– Is Switzerland going to go back to the gold standard?

Derb on decay.

Crime in Europe and America. Apparently professor Cowen thinks incarceration is morally problematic even if it reduces crime. Wow.


16 Responses to Randoms

  1. Handle says:

    Straussian’s gonna Straus. He often talks in ambiguous code. “Heavy U.S. reliance on incarceration” could be morally problematic if:

    1. You think there is an alternative, less coercive / distressing way to reduce crime just as much.

    2. You think it reduces crime more than any alternative, but that the amount of distress it causes criminals and their families, combined with the costs of the judicial, law enforcement, and incarcerations systems (to include the personal liberty/privacy and social costs of having to live in a increasingly police / surveillance state) are more than society benefits. These are resources would could be used to relieve more suffering elsewhere and so the allocation is “immoral”

    3. You think too many innocent people get imprisoned as a result. For example, if I just started locking up all young males in your neighborhood crime would certainly go down, because you’d catch some criminals, but it would be “immoral” to do so.

    4. You think the system is somehow “inherently, systemically” immoral (for example – racist), and that the increase in the “heavy reliance” on incarceration is mostly falling, unfairly and unjustly, on the targets of that “profiling”. Take the above example and replace “young” with some ethnic group and you get the picture.

    And we could speculate all day. And maybe his “personal belief” is data driven, or maybe it’s not. The point is, he never seems to want to be clear about it. But being clear these days is rarely rewarding, or even safe.

  2. aretae says:

    I’m sure you didn’t mean what you said. I’m not quite sure what you meant, though.

    By analogy: If you could all-but-eliminate child abuse by prohibiting step-parents (without changing current divorce law), that would be a huge value attained…while still being easy to understand as a patently bad idea.

    If your value system is really out-of-whack with the rest of the world, and you think crime is the only problem worth solving…then keeping lots and lots of people in jail seems to solve that problem. On the other hand…most folks do not think of that as the ONLY problem, and hence might have issues with it.

  3. z says:

    Ah I can always count on Aretae to be in the comments with his silliness.

  4. James_G says:

    >I also personally believe that the heavy U.S. reliance on incarceration is morally problematic

    Does incarceration increase the expected number of (hedons – dolors) in the timeless Universe?

    If so, I’m all for it; if not, I’m opposed to it.

  5. dearieme says:

    My reservations are prompted by

    (1) I notice that when Americans are jailed other Americans take great pleasure in forecasting that they’ll be repeatedly raped by large, violent, black men.
    (2) The American prosecutorial system and customs seem pretty corrupt.

    Perhaps (1) is just a sign of the existence of a blog-commenting class with a love of vicarious violence and a racist outlook, which is of no consequence. Perhaps.

    I take it that problem (2) calls for the sort of modest and beneficial reform that is beyond American political competence to effect.

  6. Red says:

    Prison is an evil progressive institution. Locking people up is not conducive to reducing crime. Most criminals respond better to physical pain than to grounding. We should return to executions for real criminals, public shame and fines for people who aren’t professional criminals, and floggings for proles who get out of control.

    Progressives created prisons so they could spend their time reforming criminals. It’s evolved into what we have now out of necessity.

    • Foseti says:

      Even by progressive standards I think this option may be more humane.

      • Handle says:

        I recommend “My Six Convicts” by Donald Powell Wilson, for an occasionally humorous look at what prison was life in the early New Deal era – this is Fort Leavenworth (which wasn’t military maximum security prisoners at the time), in the 1930’s.

        Any any rate, one has to contend with the corrections mythology of the possibility of “rehabilitation, reformation, reeducation” for all, if only we can find the right techniques and policies and implement them over the mindless objections of evil, brain-dead conservatives. In the end, no matter what, this always involves spending more money on more Progressive government bureaucrats.

        This is a part of the general Progressive narrative of their “rebuilt from scratch with logic and evidence, civilized, scientific, effective, efficient, sophisticated, modern, rational and just” vs “barbaric, brutal, backward, archaic legacies of a primitive time, superstitious, pointless tradition, purely emotional, immoral etc.”

        And yet, ironically and tragically, like Human Neurological Uniformity, this turns out to be a dogmatic theological assertion impervious to over a century of hard evidence consistently to the contrary.

        Given this general attitude about themselves, can most Progressives even genuinely support something as ancient and brutal as flogging, even if it was more effective and humane? I doubt it.

    • spandrell says:

      I agree, but you can’t really say that progressives ‘created’ prisons. We’ve had those for ages. They used to be more of torture than retribution, though.

      • Anon says:

        The modern prison system is more or less a legacy of Bentham. It’s fair to say it’s a progressive thing. Historically, prisons did not exist for incarceration as punishment — what would be the point of that? It’s costly, and doesn’t deter anyone criminally inclined.

    • baduin says:

      I have a modest proposal: for the violent criminal, the optimal penalty would be castration. It offers many benefits both to the criminal and to the society:

      For the criminal, the punishment is painless, allows him to return to work quickly, differently from prison does not encourage contact with other criminals (in fact, it can be expected that he will henceforward avoid all contact with his former law-breaking friends), and, most importantly, helps him to avoid reoffending by diminishing temptation to engage in violence, thanks to hormone changes.

      For the society, the punishment is quick and cheap, offers eugenic benefits and, despite its benign character, works as a surprisingly potent deterrent to other potential criminals.

  7. GP says:

    Derb is on to something profound there. The bug-eyed reaction he describes to his ’round em up and deport them’ solution is familiar. I get the same thing when I point out that Apartheid worked fine for about three decades.

    A notorious progressive said ‘you can’t make an omelette without breaking a few eggs’. But the current progressive fallacy is more along the lines of: ‘There is not, and never has been, any such thing as an omelette. Look, there are only chickens.’

  8. Toddy Cat says:

    I see that we’re gearing up for another 1960’s – 1970’s style crime wave. I remember the first one, and all the signs are there – complaints about the brutality of prisons, discussion of “alternatives to incarceration”, focus on (often real) miscarriages of justice – I’ve seen it all before. Look for incarcerations to drop later in this decade, followed by a massive uptick in violent crime, followed by about fifteen years of hand-wringing, culminating in an even vaster uptick in incarceration, which will start the cycle over again. I guess that there are some lessons that each generation has to re-learn. So much for the Whig interpretation of history…

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