[ExI] free-will, determinism, crime and punishment

Lee Corbin lcorbin at rawbw.com
Wed Aug 22 06:36:02 UTC 2007

Michael writes

> Am I hallucinating, or is someone seriously proposing -- more than
> once -- that nonlethal deterrence of criminal behavior including
> punishment works and is somehow appropriate, but that capital
> punishment is bad and isn't justified... ...without, apparently,
> noticing that the threat of capital punishment juuuust miiight have a
> deterrent effect on some people?

I admit to being confused on this point as well. Speaking of
deterrence alone, which consequence of conviction is more
to be feared:  death or a life sentence?  It's hard to believe
that a life sentence---with guaranteed medical care, three
squares a day, chances for opportunity and advancement
in the criminal gangs, future possibilities of conjugal visits
(so far, only six states in the U.S., though 60% of inmates
claim to be married)--- I say, that a life sentence is more
foreboding than execution.

But if the statistics and studies say so, then perhaps I'll have
to amend the old adage about lies, damned lies, and statistics.

People like me focus on *incentives* (and, I'm very happy to
report, so do the latest economic texts).  So there must be a story
that makes sense in terms of incentives explaining why capital
punishment is ineffective as a deterrent. What is it?

As for the logical thing at present to do with criminal recividists,
namely to chop off their heads and drop them into a vat of 
liquid NO2, the only thing that worries me is that sooner or
later the whole society will realize that this might not be much
of a deterrent.


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