Quite a few years ago, Chucky and I found ourselves in Malaga, Spain. We were both in college, and his parents had graciously invited me along on their family trip. We spent our days in more or less typical tourist fashion, venturing around little Spanish villas, the near-by cities and even crossing the Strait of Gibraltar to visit Tangiers Morocco.

The evenings, we had pretty much to ourselves, and although our plans to hop a train to France were thwarted, we managed to enjoy ourselves by wandering aimlessly around Malaga in a relentless search of interesting pubs and British girls to flirt with. We found plenty of both, but as wildly successful as we were at getting these British girls to agree to meet us for dates on subsequent days, we were decidedly less successful at getting them to actually show up.

We also found this poster with a very attractive woman named Ana advertising the Spanish public telephone service. We must have walked past it a dozen times, each time commenting on how attractive Ana was, and how much the poster made us desperately want to use one of these amazing Spanish public telephones to call her up and ask her out on a date. Sadly for us, and fortunately for Ana, however, her number was not listed anywhere on the poster; a fact which we found most upsetting, but was probably a blessing in hindsight because neither of us knew much Spanish and would have most likely made quite a blunder of any advances we might have managed.

On to plan “B” we thought. If we couldn’t have Ana’s phone number, we were most certainly not leaving Spain without her poster.

Now, it is important to realize that this poster was not only in a very public location near the beach, it was also enclosed behind locked glass, making any attempt to acquire it a fairly risky proposition. If we were going to nick it, we were going to first have to find a time when nobody was around, and secondly, a way to unlock the glass cabinet enclosing it.

It so happened that on our last day in Spain, we were were strolling back late at night from a pseudo British pub after a failed attempt to locate flirtable British girls when we noticed that the normally bustling sidewalk where Ana was located had become deserted. Problem one solved! Now just to get that glass cabinet open. I’m a roof and tunnel hacker, so I consider myself above forced entry, preferring more elegant methods like lock picking and social engineering, but I did not have my lock picks so we were forced to use more imaginative methods… Like the butter knife we had conveniently taken from the pub. We moved in to inspect and realized to our joy that the lock was placed directly in the middle of a very long and flimsy piece of aluminum that made up the frame for the poster to sit it.

An insertion of the better knife and a little twist popped the door open with a “dh-dh-dh-dh” sound that I will never forget. Chucky and I looked at each other, both a little surprised, but in total agreement that the only next step could be to take Ana down, roll her up and put her up Chucky’s sleve. This we did, and in a few short seconds we were off with Ana, having escaped Spanish jail and acquired just about the sweetest bit of travel memorabilia I have ever seen!

Ana now hangs in Chuck’s office down in Greenland NH.

Brattleboro Selectmen Ban Public Nudity

In a truly astounding display of cowardice and pandering to conservative whining, the Brattleboro selectmen narrowly approved an “emergency ordinance” banning public nudity on city streets today. Vermont, and Brattleboro in particular have a long history of tolerating nudity in public. The state, along with many of its towns have absolutely no law requiring that people wear cloths in public so long as they are minding their own business.

The “emergency” that precipitated the ordinance was an elderly Arizona man who decided to attend the city’s gallery walk in the nude. Apparently the conservative blowhards can handle it when nude people are young and beautiful, but they draw the line and call it an “emergency” when it’s an old saggy guy. Nice going fellas!

I can’t say that I truly understand why these people enjoy being nude in public, but I’m totally sick and tired of this country’s uptight and irrational hangups about the naked body. Many news articles covering this story have quotes from people saying things like “I don’t think children should be seeing this”. I suppose they would rather our children learn to be ashamed of their bodies and perpetuate the misconception in this country that all nudity is sexual? Don’t you think the more casual attitudes towards nudity we see thru-out much of Europe are a lot healthier for our children than America’s ludicrous, Christian imposed complex about it? I don’t have children, but if I did, I would much rather they be exposed to nudity outside the sexual context so they could realize that everyone’s body is different and that it is OK for them not to look exactly like the models in glamour magazines.

A naked body is something that each and every one of us have, but for some reason we are taught to be ashamed of it. Like it or not, most of the body-image issues and eating disorders that prevail in this country can be directly traced back to our villification of the naked body. Wouldn’t it be great to see people from all over the country descend upon the streets of Brattleboro and stage a Spencer Tunick style installation of thousands of naked bodies in protest of this draconian ordinance? I certainly think so.

Baltimore Kinetic Sculpture Race

We missed it this year, but it looks like the 2007 Baltimore Kinetic Sculpture Race was great fun! On Saturday, May 5, Kinetic Sculpture enthusiasts gathered from far and wide on the shore of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor in central Maryland to partake in an eight-hour race that covered 15 miles on pavement, mud, sand and water.

In its purest form, the term kinetic sculpture refers to a class of moving art that originated in Europe, but became internationally popular from the late 1950s through 1960s. The moving parts of a kinetic sculpture can be powered by anything from wind to the maker’s hand, but a sculpture that is to be raced must cary the artist with it and be entirely human-powered. As you can see by the photos the race participants have come up with some very creative and interesting contraptions to race. More photos can be seen here.

The awards contestants can win for their efforts are extremely entertaining and include prizes for such off-the-wall categories as “Sock Creature of the Universe”, “Golden Flipper”, and “Worst Honorable Mention”. The grand prize bestows upon its winner the esteemed title of “Grand East Coast National Mediocre Champion”.

It is highly suggested that spectators refer to Karen Wallace’s Kinetic Costuming Guide when putting together their outfit for the day, and they are expected to abide by the “Official Spectator Code Of Conduct“, which states:

  • Hands, equipped with white gloves should be waved VIGOROUSLY over head whenever viewing Kinetic Sculptures or when on camera.
  • Tall Spectators must take care to stand in back row when witnessing Glorious Events. On no account should Spectators throw their bodies in the path of oncoming Sculptures.
  • Cardboard Grin must be worn at all times when personal misery or state of mind interferes with maintaining a normal happy smile.
  • Be sure to remove lens cap from camera before serious picture-taking.
  • Eat a good breakfast for extra stamina for the day’s rigorous events.
  • Littering, if it fits your character, is OK. However, see Official Spectator Code of Conduct rule #10.
  • Refrain from pushing or otherwise assisting Sculptures while Race Officials are watching.
  • Do not tie up Port-a-Potties in order to apply makeup or to eat lunch or to escape inclement weather.
  • You are a Baltimore Kinetic Sculpture Spectator Ambassador to the World. Remember that local, national, and international cameras are on you (your mother is watching). It is your Kinetic Duty to represent our Glorious City with Dignity and Distinction.
  • At the end of the day, Spectators shall pick up all litter, depositing same in suitable receptacles. Kinetic Sculpture Race Officials, Pilots, Pit Crew, Barnacles, and Spectators are very tidy people. Furthermore, this is the only Glorious City we’ve got to race in. If you are derelict in your Spectator Duties, this Glorious race will be banished from this Glorious Kingdom of Baltimore.

Polyarchy in England and France

Living in a world that is putting an ever increasing emphasis on the value of Democracy, it becomes important from the political scientist’s perspective that we have a formula we can use to determine exactly how democratic a country is. By setting out criteria that a country must meet in order to be seen as moving toward Democracy, Robert Dahl has developed just such a formula. The focus of this study will then be to examine Dahl’s formula by looking at how The United Kingdom of Great Britain and France measure up to his criteria. We will begin by first taking a look at the mechanics of Dahl’s formula, then proceed by looking at the governmental structures of These countries, putting them up against Dahl’s litmus test to see both the democratic and not so democratic aspects of their respective governments.

Since most would agree that Great Britain and France are at the very least reasonably democratic, questioning this notion will not only make clear Robert Dahl’s theory, but give us a fresh perspective on what Democracy is, hopefully opening our minds to the idea that even the most seemingly democratic countries will inevitably fall short of the democratic ideal some ways. Dahl, in fact, makes the case that there really is no best form of Democracy for every country, and furthermore, that no country throughout history has ever achieved a perfect Democracy. Because of this, he reserves the term “Democracy” to mean an Ideal and perfect Democracy, while using the term “polyarchy” to describe regimes that have strong democratic tendencies.

What then are Dahl’s basic requirements of polyarchy? When considering

this, it is important to think along the lines of a continuum, with all the regimes of the world falling somewhere inbetween perfect Democracy and an authoritarian system of governance. With this is mind, we can begin to look at some of the basic requirements that must be met if the country is to pass Dahl’s litmus test.

First of all, the most basic criteria that Dahl lays out states that in order to be a polyarchy, the system must allow for participation in government by the citizens, and contestation of the government by the citizens. While these two basic rules form a good foundation by themselves, the are far too vague to generate a good model of a county’s government. How then can we make these two concepts of participation and contestation more concrete? To deal with this question, Dahl lays out three “unimpaired opportunities that all full citizens must retain.” First, he remarks that the people must have the right to formulate preferences. Secondly, they must “have the right to signify those preferences to their fellow citizens and the government by individual and collective action.” And finally, they must “have the right to have their preferences weighed without discrimination by the government because of the content or source of the preference.” (Dahl p.2). He then goes on to enumerate eight guarantees that a government must grant its citizens if these three opportunities are to be met.

In order for citizens to have the opportunity to formulate preferences, Dahl claims that citizens must have the “the freedom to form and join organizations, the freedom of expression, the right to vote, the right of political leaders to compete for support, and the right to alternative sources of information”. For the opportunity to signify those preferences, citizens must have all the five previously mentioned freedoms as well as two more: “eligibility for public office and free, fair elections.” Finally, if citizens are to have their preferences weighed equally in conduct of government, they must have all seven of the above mentioned rights and freedoms, plus, “the institutions that constitute the government must depend on the votes and other expressions of preferences by the citizens.”

Dahl’s criteria for polyarchy then can be summarized as requiring a government that is brought to power in free and fair elections by as large a percentage of the population it will govern as possible. It must be subordinate to a citizenry that has access to non censored information and is free to speak out against the government it elected. With this in mind, let us now continue our study by shifting out focus to the governmental structures of Great Britain and France to see how well they meet this criteria.

Perhaps the most notable thing abut the government of Great Britain is that while it is officially a constitutional monarchy, it has no written Constitution. While it may seem that this would make for a regime that could be oppressive, it has worked fairly well for The United Kingdom. In fact, it has actually made the British system of government more adaptable that it may have been if its constitution was specifically spelled out (Goodgov). The British election system is a single member district plurality with the Conservative and Labor parties being the most influential (Concise Columbia Encyclopedia: Great Britain). The governmental structure is a bit strange in that the Monarchy has been retained in the form of the Royal Family and House of Lords. The Royal Family has retained only a symbolic role in government, and while the House of Lords, consisting of 1185 members still acts as an ultimate court of appeals and may delay and examine legislation, generally speaking, the monarchy has largely been striped of political influence.

Instead, the real driving force behind British government resides in the House of Commons. This parliamentary body consists of the Prime Minister who is elected by a popular vote, a Cabinet, or who is selected by the Prime Minister, and the members of the House of Commons who are elected from their respective districts in “winner take all” elections.

Knowing the basic format of the British system of governance, we can now begin to put it up against Dahl’s criteria for polyarchy. We will start by asking if British citizens are free to “formulate their own preferences.” Generally, it would seem that the answer to this question is yes, but let us look at this question using the five qualifiers that Dahl lays out. (1) Do the people have the right to form and join organizations? While The United Kingdom is officially a two party system, the existence of small parties such as the Liberal Democrats and the fact that people are free to join unions shows us that British citizens are relatively free to form and join organizations. (2) Is there freedom of expression? While British citizens typically choose not to partake in demonstration, they do enjoy, for the most part the freedom of expression. Even in the event of a riot such as in 1911 where two rioters were killed, the British government tends to be careful about protecting this freedom (The People’s Chronology: Human Rights and social Justice. 1911). (3) Do the people have the right to vote? While there are always many factors affecting the issue of suffrage, I think it can be said that generally The United kingdom has been fairly inclusive about who is able to vote. Historically, there has been problems such as an immigration act in 1968 that excluded thousands of Asians in Kenya from official citizenship, but with the downfall of British colonialism, these problems have largely gone away, leaving for the most part, universal suffrage (The People’s Chronology: Population, 1968). (4) Are political leaders free to compete for support? Parties in the United Kingdom are fairly strong, and it is usually them who decides who will run for public office in a certain district. This does not look good from Dahl’s perspective. Technically, the citizenry is free to run for office, but without party backing, it becomes almost impossible to win. However, while the British system does fall short in this area, it is important to remember that we are not holding The United Kingdom to the Democratic ideal, but rather to the expectations of polyarchy which automatically assumes the system will be at the very least slightly undemocratic in some ways. And finally, (5) are the people free to alternative sources of information? The answer to this, I think can best be illustrated by the recent events surrounding the death of Princess Diana. Clearly, if censorship was a problem, the news and tabloids would not have had nearly as much publishing freedom as they did during this traumatic time. Therefore, I believe it is safe to say that British citizens are very free to alternative sources of information.

This brings us to the question of weather or not British citizens “have the right to signify those preferences to their fellow citizens by individual and collective action (Dahl p. 2).” As mentioned above, for a citizenry to have this right, they must have all five of the above mentioned qualifiers in addition to two more. (6) Is the common citizen eligible to run for public office? Again, we run into the same problem with this question as we ran into with question four. The political parties have become such a force in Great Britain that it is virtually impossible to win without their support. Technically, however, the average citizen is eligible to run for office, albeit, if they wish to win, they must follow tradition by climbing up the party ladder. And (7), are there free and fair elections? Largely, the answer to this question is yes. There really is no problem with the government tampering with election results, and except for the trouble with the parties controlling who runs for office, the elections are free.

Lastly, the question remains if these preferences are “weighed equally in the conduct of government with no discrimination because of the content or source of the preference. ” Again, for this to be the case, all seven of the above mentioned qualifiers must be present, plus the policy making institutions must depend on “votes and other expressions of preference (Dahl p. 3).” In large part, this is the case. Both the Prime Minister and the members of the House of Commons are popularly elected in free, fair elections, and as a check on the Prime Minister’s powers, the members of the House of Commons may call for a vote of censure, and if the Prime Minister doesn’t get a majority, he must resign. There is, however a significant hindrance to this qualifier. While the citizens of Northern Ireland must live under British rule, they don’t feel that they are represented, and in large part do not participate in the governmental system. Because of this, the elected officials aren’t really accountable to the people in Northern Ireland This does Present a problem from the standpoint of representation.

By looking at Great Britain from the perspective of Dahl’s three requirements and their eight respective qualifiers, we see that indeed, this country definitely does not meet the criteria for a pure Democracy. It falls short most notably in the areas of who may run for office with a reasonable chance of winning, and in the fact that the people living in Northern Ireland are not well represented. Another strike against the United kingdom is the fact that the Prime Minister may declare a state of emergency, suspending human rights. It is, however clear that The United Kingdom does meet most of the criteria by a fairly large margin, and falls well inside the confines of polyarchy

To put this into perspective, let us now look at France’ s government using the same formula. Unlike The United kingdom, France has been relatively unstable throughout history. Because it was so bloody and no real defined Democracy emerged, the French Revolution is thought of by many to be “incomplete.” On average, France has had a new government implemented every eighteen years, and it wasn’t until 1958 that the current government (the Fifth Republic) emerged (Hollifield and Ross p. 43).

France is a mix between a Parliamentary and Presidential system. This is because historically, the legislature had been to powerful and it was thought that if a President was brought into the system and made the dominant government official, it would serve as a check to the power of the legislature. The President serves terms of seven years and can be re-elected. He is the only popularly elected official and is responsible for appointing the Prime Minister and the “government”, or Council of Ministers. His powers include being able to devolve the National Assembly and Council of Ministers, propose referendums, and force Parliament to re-consider legislation. Unofficially, he also may use his party ties to control Parliament and get them to dismiss Cabinet Ministers. The Parliament is a legislative, bicameral body that has the power to debate legislation, as well as to use a vote of censure, ousting the Prime Minister and Cabinet.

How well then does France measure up to these three requirements? Are French citizens free to formulate preferences? Again, let us determine this by looking at the five qualifiers that Dahl lays out. (1) Are French citizens free to “form and join organizations”? Well, like The United Kingdom, France has a number of minor parties, and unions. Also, French citizens may join interest groups. This demonstrates that indeed, they are free to form and join organizations. (2) Do the French have freedom of expression? The answer to this question is a resounding yes! In fact, it is not uncommon to see them partaking in political street demonstrations. (3) Do they have the right to vote? While much of the government is appointed by the President, the executive himself and the members of Parliament are in fact elected, so the answer to this question is yes as well. However, historically, France has passed laws such as the one in 1850 which discriminated against radical workers who “tended to be migratory,” by requiring that people live in one place for three years in order to vote (The People’s Chronology: Human Rights and Social Justice, 1850). (4) Do political leaders have the right to compete for support? Yes. In fact, because France uses an electoral system of proportional representation, small parties have more opportunity to compete with the larger parties than in Great Britain. (And finally (5) do the French have access to alternate sources of information? While there are certainly areas where the French government holds information back from the citizens (all governments do to a certain extent), the French tend to be fairly liberal, and thus put a high priority on being open to alternative sources of information. There is also a wide range of political ideals in France which shows us that the French government has, in general, been fairly good about not censoring information.

It seems that France has done fairly well with Dahl’s first requirement; let us now see if French citizens are free to signify those preferences. As before, if this next requirement is to be met, the first five qualifiers must be true along with (6) eligibility for public office and (7) free, fair elections. Eligibility for public office does poses a bit of a problem for polyarchy. In France, it is decided at an early age if a child is to go to college or not, and without a college education, a person can not be prepared for a career in public office. If the opportunity for an education is taken away from a person, that person is, for all intensive purposes, not allowed to run for public office. France does, however, do better with question seven, and elections are, for the most part free and fair.

Finally, this leaves us with the last of Dahl’s three requirements: Are the citizen’s preferences “weighed equally in the conduct of the government, without discrimination because of the content or source of the preference?” This leaves us with the eighth and final qualifier: Do the governmental institutions responsible for making policy depend on votes and other expression of preference? Again, the answer to this question leaves us in the gray area. The President, most definitely is directly accountable to the people as he is publicly elected, but the Cabinet and Council of Ministers also play in important role in government and they are merely appointed by the President. Furthermore, while the Parliament is an elected body, the fact that France uses proportional representation means that the members who run for office are chosen by their respective parties, and thus are more subordinate to those parties than the people who elected them.

Like the United Kingdom, France is far from a perfect Democracy. In fact, it seems to me that the areas where France falls short are a great deal more important to polyarchy than those where the United Kingdom is lacking. Most importantly is the fact that a large percentage of the French population may not so much as hope to run for public office. While it may do wonders for their educational system to allow only those who prove themselves at an early age to attend college, it is, without a doubt a remarkably important undemocratic feature of their social system, and frankly it worries me. Nonetheless, in large part, France does meet most of the criteria that Dahl lays out, and while in my opinion it is less of a polyarchy than Great Britain, it still seems to fall within the confines of polyarchy.

In this study, we have looked at Dahl’s criteria for polyarchy, and applied this criteria to both The United Kingdom and France, comparing the results to see the areas where they hold with Dahl’s formula for polyarchy as well as those where they break from it. Finally, I have briefly described why I have concluded that France is further from complete polyarchy on our continuum than Great Britain. Hopefully, this study has succeeded in taking the abstract ideas of Robert Dahl, and by applying them to two familiar countries, made them seem a little more concrete.

Works Cited

Dahl, Robert. Polyarchy; Participation and opposition. New Haven: Yale University

Press, 1995

Hollifield, James and Ross, George. Searching for the new France. New York:

Routledge, 1991

Publishing Staff. “CD-ROM: Microsoft Bookshelf 1996. Concise Columbia Encyclopedia

Licensed by: Columbia University Press, 1885

Publishing Staff. “The current constitution of Great Britain” Goodgov on the web.

Plymouth State College Internet. 13 October. 1997. Available:

Publishing Staff. “CD-ROM: Microsoft Bookshelf 1996 The People’s Chronology.

Licensed by: Holt and Company, 1994

© Cliff R. Pearson

14, October 1997

All rights reserved

Mysterious Earwax Gene

Did you know that earwax comes in two types, wet AND dry? Neither did I, and quite honestly I never really thought much about it. Some Japanese scientist did though, and now they’ve figured out more than I ever thought I’d know about earwax. No… REALLY! These guys published their findings in the latest issue of Nature Genetics.

Via the New York Times:

The wet form predominates in Africa and Europe, where 97 percent or more of people have it, and the dry form among East Asians. The populations of South and Central Asia are roughly half and half.

My genes say I should have wet earwax, but that WAS a personal matter, and I preferred not to make it public knowledge! Good job guys Now everyone will be able to extrapolate their neighbor’s earwax type. Is nothing sacred?

Apparently by comparing the DNA of these two groups, these scientists were able discover a lot about the gene determines the type of earwax found in your friend’s ears.

The switch of a single DNA unit in the gene determines whether a person has wet or dry earwax. The gene’s role seems to be to export substances out of the cells that secrete earwax. The single DNA change deactivates the gene and, without its contribution, a person has dry earwax.

As fascinating as all this DNA switching, earwax wetting trivia is, I was truly interested to learn a bit more about genetics. The gene which affects earwax is known to geneticists as the ATP-binding cassette C11 gene. This is found in a long strain of DNA containing three other genes that have very little variation from one person to another. Apparently this is important because the lack of variation in DNA usually indicates that the gene is very important to the survival of the organism. In this case, however, earwax just seems to be “biological flypaper“, and really not all that critical.

Lack of variation in a sequence of DNA units is often the signature of a new gene so important for survival that it has swept through the population, erasing all the previous variation that had accumulated in the course of evolution.

Thank GOD that there are people out there contributing to the greater knowledge of earwax.

Sex, Drugs and Public Hangings – Part 6

Sex, Drugs and Public Hangings
A series by on social deviance and punishment in the United States and Europe

Going into this study, it was my expectation that That non deviant citizens of other Western, industrialized countries would take on more personal responsibility for deviants, and prove more willing to make accommodations for them than Americans. Given this, Americans would, without exception, be more likely than Europeans to label deviant any person addressed by the five social policies in my survey. This is to say that whether a person is on death row for homicide, or poverty stricken and in need of shelter, food, clothing, medical attention or treatment for drug addiction, that person would acquire a label of deviance more quickly in the United States than in Europe.

In two ways, this turned out to be the case. As expected, when it came to sentencing a person to death Americans were decidedly more likely to agree, than Europeans, effectively applying the label of criminal with indelible ink. This label cannot be removed, since the person is to be executed, which tells us that, while not given out lightly, it is applied by Americans with extreme confidence.

Similarly, Americans seem more reluctant than Europeans to remove the label of drug user. This is not to suggest that they to not favor programs designed to help in addiction recovery (55% in fact believed America should have such a nationally funded policy), but to note that far more (76%) of Europeans agreed with this policy and were less likely to be skeptical about the addict’s actual motivation to recover.

The results become more ambiguous however when it comes to questions about nationalized health care and welfare. America and Europe ran pretty much dead even in the statistics here, which, at least initially, suggests that being poor and in need of health care is not thought of as particularly deviant in either culture. Like drug addiction, however, there does seem to be more of a tendency amongst Americans to look at these program’s beneficiaries with distrust, and thus less societal responsibility is accepted by the American individual. This again suggests a willingness but strong reluctance amongst Americans to remove a deviant label.

Finally, there is the question that broke all the rules. Given the fact that United States tends to be more conservative sexually than many European nations, I would have thought, that if anything was to be labeled more deviant in the United States it would be sexuality. Perhaps this is the case, and a willingness to provide nationally funded birth control is not a valid measurement, or perhaps I simply had it wrong. Whatever the case, it would appear, since more Americans than Europeans favor such a program, that sexuality is more likely to receive a deviant label in Europe.

Ultimately, while it does seem that these findings support my original hypothesis, they do so in a slightly different way than I had anticipated. It appears that neither culture is decidedly more or less likely to apply a label of deviance to the acts in question, but rather that Europeans tend to be more willing than Americans to remove a deviant label.

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Sex, Drugs and Public Hangings
© Cliff Pearson &
All Rights Reserved

Sex, Drugs and Public Hangings – Part 5

Sex, Drugs and Public Hangings
A series by on social deviance and punishment in the United States and Europe

So, having examined the overall purpose of this project, the research design and its limitations, the time has come to look at the data, and to see if the findings support my original hypothesis that non deviant citizens of other Western, industrialized countries take on more personal responsibility for deviants, and are more willing than Americans to make accommodations for them. In the first part of this section, I will present a basic overview of the survey results, beginning with the quantitative percentages, then moving on to the qualitative comments for elaboration. In the second part, I will take a moment for the discussion of labeling theory, then move on to discuss the conclusions which can be drawn from this research.

Taking a quick glance at the initial quantitative results, it is unclear if the data supports this study’s hypothesis. See the following table:

Sex Drugs and Public Hangings Table 3

Sex Drugs and Public Hangings Table 3

There exists some supporting evidence when we see that Europeans were far less likely to favor the death penalty, and far more likely to support nationality funded treatment for drug abusers than Americans. These findings come as no surprise because of policies which already exist in our two European countries. Germany has no death penalty what- so-ever, and the United Kingdom abolished this punishment for all ordinary (non-military) offenses in1973. (Heiner p. 221) On a similar note, the United Kingdom tried out “hard line” methods to control drug abuse in the ’70s and ’80s, but only found themselves with “more drugs, more crime and more addicts, so they went back to their way, letting doctors prescribe whatever drug a particular addict was hooked on.” (Heiner p. 190)

Surprisingly, however, the other issues were much closer in the percentages. Americans proved only slightly less likely to support nationality funded health care, and much to my surprise, they were actually more likely to favor financial support for publicly funded birth control and those living in poverty. While these returns are interesting from the standpoint of changing American viewpoints, they hardly support my hypothesis. Even given the likelihood that I had reached a more liberal subset of the American public, these results were far from what I had expected to find. I would clearly have to dig deeper into qualitative meaning behind these answers if I was to have any hope of proving my hypothesis.

Looking through the comments the research subjects made, two things become clear. First, the explanations given by Europeans for supporting social policy designed to aid deviants are filled with decidedly fewer limitations, ifs’, ands’ or buts’ than those given by American subjects. This provides evidence that the tendency to submit a “Yes” answer, simply so that a comment could be given, was indeed artificially inflated by the design of the survey. Secondly, certain national trends seem to emerge with respect to each question, leading to the conclusion that there is at least some homogeny amongst those surveyed. Let us now take the time to view each question individually, comparing the comments made by American respondents with their European counterparts.

Question #1: Do you believe your country should have a death penalty?
From the American perspective the majority (59%) of those surveyed did not believe that there should be a death penalty in the United States. However, particularly when compared with the much lower European return of 9%, there remains a significant percentage of American subjects who favor capital punishment. What were their reasons? Of those nine Americans who answered “Yes” the most common circumstance given under which a death sentence would be acceptable was murder. Some respondents elaborated further, stating, for instance that such a punishment would only be appropriate in the event of the most “heinous” murder, serial killings, or a crime where the victim was “tortured either before or after being killed”, but In short, every American who favored the death penalty cited the killing of another human being as an act under which capital punishment would be acceptable.

In Europe, however, the overwhelming majority of respondents did not believe that their country should have a death penalty. Only two of the twenty-one European subjects answered “Yes” to this question, and of these, only one provided an explanation, stating that execution should only be carried out in the event of first degree murder or rape.

Interestingly, the American legal system does not treat rape as seriously as murder. Certainly this is because the life of the victim is not terminated in the criminal act. I mention this because in addition to murder, (and treason, cited only once) rape was named by three Americans and one European as a reason for the use of capital punishment. Two conclusions can be drawn from this. First, it would seem that the general public of America, and Europe is taking the issue of rape much more seriously than they had in the past, and secondly, since neither Americans or Europeans seem to favor using the death penalty lightly, it would appear that whatever mental condition it is that causes a person to commit rape is being thought of as not only despicable, but untreatable as well.

Question #2: Do you feel health care should be provided by your government?
Generally, those surveyed in the united States and in Europe agreed that there should be some kind of nationalized health care system, which makes it curious that no such program exists in the US. When asked to elaborate on their answers, statements like “Free for all, period.” and ” I think there should be national health care for every citizen of our country – regardless of economic status, race, age, etc.” were quite common throughout both American and European survey returns.

While it seems that many of those favoring nationalized health care from both sides of the Atlantic feel that everyone should receive government health care, Europeans seemed less worried about the prospect of a person receiving free health care without first having paid into the system. Out of the eighteen Europeans and the Nineteen Americans who answered in favor of a nationalized health care plan, five Americans and only one European suggested that treatment should be provided only to those who have paid into the system. Similarly, Six Europeans and only two Americans specifically named the poor as a group who should receive treatment.

In part, since the US does not as of yet have a national health care system, and because of books such as Malcolm K. Sparrow’s “License to Steel”, which discusses the highly automated, easy to take advantage of systems entrusted with processing claims and issuing checks (Sparrow pp. 162 163), it makes sense why Americans tend to be a bit more worried about where the funding for such a program will come from. In general, both groups seem to believe first that their country should provide at least essential health care services, and secondly, that most, if not all citizens should have access to it.

Question #3: Do you believe your country should provide financial support for those living in poverty?
Like socialized medicine, welfare is a social program funded by the public, and as such has the potential of being abused. In other words, it is possible that people may use the service without contributing to the pool of money which funds it. For this reason it makes sense that the answers from this question would be similar to those on nationality funded health care. Indeed this is the case. Seventeen Europeans and twenty-three Americans answered that their respective countries should provide financial support to those living in poverty, and when asked to qualify their answers, most subjects from both Europe and the United States agreed that this program should not be a way of life, but rather a service to those trying to find a job or better their situation.

Americans did however, tend to be a bit more concerned with the possibility of people getting something for nothing. The most common statements amongst US subjects who believe financial aid to the poor should be offered was that this service should provide the basic costs of living such as food, clothing and housing only to those trying to find a job, or unable to work because of disability. One subject wrote for example that “People should receive welfare only for a short time, and during that time, the person should have to prove they are looking for a job by meeting with a counselor twice a week. Welfare needs strict regulations, but in a way that still helps the person receiving it”.

Like the Americans, European respondents believed that welfare should provide for the basic necessities of life. However, statements like, “welfare should be provided under all circumstances, so that people do not die from starvation, and have basic clothing and basic housing” were far more common. Furthermore, the idea that welfare should help the underemployed and working poor was commonly addressed among European respondents, and only twice was it explicitly suggested that this service should be limited to those actively seeking employment. In short, Europeans seemed a good deal more trusting that the welfare system would not be abused.

Question #4: Do you believe your country should provide publicly funded birth control?
Amongst those from United States who responded “Yes” to this question, the almost universal answer was something like “to anyone and everyone who wants it.” Many subjects from Europe also answered this way, but added that birth control should also be provided to teenagers, suggesting, if nothing else, that Europeans are more comfortable with the idea of their children having sex than Americans.

The thing that most amazed me about the results from this question, however, was the number of people who said “No”. It was my original thought that anyone willing to support nationalized medicine or welfare would also support government funded birth control. The final tally did not prove this, showing that out of twenty-one Europeans and twenty-seven Americans surveyed, only nine and seventeen respondents supported such a program respectively. This suggests one of two possible conclusions. Either sex and childbearing are something that both cultures feel is a personal matter and don’t want to see the government getting involved with, or it was thought that by birth control I meant abortion, which is understandably a far more controversial topic than basic prevention methods. In any event, it would seem that Americans are a bit more comfortable with this issue than the Europeans.

Question #5: Do you feel your country should provide treatment for drug abusers?
This final question was inspired by the 60 Minutes episode entitled “Rx Drugs”, in which England’s approach to managing national drug problems was addressed. Unlike the United States, which has declared “war” on drugs, England has decided to fund a program which provides free, “clean” drugs to addicts by way of prescription, thus decriminalizing the act of use. (Heiner p. 189) Knowing about this program, I though it would be interesting to see how well supported public treatment for drug addicts was overseas, and moreover, if Americans were interested in paying the bill to help users overcome their addiction.

In the end, this question came back mostly as I expected. As can be seen by the returns, 76% of European subjects favored such a policy, compared to 55% of Americans. When asked to qualify a “Yes” answer, both groups agreed nearly across the board that anyone who wants help should receive it. One American respondent stated that “Our country should provide similar treatment to England’s program”, and several suggested that treatment should not continue if the patient is not doing his or her part to recover. It was, perhaps a bit surprising that so many Americans favored this type of program, but it seems most are beginning to conclude that the “war on drugs” is not working and have began to seek an alternative.

Because the following interpretation of this data is to be grounded in the school of symbolic interactionism, and labeling theory, it is important, before moving on, that I give a brief overview of of this theoretical framework. Taken from the writings of George Herbert Mead, symbolic interactionism asserts that people learn how to behave based on the subjective meanings of their social interaction “as perceived from the standpoint of the actor.” (Hagen p. 192) In other words, individuals watch how others react to their behavior and apply meaning to their actions based on what they see. Labeling theory, then, “says that individuals are deviant mainly because they have been labeled as deviant by social control agencies or others.” (Hagen p. 192) There is, based on this theory, nothing intrinsically deviant in the criminal act itself, only in the reaction of the audience and in the label that is applied to the actor; “that is, a crime is a label, not an act.” (Hagen p.192)

By this assertion, we are moving the focus of the study away from the deviant people of America and Europe and on to the “law abiding citizens” of these countries who react to and label deviance. The question now becomes not how deviant people are dealt with on both sides of the Atlantic, but exactly which acts cause each respective society to apply a label of deviance.

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