❄ Finding a Pattern?

  ❄ Finding a Pattern?   

Are the political and social worlds the result of ‘cultural and social forces’ or of ‘people’s intentional actions’? If you were asked to explain the following verbatim claims about the United States—are they true? how are they possible? what do they mean? how should citizens respond?— what would you say?

[1] Tracking Cellphone use.

“[US] cellphone carriers reported that they responded to a startling 1.3 million demands for subscriber information last year from law enforcement agencies seeking text messages, caller locations and other information in the course of investigation.” [Note 1]

[2] Imprisonment.

“Inmates released from prison in 2009 spent an average of 2.9 years—or 36 percent—longer behind bars than offenders released in 1990,” according to a report by the Pew Center on the States. [Note 2]

[3] 2000 US Election a ‘Fraud’

“The 21st century began with a fraudulent [US] Presidential election.” [Note 3]

[4] Global Warming.

“Spring of 2012, the months of March, April and May, was the warmest on record for the contiguous United States. The average temperature of 57.1 degrees Fahrenheit was a whopping 5.2 degrees above average, breaking the record set in 1910.” [Note 4]

[5] Inequalities of Wealth.

A Pew Research Center study issued in mid-2011 reported that

“[I]n percentage terms, the bursting of the housing market bubble in 2006 and the recession that followed from late 2007 to mid-2009 took a far greater toll on the wealth of minorities than whites. From 2005 to 2009, inflation-adjusted median wealth fell by 66% among Hispanic households and 53% among black households, compared with just 16% among white households.

“As a result of these declines, the typical black household had just $5,677 in wealth (assets minus debts) in 2009; the typical Hispanic household had $6,325 in wealth; and the typical white household had $113,149.” [Note 5]

[6] Plea Bargain Abuse.

“The Bureau of Justice Statistics [US Department of Justice], after studying partial data on state-court felony prosecutions nationwide, found that from 1986 to 2006 the ratio of pleas to trials nearly doubled.

“The shift has been clearer in federal district courts. After tougher sentencing laws were enacted in the 1980s, the percentage of criminal cases taken to trial fell to less than 3 percent last year, from almost 15 percent, according to data from the State University at Albany’s Sourcebook of Criminal Justice Statistics. The explosion of immigration prosecutions, where trials are rare, skews the numbers, but the trend is evident even when those cases are not included.

“Nearly nine of every 10 cases ended in pleas last year, the federal data show, while one in 12 were dismissed (the percentage of dismissed cases was substantially higher a generation ago).” [Note 6]

The Question

Were these outcomes the consequence of impersonal cultural and social ‘forces’, or of ‘choices’ made by groups and individuals in the US community? ‘forces’ or ‘choices’?


The New York Times, 6 June 2012.

[Note 2]: Erica Goode, “Average Prison Stay Grew 36 Percent in Two Decades,” The New York Times, 9 July 2012.

[Note 3]: David Remnick, The New Yorker, 12 March 2012.

[Note 4]: The New York Times, 9 June 2012. “Weather Report.”

[Note 5]: “Twenty-to-One: Wealth Gaps Rise to Record Highs Between Whites, Blacks and Hispanics,” Pew Research Center: Social and Demographic Trends, 26 July 2011. http://pewsocialtrends.org/2011/07/26/wealth-gaps-rise-to-record-highs-between-whites-blacks-hispanics/

[Note 6]: Richard A. Oppel, Jr., “Sentencing Shift Gives New Leverage to Prosecutors,” The New York Times, 25 September 2011.

[Political Design 2012.09.06. Post A37. http://www.learnworld.com/blog/design.html or http://design.learnworld.com]

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