Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Liberty and Law, not "Law and Order" (Brief Programming Update, 3/26)

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."

Following his tour of American penitentiaries in 1831,
Tocqueville was prompted to write that "In no country is criminal justice administered with more mildness than in the United States," a practice that contrasted favorably with the legal practices of the British, who were "disposed ... to retain the bloody traces of the dark ages in their penal legislation."

The French sociologist was careful to contrast the light touch of American penology with the "barbarous" treatment meted out to slaves. His observations led him to believe that the disparities in treatment reflected the fact that convicted criminals were seen as errant social equals, and black slaves were not. Americans, Tocqueville concluded, looked upon slavery "not only as an institution which is profitable to them, but as an evil which does not affect them."

Were he to make a similar survey of 21st century American prisons, Tocqueville most likely would find little of the "compassion" and "mildness" he discerned in America during its robust republican youth. As the International Herald Tribune observes, "Americans are locked up for crimes — from writing bad checks to using drugs — that would rarely produce prison sentences in other countries. And in particular they are kept incarcerated far longer than prisoners in other nations."

Perhaps the single largest contributing factor, of course, is the prohibitionist impulse, or what the Herald-Tribune describes as a "special fervor in combating illegal drugs."

To an extent unrivaled in the Western World, and perhaps comparable only to the People's Republic of China, America's prison system is populated by non-violent offenders. This is due primarily to that inexhaustible well of policy foolishness known as the "war on drugs," of course.

Another significant element in this equation is the use of jails and penitentiaries as "debtor's prisons" for "deadbeat dads" -- divorced fathers driven into intractable financial misery by the federal child support racket.

Dr. Stephen Baskerville of Patrick Henry College, author of the indispensable study Taken Into Custody, offers a tidy description of the child-napping and extortion racket in operation:

“A parent [generally a father] whose children are taken away by a family court is only at the beginning of his troubles. The next step comes as he is summoned to court and ordered to pay as much as two-thirds or even more of his income as `child support' to whomever has been given custody. His wages will immediately be garnished and his name will be entered on a federal register of `delinquents.' This is even before he has had a chance to become one, though it is also likely that the order will be backdated, so he will already be delinquent as he steps out of the courtroom. If the ordered amount is high enough, and the backdating far enough, he will be an instant felon and subject to immediate arrest.”

Jails and prisons across our land bulge at the seams with men who have been sucked into this vortex. Countless others are on probation, parole, or shackled at the ankle with electronic monitoring devices.

Baskerville's book describes the intricate system of federal subsidies and incentives that created this debtor's gulag. The federally funded army of prosecutors, bureaucrats, counselors, and assorted buttinskis devoted to the war on fatherhood is thirteen times larger than the force mustered to fight the "war on drugs."

In addition to those two federally instigated "wars," the county jail populations are plumped out by local campaigns against other forms of non-violent "crime" -- generally repeat or compound violations of traffic regulations or "quality of life" ordinances.

How is this a crime? Montanez and his colleagues defy an Orlando ordinance against feeding "large groups" of homeless people, left; below, right, Montanez is arrested following an "undercover" operation by the brave and bold Orlando Police Department.

For an exceptionally silly example of this kind of thing we can look to Orlando, Florida, where 22-year-old activist Eric Montanez was arrested -- following an undercover police operation -- for violating a municipal ordinance by feeding more than 25 homeless people in a public park. (That Montanez is distantly affiliated with ACORN and like-minded outfits doesn't make the ordinance and less asinine.)

For a long time, many observers have suspected that many municipal ordinances existed only to provide a steady stream of fine-generated revenue and a self-sustaining supply of inmate labor.

Douglas A. Blackmon's recent book Slavery by Another Name
seems to confirm that such cynical suspicions are amply justified.

Blackmon's research, which appears valid and compelling, leads him to conclude that municipal ordinances in post-Emancipation South were designed and enforced with the purpose of producing large pools of inmate labor to be leased to large corporate interests. Other versions of this analysis had been advanced earlier in criminologist Thorsten Sellin's study Slavery and the Penal System, and David Oshinsky's book Worse Than Slavery.

Blackmon's book begins with the account of 22-year-old Green Cottenham, a young man arrested for "vagrancy" by the sheriff of Shelby County, Alabama. "Vagrancy" the stickiest of catch-all charges used to round up anyone unable "to prove at a given moment that he or she [was] employed."

At the time and place of Cottenham's arrest, the charge was most frequently used to justify the arrest of young black men, many of whom were unemployed itenerant workers looking for employment.
Cottenham was quickly convicted following a burlesque of a trial and sentenced to thirty days of hard labor.

In a fashion immediately familiar to most people incarcerated today, Cottenham was unable to pay an array of "fees" that accompanied his spurious incarceration. So the thirty-day sentence was quickly expanded to a full year.
Immediately thereafter, Cottenham was "leased" -- or, as his parents, both of whom former slaves, would put it, sold -- to the Tennessee Coal, Iron, and Railroad Company, a subsidiary of U.S. Steel.

One of thousands of black men vended by sheriffs across Alabama, Cottenham was dispatched to work in Slope No. 12, a coal shaft that formed part of the Pratt Mines near Birmingham.

"Imprisoned in what was then the most advanced city of the South, guarded by whipping bosses employed by the most iconic example of the modern corporation emerging in the gilded North, [Cottenham and his co-workers] were slaves in all but name," observes Blackmon.

Thousands perished from disease, overwork, and accidents, their mortal remains interred in shallow graves not far from where they expired.
This was a continuation of slavery by other means, of course. But the system described by Blackmon -- opportunistic law enforcement feeding non-violent offenders into a penal system hard-welded to government-favored corporations -- exists today.

As a recent report notes, "Private corporations are making a killing employing prisoners across the US. They are hiring the incarcerated to manufacture everything from designer jeans to computer circuit boards."
Mother Jones magazine compiled an impressive list of products -- from dressed beef to packaged software and videogames -- turned out by inmates paid less than a pittance.

A large portion of the inmate labor is provided through
Unicor, a public-private partnership created during the (last) Great Depression to create "factories with fences." It's difficult to see how this operation differs in principle from China's notorious and brutal Laogai (reform through labor) prison manufacturing system, which may actually be smaller than its U.S. analogue.

There are indications that
the prison-industrial complex is suffering some financial setbacks as a result of the ongoing economic collapse. Across the country, budget cuts made necessary by depleted sales and property tax revenues are forcing courts and sheriff's departments to relent in their pursuit of non-violent offenders, and to explore alternatives to incarceration.

This is a positive and encouraging development, an illustration of the corrective effect of an economic contraction. Ideally, states and municipalities would be compelled to abandon incarceration as a punishment for anything other than actual crimes against persons and property, and then to use that option sparingly in dealing with only the most serious offenses.

In colonial and early post-independence America, jails were uncommon and penitentiaries all but unknown. In many communities those convicted of property crimes were compelled to make restitution to their victims, a practice growing out of the recognition that such offenders owe a debt to particular victims, not to a collectivist abstraction called "society."

If the economic correction we're experiencing were to result in a much-overdue social correction, the existing "justice" system would be demolished and reconstructed on the basis of liberty protected by law, rather than "law and order."
The purpose of the law, wrote John Locke in his Second Treatise of Government, "is not to abolish or restrain but to preserve and enlarge freedom."

The preservation of individual liberty and property requires a government apparatus so minimal as to be practically invisible, and a law enforcement touch so slight as to be nearly imperceptible.

This is why our rulers have spared no effort to propagate and maintain a cult of "law and order," in which the supposed needs of "society" are paramount and justice for individual victims of actual crimes, where it occurs, is a fortuitous but inconsequential happenstance.

And this is why the next priority of the Obama administration's "stimulus" fraud -- after putting the most corrupt elements of Wall Street in charge of the public purse, and ensuring that the Democratic Party's esurient constituencies are well-fed -- will probably be a "surge" of funding for the "law and order" apparatus, which will probably open up a lucrative new affiliate devoted entirely to the apprehension and punishment of incorrigible political troublemakers.

Housekeeping/Personal Affairs UPDATE, March 26

I appreciate your patience during a lengthy hiatus between postings. My family and I are traveling right now in a combined mini-vacation and job search. I've got portions of two essays written and a third in a preliminary outline stage, so you can expect the op-tempo to pick up dramatically as soon as I can spend more time with my fingers on the keyboard, rather than wrapped around a steering wheel. Thanks!

On sale now.

Dum spiro, pugno!


Taylor Conant said...


Doesn't that Orlando cop in the screenshot look familiar? Is that the guy we saw awhile back in a Youtube video beating up skateboarding teenagers? Or some similar offense?

I couldn't help but get a sense of deja vu when I saw that bespectacled, porky skinhead.

ps. Why is it that EVERY badass cop shaves his head and wears wraparound sunglasses now? Worship Vic Mackey much, do ya now, sturmtruppen?

Anonymous said...

I could be wrong, but I believe the officer you are referencing was in Maryland (that is, if you are referring to the lard-butt who was harassing and screaming at skateboarders).

Taylor Conant said...


That could be the one. You know how it is, these fascist-types all look the same

William N. Grigg said...

My friends, the name of the tonsured proto-fascist who was filmed abusing teenage skateboarders in Hot Springs, Arkansas is Joey Williams --


I suspect that more than a few of the skinheads with badges are Vic Mackey jock-riders. Others might delude themselves into thinking that they're characters out of a Bruce Willis film. Maybe a few have weird man-crushes on Kojak.

Anonymous said...


I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for presenting the state of 'fatherhood' in amerika today. Dr. Baskerville has documented the gravy train slopping state trough's very thoroughly and much of his work can be found easily by those interested.

As a father, willing to 'support' my children without benefit of 'child support' of any kind, I was denied this right and as so very many others reduced to an 'obligor' and a '16-percenter' (that's an every-other-weekend-dad for those unfamiliar with the system) because it is profitable for the state and no other reason.

Yes, for me this is a personal axe to grind - then again I'm fortunate enough to be able to pay more in child support than my mortgage and all my monthly bills combined - at least for the time being. I can tell you that that thought is never far from my mind though as I've been actively following father's rights movements for over four years now and am acutely familiar with the draconian means brought to bear in such circumstances (believe me, if the IRS operated under the same rules as CS collection there would be armed revolution in this country).

Those who have not been through it cannot imagine what it is like - you simply have to experience it to fully comprehend the scope of the system.

Yet, this like so many 'morality laws' are nothing more than 'feel-good' legislation for the holier than thou crowd.

And though I'm tolerant of your personal beliefs I personally believe that the imposition of such (including the other various usurption's of power you go into) are largely a product of this country's religious communities - to appeasement the desire to enforce one's morality on others.

An article in the ACFC quarterly that I recently received reveals the state's motives quite clearly:

"Family court judges' contempt for both fathers and constitutional rights was openly expressed by New Jersey municipal court judge Richard Russell: 'Your job is not to become concerned about the constitutional rights of the man that you're violating . . . Throw him out on the street . . . We don't have to worry about the rights'".

As far as I'm concerned that is an act aggression by the state that warrants deadly force to resist if need be - the bastard's better damn well be praying I don't lose my job because I'm willing to kill and/or die over this one issue.

Sic Semper Tyrannis

Anonymous said...

Anonymous, I believe this may be the Maryland Cop you are talking about ..

Baltimore cops V.S. skateboarder

Anonymous said...

Baltimore cops V.S. skateboarder

Miss Creant said...


My local paper had a story recently on the stimulus funds coming into the area. All of the money was going to the city's housing authority, the police department and the sheriff's department. So much for stimulating the economy!

James in south Texas

Doc Ellis 124 said...

Dear Will,

You still have hope, even now. You wrote: "This is a positive and encouraging development, an illustration of the corrective effect of an economic contraction. Ideally, states and municipalities would be compelled to abandon incarceration as a punishment for anything other than actual crimes against persons and property, and then to use that option sparingly in dealing with only the most serious offenses."

I do not believe that the these folks who incarcerate will turn away. I believe that they will continue.

Thank you for all that you do to advance liberty.

mongol Doc Ellis 124

Anonymous said...

Mandatory minimums are another part of the problem. Busting every nickel bag smoking pothead is not productive. We have to have bodies in those private prisons so yes they are the last growth industry here in the dying farce republik. Don't like it? Well you'll just have to buy your own senators. Here is a fun quote from John Adams,"Power always thinks it has a great soul and vast views beyond the comprehension
of the weak, and that it is doing God's Service when it is violating all of His Laws."

Anonymous said...

Anonymous @ 8:26 and 8:28pm -

That's the guy I was thinking of, although Will pointed out that there is at least one more of these clowns running around (sarcasm).

Thanks for the link!

Anonymous said...

I read an article the other day about the mayor of Schenectady, New York considering disbanding the police department due to rampant corruption. Browser it if you are interested in that story. Here locally a 15yr. old student was raped at her doorstep last week as she returned home from school. Just last night a bar argument spilled over into the street with a drive-by resulting in the death of the driver of one vehicle and passenger in critical condition. I guess the armed civil servant note takers were busy tracking down "deadbeat" dads and old hippies trying to smoke a joint and forget about what a mess this country is in. Does a country with so much wasting of resources and broken down systems even have a future? I don't know who this Vic Mackey fellow is I'll have to browser it hehe.

Anonymous said...

"When America ceases to be good, America will cease to be great." Tocqueville. We're certainly seeing the lack of "good" in our society today.

liberranter said...

As the International Herald Tribune observes, "Americans are locked up for crimes — from writing bad checks to using drugs — that would rarely produce prison sentences in other countries. And in particular they are kept incarcerated far longer than prisoners in other nations."

This is why there is becoming less and less of a stigma attached to having a prison record. I, for one, no longer even wince when I hear someone tell me that they've done time, because nine times out of ten, it was for precisely such non-violent non-crimes as drug possession or consumption.

I read an article the other day about the mayor of Schenectady, New York considering disbanding the police department due to rampant corruption.

Not sure if this mayor has acted on this idea (let us pray to God that he does), but I wouldn't be surprised if he is soon paid a visit by a representative of "Schenectady's Finest" who "suggests" to him, subtly or otherwise, that this "might not be a good idea." Such a "suggestion" would probably also be accompanied by a "reminder" of who protects said mayor from "accidents" or "angry, crazy people who might want to 'hurt'" him. (Imagine the severed horsehead in the bed scene from The Godfather).

Anonymous said...

Mr. Grigg,

I want to thank you for your blog. I'm a young man, and some days it's hard to believe that there are still Americans who keep liberty in their hearts.

I had my first child support hearing this week. I'm a full time student, and I was unfortunate to father a child with a woman I barely know. First she decided to put it up for adoption, then she decided to keep it. I had no input on her decisions, and I live on the other side of the country. I'm a full time student at a very intense liberal arts college, and right now I'm making $380/mo. Since I don't 'have an income' the court assigned me an 'earnings capacity' of $1500, and then $920/mo in child support and day care (the woman is also a full-time student). I'm fortunate that I have a lot of support right now, and I will be able to get by and finish school, but one false move could completely destroy my financial future. And I want to help support the child, even though I never wanted any part of it and thought the woman was being extremely callous with my emotions and my future. The worst part is that she WANTS to do all of this through the courts--that's what's 'right'. I have to say, most of my generation is only fit for slavery.

It's really good to hear someone have compassion for men in this situation; most are far worse off than me.

Anonymous said...

I'm forwarding this article to my friends, left and right alike! Thanks for the good work!!

Anonymous said...

Corrupt cops lead NY mayor to consider 'martial law'
Stephen C. Webster
Published: Monday March 23, 2009

A New York town's decades-long struggle with police corruption has its mayor considering potential measures most would consider drastic: disbanding the entire department and declaring "martial law."

"It may be that as a stopgap measure, that you would need military forces - State Police, National Guard," said Brian Stratton, mayor of Schenectady, New York.

"The governor would have to declare it and then the National Guard would come in," reported Capital News 9. "The mayor said it's more for a transition to a new police force if that were to happen."

Controversy over Schenectady's officers is nothing new.

"My father who served in this office from 1956 to 1958 was battling police corruption," said Stratton in a separate report by Capital News 9.

"Years later, the battle continues as at least five Schenectady police officers face possible termination," reported the station.

"Public Safety Commissioner Wayne Bennett says under the law, he's not allowed to consider the opinions of Mayor Stratton but he says the mayor has given him full authority to make whatever decisions have to be made in these cases," reported Fox 23 in Albany, NY.

"The six officers who may be fired are Darren Lawrence, accused of driving drunk, crashing in Colonie, fleeing the scene and beating a friend to keep him from reporting the incident; Michael Brown, accused of driving drunk, hitting another car, fleeing the scene and refusing a Breathalyzer test; John Lewis, accused of DWI, threatening to kill his ex-wife and numerous other charges; Gregory Hafensteiner and Andrew Karaskiewicz, accused of beating a drunken man during an arrest; and Dwayne Johnson, accused of leaving work four hours early on numerous Tuesdays," reported the Daily Gazette.

New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo plans a community forum in Schenectady on Tuesday to hear a litany of complaints from residents, not all of them centered on the police abuses.

Police Chief Mark R. Chaires, appointed in Sept. 2008, was taken by surprise by the options his mayor is considering.

"When I think of martial law, I think of rioting," he told Capital News 9. "I think of Watts riots and things like that. I haven't seen anything that rises to that level. I was a little surprised to hear that."

Chaires pledged in Feb. to fire several of the officers involved. He specifically wondered why department supervisors failed to notice officers stealing time

In January, the head of the city's civilian complaint review board resigned and complained that his role as a lead investigator had been relegated to dropping off complaints at police headquarters.

An ineffectual review board only serves to reinforce the perception that the Schenectady Police Department is a rogue organization that operates without legitimate oversight," opined NYCLU Director Melanie Trimble.

"I'd like to go one week where we don't have a negative newspaper article about the department," said City Councilman Gary McCarthy, in a report by the Times-Union. "It's just baffling that it just keeps happening. It's human nature that people are going to make mistakes, but this just seems so institutionalized."

"In the meantime, terminating these guys — for such serious offenses as driving drunk then leaving the scene of a personal injury accident; beating up a DWI suspect while taking him to the police station; driving drunk, then assaulting a passenger and fleeing the scene; driving drunk and violating numerous orders of protection to harass your spouse; and regularly taking hours off during a shift while also collecting huge amounts of overtime — seems justified," editorialized the Daily Gazette.

"From the city’s perspective, a worst-case scenario is that the firings would cost a lot of money to defend and wouldn’t hold up. In the meantime, though, the bad apples would have to stew in their own juices, pay their own legal expenses, and be ineligible to collect overtime. No officer would be likely to find such a prospect attractive, and the specter just might keep other officers honest. Wouldn’t that be a novelty.

Anonymous said...


Welcome to the amerikan gulag courtesy of the 'so called' family courts - I feel your pain. Isn't it wonderful that you can have you income 'imputed' (that's the judge pulling a number out of his ass for those who don't know the system - pure hearsay/speculation from the bench as the judge gets to guess as to what you might be able to make . . . and it is all perfectly legal).

I think the only way to get rid of such practice is to first expand it's usage to say the income tax - then there will be rebellion . . . then it will end.

Sic Semper Tyrannis

Anonymous said...

Probably the most outrageous case ever in the realm of corporate prisons is the 'Cash for Kids' scandal in Luzerne County, Pa.

Two 'judges,' Mark Ciavarella and Michael Conahan, have pled guilty to accepting $2.6 million from the co-owner and builder of a private detention center where children aged 10 to 17 were locked up.

The Juvenile Law Center in Wilkes-Barre uncovered scores of cases in which teenagers had been summarily sent to custody by Ciavarella, dating as far back as 1999. One child was detained for stealing a four-dollar jar of nutmeg; another for throwing a sandal at her mother; a third aged 14 was held for six months for slapping a friend at school.

Don't expect to read about this appalling scandal, which amounts to judicial kidnapping, in the lickspittle U.S. corpgov press. The story appeared in an English newspaper, the Guardian.


Needless to say, if these felons in black robes had kidnapped my child, this case would end up being settled by 'extrajudicial means.'

Tom Eddlem said...

So it's now close to one percent of the total U.S. population, more than double what it was before the drug war.

Please extend the trend line and tell me the year 100 percent of the American public will be incarcerated.

Anonymous said...

Wow I did not know deadbeating on support was a felony. That is a bit harsh. How is a father supposed to make payments when he is locked up? My dad who was a deadbeater (I still love em)filed bankruptcy to get around it all. I'm sure that loophole is closed. Maybe dad was right when he said the rest of the world is going towards freedom while we go towards socialism/fascism.

Anonymous said...


I really don't think that the rest of the world is moving toward freedom; most smaller states are now clients of the West (the U.S.) or China, or allies thereof. I think a better formulation, and I've been saying this for a couple years, is that we are giving up our pretensions to democracy, and the Chinese are giving up their pretensions to communism, and we've all promised to meet in the middle and be happy global imperialists.

Anonymous said...


You have no idea regarding the scope and measures available in the family court/child support extortion racket. But before elaborating, let me state the the only 'deadbeats' are those receiving gov't checks - period.

Will has written a past column on this topic (which I highly recommend though I don't have it at hand) and also Dr. Baskerville has written extensively - google his name to find many links to his articles and books.

CS is the ONLY form of non-dischargeable 'debt' that exists in this country (the Bradley Amendment) and it is one for which you can serve jail time (debtor's prison - google John Murtari for an extreme example). It does not matter if you are in jail, in a hospital on your death bed or simply unemployed it continues to accrue.

For those in a higher income bracket you can literally be a matter of a few weeks from falling into 'felon' territory ($2400). For me, that is about six weeks of inability to pay . . . try getting on with your life with that hanging over your head (that's what I get for catching a cheating wife).

It is time to abolish the family courts and the child extortion apparatus know as child support in this country. It has become the single most destructive force to families this country will ever experience.

Sic Semper Tyrannis

deskbound meism said...

W.N.G. good luck in your quest for gainful employment. Here is a fun quote from Marx, "the only thing worse than being exploited (employed) is not being exploited (unemployed)."

Anonymous said...

Once again an excellent post, Will. It reminds me of my current reading in The Black Book of Communism, the development of the Soviet penal system of forced labor. I encourage everyone to read this well-documented study of Communist crimes.

Anonymous said...

Forced child support encourages women to forsake the family unit in exchange for 18 years of checks.
There's no incentive for the woman to value the family anymore, because the court will ensure that she gets paid, no matter what. Just writing about this irritates me, because I'm 7 years into this, and I have no oversight as to how this money is spent.
I'm guessing my ex is using the money I give her for our son, to pay for the lawyer she uses to deny me more time with my son. It's absurd.

Peter Courtenay Stephens said...

I just read your Revenge of the Waco Gene, and am in admiration. I have been hammering on this particular incident of mass murder since it happened and I am not a right wing Christian. I am right wing however. Keep it up as we are extremely close, in my opinion to a very very serious final challenge of The Constitution,and this country needs clear voices, which you have. I hope you will communicate with me as I feel we could have value exchanges.
Peter Courtenay Stephens
2746 Tanglewood Rd
Hayes, VA 23072
"The American People pretend to Be free. Our masters in Washington Pretend to Agree".

That Damn Libertarian said...

Don Boudreaux at Cafe Hayek seems to disagree with your statement "our days as a manufacturing power a wistful memory"