

Svengalis is what they are, those Republicans -- Atwater, Armey, Gingrich, Limbaugh etc.

I forgive you. Sometimes Tourette's comes on gradually and the sufferer doesn't even realize it. ;)

Read this and see if there are any other slips of the tongue you thought you were personally responsible for:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frank_Luntz

I keep trying to introduce the term "vermin" into the language to refer to the Republican Party, like fluoride into the water supply, but my fellow American liberals don't seem to be as susceptible to Orwellian tongue control as the rest of the population, in fact, they rightly run in the opposite direction.

I once had a friend who used the term "Jewboy" on occasion until I called him on it, explaining that though the person he was referring to may well be Jewish and is male, if he wanted an indication of the full dreadful freight smuggled aboard the term over the centuries, I could take him to a tough Hasidic section of Brooklyn and he could address his language directly to them and see what happens.

Observed Informer:

Thanks for the reply.

Have to say, after these many years of ranting to and from from the usual suspects at OBWI about the ravages of big government, that "BIG" government can now be reduced down to mean any size of government Frank Luntz deems it to be.

Hand me the calipers. What size? It doesn't matter.

That the planet Pluto could have been treated as well when they were disqualifying it as a planet on account of its insufficient girth. Hey, I'm Pluto and I'm big, too!

The last time I bought a box of Triscuits, the box seemed smaller and lighter than it had before, and sure enough, when I compared the number of crackers (another term that becomes confusing after frequent use) in that box with the number in an older box at home, there were fewer, and yet the price for the newer box was the same or more.

Which level of "BIG" government will look into that for me, since now they are all big, even the smallest?

I knew there something about the Citizen Initiative process misused, like the filibuster, lo these many years, that was suspect.

It's grassroots BIG government hatched by the government closest to the citizen, his own brain!

I am pleased to hear that liberalized (that's another term, in this context, that Luntz needs to get to work on), conceal carry laws made Constitutional by a vote of the people are actually BIG government at work.

Look, I'm carrying BIG government in my pants!

Now, as to the issue of "raping and pillaging", I've always thought pillaging suffered by association with raping, so I would counsel those wishing to pass both via the citizen's initiative process, to separate the issues on several ballots, perhaps aiming low by pushing for pillaging one election cycle, and then if that goes well and folks get used to pillaging, start an election drive for raping, perhaps in conjunction with running Republican conservative Christians who want to overturn Roe V Wade and put the birth control pills on the high shelf where only their mistresses can reach them.

Brett:

"The public roads were built with taxes. Which is to say, they were built by the government making a criminal of anybody who doesn't give it money.

They were built on land obtained by eminent domain, which is to say, the government obtained the land by making a criminal of anybody who refused to sell."

I feel like a criminal when I drive or walk on private roads and property without permission as well, which is why I do it, for the thrill of the chase and the inevitable opportunity to make asinine debating points.

I've always felt slightly criminal riding on the train too.

Me Comanche.

bobbyp, there are a lot of links around the web regarding the UK and its previous policies that experimented with the suggestions on your napkin plan. Apparently the number of drug addicts doubled. The problem is hard.

I'm not sure that the term "epithet" really fits calling the Democratic party the "Democrat" party. If I were to call you a "Democrat", would you feel insulted? Think I'd sworn at you?

Granted, there are people who'd feel this way, but they don't identify with the Democratic party.

It's not like calling your party the "Demonrat" party, which IS genuinely childish. It's nothing more than what somebody does when they think the adjective "democratic" really doesn't fit the party that claims it for a name.

Kind of like, if you knew somebody named "Charity", and they were stingy, you might refer to them as "Char", instead. Not a compliment, as such, but scarcely an epithet.

"Apparently the number of drug addicts doubled. "

So why is a problem for government to solve? If someone wants to be an addict why should it be anyone else's business? There is no law - strangely enough given big government (oh yeah, there was that embarrassing failure of government intervention in the 1920s and early 1930s) - to stop people from becoming alcoholics.

What do I care if my neighbor is chasing the dragon?

"The government has two powers: It can make suggestions, which anyone can do, and it can issue orders, which is to say, it can make a criminal of anyone who doesn't do as they're told."

You (and dear Ayn) are simply repackaging a banal observation about the nature of governments--that they have a monopoly on the legitimate use of violence--and inserting the word "criminal." If that gets you off, by all means continue doing so, but you're not contributing.

What do I care if my neighbor is chasing the dragon?

I care about my neighbor's welfare, an interest that the Constitution acknowledges and promotes. Even if I believe that my neighbor's drug interest is his or her own business, many drug addicts have families, and the drug use affects family members. The availability of addictive drugs affects minors and other vulnerable people. People (especially adults) have a choice about whether or not to use addictive drugs in the first instance, even if later their choice is diminished by addiction.

Adults can and should be held responsible for creating a market for harmful substances, and for supporting drug traffickers. Obviously, once they become addicted, they need help.

I acknowledge that it's a complicated problem, and that prison alone is a very poor solution.

That's not so much a banal observation as a contested claim. Actually, a pretty widely disputed claim in this country, or else the Democrat(ic) party would be having a bit more success hawking gun control, and opposing "Stand your ground" laws.

The point is, pass enough laws, and everybody is subject to being convicted of SOMETHING if the government wants to go after them. Though, given that people are not made whole after acquittal, conviction is scarcely necessary to level ruinous 'fees'. Prosecutorial discretion becomes an instrument of tyrannical power.

Couple this with the panopticon state feeding prosecutors info on enemies of the state, and you've got a neat little police state in a box kit. For an academic treatment of this subject, see Glenn Reynold's Ham Sandwich Nation

The problem is hard.

Here's something hard for you. The number of heroin addicts in the US has nearly doubled since 2007. Obviously the fault of Barack Hussein Obama? Well, perhaps not. But it tells me the addiction rate is exogenous to the legal penalties that addicts risk.

So a punitive policy is doomed to failure from the get go.

How have our draconian drug laws succeeded in any way, shape, or form? Obviously they have not. How many billions do we spend annually to stomp out the addictive personality disorder of about 1/2 million people? If we just guess a figure of $10b/yr. just for that drug, we're talking $20,000 per addict.

I know it's a tired refrain, but we, as a society, put up with a hell of a lot more carnage from legal alcohol, and a doubling of the number of addicts while substantially reducing social resources devoted to solving this "problem" does not scare me in the slightest unless you can provide some evidence to the contrary.

Next are you going to ask me, "Well what if it were your son or daughter?" Please don't humiliate yourself. Thanks.

I've heard the suggestion that low-concentration versions of more addictive drugs be legalized - think of people making tea from coca leaves rather than snorting powder cocaine or smoking crack - while leaving possession and use of the highly concentrated extracts subject to some sort of criminal sanction.

It got me wondering how Prohibition might have worked out had it only applied to beverages exceeding, say, 15% ABV.

The idea being that, if people had a somewhat safer legal outlet of some sort for using mind-altering substances, they would choose them over illegally using harder and more dangerous versions of the same substances - though not universally, of course.

It's an interesting idea, anyway.

Next are you going to ask me, "Well what if it were your son or daughter?" Please don't humiliate yourself. Thanks.

Please try to refrain from insulting people. Thanks.

The number of heroin addicts in the US has nearly doubled since 2007.

Please provide a link. Thanks.

Also, please acknowledge that I have already stated my agreement that the role of the criminal justice system is questionable.

This I know, from reading, and from knowing people: The drug lords who traffic heroin and cocaine into the US are horrible gangsters. Many of the adults who buy their products are middle-class (or wealthier) folks who have the resources to know what they're supporting. Also, using it (even without addiction) does very little for people's character in general. I have no problem with criminalizing the support of drug trafficking gangsters. Obviously, it's best to do what works for public health, and jailing people once they're pathetic addicts doesn't help anyone. But that's why it's complicated.

If the government were small it would not have the capacity to interject itself into every minute aspect of every area of civil life.

I take your point, but I don't think government interjecting itself into every area of civil life is the topic on the table.

What we were talking about was a fairly specific policy - the three strikes sentencing policies. You can have a pretty small government, that still has really draconian criminal justice policies.

The more difficult issue is how to deal with dangerous addictive drugs.

My assumption here is that by "dangerous addictive drugs", you are equating "dangerous" with "addictive" - what makes a drug dangerous is its potential for addiction. I may be wrong about that, you may be thinking about those as orthogonal categories, i.e., there are drugs that are dangerous, and drugs that are addictive, and drugs that are both.

In any case, my thought about drugs that are dangerous and/or addictive is to address them as a medical issue rather than a criminal one.

If you're going to arrest someone and send them to jail, it might be better to just send them to the hospital. Worst case, they stay in the hospital for years. It wouldn't be any greater violation of their freedom, and would likely be no more expensive, than jail, and at least they'd get some kind of constructive therapy.

And some folks wouldn't need to be locked up against their will at all.

A lot of people do actually recover. Not everybody, but a lot.

"I care about my neighbor's welfare, an interest that the Constitution acknowledges and promotes."

That's where it all starts. People, right, left and otherwise using government to impose their values and norms on others by broadly interpreting "promotion of the general welfare" to the point where the original intent is totally lost and then assuming that they are the wise and righteous ones who know what is best for the rest of us.

I think obesity is harmful to society - even more than drug addiction - and I want all purveyors of fattening foods arrested and convicted under my new laws which I will soon propose. Restaurant police will issue tickets to overeaters. Anyone caught making a three or more trips to the buffet counter will be charged with aggravated overeating; which will be a felony. Fat people will also be arrested. You down with that, Sapient? Why not if you care so much about your neighbor's welfare?

The number of heroin addicts in the US has nearly doubled since 2007.

oxycontin: expensvie
heroin: cheap

I could take him to a tough Hasidic section of Brooklyn and he could address his language directly to them and see what happens.

LOL.

I had good friends who lived in Seagate, down at the end of Coney Island. On a couple of occasions I walked a young woman, a friend of theirs, home. I forget what neighborhood she lived in, but we had to walk through a Hasidic neighborhood en route.

I was tailed the whole way by a car full of body builders with earlocks.

The Hasidim are badass.

I had no problem with them, they had no problem with me.

To expand on my previous comments about Shirt's (the new one, not HSH, to be clear) link:

The link included numbers for 1999 and 2013. Which neatly ignores both the large upswing starting in 1980s, as well as broad plateau in the 2000s, and manages to capture CAs federally mandated prisoner reduction over the past few years.

CAs recent progress in reducing its prison population isn't an "experiment", its the result of the fact that they locked up so many people "cruel and unusual" came into play and a federal judge forced them to reduce the population.

I found the selection of 2 years of data, when they aren't particularly representative of the surrounding trend, misleading.

If you're going to arrest someone and send them to jail, it might be better to just send them to the hospital.

russell, I don't know whether jail is ever a good solution to anything. In fact, if you're going to arrest a pedophile and send him/her to jail, it might be better just to send him/her to the hospital. Not sure the country is ready for that though.

I guess the question is whether society has an interest in limiting drugs at all. If so, how do they do it? Is it only from the supplier, or does the demand also play a role? What about the ivory trade? Do we punish just the elephant poachers, or also the traffickers and the buyers?

Chronic drug use isn't victimless.

Please try to refrain from insulting people. Thanks.

You're welcome. Please try to refrain from making assertions that are not backed up by anything in the way of an argument (evidence can follow in due course). Asserting there are "many links" out there without providing any is equally insulting. Then we get this:

Please provide a link.

In the interests of good sportsmanship the link is provided below. Links provided so far: Bobbyp 1; Sapient 0.

http://time.com/4505/heroin-gains-popularity-as-cheap-doses-flood-the-u-s/

Also, please acknowledge that I have already stated my agreement that the role of the criminal justice system is questionable.

So noted.

The rest of your argument is, as I understand it, is as follows:

1. Drug dealers are nasty people, and should be dealt with aggressively. Agree.
2. Many people who buy drugs are relatively well off, and drug addiction does not necessarily lead to total social impairment. Agree.
3. Approaching the problem more along the lines of public heath would be a good public policy. Automatically jailing addicts doesn't help anyone. Agree.
4. ????????????
5. Therefore it is complicated.

Please provide more in the way of an explanation of step 4.

That's where it all starts.

OK. It can be reasonably argued that the 'original intent' of the founders was that 'liberty' would be restricted to a relatively small and 'enlightened' group of The People.

So a central theme running throughout US history is successive numbers of groups organizing politically to join that class in their comfortable realm of 'unrestricted liberty'.

For some reason, those assholes have always fought back. Who could have expected that?

If you assert a moral claim to denigrate and have political power over others, well, expect pushback.

I believe Russell has already mentioned this.

Prosecutorial discretion becomes an instrument of tyrannical power.

This plays into it as well, although I might not phrase it quite so strongly. Federal prosecutors have massive leeway in exactly how they charge, which makes them very powerful in plea bargaining.

I don't know if its similar at the state level, but would be surprised if it wasn't.

A good review of how prosecutorial discretion can work, in the context of Holder's recent memo that sapient (I think) linked:

http://www.popehat.com/2013/08/13/the-eric-holder-memorandum-on-mandatory-minimum-sentences-explained/

Unwinding the plea system at the prosecution stage seems really important to me. Even innocent people are going to consider a guilty plea if you threaten them with decades of prison...or plead out and get 6 months.

Further, mandatory minimums are another driver of the problem. From a report of the Urban Institute (just skimmed it and will read in more depth but seemed quite good: http://www.urban.org/UploadedPDF/412932-stemming-the-tide.pdf):

Before the enactment of the SRA and mandatory minimums for drugs, approximately 25 percent of all drug offenders received no prison term as a part of their sentence. They were, instead, sentenced to a term of probation or fined. Those sentenced to prison served an average of 59 percent of their sentence. Before the SRA and mandatory minimum enactment, drug offenders served on average approximately 38.5 months, almost half of what drug offenders currently serve.

Average drug sentence has doubled since the "Sentencing Reform Act" (SRA), and 25% never went to prison before.

And drug use is still higher in the US than other countries:

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/us-leads-the-world-in-illegal-drug-use/

Seems like harsh sentences do nothing.

As a final note, I'd agree with russell on three strikes laws...they need to go.

if you're going to arrest a pedophile and send him/her to jail, it might be better just to send him/her to the hospital.

It might. But then again, nobody here is advocating we provide a a supply of children to pedophiles. Providing heroin to an addict is pretty inexpensive.

Chronic drug use isn't victimless.

Well, duh. Again, nobody has asserted it isn't.

When you're done destroying the straw men, please clean up your mess.

Sapient,

See link below for a compendium of views on this matter. I would put you in the Kleiman camp. He's a expert in this matter, and argues his case forcefully.

But in all fairness, I urge you to review all of them. Same for the rest of you.

http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2014/03/17/lowering-the-deadly-cost-of-drug-abuse

Regards,

The public roads were built with taxes. Which is to say, they were built by the government making a criminal of anybody who doesn't give it money.

They were built on land obtained by eminent domain, which is to say, the government obtained the land by making a criminal of anybody who refused to sell.

So what it comes down to is this, Brett: everything that government does is done by making a criminal of anybody who refuses to obey. And if your position is that this is evil, then what you appear to be saying is that you want no government whatsoever -- that is, absolute anarchy.

At least, if you are willing to accept any government functions at all, please explain how you think they happen without the coercion which so infuriates you.

Well absent any government the patriotic citizens (citizens of what, may I ask) would spontaneously form well-(self)-regulated militias to defend the citizenry, of course. Any infringement of liberty would immediately die from lethal lead poisoning (lead of course being unregulated despite its known effect of apathia induction in humans).
--
The UK had quite a 'small government' before the World Wars (not even a police outside London and even the latter was a small-scale affair). But those dear Brits executed more people per year for rather petty crimes than is the world yearly average these days, more than an order of magnitude more than e.g. all the German speaking police states (that actually deserved the name) of the continent put together. And Australia got colonized by those who did not meet the treshold for execution which in modern money was about 500$ (39 shillings with 12 shilling to the pound and a pound being 100-150$ late 20th century).

What's worse than a police state is an under funded and badly ran one. To hold back the tide, it's constantly having to make examples of what happens anytime it's resisted.

"And if your position is that this is evil, then what you appear to be saying is that you want no government whatsoever -- that is, absolute anarchy."

And I get mocked for saying that liberals appear to have no concept of "necessary evil". As soon as you decide something is necessary in even the most extreme instance, you decide it couldn't really be evil, and just add it to your toolkit, using it for anything you feel like.

Like somebody who hotwires a car once to get a dying man to the hospital, and ever after hotwires the neighbor's car every time they feel like going to the grocery to pick up a gallon of milk. To reject the idea of a necessary evil is to commit the evil even when it isn't necessary.

Yes, in principle I'm an anarchist. In the same way, in principle I'm opposed to maniacs going around jabbing children with needles, but can, none the less, distinguish between my son's pediatrician and some clown who gets his jollies torturing children.

I hate government, but am resigned to tolerating it where it's necessary. Which is only a tiny fraction of where it's currently used, here in America.

The public roads were built with taxes. Which is to say, they were built by the government making a criminal of anybody who doesn't give it money.

ridiculous.

the government is us.

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

we. we are doing this. the govt is us. the govt is a tool of the people, by the people, for the people.

we got together and decided we needed roads, and so we built roads. if you can't look at a banal civic function without conflating it with an Ayn Rand fever dream, the problem is not govt. the problem is you.

Yes, in principle I'm an anarchist.

finally, you admit it.

"{The federal government can certainly do a lot with sentencing reform, but states governments bear much of the responsibility for prison conditions."

Every place I have lived the Fed Pen was considered a much better place to be than the state pen. I suppose some are bad but most of the people I know who have been in both certainly would rather do fed time. Those I have visited are clearly better places to be.

I would say that a large part of the problem is that more government = more laws

just to return to this, briefly:

there are many countries in the world with much more thorough regulatory schemes, much higher involvement of government in people's everyday lives, etc etc etc, and yet they don't have anything like the rate of incarceration we have here.

why not?

it seems to me that ascribing our high rate of incarceration to "government is too large" is too simplistic. it ignores too many data points.

"the government is us."

Utter, unadulterated BS. The government, chosen by some of us, is even fewer of us. And, while in theory it may work for the common good, this is mostly just public relations, and not really true.

If a Swat team breaks into my house tomorrow, and shoots me dead, it won't be suicide. The government isn't "us" any more than the Mafia is.

it seems to me that ascribing our high rate of incarceration to "government is too large" is too simplistic. it ignores too many data points.

This is really not because any particular level of government is too large. It is because we have several key things that other countries don't. A decided lack of fear of the jails, despite the comments here, and a society that thrives on revenge.

It is amazing listening to people talk at sentencing hearings, nothing anyone ever does wrong is a mistake, unless it's your son, brother, father, (mostly men) then they are good people who made a mistake.

Apologies if I repeat something already discussed, just a quick thought before bed.

Why is "tough on crime" so very effective? And why is it more effective in the US than elsewhere? There's certainly no lack of "take more prisoners" rhetoric and pollies here in Australia, or the UK etc. and it doesn't seem any less popular when it is used, but there seems to be something that reins it in at some point, which in the USA doesn't seem to apply.

The government, chosen by some of us, is even fewer of us.

the fact that enough of us are comfortable with not participating in the process doesn't negate the fact that the US government is, in fact, chosen by the American citizenry.

no amount of absurd paranoid reductio will change that.

"Finally"? Was there any doubt? Was I making a secret of this?

"It is because we have several key things that other countries don't."

I think we have two key things other countries don't.

1. We're running a Leviathan style government under a limited government constitution. This is a problem regardless of what size of government you think is best, because doing this requires a kind of institutionalized doublethink that countries with big government under big government constitutions don't have to have.

Our judicial system is warped, as is our whole federal system, by the need to staff it with people who will read a limited government constitution to authorize the Leviathan. Fundamentally, we can't have honest government, because our current government is based on lying.

2. Our government has been running uninterrupted for longer than pretty much any other government on the planet. It needs a reboot.

Cleek, you are confusing resignation with consent, and (self-serving) theory with practice.

Have you looked at the latest polls on the subject of trust in government? Do they look to you like the average person regards the government as "us", and thinks themselves well served?

Stop echoing the propaganda. Our democratic system is seriously broken, and you're singing schoolhouse rock.

more paranoia and hyperbole.

bah. who needs it.

and you're singing schoolhouse rock.

"And the shot heard 'round the world was the start of the revolution!"

It needs a reboot.

We're all singing Schoolhouse Rock, in one way or another.

I wouldn't clip my toenails if it weren't necessary. ...Evil!

Another reason the US has a large prison population is just because it can. When you have a lot more wealth than most others, you can burn though it doing all kinds of stupid things that they can't afford to do.

I also find it difficult to find another country with such a strong movement to question and delegitimize the mere idea of a functioning trustworthy government that (the movement, not the country) also does its best to make the reality fit the claims. Imo a clear case of 'you get what you deserve'. Also imo a 'reboot' would not bring paradise (or anything of an approximation) but another kind of boot, the one with the iron heel (or O'Brian's as by Orwell).

each founding notion of the US government is either propaganda or a teleological fundamental a priori truth. yet which is which can only be decided by the truly enlightened.

"it seems to me that ascribing our high rate of incarceration to "government is too large" is too simplistic. it ignores too many data points."

You're right Russell. I am partly to blame to deflecting the conversation in the direction of "the government is too large". That was accidental to some extent, on my part. I really just wanted to point out that there is a massive, and ever growing, number of statutes, both state and federal, that violation of can result in conviction and incarceration and that is the result of "big" government.

However, I think the incarceration rate is also higher in the US for crimes that no reasonable person would debate the need for arrest, conviction and incarceration. I am thinking about robbery, various types of thefts, homicide, assault, rape....that sort of thing. None of that can be blamed, directly, on big government. These are sociological issues.

Please, PLEASE, don't take the following as being racist. I don't intend it that way. A difference in the US is that we are not as homogeneous a society as those we are compared to.

It seems to me, based on experience, that when communities are populated by people that resemble each other, even just exteriorly, people tend to act more civilly toward each other. In the US we have all of these various ethnic and racial divisions, often coupled with socio-economic divisions, that create cultural sub-identities that seem to short circuit a sense of membership in the overall society.

Blacks in particular are subject to this phenomenon; in the extreme, actually, and to the point where black urban culture = prison culture. If blacks (and Hispanics) were removed from the statistics, US crime rates/incarceration rates would be much closer to other industrialized societies.

IMO, the prison problem is very closely correlated with the race relations problem. Again, not being racist, just looking at the statistics.

"Fundamentally, we can't have honest government, because our current government is based on lying."

Now, see, I agree with this.

Every government is based on lying. Because Americans are liars just like everyone else.

Jerry Seinfeld said during the Clinton impeachment crap that there wouldn't be any sex at all without lying, so what's the big deal about his particular instance of it?

Our culture floats on a thin film of artifice, and probably necessarily so, to avoid daily bloodshed. Advertising is lying. Accounting is lying. Have a nice day is an effing lie. "The Biggest, Best Hamburger In The World" reads the lying, stinking billboard.

We have "Lie" buildup and backup and I suppose one day we'll have to clean out the pipes.

Which gets me to this: "It needs a reboot."

Yeah, and who is going to run that one, the same lying liars -- the people - who ran the last piece of sh*t?

You? Probably not, given the passive voiced construction of "It needs ..."

But I guarantee you this, the reboot will require a long period of the jackboot, because forcing your truth on the rest of us will require more violent truth than you can muster with a sorry militia.

You've handed out heavy weaponry to everyone and we will not go down easily because once you destroy a monopoly on force, everyone will enforce their own version of the Truth and we have roughly 320 million versions of that going and counting .. and the Founding Fathers knew that, but sort of lied about it, because they could only agree to truth expressed in broad platitudes, when they weren't lying about their personal lives and their slave populations.

The Tutsis and the Hutus lived together under a cultural artifice for a long time before The Truth Fetishists had their way.

Eastern Europe and the Caucasus have lived a lie for centuries, punctuated by frequent outbreaks of Truth to adjust their artificial lying borders.

They prefer the artifice, at least the ones who are still alive.

The Comanche were TRUTH incarnate. Until the lying Christian cavalry imposed lying borders, fences, and the artifice of private property on them.

Have a nice day.


imo a 'reboot' would not bring paradise (or anything of an approximation)

Ya think?

Blacks in particular are subject to this phenomenon; in the extreme, actually, and to the point where black urban culture = prison culture.

What's interesting to me in this line of argument is that even a guy like Charles Murray is reluctantly obliged to notice that when white folks are placed in social and economic conditions similar to those of the "urban blacks", lo and behold they demonstrate the same social dysfunction.

E tu, white man?

So, I'm not sure skin color has much to do with it.

And I get mocked for saying that liberals appear to have no concept of "necessary evil".
. . .
I hate government, but am resigned to tolerating it where it's necessary. Which is only a tiny fraction of where it's currently used, here in America.

Apologies, I wasn't trying to mock you, Brett. (Any more than I expect you intended mockery by calliung someone who is just a slightly less pure conservative and milder libertarian than yourself, a "liberal".) Just trying to understand.

So what I guess I need to ask is: What constitutes "necessary"? Do you have a rule of thumb for deciding if something is necessary enough to warrant government action? Or what? I ask because I don't recall hardly anything, beyond defense of the borders, where you agreed that something met that standard. (And I note that, absent government, there wouldn't even be borders to defend.)

If only no one had coined the phrase "necessary evil," we'd be having an entirely different conversation. Maybe, in some alternate reality, they use "necessary unpleasantry" and Brett's analog strains to be hyperbolic while ranting about government being unpleasant.

A difference in the US is that we are not as homogeneous a society as those we are compared to.

That is not a 'difference' which accounts for anything. You imprison vastly more individuals as a proportion of total population than any other state on the planet, irrespective of homogeneity.

For example, crime rates have fallen in London over the last couple of decades, as diversity has increased. London is rather less 'homogeneous' than the US:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_kingdom#Demographics
Ethnic diversity varies significantly across the UK. 30.4% of London's population[299] and 37.4% of Leicester's[300] was estimated to be non-white in 2005, whereas less than 5% of the populations of North East England, Wales and the South West were from ethnic minorities according to the 2001 census.[301] In 2011, 26.5% of primary and 22.2% of secondary pupils at state schools in England were members of an ethnic minority...

I think you need to spend some time with Mr. Coates.
http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2014/03/the-secret-lives-of-inner-city-black-males/284454/

Please, PLEASE, don't take the following as being racist. I don't intend it that way.

Introductions of this kind are terribly fraught. It might be better to apologize for making a meta-racist argument rather than asking people not to take what you're about to write as being racist - only because, the vast majority of the time, when people ask you not to think what they're about to say is racist, it's because it's racist.

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