Perceived Social Disorder and the Politics of Punishment

In this New York Times column, Matt Bai reports on new focus-group research that connects the current anti-incumbent political atmosphere to broader, deep-seated social anxieties regarding a perceived breakdown in civil society.  Here is a taste:

The focus group that met here in New Jersey on Monday included a bartender, a lawyer and a school bus driver. The dominant theme of the discussion, in which jobs and taxes came up only in passing, seemed to be the larger breakdown of civil society — the disappearance of common courtesy, the relentless stream of data from digital devices, the proliferation of lawsuits and the insidious influence of media on their children.

These comments remind me of a fascinating paper I read a few years ago that attempted to ascertain why California voters had supported that state’s infamously draconian Three Strikes Law.  Continue reading “Perceived Social Disorder and the Politics of Punishment”