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Liberty and Law, not “Law and Order”

March 30, 2009
William Norman Grigg

With our days as a manufacturing power a wistful memory and the marketing of fraudulent Wall Street “financial products” an infinitely self-replenishing source of national outrage, incarceration may soon become — by default — our leading national industry.

The United States is notorious for having the world’s largest prison population: As the International Herald Tribune notes, the U.S., with five percent of the world’s population, but nearly one quarter of the world’s prisoners.

Although our rate of violent crime is high among “developed” nations, the size of the American prison population isn’t a product of a uniquely depraved population. It is, in large measure, a product of an exceptionally punitive “justice” system, which reflects a strong streak of cultural vindictiveness — or what the Herald Tribune calls “populist demands for tough justice.”

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