Thursday, November 17, 2005

Political Prisoners

I just read this article (link via Strike the Root) about the election difficulties in Anamosa, Iowa stemming from the fact that most residents of the town's Ward 2 are in prison. Now, depending on your political persuasion and present mood, your reaction to this might vary from laughter to disgust. This story made me think of the types of "criminals" who are currently incarcerated here in the US, and how many of these folks from Anamosa in jail are there for actual crimes or for stuff such as drug possession.

The US continues to lead the world in the proportion of it's citizens that are behind bars, a fact that should make anyone seriously question the validity of the claim that this is indeed the "land of the free". The USSA government often criticizes certain other governments for their detaining of political prisoners, but I have to wonder if such a claim may be rooted in hypocrisy.

One of the books I'm currently reading on my free time right now is Paul Goodman's Drawing the Line, a collection of political essays written in 1945 and 1962. I just finished reading a section early on where he is discussing the difference between natural society and the coercive society that increasingly haunts us and chokes out our ability to live naturally and non-coercively. On the issue of crime, he wrote the following:
Concerning the "crimes" that are actually punished, a free man must ask himself: which of these are detrimental to any society, including even a more natural noncoercive society in which discipline is somewhat but not so deeply and widely grounded in (reasonable) successful repression and deliberate inhibition; which "crimes," on the contrary, are precisely the acts that would undermine the present coercive structure? I think that the list of the former would be small indeed - an obvious instance is murder.

I now skip ahead to the next paragraph, where he states that:
It is often cited as an example of the barbarity of America that here no distinction is made between "political prisoners" and "common criminals," that the political prisoner is degraded to the level of the criminal; yet in fact the "common criminal" has, although usually by the failure of repression and rarely by reason, probably committed a political crime.

The point here is that actual crime amounts to acts that would be detrimental to any type of society, acts that ultimately violate natural rights, such as murder, rape, theft, and fraud. Most of the "crimes", as spelled out by the government, are in fact acts that do nothing but threaten the interests of the politically connected and the current coercive structure in general.

With this in mind, not only does the US lead the world in prison population, but doesn't it also thus lead the world in terms of detaining political prisoners? Aren't a majority of people in prison here in the US there for drug offenses? What about all the other "criminals" incarcerated for things that wouldn't be a crime in a free society? As far as I'm concerned, these people are all political prisoners, and those of us who object to their incarceration and promote liberty should keep all of this in mind and call these people what they really are. If anything, it'll at least make all those folks who blindly parrot lines such as "this is the freest and bestest nation on Earth" have to actually think about what they're saying.


Blogger The Humanity Critic said...

Great post. Those "black sites" that our government has is a bit troubling as well.

1:44 PM  

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