Long live austerity


austerity (Photo credit: 401K)

In french, vive l’austérité . The French and the Greeks rejected continued austerity in sunday’s elections. Francois Hollande will replace Nicolas Sarkozy as President of France. We don’t know yet who will govern in Greece. Even in Germany, the hotbed of austerity in Europe, austerity was defeated in a local election.

Here in the US, the supporters of austerity are Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan. We don’t want to adopt the failed policy of austerity for four more years. The GOP-slowed recovery from the Great Recession during the past 3.5 years has been bad enough without making the situation worse by electing Mitt.

Smart on Crime

Smart on Crime dust jacket

Smart on Crime

Smart on Crime, A Career Prosecutor’s Plan to Make Us Safer by Kamala D. Harris, written when she served as the District Attorney of San Francisco. Kamala is now the Attorney General of California.

The book is a slender volume of ways old and new to protect the innocent while punishing and then rehabilitating the guilty. The most cost effective way to reduce crime is to prevent its occurrence through smart crime fighting, rather than harsher sentencing and more prisons. The book is chock full of crime fighting programs with catchy names and acronyms. Every victim aided, criminal punished or rehabilitated and crime prevented is a victory worth celebrating. In the final analysis though, all are efforts at the margins of the problem, which is our obsession with material possessions.

At the heart of most crimes is a material good, which someone possesses and someone else wants. Some have more than they need while others may feel they possess less than they want to satisfy their needs, artificially inflated by advertising and what society may deem appropriate. This focus on material goods needs to change, if ultimately we are going to reduce crime and eliminate prisons, which is a goal I think that we should seek to accomplish.

Bhutan is a remote kingdom in the Himalayas between India and China. Rather than measuring the state of the economy using gross domestic product, a measure of goods and services produced, as the rest of the world does, Bhutan surveys its citizens to measure happiness in a sort of gross domestic happiness index. By putting the emphasis on happiness, the King and government of Bhutan downplay the importance of material goods in the life of the Bhutanese. Nicolas Sarkozy, President of France, commissioned a study in France to determine if and how France can emulate Bhutan and produce a gross national happiness index to supplement their gross domestic product index. The results of that study are contained in Mis-Measuring Our Lives, Why GDP Doesn’t Add Up by Joseph E. Stiglitz et al.

Since California is frequently a trend-setter here in the US, I am suggesting that the state government of California undertake a study of its own to see how the Bhutanese model could be adapted to conditions here in the US, specifically the state of California. I do not expect that changes could be made quickly or easily. I do believe that significant reductions in crime would be accomplished by reducing the importance of material objects in our lives and replacing them with an increase in general happiness.

Please see America’s Prisons | Prison Reform | Tough on crime | I am not a Marxist