Florida: Punishment in the Moral Economy of the Sun Shine State

Jonathan Simon, University of Miami

What distinguishes Florida from other "hot" growth states like Texas, Arizona, and California? One factor that makes Florida politics especially complicated is the degree to which its economy is focused on consumption, e.g., tourism, retirement and second home purchase and outfitting, etc. While there are a lot of both, on balance, more people go to Texas, Arizona, and California to make money than to spend the money they made somewhere else. In contrast, more people come to Florida to spend the money they made somewhere else than to make it there. This consumption driven politics tends to produce a complicated and seemingly contradictory politics. For example, Florida politicians are more pro-environment than might be predicted from its other political demographic features. In punishment policy, Florida's consumption politics produces a penal culture that is more punitive than might be predicted from other political demographic features and which places a heavy emphasis on marketing the state to those elsewhere. Penal law's in Florida are aimed less at restoring the moral equilibrium of society than its self consciously artificial sense of security and serenity. Because these consumption stakes are high not just in Florida, but in the other states mentioned, and many others, one expects to find the same features in other state penal cultures, but to a somewhat lesser degree.

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Updated 05/20/2006