Justice & punishment

den Otter (otter@globalxs.nl)
Sat, 14 Mar 1998 15:18:41 +0100

Justice is punishing harmful acts in proportion to the crime and in a consequent

John K Clark <johnkc@well.com> wrote:

> "den Otter" <otter@globalxs.nl> Thu, 12 Mar 1998 Wrote:
> >I'd rather have a caning than a year in jail btw
> Me too, but I'm not a 82 year old 89 pound grandmother.

Punishments can be fully "customized" and monitored so that no-one
is hurt worse than intended. A year in jail ain't too good for a 82 year
old (or anyone else) either. Geriatric grandmothers are not exactly common
violent offenders, and last but mot least, once agian, if you can't take the
heat then *stay out of the kitchen*! No-one is forced to become a violent
offender (and those who really can't control themselves should be removed
from society anyway).

> >First of all I think that revenge is a valid reason to punish too.

> >Why not?
> I can't tell you why anymore than I can tell you why life is better than
> death.

So there are no *rational* arguments against it, just emotional ones. O.k.
This makes it a neutral matter of personal preference then, not something
"inherently evil" like some people would like us to believe.

> >Example: a lion kills a member of a group of humans. Unlike dumb
> >herbivores (for example) they likely won't just accept the loss and

> >go on, but they'll want to punish that lion
> No, if they're really intelligent they won't want to punish the lion, they'll
> want to kill it. Time wasted in causing the lion more pain before they kill
> it could be better spent looking for food or dealing with other dangerous lions.

Just killing the lion (and some others) will be enough to satisfy most people's
urge for vengence. The point is that the feelings of resentment initiated the
hunt, and (sometimes) the consequent extermination of a dangerous
predator. Primitive man pesumably acted even more on impulse than we
do, and feelings of hate and revenge might have helped him on his way to
the top. If this is the case (and it seems likely), then there is at least *some*
good in these emotions. Intelligence without passion (be it "good" or "bad")
leads to nothing.

> >As a kind of compromise you could consider freezing executed
> >criminals as a standard practice.
> Not with my money! I'm amazed, I thought you were tough on crime.

You are already paying your bit for all the people in jail whether you like
it or not. Cryonic internment is hugely cheaper than keeping someone
locked up, even without taking into account the drop in costs if large,
automated, cost-efficient cryo prisons were built for mass storage.
It's not only cheaper, but also much more humane. I may be "tough on
(real) crime" like you say, but unlike most other people I *am* interested
in real justice, which means that the legal system is balanced, consequent
and doesn't cause someone more suffering than the law prescribes.

In reality this means things like a fair, quick, discrete trial (no media
circus) where only hard (forensic/video/audio etc.) evidence is
admissible and everything is as automated as possible (electronic
justice -- no juries and judges with very limited power), full legal
assistance but only limited appeal possibilities, good food and comfortable
cellspace while awaiting sentence, and if fould guilty of a capital
offence (murder) a fully monitored execution according to the
severity of the crime, followed by cryonic storage. No more, no less.

> Another
> thing I was amazed at is when you included slander as a crime worthy of
> punishment. In the first place I don't want the government or anybody else to
> get into the truth determining business,

In that case, you just don't want a government alltogether. That's fine with me,
but we're discussing judicial systems for society here, not anarchy.

> I'd rather do that myself, in the
> second place, if you don't like the sound I make with my mouth then make some
> sounds of your own to contradict them.

Vicious slander can ruin someone's reputation for life, and can lead to loss of
job(s), family problems, severe mental damage (sometimes suicide) due to
rejection by the community/society etc. People don't really care about the
truth, they want dirt, juicy details provided by tabloids etc. No amount of oral
or other defense can fully reverse the effects of slander, the damage has been
done. Therefore, anyone who willfully spreads damaging lies about another
person deserves to be punished.

> >Full agreement here! Cameras and microphones all over as far as
> >I'm concerned (all public spaces like streets, parks, malls,
> >tunnels etc.), all with interlocking fields of view. Some highly
> >visible, some hidden. Also cops should have small personal
> >cameras & listening devices on their clothing and on their gun
> >(to be auto- activated whenever the gun is drawn). Personal
> >cams etc. should be highly recommended to private citizens too.
> >The images are automatically send to various central databanks
> >with either completely free or highly monitored access, and
> >local copies (near the cam/audio device itself) are kept too
> >(and can be downloaded into the general databanks at designated
> >points (or via your PC or whatever). Everything is auto-dated
> >for later reference. Of course all certified recordings have
> >full power of evidence in a court of law.
> That sounds a lot like Science Fiction writer David Brin's fist non fiction
> book called "The Transparent Society", I don't know it it's been published
> yet. Brin advocates a world where nobody, not the President not the lowest
> bum, could have any secrets. Cameras would be everywhere and be available to
> all at any time, also, all files and records of any sort would be open to
> anybody who wanted to read them.
> Anyway, as I told Mr. Brin, I personally find his idea repulsive but that's
> irrelevant because it's not going to happen. Brin's world is inherently
> unstable,

So is our present world. I don't think a transparent society would be any
more dangerous than one based on secrecy, but of course there's only
one way to find out. Until that time, it would be very bold indeed to
dismiss the idea alltogether. Anyway, I don't advocate _total_ transparency,
just "perfect" monitoring of public areas, not homes, offices etc. (that's up
to every individual) for increased safety "on the steets" and justice
based on hard evidence, not flawed human witnesses. It seems that
more and more people agee (the surveillance systems are
popping up all over the world like crazy -- and are helping to take a
bite out of crime), so as surveillance technology gets cheaper, smaller
and better the "(semi-)transparent society" seems almost inevitable,
whether we like it or not.

> If nobody in the world has secrets except me, that means I know all about the
> marketing plans and product development of your company but you know nothing
> about mine, that gives my company an advantage, it will grow and so will the
> privacy meme. On the other hand, if I tell all and have no secrets but
> everybody else has secrets, then it is my company will be at a disadvantage
> and shrink, and so will the transparency meme.

It's a classical "spears vs. shields" scenario: everybody will be spying, and at
the same time trying to conceal their secrets. A Darwinian arena, hardly
something new, and hardly the end of the world. And if you've had enough,
well, there's the vast privacy of outer space.