[LMB] Crime and Punishment

Matija Grabnar lmb at matija.com
Sat Dec 14 17:03:11 GMT 2019

Several countries have implemented a solution to the inequality problem: 
Simply define the fines as percentage of income.

I remember one of the founder's of Yahoo (back when Yahoo was big) paid 
something like 120 000 dolars for a speeding ticket in Finland.

More detailed description here:


On 12/14/19 5:01 PM, Harvey Fishman wrote:
> Do you have a way to deal with inequality?
> Harvey
> ------ Original Message ------
> From: "WILLIAM A WENRICH" <wawenri at msn.com>
> Bcc: fishman at panix.com
> To: "Discussion of the works of Lois McMaster Bujold." 
> <lois-bujold at lists.herald.co.uk>
> Sent: 12/14/2019 10:46:58 AM
> Subject: Re: [LMB] Crime and Punishment
>> One of the things that prompted me to start this thread was the news 
>> that a thirteen year old was arrested for and confessed to the brutal 
>> knife murder of an eighteen year old college student. What can we do 
>> with current technology with a 13 year old murderer?
>> The penitentiary was invented by the Quakers as an alternative to 
>> physical punishment. The idea was mainly to give the prisoner time to 
>> repent. It hasn’t really worked that way.
>> Christian, husband, father, granddaddy, son, American. Here I stand. 
>> I can do no other. God help me.
>> William A Wenrich
>> ________________________________
>> From: lois-bujold-bounces at lists.herald.co.uk 
>> <lois-bujold-bounces at lists.herald.co.uk> on behalf of pouncer at aol.com 
>> <pouncer at aol.com>
>> Sent: Saturday, December 14, 2019 8:30:21 AM
>> To: hedwig52 at comcast.net <hedwig52 at comcast.net>; litalex at gmail.com 
>> <litalex at gmail.com>; lois-bujold at lists.herald.co.uk 
>> <lois-bujold at lists.herald.co.uk>; m.dolbear at lineone.net 
>> <m.dolbear at lineone.net>; sylviamcivers at gmail.com 
>> <sylviamcivers at gmail.com>; thefabmadamem at yahoo.com 
>> <thefabmadamem at yahoo.com>
>> Subject: [LMB] Crime and Punishment
>> Louann Miller refers to canon:
>>> Cordelia ... offered some Barayarrans the option of
>>> Betan personlaity treatment on Beta vs. (per
>>> Barrayaran law) the death penalty. All of them went
>>> for the death penalty.
>> I absolutely accept this into my head-canon, and
>> it's absolutely consistent with Cordelia's character,
>> but I confess I don't recall the scene or situation
>> in the books.
>> Would a listie who has a better-working memory chip
>> than mine please help fill in the background?
>> In real life I often consider the virtues of flogging.
>> Or time in wooden stocks outside the court-house, or
>> weekends devoted to picking up trash in parks or along
>> roadways.
>> I think it unfair (my foolish rationale) and ineffective
>> (my wiser one) that financial punishments are so common
>> for so many offenses against the good order of
>> society.  The consequence is simply that wealthy
>> offenders suffer very little, while already-impoverished
>> offenders begin a cascade of tortures. Living
>> paycheck to paycheck, a person paying a parking ticket
>> may choose NOT paying an installment on a credit
>> contract, leading to increased interest payments.
>> It might mean not buying groceries or not paying
>> a utility bill.  In the extreme not paying a
>> court imposed fine means going to jail or prison.
>> Even setting aside downstream consequences the same
>> absolute financial penalty represents disproportionate
>> pain (the point of any penalty) to richer or
>> poorer citizens.  A corporal or temporal penalty -
>> unlike financial ones - affects those who have
>> bodies, or exist in time much more equitably. They
>> are not perfect:-- young healthy offenders may
>> recover from 5 lashes from a horsewhip much more
>> quickly than elderly ill ones and so be less
>> deterred by any prospect of punishment. Similarly
>> a worker accustomed to intermittent hourly paid
>> income tasked off to some number of community
>> service hours is less inconvenieced by such
>> a sentence than, say, a trial lawyer who bills
>> hundreds of dollars per hour in six minute
>> increments. But nothing in law or life is
>> perfect, or fair. It is perhaps unfair to
>> require taxpayers to hire foremen/supervisors
>> to instruct and manage and track hours for
>> trash pickers.  Flogging would be much quicker,
>> I think. And arguably a better deterrent.
>> Time and pain have another advantage in that
>> they can not be transferred to societies'
>> guardians.  If a policeman's pay depends
>> on the fines and impounded property resulting
>> from his enforcement, most police officers and
>> their management will feel incentives to
>> enforce the most "profitable" laws. The
>> funds collected from fines may also go to those who
>> WRITE such laws and again there exist incentives
>> for writing more, and more "profitable", laws.
>> But very few feel a benefit to themselves
>> in inflicting pain. Neither the cops nor
>> city council members would get more pay or
>> financial perqs of office based on how many
>> lashes on bare backs are inflicted on the
>> city's litterbugs, check-kiters, and those
>> who abuse handicap parking spaces. Line 'em
>> up on Saturdays in front of the court house.
>> Five to ten lashes apiece, as determined by
>> the municipal courts and juries. Fair and
>> square, over and done, then forgiven and
>> forgotten.  Move on.
>> There WILL be psychological and behavioral
>> consequences of such policies.  For all
>> I know Betan therapy takes flogging, or
>> like negative reinforcement, into their mix.
>> I suspect, however, Barrayar is more likely
>> than Beta Colony to include forms of corporal
>> punishment.
>> -- 
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