Blog #8: Underclass

People living in poverty are greatly restricted in their social mobility. Its much harder for someone in the lower class to move up, than from someone in the middle class. The education is worse and their social network to jobs is non existent. In order to remedy these problems, people want more government intervention. But, perhaps it is government intervention itself which keeps the poor restricted. America spends the most money on education in the industrialized world, yet, continues to fall behind on education itself. But, in America if we look at the few county’s that have started a voucher programs for the poor, those kids in poverty with the vouchers get considerably better education. The reason for this is that the government doesn’t choose where you go to school, rather the people choose and the people know whats best for themselves. Another restriction the government places on social mobility, is minimum wage. By enforcing minimum wage the government pushes out jobs that would go to the young people in poor families. These jobs can give poor people work experience, work ethic, and the value of budgeting their money. In present day America, thanks to the government we have what is known as Crony Capitalism. If we had a pure capitalistic society it wouldn’t matter what your social background is, or what jobs your parents have, rather success is only dependent upon yourself, your work ethic, and your innovations. In capitalist society if you produce what people want you will be successful. In Drawing Blood: Being Poor in America, the author laments about how growing up in the lower class hindered his ability to know about these financial issues. As I have shown in a capitalist society this wouldn’t have been a problem for the lower class. Its time for the people to stand up for whats right, and give the poor an opportunity to be successful as well. 

Blog #7: Stop and Frisk

I feel that the stop and frisk program should continue. People feel that the program is bigoted and racist due to the fact that majority of the people stopped were racial minorities. But, this leaves out the fact that the neighborhoods with the most crime, and therefore were the stop and frisk tactics take place, are heavily populated by minorities. Even a completely random selection of people will produce a higher rate of minorities in these areas. Another factor which contributes to the high rate of minorities being stopped is the fact that the descriptions of crime suspects as racial minorities are higher. African-Americans made up of 65% of the violent crime suspects, yet were 56% of the stops. Another claim of the opponents is that although the number of stop and frisks in 2013 have gone down 51%, crime has still dropped 2.7% and murders fell at a 30% rate. they use this in response to Mayor Bloomberg’s claim that since the start of the stop and frisk policy in the 1990’s murder has dropped a whopping 80% and major felonies at 75%. they claim due to this new data the correlation between stop and frisk and the fall in crime does not equal causation. But, in truth, so far in 2013 there has been a 43% decline in weapons recovered compared to the year before. Regardless that data showing crime rate has dropped this year is in a small time frame has not included the summer when crime is usually higher, and may be a continuing residual effect of stop and frisk programs. The real question at hand is whether stop and frisk is against the Fourth Amendment. About 90%of the people who are stopped and frisked are let go. But courts have already ruled that with “reasonable suspicion” this tactic is legal. SO it seems to me that the people shouldn’t be upset, rather happy that their streets are safe. 

Blog #6: Stigmatizing Muslims

One of the most hotly debated national security issues is that of profiling at security checkpoints.  Many argue that it would be improper to subject groups, such as Muslims, to more rigorous checking at airports or other border crossings.  Instead, it seems that we in the United States rely more on random checks, asking the same repetitive, inane questions of having packed your own bags and disallowing liquids through the security point.  Not only do those procedures seem silly at some level (I’ve seen toddlers patted down), but on a recent trip to Israel, a security person told me that those procedures are in fact silly and are not really effective at preventing a terrorist from his or her objective.  Israel, which arguably is the country most at risk to terrorism, relies on a more effective method of profiling travelers and subjecting those folks to a rigorous security check.  Now, certainly most Muslims are not terrorists and not all terrorists are Muslim.  But it cannot be argued that the substantial majority of terrorist acts are perpetrated by individuals preaching an extreme Muslim religious orientation.  Profiling such individuals only means that the odds are greater that the particular group under scrutiny would contain a terrorist than another group and that such group should be more closely scrutinized.  Odds then are increased that a potential terror act will be prevented.  That doesn’t mean that other methods, even those currently in use, should continue and be part of the overall screening process, but some heightened level of profiling should be included so that there will be less of a chance of having national security compromised.  It may not be comfortable for all, but all would be safer. 

Blog #5:

Some have asserted that doctors and others in the medical profession often become medical crusaders, attempting to influence the public’s morality and behavior.  Abortion is sometimes cited as a historical proof of that phenomenon.  The proof is centered around the fact that abortion was never illegal prior to the mid to late 19th century and that it was an organized group of crusading doctors that worked to criminalize abortion and make it morally reprehensible.  I believe that argument misses the mark.  I do not argue with the fact that the medical profession was instrumental in opposing abortion having an end result where states began to criminalize abortion.  I believe, however, that rather than having  a moral motive, it was two “old world factors” that was really at the heart of the medical profession’s at the heart of their opposition to the procedure: economic and ethical.  Clearly, for the good of the public, abortion procedures must be proper and safe.  They must be performed by those with the expertise to do so.  That is what doctors were actually after.  Initially, outlawing the procedure was just an extreme temporary solution until an infrastructure could be created to allow proper regulation.  Unfortunately, it took about 100 years for that to occur, although doctors were at the forefront of fighting the battle to legalize the procedure so that they can be performed safely and hygienically.  That is the ethical side.  On the economic front, obviously doctors were incented to monopolize a procedure to their economic advantage and that is why they crusaded against it early on.  In fact they act in their own economic interest in a host of related health matters.  

Blog #4: Moral Entrepreneurs

In his essay about the two types of moral entrepreneurs, Howard Becker describes Rule Enforcers as one.  Police are one type of enforcement agency or institution of Rule Enforcers.  Becker believes that rule enforcers such as police have no stake in the contents of the rules themselves so they often develop their own private evaluation of the importance of various kinds of rules and infractions of them.  Thus, they enforce rules in a selective way.  I don’t believe that selective police enforcement is a result of officers differentiating among the importance of rules.  It is more a result of restriction placed upon them by limited resources.  Police officers are human beings so each one may have a personal opinion on whether a specific rule is admirable, suitable or misplaced.  As professionals, however, they can, and probably do, put such prejudices aside and enforce each rule in the same manner.  But they cannot be at all places at all times.  Concerns about costs, manpower, jail capacity and similar resource issues necessarily require them to make judgments about which rules to enforce and what form enforcement should take.  An inner city neighborhood with a significant drug gang and murder problems would probably want police to throw all manpower fighting those scourges rather that divert manpower to preventing car drivers from using the bus lane while a suburban neighborhood without such serious crime issues may want the police to set up speed traps to remove dangerous drivers from threatening their streets.  Value judgments are always needed when it comes to rules.  They are made when the rules are developed, so they should be made as to how the rules are enforced.  The public may disagree with the enforcement choices made by police, but that can be handled through the political system.

Blog #3: Temperance Movement

Joseph Gusfield describes his review of the Temperance movement as a study of moral reform as a political and social issue.  In his final analysis, he states that the Temperance movement has been fighting a losing battle because in contemporary society it is the abstainer who is despised as nonconformist.  Gusfield asserts that this rejection of the abstinence movement is the result of America changing from a commercial society to an industrial one in which control, discipline and sobriety are no longer such hallowed virtues.  Gusfield ignores some important basic realities.  Prohibition failed not because America evolved, but because America never believed in sobriety as a means to a virtuous or religious life.  It is not only a contemporary belief.  In fact, alcohol consumption, in the form of wine, was used in sacrament and festive religious observances.  Of course, substances that can affect behavior need to be somewhat controlled.  The Temperance movement’s failure was a result of being misinformed and mistaken in its belief that the best method to prevent excess and “improper” behavior was complete abstinence.  The Temperance movement was so wrong that it could be argued that Prohibition was the proximate cause of an embryonic organized crime underworld becoming a permanent fixture in American society.  The movement is currently rejected because America matured to understand that drinking can be regulated to avoid excess; it is unnecessary to be made completely illegal.  Rules, such as drinking age minimums, driving laws and similar regulations can be effective in controlling bad behavior.  Abstainers are not abhorred as Gusfield argues.  Rather, sobriety is no longer a hallowed virtue because America grew to understand that it is not necessary for complete sobriety to exist in order to avoid the perceived problems of excess.

Blog #2: Social Junk and Social Dynamite

I couldn’t agree more with Parenti’s description of outcasts as “Social Junk” or “Social Dynamite.”  We in New York City saw both of these aspects of social control at work at the end of the 20th Century.  The City was in some turmoil after a bitter mayoral election between David Dinkins, the city’s first African American winner, and Rudy Giuliani.  During Dinkins’s administration there were some riots in Crown Heights sparked by the frustration of the African American community of what they believed to be City Hall’s preferential treatment for the provision of City services and housing to the neighborhood’s Jewish Hasidic residents.  This challenge by “Social Dynamites” caused a backlash in the City’s white communities.  The media, controlled by the City’s elite, demonized the rioters.  Politicians avoided the underlying root causes of the riots and denounced the residents as mere wild criminals.  Eventually, City Hall was forced to rally the police to crush the rioters.  The riots were used as a springboard for Guliani’s winning the next election over Dinkins claiming that he would bring law and order to the city.  Once in office, Giuliani began a forceful program of social control in removing the “Social Junk.” He had the police crackdown by removing the homeless from the streets, subway cars and stations and cracking down on corner car window washers.  Giuliani wanted to make the city more comfortable for the elites.  At least NY during the 1990s seemed to encapsulate Parenti’s views.  

Blog #1: Deviance and its relationship to moral boundaries

Emile Durkheim postulates that one of the four essential functions of social deviance is its clarification of social boundaries. People define what the boundary is by pointing out deviant behavior. Durkheim claims that without any deviance, society would not know what deviant behavior is worse than the other. Kai Erikson expounds on this point by using Puritans as an example. He claims that the Puritans labeled some peoples acts as deviant and this labeling told the rest of the puritans what is “good” and what is “evil.” Proof of this, Erikson claimed, was that for the different offenses the proportion of deviance remained the same. But this brings into the philosophical question of where does morality come from. Does in fact morality come from any society’s muses and therefore, like Durkheim and Erikson claims whatever society labels as deviant is outside moral boundaries. If this is so, how does one explain some universal norms throughout societies which have never been in contact; murder as one example. Or perhaps morality is innate within human nature as to what is right or wrong. This would debunk Durkheim’s and Erikson’s theory that deviance defines boundaries. This however, does not explain why morality differs through time and space. Instead of delving into the matter of whether or not deviance labels morality, I believe the deeper question of what is morality and where did it come from should be asked first.