Tag Archives: “Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time”

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/19/18: Unethical Wedding Gifts, The Fairness Conundrum, What Really Makes Students Unsafe, And More

Good Morning!

1 A Not Exactly Hypothetical… A family member is getting married, and the social justice warrior spouse has decreed that no gifts should be sent, just contributions in the happy couples’ name to designated charities and causes, all political, partisan, and ideological. Does this obligate guests to give money to causes and organizations they object to or disagree with? One might be tempted to teach a life-lesson in abuse of power, and pointedly give a contribution to, say, The Family Research Counsel, the NRA, or Paul Ryan’s re-election campaign, but that would be wrong. Wouldn’t it?

2. “Progressive fines” poll update. The percentage of readers who regard so-called “progressive fines” as fairer than fining all law violators the same amount regardless of resources is about 6%, in contracts to 40% who think this is less fair. As I suspected, the schism is driven by the long-standing (and resolvable) arguments over what constitutes “fair” government policies, and whether it is the government’s job to try to make life less unfair. Is it “fair” to treat everyone the same, when we know that life doesn’t treat everyone the same? Are those who argue that life’s unfairness should be addressed by individuals, not society, taking that position because they are winners in life’s chaotic lottery? Can society and governments be trusted to address “unfairness” and inequality without being influenced by the conflicts and biases of the human beings making and carrying out laws and policies. I don’t generally care to spend a lot of Ethics Alarms time or space on abstract ethics questions, but some of them can’t be avoided. You can take the poll, if you haven’t already, here.

3. On the topic of fairness, here is a study that will make you bang your head against the wall: Following on the heels of this discouraging study I posted about on March 3 is this report by researchers at Stanford, Harvard and the Census Bureau, as described here by the New York Times. A taste sufficient to ruin your day: Continue reading

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Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Business & Commercial, Character, Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Incompetent Elected Officials, Law & Law Enforcement, Sports

Ethics Quiz: Income-Based Legal Penalties

In an op-ed in the Times,  lawyer Alec Schierenbeck argues for “progressive fines”:

“For a justice system committed to treating like offenders alike, scaling fines to income is a matter of basic fairness. Making everyone pay the same sticker price is evenhanded on the surface, but only if you ignore the consequences of a fine on the life of the person paying. The flat fine threatens poor people with financial ruin while letting rich people break the law without meaningful repercussions. Equity requires punishment that is equally felt.”

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day is..

Do you agree that “progressive fines” are a more ethical policy than having the same fines for the same violation, regardless of the offender?

Continue reading

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Filed under Citizenship, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Race, U.S. Society

Comment Of The Day: “The Most Unethical Sentencing Fallacy Of All: Lavinia Woodward Gets “The King’s Pass”

I am almost caught up on my backlog of Comments of the Day!

This one, by multiple COTDs author Humble Talent, is really two; I’m taking the liberty of combining his later explication with the original comment, as they follow as the night follows day. The topic is bias and double standards in the criminal justice system, and hold on to your hat.

Here is Humble Talent’s 2-for 1 Comment of the Day on the post, “The Most Unethical Sentencing Fallacy Of All: Lavinia Woodward Gets “The King’s Pass”:

You know, every now and again when I’m feeling adventurous, I go to a place I think will have a whole lot of people that don’t think like me and poke at their sacred cows. You meet all kinds of people, and recently, I was given probably one of the better answers to a gender/race issue from the other side yet.

The original fact pattern is that racial activists will cite disparate impact as a problem at every stage of an interaction with the legal system. Black people are more likely to be pulled over, more likely to be arrested, more likely to be charged, more likely to be convicted, and more likely to receive harsher sentences… All for the same stimulus. All of this, by the way, is true. It doesn’t account for the five-fold disparity between the black and white prison population on a per capita basis, but it is a thumb on the scale.

The juxtaposition is that the disparity between men and women in the justice system is about six times that of the racial disparity I just described. Men are more likely to be pulled over, more likely to be arrested, more likely to be charged, more likely to be convicted, and more likely to receive harsher sentences… All for the same stimulus. Sonja Starr wrote extensively on this, and despite some of her methodology being questioned, there’s general consensus that she was on to something.

So the question is that if someone is deeply concerned about inequality, that they are genuinely interested in justice for everyone, why wouldn’t you be just as, if not more concerned with the gender disparity, than the racial one? Continue reading

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Filed under Comment of the Day, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Race, Research and Scholarship, Rights

The Most Unethical Sentencing Fallacy Of All: Lavinia Woodward Gets “The King’s Pass”

Oxford University student Lavinia Woodward, 24,  punched and stabbed her boyfriend in a drunken rage, then hurled a jam jar, a glass and a laptop at him. This, in the U.S., would be called a criminal assault, and maybe even attempted murder.  Ah, but British Judge Ian Pringle knows better. He agrees these acts would normally mean a prison term, but Lavinia is a star student, and wants to be a surgeon. He hinted that he would spare her prison time so that her “extraordinary” talent would not be wasted. As poor Lavinia’s barrister, James Sturman, argued, his client’s dreams of becoming a surgeon would be “almost impossible” if she had to serve time.

Well, we certainly mustn’t jeopardize a violent felon’s dreams.

This kind of reasoning is infused with The King’s Pass, also known as The Star Syndrome, the rationalization making the perverse unethical argument that the more talented, prominent, useful and important to society a miscreant is, the less he or she should be accountable for misconduct that nets lesser lights serious and devastating consequences:

11. The King’s Pass, The Star Syndrome, or “What Will We Do Without Him?”

One will often hear unethical behavior excused because the person involved is so important, so accomplished, and has done such great things for so many people that we should look the other way, just this once. This is a terribly dangerous mindset, because celebrities and powerful public figures come to depend on it. Their achievements, in their own minds and those of their supporters and fans, have earned them a more lenient ethical standard. This pass for bad behavior is as insidious as it is pervasive, and should be recognized and rejected whenever it raises its slimy head.  In fact, the more respectable and accomplished an individual is, the more damage he or she can do through unethical conduct, because such individuals engender great trust. Thus the corrupting influence on the individual of The King’s Pass leads to the corruption of others.

Judge Pringle is taking the King’s Pass/Star Syndrome to a new low: he’s arguing that Lavinia should receive special treatment based on how valuable to society she might be, given enough immunity from the consequences of her own conduct.  Continue reading

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Filed under Around the World, Character, Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Law & Law Enforcement

From The Ruddigore Fallacy Files: “60 Minutes” Seeks Sympathy For Another Deported “Good Illegal Immigrant”

Earlier installments regarding the deportation of “good” illegal immigrants are here, here, here, and here. We are cursed to hear about these until the stars turn cold.

“60 Minutes” showed viewers the sad story of Roberto Beristain, an illegal immigrant deported to Mexico after being in the U.S. for nearly 20 years. This was part of the news media’s ongoing anti-Trump assault, as well as an effort to pull at the public’s heartstrings while paralyzing its brains.

The CBS news magazine gathered Beristain’s family and friends in Granger, Indiana so they could express their frustration that someone with no criminal record like Roberto could be separated from his wife and children, who are all citizens.

“It just feels wrong,” Kimberly Glowacki said. Michelle Craig said she voted for President Trump, but did so because he promised to deport dangerous criminals. “This is not the person he said he would deport,” she said. “The community is better “for having someone like Beristain in it.

Wrong, wrong and wrong. While the President emphasized that the nation’s passive enforcement of illegal immigration allowed dangerous criminals to enter the nation, he never suggested that “good illegal immigrants” should be allowed to break our immigration laws with impunity, as long as they became law abiding illegal citizens. What did Michelle think the wall was all about? Did she think it would somehow let good illegal immigrants in while stopping the “bad hombres”?

Beristain was as much of a border-jumper success story as the there is, a former cook and new owner of a popular Granger restaurant , “Eddie’s Steak Shed,” that employs about 20 people.  He had no criminal record in the U.S.. He entered the U.S. in 1998 illegally but had been issued a temporary work permit, Social Security number and drivers license under the Obama administration, an irresponsible policy that sent a “Illegals Welcome!” message to the world. The Trump administration, to its credit, has ended this cynical nonsense. If you are here illegally, you are subject to deportation at any time, and should be. The argument that by being a “good” illegal after you get here somehow erases the fact that you shouldn’t be here is what has been named “The Ruddigore Fallacy.” To refresh your memory: Continue reading

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Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Citizenship, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Family, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Popular Culture, This Helps Explain Why Trump Is President, U.S. Society