Locked Out

by Kieran Healy on March 23, 2006

Locked Out CoverSeveral good books dealing with the American penal system and its effects on other aspects of American society are slated to appear this year. The first of them has just been published. Locked Out, by “Jeff Manza”:http://www.cas.northwestern.edu/sociology/faculty/manza/home.html and “Chris Uggen”:http://www.soc.umn.edu/~uggen/ examines the consequences of felon disenfranchisement laws for political participation and electoral outcomes. As might be expected, the United States puts much stronger restrictions than most Western countries on the voting rights of those currently imprisoned, on parole or probation, as well as on those who have served their sentences. When coupled with the fact that the U.S. has a relatively enormous segment of its population in prison, such laws may have political effects in themselves, as well as reflecting some of the deep effects of mass incarceration in modern American society. Here’s a map (from “Chris’s website”:http://www.soc.umn.edu/%7Euggen/felon_disenfranchisement.htm) showing felon disenfranchisement laws by state (for 2004). (Click the map for a larger, more readable version.)

In the book, Manza and Uggen find that about 5.3 million people were affected by these laws as of the November 2004 election. Of these, two million were African-American. In several states, as many as one in four black men is ineligible to vote. An “earlier article”:http://www.soc.umn.edu/%7Euggen/Uggen_Manza_ASR_02.pdf by the authors estimate that felon disenfranchisement is large enough to affect national elections when they are close: felons make up about 2.5 percent of the U.S. voting-age population (a steady upward trend from just under one percent in 1976). But there’s not much political hay to be made about this — who wants to say “70 percent of felons vote Democratic”? The racial history of these laws is more important: they are largely the outcome of racial conflict during Reconstruction. Moreover, according to the authors public opinion polls suggest 80 percent of Americans are in favor of allowing convicted felons to vote once they have completed their sentences. (Only a third are in favor of allowing prisoners to vote.)

Chris Uggen also “has a good blog”:http://chrisuggen.blogspot.com/, incidentally. Today, for instance, I “learned from him”:http://chrisuggen.blogspot.com/2006/03/federal-lawsuit-over-financial-aid-for.html that students convicted of rape (for example) remain eligible for federal financial aid, but students convicted of misdemeanor drug possession are automatically ineligible. Anyway, I recommend the book.

While responding to comments on a rather facetious Comment is Free article[1] on the UK “loans for lordships” scandal, I came across this fantastic investment opportunity. Burke’s Peerage are apparently the leading (which is to say, probably the only) brokerage firm in buying and selling genuine (by which I mean, fairly genuine) titles of nobility. They come in three categories:
[click to continue…]

Should children have the right to vote?

by Harry on March 23, 2006

djw has a nice post up about whether children should have the right to vote (unfortunately it sems to load very slowly, but its worth reading). He is somewhat persuaded that they should, and outlines the argument of a paper by Michael Cummings arguing the case (my colleague Fran Schrag has another interesting paper making a different argument for a similar conclusion). I’m not sure I disagree with any of the arguments djw presents, all of which are responses to possible arguments against enfranchising children. So he calls for an argument that is not easily responded to, so, ever willing to oblige, here’s a possible reason, which, I think, makes a better version of the case that his comment #4 is a response to.

[click to continue…]

Soccer wars

by Henry Farrell on March 23, 2006

Via David Glenn, this “wonderful chart”:http://hoverbike.blogspot.com/2006/03/partisani.html showing the political affiliations of Italian football team support groups. Lazio’s supporters, not surprisingly, vary from the right to the extreme right. A friend’s sister briefly dated a Lazio supporter; it sounds to have been an interesting experience. The links between soccer and politics are especially strong in Italy; Berlusconi’s “Forza Italia” is the only political party I know of that takes its name from a football chant.

Changing the subject a bit, it looks as though Berlusconi is going to go down in flames when Italians head to the polls next month. He’s had no success in lowering the opposition’s “5% lead”:http://www.repubblica.it/speciale/2006/elezioni_sondaggi/index.html in the polls, and the stench of desperation from him and his supporters reeks so strongly as to be nearly tangible. Public attacks on “Confindustria”:https://registration.ft.com/registration/barrier?referer=http://news.google.com/news?hl=en&ned=us&q=Berlusconi+confindustria&ie=UTF-8&sa=N&start=10&location=http%3A//news.ft.com/cms/s/7e792606-b833-11da-bfc5-0000779e2340.html, the most important Italian business organization (and usually a reliable water-carrier for the right), claims that the left is organizing riots to create a “situation of democratic emergency”:http://today.reuters.co.uk/news/newsArticle.aspx?type=worldNews&storyID=2006-03-22T180212Z_01_L22597576_RTRUKOC_0_UK-ITALY-BERLUSCONI.xml&archived=False, and most bizarre of all, a public plea for pity from the press.

bq. I’m carrying all the paperwork for the cabinet meeting, which is very hefty as you can see. I stayed up and worked on this until five this morning, as I have done throughout these five years. I say this with little hope of it being reported … I’m sorry if I’ve been long-winded, but I am at peace with my conscience … Let’s hope that some good soul in the media world, out of pity, will write news of this.

What the Italians would call a ‘brutta figura’ (bad show). It sounds as if Berlusconi himself believes that he’s lost the election.

Update – Thanks to Scott McLemeee for the photo below – the Brigate Autonome Livornesi are clearly fans of Uncle Joe.


I’m going to be in Boston on Saturday for a conference on Equality and Education, with papers by Debra Satz, Elizabeth Anderson, and me and Adam Swift, plus commentators. It should be very good; I’m looking forward to what Anderson and Satz have to say. I presume from the fact that there’s a webpage about it that it is open; whether so or not I always like meeting readers and hearing their complaints…

On unrelated news I got a lovely packet the other day from a former student, containing a signed copy of Loudon Wainwright III’s Here Come the Choppers. I mention LWIII in every class I teach, on the grounds that if they learn nothing else, they ought to know who LWIII is. The accompanying letter says

Likely you don’t remember me, as I was only a (mostly unmemorable) student in one of your classes 3 or 4 years ago. However, one thing you did was introduce me the the music of LWIII. I’ve always remembered that, and my life is better for it. Here is his latest CD, signed, and sent with my regards.

I do remember him, in fact, and am very touched by the gift. Even better, this is LW’s best in years; not as good as History or Album III, but his best in decade. Maybe the competition is doing him good.

The question. I’ve wondered for about 15 years whether the Chaim Tannenbaum who plays on many of Loudon Wainwright’s albums is the same Chaim Tannenbaum who is acknowledged in “The Structure of Proletarian Unfreedom”. If none of our readers can enlighten me, I’ll give up wondering.

Carbon: too much, not too little

by John Q on March 23, 2006

Like Henry George’s theory of land taxation, Peak Oil seems to be one of those ideas, reasonable enough in itself, and modest in scope, that attracts a cult following in which it becomes the answer to all kinds of questions. This piece in Salon gives a tour of some of the wilder fringes (apparently serious people suggesting we are going back to the 13th century for example), and indicates the need for a correction.

[click to continue…]