Re: Is the death penalty Extropian?

John Clark (
Mon, 30 Nov 1998 11:02:00 -0500

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>>Just punishment for an evil act is the minimum action needed to prevent
>>a future similar occurrence, anything more than that is revenge.

>hidden <>
>That's an interesting definition of punishment, what dictionary did you
>get that one from.

None. I seldom use dictionaries, I only use them when I run across a word I've never seen before and sometimes not even then, I get the meaning in the exact same way the writer of the dictionary did, from useage. Besides, when somebody askes for a defination I asume they don't want one from a dictionary, you don't need to ask on the Extropian List to fet that information.

>Revenge " to inflicted (harm) punishment by way of repayment. "
>The differences between punishment and revenge, is punishment is the
>formal version, or revenge. Revenge is is somthing the mob boss does.
>Punishment is somthing the goverment or a parant does.

I wrote about this subject back in March.

I'd like to talk about what would be done with violent criminals in a libertarian world of Anarchy. I can think of 4 reasons we even bother to punish bad people at all.

1 The fun of seeing somebody we don't like suffer.

Personally I don't think this is a worthy reason although it is a powerful one particularly in the reptilian parts of our brain. Like everybody else a part of me is sadistic, but that's not a part of my personality I'm proud of and certainly not something that I could defend intellectually. Inflicting pain on someone just so you can see him suffer is pointless, cruel and only brings on calls for revenge.

2. Rehabilitation.

This would be wonderful if we knew how to do it but we don't. In the real world we take a person who grew up in a bad environment and lock him in a horrible prison environment and expect him to reform. The only thing on our side is time, for some reason older people tend to be less violent than younger ones.

3 Restitution.

For practical reasons this is a minor point, crooks are not usually great moneymakers.

4 Protection of the public.

This, by far ,is the most important point, to prevent similar crimes from happening in the future. Everything else is secondary, its the reason we try to catch bad guys. I think it's the difference between justice and vengeance.

It's clear that some people are just too dangerous to freely walk the streets and must be dealt with somehow. I think private prisons and giving prisoners the choice of prisons could work but it seems to me that the victim should not be forced to pay the cost of his tormentors imprisonment, the criminal should pay for it any way he can. Admittedly there are aspects of this idea that sound a little ugly, almost like slavery, but the only alternative is worse. If the prisoner is not to starve and is not required to pay his own way that means somebody else, a non criminal, would be required to pay and become a "slave", and pay the cost. If we must have "slaves" I prefer they be criminals. Most libertarians feel they have little obligation to pay their neighbors bills, even if they're nice people in deep trouble, if so then we have even less obligation to pay a murderers bills.

I do see some problems to work out when the criminal is at either end of the economic spectrum. A very poor criminal would have to chose a low cost prison but he might not be able to pay even that. The prison would try to make a profit by putting its clients to work, but I'm not sure this would be successful. It's hard to be profitable if your employees are uneducated, stupid, dishonest and lazy. Unconventional sources of revenue may be needed if the crook is to pay his own way , human experimentation.

Pharmaceutical companies could hire private rating agencies to judge proposed Human experiments much as Standard and Poor rates bonds. The pain \ danger index would range from slightly uncomfortable \ probably harmless to agony \ probably fatal . A market would develop open to anybody who was interested, not just prisoners. It would be in the financial interest of the drug companies to make the tests as safe and comfortable as possible. A market could also develop for organ transplants. All parties would benefit, medical research would get a huge boost and everybody would have a new way to make money if they chose to do it. Prisoners who have no money and don't want to sell a kidney or be a guinea pig would have an incentive to work hard in the more conventional prison work.

Extremely rich criminals could also be a problem. Ross Perot shots me in the head and is sentenced to 25 years in prison. He decides to go to a super luxury private jail in Tahiti with Polo Ponies, yacht racing, 4 star restaurants and full communication equipment so he can tend to his business. The prison charges $2,000,000 a year but that's pocket change for Ross. If he gets tired of this prison he can start his own elsewhere. All this doesn't sound like much of a deterrent.

If the prisoners assets could only be used for bare necessities, victim compensation and prosecution costs and if every PPL agrees to this then there is no problem, everything would be nice and stable, but I think that is highly unlikely. In the real world Ross Perot or any other rich man wouldn't join a PPL that had a law like that in a million years. Don't misunderstand me, I'm not saying this is a fatal flaw in Anarchy or any such nonsense but it is an unsolved problem, at least unsolved by me.

I don't know how serious this homicidal billionaire problem is or how to solve it except to say that in my PPL nobody would be imprisoned for more than 8 to 10 years. If the crime was more serious than that they would be executed. Probably the PPL's will work out a compromise of some sort that is flawed but does have the virtue of being stable in the real world full of real people.

By the way, I have no problem with capital punishment (if it is painless) but I do think it's a shame to fry perfectly good organs with electricity or poison them with cyanide. Waste not want not.

John K Clark

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