« Osborne's unwise words | Main | Inequality & the crisis »

July 26, 2010


Paul Sagar

I'd add 4) that America is founded on myths and culture of simple stories of good vs evil, partly perhaps fuelled by a dominant Protestant founding and ruling class. As a result, incarcerated black males are easily ignored-away as evil bad guys not like Us Decent Upstanding Citizens. Oh and of course there's the race issue which neatly slots in too...

Peter Risdon

If that isn't a clunking non sequitur, you are to have us believe that "land of the free" means "land of the lower than average prison population", as opposed to "land of the constitutional protection for free expression and action".

Nope, it's a clunking non sequitur.

Andrew Neilson

As Wilkinson and Pickett point out in The Spirit Level, prison rates are one of their indices which most clearly show the impact of inequality. There is a raft of criminological literature which sees a direct relation between unfettered neoliberalism and the mass incarceration of the poor.


"why do so many Americans think they live in the land of the free?*"

Because the people in jail are almost all urban Latinos and African-Americans in jail for drug-related offences?

Peter Risdon

"... direct relation between unfettered neoliberalism and the mass incarceration of the poor."

Oh lordy. The USA does have the highest per capita prison population (which is a disgrace). But look at the neo-liberal gang that follows in their heels (2007 data):

"The United States has the highest prison population rate in the world, some 738 per 100,000 of the national population, followed by Russia (611), St Kitts & Nevis (547), U.S. Virgin Is. (521), Turkmenistan (c.489), Belize (487), Cuba (c.487), Palau (478), British Virgin Is. (464), Bermuda (463), Bahamas (462), Cayman Is. (453), American Samoa (446), Belarus (426) and Dominica (419)."


Or according to the BBC (undated) the league table runs US, China, Russia, Brazil, India, Mexico Ukraine, Sth Africa.



It's also always noticeable when in the US just how many petty regulations and laws there are. Maybe Peter is right and it's all to do with the 1st amendment? I think also perhaps planning laws are what many people come into contact with, and those are laxer?

Left Outside

Path dependency gets my vote.

When you are one of two superpowers and the other is a monstrosity like the USSR then you are going to think of yourself as "the land of the free" even if you're not that free.

Of course once you've been the land of the free for a few decades then it becomes a difficult moniker to drop, especially as it has been part of what you've known growing up.

So because the US was once the freer of two superpowers it is still seen as free by the population today.

How far back does the regular usage of the term go?

Nick Ball

Statistical fact: "Unequal societies are harsher, they imprison a higher proportion of people."


Left Outside

Nick Ball

Or, by imprisoning lots of people and eroding their life chances you get inequality.

Going to read you link now and see if they address the chance of a reveres causation.

Paul Sagar

Left Outside: they've been calling it the land of the free (and the home of the brave) since considerably earlier than 1945. I mean, their founding myths are heaped on a pile of bullshit about freedom, ffs.

Left Outside

@Paul Sagar.

I think you might be right there, which rather balls up my argument. 1814 apparently it was included in a poem which became the star spangled banner. I really should research more when commenting.

Okay. Right. Slight modification. Compared to continental Europe in the early C19th and Eastern Europe in the late C20th America was the "land of the free"... unless you were black or a woman (or a japanese internee or south asian indentured servant or a native ameri... you get the idea) okay that theory just doesn't fly does it?

Just pain propaganda maybe? http://leninology.blogspot.com/2010/07/capitalist-hauntology.html

Hmm... this is kinda turning into a stream of confidence. Needless to say I don't know.

Nick Ball, there's no discussion of the reverse correlation there.

Could also be a correlation between small open economies like the nordics and netherlands and low crime and low inequality whereas large migrant countries are more unequal and more criminal (Japan and Singapore both being outliers which would be fairly easy to explain as special cases). I don't think you can post a link and consider that argument won, even though I do agree with you I'd rather see a bit more critical engagement.

Left Outside

Series of errors of grammar and semantics in there, rest assured I'm normally very eloquent, I trust you can still understand me.


It is important to realise that when extolling freedom Americans are often merely being patriotic in a way no different to the way other people are in other parts of the world.Namely without any content of ideas. We find others Patrotism more absurd than our own.

When it has content many, but not all Americans mean by freedom the right to believe in any Religion however mad and the benefits of unregulated Capitalism as the essential foundation of all other freedoms.

If you don't think unregulated rule of capital and unbridled religionism to be desirable than these claims about freedom are unconvincing.

The high Prison population in the USA is partly the result of this interaction between puritanical attitudes derived from religion and profit making private prisons and the influence of the Prison industrial complex on elected officials.

Peter Risdon

Nick Ball - "Statistical fact..."

That survey excludes countries that would disturb its findings, from the look of it. I can't see China, Cuba, Russia - which is eye-watering. No China or Russia?

Madness. This is presented as statistical proof?


@ Peter - did you bother to read the Economist piece, or even the bits I quoted (and I selected them for a reason)?
I was not identifying freedom with a lower than average incarceration rate.
The Economist points out that the law in the US is vague and arbitrary, and its application often depends upon the whim of prosecutors and other state officials. It is this, not just the mere numbers in prison, that most undermines the notion of the US as a free society.

Peter Risdon

Chris, it's your comparison I objected to, not the thrust of the Economist piece: land of the free relates to the constitutional protections I mentioned. The USA is pretty free in comparison to other countries. For example, a lot of European bloggers have made sure their servers are in the USA, to gain the protection of the freedoms there. Your blog is physically located in the USA, though I don't know your reasons for this.

The USA has always been similar to classical Athens, with a reasonably free layer in society, and with a very un-free layer. I'm not for a moment supporting US legal or penal policy, or anything else that contributes to the existence of the un-free layer. Indeed, as a Liberal, I'd very much welcome a greater emphasis on freedom in the USA.

I am simply noting that Americans say they live in the land of the free, when they do, for reasons other than US penal policy, and that they have some cause to do so.

It's worth noting that the UK, and the EU more broadly, also have laws that "are so vaguely written that people cannot easily tell whether they have broken them". I had correspondence in 2006 with a Met officer, in his official capacity, in which he acknowledged that with speech laws, this is the case.


That survey excludes countries that would disturb its findings, from the look of it. I can't see China, Cuba, Russia - which is eye-watering. No China or Russia?

Russia and China have very similar levels of inequality: Gini 42.3 and 41.5, according to the CIA. That puts them both between the UK (34) and the US (45). Russia's incarceration rate is also higher than the UK rate and lower than the US rate. Definitions vary for China's incarceration rate.
Doesn't seem to undermine the argument necessarily.


In the US - and increasingly here - we've conflated freedom with individualism. That's the problem.

john b

Ajay FACT win.

"[Chris's] blog is physically located in the USA, though I don't know your reasons for this."

Would stake my reproductive future on 'because that's where the hosted service offered by Movable Type, Typepad, is based, whereas there are no integrated blogging software and hosting providers based in the UK'. If you were mad, you could suggest this was because of differing degrees of freedom in the two countries, rather than the way that the two countries' technology industries have developed.


The States, despite the higher murder rate, feels safer than the UK. Friends in Northern California leave the keys in the car when they put it on the drive at night (they do however have his'n'hers revolvers in the bedside cabinets).

You should read Charles Murray on what he calls 'the coming of Custodial Democracy' in the US.


His thesis is that the social will to shrink the underclass does not exist - because to do that would mean stigmatising single parenthood and even restriction of benefits i.e. "an attack on the poorest and most vulnerable in our society". So we'll continue to produce lots of dysfunctional youth from dysfunctional families. At the same time, prison works - in that the US crime rate has been falling for 20-odd years now - ever since they started banging people up. At the same time 'the poor' are concentrated in edge of town ghettos as the inner cities are gentrified.

"American children of the middle and upper classes no longer go to school with the children of the underclass. For a number of years, progressive American educators managed to dilute the old principle that a school drew only from a restricted geographic area. That principle has been reinstated so parents can be sure that if they move to the right neighbourhood their children won’t have large numbers of disruptive, foul-mouthed, sexually precocious and sometimes violent classmates. Middle and upper-class parents who remain within large cities commonly send their children to private schools.

Increased geographic segregation of the underclass has facilitated social segregation. In many large cities, urban renovation has reclaimed deteriorating downtown areas for glitzy shops and gleaming offices. Gentrification has retrieved much of the urban housing stock that had fallen into disrepair. The "inner city" is seldom literally located in the inner city but in decrepit neighbourhoods on the periphery that need not be on the travel route of the rest of us.

Most importantly, America has dealt with its crime problem. The crime rate has dropped by about one-third since the early 1990s. It has dropped even more in the better parts of town. People walk the streets of New York and Chicago without taking the precautions they used to take. Triple-locked doors and bars on the windows are not as necessary as they used to be. People feel safer and are safer.

We didn’t solve the crime problem by learning how to get tough on the causes of crime nor by rehabilitating criminals. We just took them off the streets. As of 2005, more than 2m Americans are incarcerated.

In the United States I have called this the coming of custodial democracy — literally custodial for criminals, figuratively custodial for the neighbourhoods we seal away from the rest of us. Custodial democracy is probably headed your way.

It is not a happy solution. On the contrary, it means abandoning a central tenet of a free society — that everyone can exercise equal responsibility for his or her own life. But Britain, like the United States and western Europe, is locked into a welfare state that by its nature generates large numbers of feckless people. If we are unwilling to prevent an underclass by giving responsibility for behaviour back to individuals, their families, and communities, custodial democracy is the only option left."

(He didn't foresee Ken Clarke, though, did he ?)


As a New Zealander reading about the U.S. I feel our country must be an America lite, perhaps Murray should pay us a visit. We have large numbers of Maoris and Polynesians locked up in prison, who play the role of Black and Latinos, and yes our crime rates also stabilised in the eary 90s when we started mass imprisonment. Meanwhile we've gentrified are inner cities while moving the underclass out to the edge of town (primarily South Auckland, where we send recently arrived English school teachers to educate them).

We also love a drug known as 'P,' which seems to be some form methamphetamine, and which the underclass loves to take while driving around in old Japanese sports cars. We also have enormous numbers of people flowing through are courts on minor drug charges which is costing a fortune.

In addition we also have are own secular version of Rush Limbaugh in populist talk back radio host Michael Laws, who spends most of time talking about sterilising the underclass.


KH1aB, http://texasprowrestling.com/forum/index.php?topic=69481.0 ativan sublingual, PO5vS, difference between ativan and xanax?, ativan dose, SH9wW, ativan seizure threshold, what is ativan?, VW4tV, ativan clearance, DJ6vN


9T8BI5, alprazolam no prescription, 6I1XN5, alprazolam drugs, [url=http://forum.bo2forum.com/showthread.php?t=124775]order alprazolam[/url], 0F6SQ5, alprazolam 1mg prix, http://forum.bo2forum.com/showthread.php?t=124775 cheap alprazolam, 6O3GM1, buy alprazolam online uk, 1K5VL6


It is possible to seriously create a fantastic initially impression on every person when you are getting into a area, when you have on some seriously wonderful pieces of jewellery. You need to fork out close attention to these useful recommendations and rely on them, in order that you will explore the best way to choose jewellery.

When working with harsh substances like cleansing solutions, engaging in laundry, or taking a shower you'll want to generally take away your jewellery. To clean your jewelry you need to use heat water which has a gentle soap, rinse it off, then polish your jewellery using a jewelry polish and dry previous to placing it again into storage.

In regards to displaying off your temperament by way of jewelry, most of the time you can create a larger statement with significantly less. Select bold, extraordinary items, but limit by yourself to carrying one particular or two at a time. A subtle pair of chandelier earrings can set off an outfit on it really is [url=http://www.winteruggboot.com/]ugg boots[/url]
have, and sometimes a flashy cocktail ring would be the only glitz you would like to draw awareness.

You shouldn't wear your jewelry for those who method on likely for a swim or for those who plan on going in another body of drinking water that may have harsh chemicals. These kinds of items may cause your jewellery to age considerably additional easily. Guard your jewelry and be conscientious.

In case you have [url=http://www.boots-uggonline.com/]Uggs Canada[/url]
fantastic jewellery or heirloom jewelry whose appeal you wish to defend as a result of insurance, it is a good idea to take great photos of such items and also to have an appraisal carried out by an expert. Be sure that the pics you're taking are fantastic, quality ones. Utilizing a flash when taking these footage is not going to bring on superior photos of the jewelry. It's best to capture a picture of one's cherished jewellery less than comfortable, diffused fluorescent bulbs.

To add a wonderful volume of flair to any outfit merely include a single assertion piece of jewelry. Whether or not it be considered a huge ring, some bold earrings, a thick bracelet, or simply a chunky necklace, incorporating a press release piece to any outfit won't only convey it from the ordinary but will also allow it to be additional 'you'. Also, a statement piece is sure to generate an incredible conversation starter in any situation.

The comments to this entry are closed.

blogs I like

Why S&M?

Blog powered by Typepad