Do Americans, precisely because of their persistent individualism, sometimes show excessive cruelty?
The age of capitalism has abolished all vestiges of slavery and serfdom.
It has put an end to cruel punishments and has reduced the penalty for crimes to the minimum indispensable for discouraging offenders.
It has done away with torture and other objectionable methods of dealing with suspects and lawbreakers.
It has repealed all privileges and promulgated equality of all men under the law.
It has transformed the subjects of tyranny into free citizens. (Mises, Money, Method, and the Market Process, 304)
I don’t want people in prisons, unless absolutely necessary; and none at all for victimless “crimes,” for skirting economic “regulations,” for “white-collar crimes,” for an avalanche of preposterous charges that prosecutors are so in the habit of attaching to the main charge, and so on.
Freedom that Americans still cherish at least in the abstract is simply the ability to stay out of prison for actions that hurt no one. The casual contempt for those the government punishes, often entirely unjustly, defiles our tradition of liberty and rule of law.