Re: Justice and Punishment

den Otter (
Fri, 3 Apr 1998 03:47:55 +0200

> From: John K Clark <>

> "den Otter" <> 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.

Centralized systems are not inherently bad, they just take some smart
organizing and some well-placed checks and balances. It sure beats
anarchy (remember this setup is meant for Jack the Lad, not responsible
and independent people like *us*), which is beyond anyone's control.
A centralized system can be benevolent in its intentions, anarchy, like
nature itself, doesn't give a crap about fairness or individual well-being.
It's simply survival of the fittest in its most basic form. Although I don't
like nation states or bureacracies, I do belief that leaving them intact
while repairing the some of the major flaws is better than the gamble
of anarchy. Anarchy is inherently unstable and leads to hierarchy, often
of the opressive kind. Just check any history book.

> 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.

Yes, but you are of a rare breed. Jack the Lad, for whom the system was
designed in the first place, is a lot more obedient than you claim to be.
*Most* people are quite obedient, and in this case it's even for their own
good. Anyway, besides the bodycams the state wouldn't need anyone's
co-operation with their surveillance. If you don't want to document your
life, then you're free to do so at your own risk.

> >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.

So we obviously don't want something that is a 1000x smarter, but something
with exactly enough intelligence to take on judicial matters combined with
superhuman speed and unlimited stamina. 100 cases a minute, 24h a day
so to speak. In any case, "simple" electronic justice can be implemented
*today* by constructing easy to use national/global crime databases, heavy
electronic surveillance of judges, poilice, criminals and everyone else, by
adopting electronic house arrest, automated prisons etc.

> >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.

By selection on the desired criteria, continous training in the most difficult
continous surveillance (to prevent corruption), excellent pay, high social status,
bonuses for correctly handling extremely difficult cases etc. It's a very intensive
job, but you are aided by top technology and can leave with a clear conscience
and a stacked bank account.

> 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.

See above, it *does* pay to do the best job possible.

> 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.

Good surveillance brings out the saint in anyone, and all judicial candidates
are subject to intensive psychological profiling, not just one but continously.

> 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.

The free market is no magic bullet, not by far. Many a good product has
failed for trivial and/or incomprehensible reasons. The free market is
basically commercial democracy: you let the people vote for products.
Now we all now that many people are asses when it coms to real
(political) voting, and they aren't much better at economical voting.
Instead of being fooled by slick talkin' politicians they would be (are)
fooled by slick talkin' (PPA) salesmen...

> 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.

Others have already criticized the anarco-capitalist PPA model but I'll ad my
$ 0.10 anyway:

First of all, how do you want to achieve a state of anarchy? After all, the nation
states aren't going to roll over and die just like that. Not until the Powers get
them, but by then *all* our ideas about society will be obsolete.

Even if you could achieve widespread (all major nations must co-operate, or
you'd just be invaded "for your own good") anarchy, how do you prevent it
from becoming one big mess a la Mad Max?

How do you prevent PPAs (basically bands of armed thugs) from developing
the characteristics of the mob, feudal lords or regular governments? Remember,
most people are *afraid* of real freedom and personal responsibility, they don't
want it, and even if they want it they usually don't know how to defend it. They
are easy prey for any power structure that survived the colaps of the nation states
like (parts of) army units and criminal organizations. Before you know it, you
have a world full of more or less totalitarian city states, large bans of robbers,
hardly any infrastructure (and travel is extremely dangerous anyway) etc.
Basically, it's the dark ages all over again.

> Disputes among PPA's
> would be settled by an independent arbitrator agreed to by both parties
> BEFORE the disagreement happened.

Or, like in the good old days, with brute force. Guess who has the privelege
of being the foot soldier?

> 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.

Yet the only reason these contracts have any value is because there is a
big government to keep an eye on things, to provide a civilized context.
So why not try to commercialize and smoothen up the court system
(and everything else) instead of abolishing them (so that they may sneak
back under a different name). Centralized governments don't *have* to
be bureaucratic. Automatization can help a lot, and services can be
only offered to those who want them.

> 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.

I suppose somthing like this could be incorporated into a centralized system

> 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.

Civil behaviour through threat of force can also be achieved by allowing the
citizens of a nation-state to keep and bear arms. I personally think that
we would see more and worse violence in anarchy than in a centralized
society. In fact, a nation state with good electronic surveillance and the right
to keep & bear arms would be quite peaceful, with only sporadic crime
as opposed too the relatively safe patches of civilization surrounded by
dangerous thug-filled wastelands that are typical for anarchy.

> 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.

In the past, when the world was more anarcho-capitalistic than it is now, justice
*was* something for the rich, and people would risk their lives as enforcers for
a fraction of today's price because human life wasn't worth much anyway, and
one has to eat after all... Why would it be different the second time around?

> No system can guarantee justice to everybody all the time but you'd have the
> greatest chance of finding it in Anarcho-capitalism.

If you were rich, I'm sure you could buy "perfect" justice for yourself and your
relatives in your new world (dis)order. But if you're not...

> 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.

"Anarchy" in any form is unstable (it's simply a power vacuum), and sooner
or later will give rise to new "nations", most of which are sure to be ruled by
dictators. As far as I know, no serious democracy has ever decided to kill
of half (or any substantial portion) of its own people. I'm no great fan of
democracy, but considering human nature I think it's better than anarchy.

> >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
> me?

That depends on how pissed off and/or rich I am...Since there's only your PPA
to deal with instead of a huge government that's all over I might try to take you
out either myself or I may hire as many destitute souls as my budged allows
to do it for me. By the way, slander would be punishable by fines and a public
excuse, not torture. But of course this only applies to centralized nation states...

> 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,

There is a subtle difference here: smoking, drinking, driving cars etc. are one's
personal choice and responcibility, and by no means criminal behaviour. Robbing
or killing someone is something else entirely since it doesn't involve the victim's
consent. It's not up to the state to stop you from eating too much, but they should
try to make public spaces as safe as possible.

> The criminals I'd
> really like to see a crack down on are drunk drivers, they're far more
> dangerous than murders.

Sure, drunk driving has to be taken care of, but but the more morally
repugnant deliberate criminal acts like murder, rape and theft should
be taken on even harsher.

> >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.

So you have been lucky so far. I don't think that many elderly people and women
share your opinion.

> >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?

No. Unless new hard evidence comes up (before the execution in capital cases).

> Which decision of the 3 trials do we accept?

The one that is best argued and supported by the most/hardest facts.

> >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.

My definition is a manual for fair justice, yours is stating a certain goal. That
are two different, and not necessarily incompatible things. By the way, I
am primarily intersted in reducing the suffering of the *victims*, not *everyone*,
including the criminals. They simply get what they did to others, no more &
no less. IMO as fair as you can get.

> >"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.

A goal is nothing without an explanation about the means to achieve it. My
definition gives you the tools you need to implement justice, assuming that
your goal is something like "minimizing the amount of crime in society".