The American Conservative: "The Dickensian Return of Debtors’ Prisons"

Originally published at:


Conservative policies insanely punitive towards non-rich, non-privileged, non-white people. Water also wet, Germans not great comedians, and the healing powers of herbal tea: up at 11.


As with the opioid epidemic, something only becomes a problem for American conservatives when it starts hitting white supporters of the political party and politicians whose policies enabled or caused the problem in the first place.

I look forward to reading the piece because it’s a subject that fascinates me. However, I won’t be expecting anything in response to the phenomenon he decries other than yet more Reaganite whingeing about how government is the problem.

[ETA: read the piece. Expectations fulfilled!]


Wait a minute here…

King can represent a strain of conservatism that decries government overreach and corruption, but he stops short of calling for the regulation of payday lenders, or the creation of Medicare For All, or strong tenants’ rights and rent control, or a resurgence in trade unions – any of the remedies that would give the people in debtors’ prisons the political clout to fight back, the income to pay fines, and the security to wage a struggle for justice.

So, this “strain of conservatism” thinks this systemic abuse of the poor & minorities is terrible and all, but isn’t interested in lifting the tiniest finger to actually _do _ anything to stop or even curb it? Is there still a strain of conservatism that isn’t defined by greed and cowardice?


Why should it have to lift its own finger when there’s an entire Invisible Hand to magic it away?


Something, something, bootstraps.




The concept of monetary bail honestly never made sense to me.

Why does the ability to pay a specific amount of money have any bearing at all on the ability to walk free as charges are brought against you? By its very definition the concept of monetary bail does nothing but deprive an individual who is poor of their freedom regardless of guilt, afford one who is wealthy the ability to walk free also regardless of their guilt, with the judiciary acting like a toll both on a public road set up by a highwayman in midevil england.


So, in short, the system is working as intended.

1 Like

With the presumed advent of driverless cars, how will rural law enforcement function? Without moving violations as a pretext for pulling over persons of color, how will they fill up jails or arrest who they want?


“Liberal” and “conservative” are exactly as coherent as “Republican” and “Democrat”, i.e., not at all, which is why we need helper labels like “fiscal conservative” and “social conservative”, to shoehorn completely unlike things into one voting bloc. This is only about ensuring that each party magically continues to control its 50% share; if the parties and their messaging were to disappear, “liberal” and “conservative” as categories would vanish with them.

The American Conservative manages to bring together many unlike perspectives; I have been reading it for a while as my go-to spike of thoughtful commentary from the right. The comments are generally great, and the commenters appear to come from across the political spectrum. I don’t go there looking for agreement, but I often find much to agree with. In particular the writing of Daniel Larison (which is what brings many of the readers to the site) is some of the best, most stridently anti-imperialist and anti-war voices on the Internet - I don’t see many on the so-called left writing as consistently about the Saudi/American war in Yemen.

1 Like

Well hey, that sure is encouraging! :roll_eyes:

That one sentence blows any chance that such a reader actually would take your otherwise intriguing advice.

(Left of center-left BB reader here btw, who does read there sometimes.)


Sorry, edited… this is what comes of writing at 5 am. I was feeling annoyed by the parade of “conservative? I obviously don’t need to read that, (cursory glance) I’m right!” comments above. I need to stop commenting with my lizard-brain (i.e., stop commenting).


If the view from the “centre-left bubble” is one that takes the author of the otherwise competent piece to task for describing and acknowledging the problem without offering any solutions except the implied one of “gubmint bad, make go bye-bye” (or ones proposed for more than a decade by liberals and progressives, offered without credit) then I’m happy to reside in it.

The name of the magazine is “The American Conservative”, so they’ve chosen the label. It’s one of the better conservative media outlets in the U.S. today, a small oasis of something approaching Eisenhower-style views in a howling wasteland of extremism and bigotry. However, as this article shows, its writers are often hobbled by certain core assumptions (e.g. laissez faire as the default solution for any problem; progressives can never come up with solutions).


TAC should rename themselves The Old School Conservative because that’s pretty much what they are, and not to be confused by the extractive capitalists-supporting nihilists and haters calling themselves conservative. Or Republicans. Whatever one wants to say about TAC, I wouldn’t characterize it as truly fascist.


Lets not even mention the fact that a lot of these prisons are for profit.

I’m guessing this is not the only case of abuse with this system.


This is probably a typo, but a good description of current British politics. Mid-evil.


riding while black will be a thing

This topic was automatically closed after 5 days. New replies are no longer allowed.