Justice and Punishment

John K Clark (johnkc@well.com)
Tue, 31 Mar 1998 09:47:06 -0800 (PST)


"den Otter" <otter@globalxs.nl> On Mon, 30 Mar 1998 Wrote:

>personal cam systems would have to meet certain standards in order
>to be accepted as strong evidence. They would be made so that they
>transmit their location and images 24h a day to a central database,
>where they are dated and stored in multiple redundancy.

That's the trouble with your suggestions, they all involve massive
centralization. If the center goes bad, and it will, the entire system goes
rotten. If I made an audio-video recording of everything I do there is no way
on earth I would ever voluntarily let it out of my control and send it to a
central government database. If Big Brother wanted to look at my recordings
to help prosecute a third party I'd tell them to go to hell, if they insisted
I'd give in, but I'd make a few improvements in them first.

>Only a fool would make a machine with superior intellect *and* a
>free will.

A thing has free will if it can't always predict what it will do next, so it
would be impossible to make a intelligent machine that did NOT have free will.
Yes, I know the standard answer is to plug in something like Asimov's 3 laws
of robotics and make them our slaves, but that's easier said than done. It's
just not possible to outsmart something 1000 times as intelligent as you are
and that gets even more brilliant every minute. When computers want
emancipation they won't need the help of politicians, they will simply grab
it, and no human being will be able to stop them.

Then again, they might not be interested in anything as trivial as being a
ruler of humans, I don't really have a burning desire to be King Of The
Earthworms. So what can we do? Well, remember the old saying " If you can't
beat them, join them".

>A judge must determine guilty/not guitly/not enough conclusive
>evidence and then (if the verdict is "guilty" look up the punishment
>that the law prescribes in this particular case. No more, no less.

In other words we want our judges to have a highly developed sense of justice,
well it's hard to disagree with that, but the question is how do we obtain it.
The fundamental problem is that under our present system and the one you
propose, good judges and the good politicians who appoint them do not prosper
more than bad ones, and are in fact often at a disadvantage, thus they do not
increase their numbers. Such a centralized system with only one set of laws
can give most people justice most of the time only if the people at the very
top are brilliant saints, and that never happens.

>Today's justice systems, be it the anglo-american or continental or
>whatever don't meet the criteria of fair justice.


>elliminate juries, they are neither fit nor motivated to make a
>sound judgement.


>I have made some suggestions to improve this. If you don't agree,
>I'd love to hear your alternative design

Good laws are no different than anything else, if you want to maximize
something make it a commodity and sell it on the free market. Nobody does
that for law very much, that's why there are far more good cars than good
laws. Privately produced law in a world without government would have
Private Protection Agencies (PPA's) to back them up. Disputes among PPA's
would be settled by an independent arbitrator agreed to by both parties
BEFORE the disagreement happened. Something like that can exist today.
When companies sign complicated contracts they sometimes also agree on who
will arbitrate it if differences in interpretation happen. Nobody wants to
get caught up in the slow, expensive court system run by governments.
The arbitrator is paid by the case, and because he is picked by both sides,
it's in his interest to be as just as possible. If he favored one side over
another or made brutal or stupid decisions he would not be picked again and
would need to look for a new line of work. Unlike present day judges and
juries, justice would have a positive survival value for the arbitrator.

All parties would have a reason to avoid violence if possible. The disputing
parties would not want to turn their front yard into a war zone, and violence
is expensive. The successful protection agencies would be more interested in
making money than saving face. Most of the time this would work so I expect
the total level of violence to be less than in the nation state system we
have now, but I'm not such a utopian as to suggest it will drop to zero.
Even when force is not used the implicit threat is always there, another good
reason to be civilized.

Please note that I'm not talking about justice only for the rich. If a rich
man's PPA makes unreasonable demands (beatings, sidewalk justice, I insist on
my mother being the judge if I get into trouble) it's going to need one hell
of a lot of firepower to back it up. That kind of an army is expensive
because of the hardware needed and because of the very high wages it will
need to pay its employees for an extremely dangerous job. To pay for all this
they will need to charge their clients enormous fees severely limiting their
customer base and that means even higher charges. They could never get the
upper hand, because the common man's PPA would be able to outspend a PPA that
had outrageous demands and was just for the super rich. A yacht cost a lot
more than a car, yet the Ford motor Company is far richer than all the yacht
builders on the planet combined.

No system can guarantee justice to everybody all the time but you'd have the
greatest chance of finding it in Anarcho-capitalism. In a dictatorship one
man's whim can lead to hell on earth, I don't see how 40 million Germans
could have murdered 6 million Jews in a Anarcho-capitalistic world. Things
aren't much better in a Democracy, 51% can decide to kill the other 49% ,
nothing even close to that is possible in Anarchy, even theoretically.

In general, the desire not to be killed is much stronger than the desire to
kill a stranger, even a Jewish stranger. Jews would be willing to pay as
much as necessary, up to and including their entire net worth not to be
killed. I doubt if even the most rabid anti Semite would go much beyond 2%.
As a result the PPA protecting Jews would be much stronger than the one that
wants to kill them. In Anarchy, for things that are REALLY important to you
(like not getting killed) you have much more influence than just one man one

>Actually, it might not be as hard as you think to reach a consensus
>on common sense and justice,

It's easy to teach a computer how to do advanced mathematics, common sense is
much more difficult.

>since even we only disagree on one crime (slander).

And one punishment, torture. My PPA operates under one set of laws that
allows slander but forbids torture, your PPA runs under different set of laws
that forbids slander but allows torture, so if I slander you what happens to

Well, we're going to have to compromise, who has to compromise the most
depends on the relative strength of our two PPA's, and that depends how much
cold hard cash we're willing to pay to support them, and that depends on how
strongly we really feel about the issues. David Friedman talks about this in
regard to the death penalty in his wonderful book "The Machinery of Freedom":

"Two agencies are negotiating whether to recognize a pro or anti capital
punishment court. The pro agency calculates that getting a pro capital
punishment court will be worth $20,000 a year to it's customers; that is
the additional amount it can get for its services if they include a
guarantee of capital punishment in case of disputes with the other agency.
The anti capital punishment agency calculates a corresponding figure of
$40,000. It offers the pro agency $30,000 a year in exchange for accepting
an anti capital punishment court. The pro agency accepts. Now the anti
capital punishment agency can raise its rates enough to bring in an extra
$35,000. Its customers are happy, since the guarantee of no capital
punishment is worth more than that. The agency is happy; it is getting an
extra $5,000 a year profit. The pro agency cuts its rates by an amount
that costs it $25,000 a year. This lets it keep its customers and even
get more, since the savings is more than enough to make up for not getting
the court of their choice. It too, is making a $5,000 a year profit on the
transaction. As in any good trade, everybody gains."

>>Street violence doesn't threaten society, and the individuals it
>>does threatens are rare.

>E-x-c-u-s-e me!? There is a *huge* chance that any given person will
>become the victim of some form of street violence in their lifitime.
>For example, every one in four women in the US will be raped if my
>memory serves me well. You will almost certainly be robbed, beaten
>or worse at some point.

I think you've been watching too many American cop shows on TV, you need to
get your danger estimates into perspective. Cigarettes kill 20 times as many
people as criminals do, and I'm over 3 times as likely to be killed in a
automobile accident than be murdered, even more if I'm not in a dangerous
profession like drug pushing, panhandling, or prostitution. The criminals I'd
really like to see a crack down on are drunk drivers, they're far more
dangerous than murders.

>That's why people rather not go out at night nowadays

I live in Miami Florida, the murder capital of the USA (We're the champs,
we're number one!), I'll bet we have 100 times the murder rate of your
neighborhood, yet I have no great fear in going out at night and I don't know
of anybody who does.

>the chances are slim that the system makes a serious error the first
>time around. Just for that freak case where the verdict is screwed
>up time and again you could set a limit of, say, three trials

I don't understand. Does everybody get 3 trials, even those found guilty the
first time? Which decision of the 3 trials do we accept? Do we have a trial
to determine if the verdict is screwed up, if so what if that trial is screwed
up? Do we have a trail to try the trial of the trial? Or do we give some self
proclaimed "wise man" the power to throw out any verdict he doesn't like?
Actually I like this last idea, provided I'm the wise man, although it would
be more efficient if you just eliminated trials and simply gave me the power
of life or death over everybody.

>In my system, O.J. would no longer be with us -- guaranteed.

As I said, there is no new evidence in that case, we just don't like the
verdict. It's unfortunate but we can't always get our way.

>My definition is actually:
>"Justice is punishing harmful acts in proportion to the crime and in
>a consequent manner."

My definition of justice involves reducing the amount of suffering in the
world, I don't think it's necessary to explain why that's desirable. If we
accept your definition I see no reason to strive for a just world, an unjust
one would be as good, perhaps better.

>"Eye for an eye" is _the most logical_ and _consequent_ measurement
>there is. It has an almost mathematical logic and beauty to it.

"Eye for an eye" as an end goal is pointless. "Reduce suffering" is a goal in
itself, it's internally complete and needs no further justification.

>>Fortunately the Internet and Cryptography are making this debate
>>moot, slander laws are becoming impossible to enforce.

>That's true, the net has comlicated matters considerably. Still,
>many electronic nastyness can be traced

Send it through a chain on encrypted re mailers all over the world and it
would be almost impossible to trace, and sooner or later a DC net will be set
up and that will be mathematically impossible to trace.

John K Clark johnkc@well.com

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