Humble Talent has issued an excellent and provocative post on one of the Great Ethics Controversies: what is fair, ethical and effective criminal justice punishment in a nation with the values of the United States?
I admit that this is an ethical blind spot for me, perhaps because I worked as both a defense attorney and a prosecutor. My natural inclination is toward the Baretta theme song: “Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time.” Or, for that matter, if you can’t pay the fine. I also believe, as Humble alludes to skeptically in his final paragraph, that the culture of the United States, emphasizing individual freedom and encouraging self-worth measured by success, does make criminal activity more common, and its history and culture also increase the frequency of violent crimes. I don’t trust cross cultural comparisons; I think they are all misleading, and often intentionally so. The United States is unique.
Nonetheless, all of the issues brought up in the post are complex and important to examine, carefully, seriously. I have not forgotten this post, though I needed Humble Talent’s comment to make me track it down, and I hereby pledge to make criminal justice issues, and especially prison, a higher priority here.
This is Humble Talent’s Comment of the Day on the post, “Comment Of The Day: ‘Unethical Tweet Of The Month: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY)’”
We’ve talked about this issue before, tangentially… And it’s something of a hot topic for me. It’s something that differentiates me from the group, I think, because it’s something I think America could do better, and it seems to be something that other right-leaning commentators are somewhere between apathetic to and actually proud of.
I think, and I could be wrong, but I think that this reaction is more of a rejection of the other side than a legitimate statement of belief. Progressives seem to no longer be content with the steady beat of “normal” progress, instead seeming to be approaching everything from politics to the personal with a militant quasi-religious fervour.
And to a point, who can blame them? If I listened and believed half of what their thought-leaders are telling them, I might be right there beside them. I’m of the opinion that people on the right feel like (and I agree with them, to an extent) they are perpetually under siege; their values, their way of life, their livelihoods, their basic understanding of the rules of the game of life. They’re given no rest, having the steady grind of not only the overt political messaging, but cultural and familial shifts happening around them in real time. And that’s worn away the dermis a little, they’re on their last nerves, and not picking their battles very well, instead opting to fight everything. Because otherwise…. The wholesale rejection of criticisms of the penal system seems… kinda shitty when you think about it. Continue reading