Punishing Criminals
by Ernest van de Haag

A thoughtful defense of punishment. He argues that punishment is needed to deter crime and to give criminals what they deserve--justice. It is effective against liberal and rehabilitationist arguments. Given that the state has the right to maintain law and order, his position on punishment is more sensible than what we have now or what most liberals would like to institute. He realizes that punishment hurts the criminal. He doesn't look at it through rose-colored glasses, except when he makes the incredible assertion that criminals voluntarily forfeit the right not to be punished by committing offenses (page 182). He makes an analogy with policemen who voluntarily accept the risks of their profession, but he fails to carry the analogy to the conclusion that policemen forfeit their right not to be shot at and killed.

He advocates enough punishment to give the criminal what he "deserves" for his crime plus whatever additional punishment is required to deter other criminals. He is logical enough to admit that the only difference between the death penalty and homicide, arrest and kidnapping, and punishment and crime is that the first in each of these pairs is done by the state for its purposes while the second item in each pair is done by private citizens. His mistake is that he believes that this makes a moral difference (page 223).

He examines corporeal punishment, capital punishment, fines, banishment, exile, and other means of controlling criminals. His assessments are usually sensible given his assumption that the state has the right to try these forms of behavior modification. He recognizes the inefficiency of the penal system and its penitentiaries. His proposals would improve the system, except possibly for recidivists who could be incapacitated in various ways on the grounds of self-defense rather than punishment.

Year Read: 1985


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