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Monday, May 10, 2010

Punishment and Vengeance

An inquiry concerning under what conditions is enslaving other humans beings into cages justified. By "enslaving into cages" I mean to say "jail", I use the more vulgar expression because that is exactly what jailing means. Under what conditions is it justified to jail another person? We live in a world where people are jailed for the strangest of all offenses. A person who decided to smoke some marijuana gets enslaved into a cage. A person who cheated on his taxes gets enslaved into a cage. A person who is a doctor without a license can, if caught, also get enslaved into a cage. While a person who murdered another gets enslaved for a shorter sentence than others. Why is our system called the "justice" system? Where is the justice?

Those who defend enslavement of people into iron cages in the examples listed above, sadly a very large percentage of our population, will defend their position in one of the following arguments. The first argument that the these people use is that when a person breaks the law he does wrong, putting a person into a cage undoes this evil, jailing, therefore, is a form of atonement. The second argument is that a person who does wrong often does wrong to another person, the wrongdoer must repay back the one he wronged, jailing is a form of repaying the debt to the one who was wronged. The third argument is that punishment is a form of creating fear in the people who want to do wrong, therefore, jailing creates a disincentive for people doing wrong. There may be many more arguments for people who support the system that we have or at least some support of it but these are the main ones that I hear.

A major problem that we need to realize is that what is legal and what is moral are two separate issues. You can read more about it here. Defenders of the current jailing system or some form of it have to deal with the major difficulty that many laws are completely immoral. Like the laws against drugs, such as marijuana. But we will keep things simple and pretend that we have a perfect legal system, all the laws are moral laws in our simplifying assumption. Even in such a system these three arguments that were brought up above which are in favor of a jailing system fail.

The first argument pretends as if we live in the bronze age. What are we, primitive animal sacrificing Hebrews who believe that an animal can atone for the evil that a person did? If a person did an act of evil then the act has been already done. There is nothing that can be done to the person that can undo the evil that was done. Putting a person into an iron cage for twenty years will not undo the evil that was done. There is no sense in the first argument. The second argument does not do anything to repay another person for the same reason. If one person did wrong to another then putting him into a jail does not repay back the one who was wronged. How can it possibly repay back another person? A defender would object to me and say that it does repay him back, his repayment is knowing that another person is now in jail. However, the problem that the defender of jailing is missing is that repaying the one who was wronged by keeping the wrongdoer in a cage is no longer "justice", it becomes vengeance. The second argument rests upon seeking vengeance against people who did wrong. How is that justice? Where is the justice in that? All it is, is taking enjoyment in the suffering of others because it makes us feel better. If what people did was simply say "all I want is to have revenge on the person who did wrong to me" then I will not say anything to him, because at least such a person is intellectually honest, but when people, by their true motives, psychologically seek to attain vengeance but mask it under "justice" then I have a problem, that is no longer intellectually honest, it is a lie. The third argument is the stronger of the three but it too fails. It fails because it pretends that jailing is the only way to disincentivize criminals from doing wrong. There are other ways. For instance, those who did wrong would have to pay damages. A fine for the amount that he damaged another with an additional fine to pay more some extra percentage of the damage and a fine imposed on him by the court system. This would also disincentivize people from doing crime. And my proposed solution actually makes sense, because it repays back to the one who was wronged. Or instead of jail there can be public service. My point here is, that there are many other ways of disincentivizing people from doing crime, jail is not the only way.

Those who would not agree with me that are reading this post will probably ask me, "do you actually propose that we never jail anyone?". No, I do not. What I do is reject the three standard excuses for human enslavement for my own excuse, which actually does make sense. My position regarding jailing is very simple. We need to put the dangerous people into jail. The reason why we put a bomber into an iron cage is not because of any of those non-sense reasons above. We put a bomber into a cage simply because he is dangerous. We cannot have him around people. He is a threat to the lives and property of others. Thus, we need to put him into a cage. That is the only thing we can do. My position is actually just, it is not derived from vengeance, and furthermore it actually makes sense. Thus, murders (though not all) and rapists and pillagers and terrorists would have to be put into a cage. Everyone else will have a fine imposed on them.

Therefore, the answer to my question asking for a condition for having an excuse for jailing a person is simply if a person is a threat to others. Non-violent criminals, like thieves, should not be jailed, instead they would have fines imposed on them as one way to deal with their crime.

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