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Thursday, May 8, 2008

Checkbook Justice In Ruwarchistan

Holy cow,  Mary Ruwart drinks the whole pitcher of kool-aid on restorative justice.  Now I'm really afraid of Ruwarchy.  I live two driveways down from Intel ex-CEO Andy Grove, who has a net worth in the hundreds of millions.  His checkbook has a lot more Get Out Of Jail cards in it than mine does.   On the other hand, it's nice to know that my earning power and modest wealth mean that I would serve much shorter prison terms than most people for comparable crimes.   :-)

I agree the justice system should be far more restitution-oriented, and should perhaps be purely restitution-oriented for property crimes.  However, I think there should be a fundamental punishment component in the response to crimes of violence, and I find abhorrent any notion that incarceration time for a crime of violence should ever depend on the wealth of the aggressor or the earning power of the victim.  Indeed, under Ruwart's logic, the only proper role for a prison is to help insure that the aggressor doesn't try to avoid paying restitution, and prisons could be dispensed with altogether for any criminal who could arrange insurance or bonding against him defaulting on his restitution obligation.

Ruwart's own words:
  • Work prisons would be owned and operated by private firms with suitable expertise. Inmates could choose the facility that offered them the working conditions most conducive to the repayment of their debt. The ability of the prisoner to choose between competing institutions would provide incentive for the prisons to provide the most pleasant and productive conditions possible.
  • Retaliatory force can become aggression if it goes beyond what is needed to accomplish these goals. Punishing aggressors makes us aggressors too.
  • Justice does not consist of punishing the aggressor, but of making the victim whole.
  • In a libertarian society, a murderer with a large restitutional judgment would probably spend the rest of their life working it off, probably in prison.
  • Libertarian verdicts would direct those responsible for causing harm to someone to make things right again -- no more, no less.
  • Justice would be based on compensation of the victim, rather than state-decreed punishment.
  • Of course, aggressors can harm others in ways that cannot be totally undone. Monetary compensation to a person who has been raped or maimed, or to families whose loved ones have been killed, does not make things right again. In some cases, the victims, their family, or their insurance company might accept a monetary settlement as the best compensation available. The victims, their family, or their insurance company might insist that a repeat offender be imprisoned permanently so he or she could not strike again.
  • "A thief must certainly make restitution, but if he has nothing, he must be sold to pay for his theft." Exodus 22:3
  • Some people in our society may still think that aggression serves them. They might manifest this belief by stealing, defrauding, raping, or killing their neighbors. The most compassionate act we can perform is to allow aggressors to reap as they sow, to experience the consequences of their actions, to right their wrongs. In this way, these individuals undo the harm they have done to themselves as well as to others. We have no need to punish such individuals, only to heal them and those they have harmed.
  • Libertarians believe in compensation of the victim, not punishment. However, a murderer might be put to death if that was the compensation that the family wanted most. Because of the finality of this compensation, guilt would most likely need to be unequivocal.
  • My personal belief is that a libertarian society might not outlaw capital "compensation," but execution would be rare.

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