Joshua Mason

J. W. Mason is a writer living in Chicago.

Recent Articles

The Buses Don't Stop Here Anymore

All over the country, public transit systems are losing ridership. As Chicago's story makes clear, the real source of the problem is the sprawling and balkanized shape of America's metropolises.

I t's hard to imagine a dense city without mass transit, and not just because the urban ideal—people of all classes, creeds, and nationalities amicably rubbing shoulders—is realized most literally on the trains of an urban rail system. Urban densities are inconceivable without public transit, and urban populations contain many groups of people—the young, the poor, recent immigrants, the elderly—for whom private transportation is not an option. Yet all over the country, with a handful of exceptions, urban transit systems are losing ridership, many catastrophically. Caught in a fiscal vise, systems are being forced to ask basic questions about the type of service they can afford to offer as their riders depart for the suburbs. The choices they make will have far-reaching implications for the future not only of mass transit, but of cities themselves. Cities are defined largely by density and diversity of population. People live, literally and figuratively, right on top of each other; the...

Punishing Policies

Christian Parenti's Lockdown America: Police and Prisons In The Age of Crisis 01.03.00 | reviewed by J. W. Mason Over the past 20 years, the United States has carried out an experiment in punitive policing that has no precedent in a democracy. The prison population has increased fourfold, to nearly two million. Though these figures are familiar, the logic behind them is not. What has compelled the United States to lock up more of its citi zens than any country outside the former Soviet Union? Some blame an increase in crime; others blame politicians who push for a "war on drugs" and tougher sentencing. The more conspiratorially minded note the growth of private prisons and convict labor, and suspect the profit motives of the "prison-industrial complex." The real story, argues Christian Parenti in Lockdown America, is more complicated. To tell it requires 30 years of history and a tour of the lower depths of the criminal...