Monday, April 5, 2010

Moral Myopia

Some time ago, I signed up at in order to vote for all of the libertarian initiatives.  This means that I get a weekly email from them talking about various issues.  It is a quick and interesting look at how liberals think and what current issues they consider important, so I have never bothered to unsubscribe.

The most recent email had the following:

Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio has one of the worst reputations in the world when it comes to prisoner abuse, having forced many of his immigrant inmates to wear pink underwear and sleep outside in tent cities during Phoenix summers, where the temperature climbs to over 110 degrees.

Now, I know that Arpaio is an obnoxious self-promoter who lives for his image and fails to do the basic tasks of policing, with the result that serious crimes go unpunished.  But this sentence is ridiculous.  It shows a staggering ignorance of the prison conditions on this planet.  The implication that Arpaio's publicity stunts are the worst prisoner abuse in the world is absurd.  I wish that was the case.  I wish that the worst thing that human prisoners had to deal with was the wrong color of underwear and a lack of HVAC.

The cruel fact is that Arpaio's prisoners live in better conditions than many prisoners in the United States, as measured by the odds of rape and violence and prisoner abuse.  And when you move outside our country, the situation gets much, much worse.  In places like Russia, prisoners are routinely tortured, killed, and abused in ways that make Arpaio look like Andy Taylor.  Anyone who does not understand this, like the blogger who wrote the email message, has a serious lack of perspective.

Of course, the sentence, as written, may be true.  It may be the case that Arpaio does have the worst reputation in the world.  The hundreds and thousands of sheriffs, prison officials, law enforcement officers, and bureaucrats who preside over much worse hellholes do not have much of a reputation.  They go unnamed and unpunished.  In a just world, they would be known as the villains and nobody would even know Arapio's name.

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