In his most recent column Giving Freedom a Bad Name, my friend Will Moredock writes:
“Liberty” is also a word that has been co-opted by the right-wing, for example, Jerry Falwell’s socially and academically repressive Liberty University, the deeply racist and anti-Semitic Liberty Lobby (which once had ties with the late Sen. Strom Thurmond), and the recently formed Young Americans for Liberty, an outgrowth of Ron Paul’s presidential campaign.
Yet, in all this talk of freedom and liberty coming from the right, I have never heard a single conservative address the paradox of America holding more people in its prisons and jails than any other nation on earth. In 2007, a record 7.2 million people were behind bars, on probation, or parole. In 2008, America had 737 per 100,000 people incarcerated, by far the highest rate in the world.
The majority of Americans are incarcerated for non-violent crimes, which includes anything from writing bad checks to using drugs.
While I agree that the Right would do well to better define words like “liberty” or “freedom” when using them (as the Left would do well to actually define “hope” or “change”) Will’s example of conservatives ignoring the U.S. ridiculous and needlessly high incarceration rate does not ring true for one conservative included in his indictment.
Ron Paul has been a lifelong, consistent opponent of the federal War on Drugs and often mentions arrest and prison statistics to support his position. Here’s something I found on a quick Google search. Says Paul:
We have now over 500,000 people in prison that never committed a violent crime for drug use, and there are mandatory jail sentences under these conditions. This makes no sense, it’s so expensive and it hasn’t achieved anything.
I don’t blame Will for not recognizing this or any other stark differences between Paul and other conservatives but also felt it necessary to point this one difference out.