Modern countries pride themselves on their humane treatment of prisoners. And by “humane”, I mean “lock them up in a horrible and psychologically traumatizing concrete jail for ten years of being beaten and raped and degraded, sometimes barely even seeing the sun or a green plant for that entire time, then put it on their permanent record so they can never get a good job or interact with normal people ever again when they come out.”
Compare this to what “inhumane” countries that were still into “cruel and unusual punishment” would do for the same crime. A couple of lashes with the whip, then you’re on your way.
Reader. You have just been convicted of grand theft auto (the crime, not the game). You’re innocent, but the prosecutor was very good at her job and you’ve used up all your appeals and you’re just going to have to accept the punishment. The judge gives you two options:
1) Five years in prison
2) Fifty strokes of the lash
Like everyone else except a few very interesting people who help provide erotic fantasies for the rest of us, I don’t like being whipped. But I would choose (2) in a fraction of a heartbeat.
And aside from being better for me, it would be better for society as well. We know that people who spend time in prison are both more likely to stay criminals in the future and better at being criminals. And each year in jail costs the State $50,000; more than it would cost to give a kid a year’s free tuition at Harvard. Cutting the prison system in half would free up approximately enough money to give free college tuition to all students at the best school they can get into.
But of course we don’t do that. We stick with the prisons and the rape and the kids who go work at McDonalds because they can’t afford college. Why? Progressives!
If we were to try to replace prison with some kind of corporal punishment, progressives would freak out and say we were cruel and inhumane. Since the prison population is disproportionately minority, they would probably get to use their favorite word-beginning-with-“R”, and allusions would be made to plantation owners who used to whip slaves. In fact, progressives would come up with some reason to oppose even giving criminals the option of corporal punishment (an option most would certainly take) and any politician insufficiently progressive to even recommend it would no doubt be in for some public flagellation himself, albeit of a less literal kind.
So once again, we have an uncanny valley. Being very nice to prisoners is humane and effective (Norway seems to be trying this with some success), but we’re not going to do it because we’re dumb and it’s probably too expensive anyway. Being very strict to prisoners is humane and effective – the corporal punishment option. But being somewhere in the fuzzy middle is cruel to the prisoners and incredibly destructive to society – and it’s the only route the progressives will allow us to take.
Scott Alexander, “Reactionary Philosophy In An Enormous, Planet-Sized Nutshell”, Slate Star Codex, 2013-03-03.
November 7, 2015
October 21, 2015
1) If you’re in a bad neighborhood, the kind where you get to hear gunfire and sirens on a nightly basis, move. If you can’t move, have yourself inside at a decent hour, before the time when “suspects” start outnumbering “witnesses” on street corners.
2) As a matter of fact, having yourself in at a decent hour is good advice for just about anybody. Ask your local po-po, but I’d bet that in most places, not much good happens after ten p.m.; certainly after midnight, the majority of the folks not already at home are already legally intoxicated, or are engaged in business transactions buying or selling intoxicants. Saying that these people are overrepresented in criminal and traffic code violations is like saying that rednecks are overrepresented in the stands at a NASCAR race.
3) Regardless of your opinion of the War on (Some) Drugs, the fact remains that, for now, drugs are illegal. This means that to get any for your own use, you have to come in contact with some one who is, by definition… class? Anyone? That’s right, a criminal. Now, other than engaging in a little unlicensed pharmaceutical distribution, your particular connection may be a saint and a member of the Kiwanis. On the other hand, how well do you really know them? They’ve demonstrated the willingness to break one law; what others do they break? What other criminals do they associate with? What are the chances of this all ending in tears? If you want to play the safe side of the odds, wear your seatbelt, don’t ride motorcycles, and stay away from the dope and the people who use it.
4) Likewise, hitting people is against the law. You should stay the hell away from people who think fisticuffs is an appropriate method of conflict resolution for adults. Particularly if they also have a fondness for judgement-impairing substances like Budweiser. I don’t care if you lovelovelove them; if they have proven their willingness to talk with their fists, they will do it again, and maybe worse. If you are living with them or hanging around them, get out. You can then settle your differences from the other end of a phone line a whole lot safer than you could have from inside the tiger cage.
Tam Slick, “How to not get killed”, View From The Porch, 2009-07-20.
October 18, 2015
Private lawyers are not needed in Germany. If you want to buy or sell a house or field, the State makes out the conveyance. If you have been swindled, the State takes up the case for you. The State marries you, insures you, will even gamble with you for a trifle.
“You get yourself born,” says the German Government to the German citizen, “we do the rest. Indoors and out of doors, in sickness and in health, in pleasure and in work, we will tell you what to do, and we will see to it that you do it. Don’t you worry yourself about anything.”
And the German doesn’t. Where there is no policeman to be found, he wanders about till he comes to a police notice posted on a wall. This he reads; then he goes and does what it says.
I remember in one German town—I forget which; it is immaterial; the incident could have happened in any — noticing an open gate leading to a garden in which a concert was being given. There was nothing to prevent anyone who chose from walking through that gate, and thus gaining admittance to the concert without paying. In fact, of the two gates quarter of a mile apart it was the more convenient. Yet of the crowds that passed, not one attempted to enter by that gate. They plodded steadily on under a blazing sun to the other gate, at which a man stood to collect the entrance money. I have seen German youngsters stand longingly by the margin of a lonely sheet of ice. They could have skated on that ice for hours, and nobody have been the wiser. The crowd and the police were at the other end, more than half a mile away, and round the corner. Nothing stopped their going on but the knowledge that they ought not. Things such as these make one pause to seriously wonder whether the Teuton be a member of the sinful human family or not. Is it not possible that these placid, gentle folk may in reality be angels, come down to earth for the sake of a glass of beer, which, as they must know, can only in Germany be obtained worth the drinking?
In Germany the country roads are lined with fruit trees. There is no voice to stay man or boy from picking and eating the fruit, except conscience. In England such a state of things would cause public indignation. Children would die of cholera by the hundred. The medical profession would be worked off its legs trying to cope with the natural results of over-indulgence in sour apples and unripe walnuts. Public opinion would demand that these fruit trees should be fenced about, and thus rendered harmless. Fruit growers, to save themselves the expense of walls and palings, would not be allowed in this manner to spread sickness and death throughout the community.
But in Germany a boy will walk for miles down a lonely road, hedged with fruit trees, to buy a pennyworth of pears in the village at the other end. To pass these unprotected fruit trees, drooping under their burden of ripe fruit, strikes the Anglo-Saxon mind as a wicked waste of opportunity, a flouting of the blessed gifts of Providence.
I do not know if it be so, but from what I have observed of the German character I should not be surprised to hear that when a man in Germany is condemned to death he is given a piece of rope, and told to go and hang himself. It would save the State much trouble and expense, and I can see that German criminal taking that piece of rope home with him, reading up carefully the police instructions, and proceeding to carry them out in his own back kitchen.
Jerome K. Jerome, Three Men on the Bummel, 1914.
October 17, 2015
David Warren looks at the work of the late Daniel Patrick Moynihan:
We are celebrating this year, if that is the word, the fiftieth anniversary of perhaps the most inconsequential sociological study ever published. That was, The Negro Family: The Case For National Action, by the brilliant American politician and thinker, Daniel Patrick Moynihan (1927–2003).
Working then in the U.S. Department of Labour, Moynihan focused his attention on a counter-intuitive statistical fact. Unemployment among black males was falling, in 1965. But rates of welfare enrollment for black families was rising. This did not make sense. The two lines on this chart had always fallen or risen together. But they had crossed over in 1962. He had put his finger in what came to be called, “Moynihan’s scissors.”
[…] while the “Moynihan Report” is famous, and at one time, everyone claimed to have read it, it contains something so obnoxious to enlightened post-modern thought as to remain invisible to all participants in the discussion.
This was Moynihan’s sociological and anthropological observation that the American black culture was becoming “matriarchal.” Whether without, or more likely with the help of welfare programmes, women were becoming the heads of households, and men were being removed from that station.
(The background: All of the higher civilizations have been unambiguously patriarchal; matriarchy is associated in the prehistoric and anthropological record with savage, gratuitously violent, self-destructive tribes.)
Already, in 1965, one in four black kids in the USA were born out of wedlock. Today it is more than three in four, and levels of bastardy among the other races have risen in course. By the end of the last century (1990s), white children were as likely to be raised in fatherless homes as black children had been in the 1960s. “Progress” has been progressing rapidly.
The Nanny State has replaced fathers as the principal source of income for such families (bankrupting itself in the process), and the feminist movement has supplied the arguments — or more precisely, misandronist slogans and vindictive clichés — for the overthrow of “patriarchy” and its systematic replacement with a shrewish matriarchy in all facets of social life. The movement has been, moreover, so successful in achieving its objects — the emasculation of men, and degradation or actual inversion of traditional morality — that it has now moved on. For with the defeat of masculinity, new horizons of “gender-bending” or “transgendering” have come into view.
Now, part of the reason people can’t get their little heads around what has actually happened — first to the black family, then to the brown, then to the white — is the surviving, basically modern (i.e. pre-post-modern) belief that eunuchs behave much like fairies; that they become docile and effeminate, harmless and nurturing, sensitive and sweet; that their previously reprehensible “masculine” traits will quietly disappear. Some men do indeed respond to emasculation by becoming the pathetic, contemptible wimps that all women, including feminists, instinctively abhor. But some do not.
As a well-read student of social sciences and history, Moynihan knew better than this. The masculine capacity for violence (at all levels, spiritual as much as physical) does not go away. From Spartan Laconia, backwards and forwards through history on all continents, we see that eunuchs and other “homosexual” (the word is inadequate) guards and soldiers have been employed by the great warrior despots. This is because they make the fiercest fighters. Having no families, no heritage to protect, no women and children to feed and shelter in safety, they become a purely destructive force. They become men who do not care even for their own lives, let alone for the lives of others.
October 15, 2015
Jacob Sullum points out a few misconceptions about sentencing reform:
Anderson, with Sessions’ help, manages to pack at least half a dozen serious misconceptions into a 375-word post. Let’s consider them one at a time.
Is “crime rising in America”? As Jesse Walker noted here last month, the latest FBI numbers show that violent and property crime both fell last year, continuing a “long decline” that began in the mid-1990s. Although some American cities have seen spikes in violent crime this year, it is not clear whether they represent a nationwide increase or, if so, whether that increase represents a reversal of recent trends or a blip.
Are police “increasingly under siege”? Last month my former Reason colleague Radley Balko, who writes about criminal justice for The Washington Post, reported that “2015 is on pace to see 35 felonious killings of police officers” and that “if that pace holds, this year would end with the second lowest number of murdered cops in decades.” As Jesse Walker pointed out here, such numbers have never deterred law-and-order types who propagate “the eternally recurring legend of a ‘war on cops.'”
Are drug traffickers “violent criminals”? Some are, but there is a clear distinction between stabbing or shooting someone and engaging in consensual transactions that Congress has arbitrarily decided to prohibit. Under current law, doing the latter is enough to trigger mandatory minimum sentences ranging from five years to life. By pretending there is no difference between violent predators and nonviolent drug offenders, opponents of reform make a hash out of any effort to focus criminal justice resources on the lawbreakers who pose the biggest threat to public safety.
October 10, 2015
There’s plenty of argument about whether body cams are a pro- or anti-police innovation. Here’s an example of the way body cams can actually help to show when the police are doing everything right, and things still go wrong:
We’ve written a lot here at Ars about how video surveillance has captured cops doing bad things. We cover this area because the technology of body cams, Taser cams, dash cams, and even images taken by bystanders has changed our perspective on police behavior that would likely have been swept under the rug previously.
But this surveillance technology also captures officers who, in the words of a local Cleveland county prosecutor, have acted with “remarkable restraint.” In this instance, body cam footage of several Cleveland patrol officers shows them doing everything they could to convince a man to put down his weapon.
Police came to visit Theodore Johnson’s Cleveland residence after his wife claimed he threatened to kill her. The man had already shot one officer, striking the chest of a patrolman David Muniz’s ballistic vest. “I know you shot me, but I’m not going to shoot you,” Muniz tells the 64-year-old Johnson, according to police body cam footage taken at the scene.
To be honest, I’m quite impressed at the restraint these officers managed to show. If a member of my team had just been shot, I know it’d be very tough for me not to return fire…
October 2, 2015
The Association of American Universities (AAU), a nationally recognized research organization, arranged last Spring to have a Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Assault and Sexual Misconduct taken by undergraduate and graduate and professional students at 27 colleges and universities.
The results at Yale were more spectacular than merely impressive. The survey’s results apparently demonstrate that “By senior year, 34.6 percent of female undergraduates reported experiencing nonconsensual penetration or sexual touching by force or incapacitation.” These are sexual assaults that meet criminal standards.
“Among female undergraduates, 28.1 percent experienced this type of assault since entering Yale University and 14.3 percent experienced this type of assault during the current school year.”
When the Russian Army took Berlin in 1945, “[a]t least 100,000 women are believed to have been raped” (Wikipedia) out of a population of 2,000,000 women.
So roughly 5% of German women were successfully sexually assaulted in 1945 by a hostile invading army of primitives bent upon revenge, while in 2015 at Yale almost three times as many (14.3% ) of the young ladies suffer the same fate worse than death. Goodness gracious!
David Zincavage, “Worse Than Berlin in 1945”, Never Yet Melted, 2015-09-22.
October 1, 2015
Wildly overblown claims about an epidemic of sexual assaults on American campuses are obscuring the true danger to young women, too often distracted by cellphones or iPods in public places: the ancient sex crime of abduction and murder. Despite hysterical propaganda about our “rape culture,” the majority of campus incidents being carelessly described as sexual assault are not felonious rape (involving force or drugs) but oafish hookup melodramas, arising from mixed signals and imprudence on both sides.
Colleges should stick to academics and stop their infantilizing supervision of students’ dating lives, an authoritarian intrusion that borders on violation of civil liberties. Real crimes should be reported to the police, not to haphazard and ill-trained campus grievance committees.
Too many young middle class women, raised far from the urban streets, seem to expect adult life to be an extension of their comfortable, overprotected homes. But the world remains a wilderness. The price of women’s modern freedoms is personal responsibility for vigilance and self-defense.
Camille Paglia, “The Modern Campus Cannot Comprehend Evil”, Time, 2014-09-29.
September 29, 2015
At Simple Justice, Scott Greenfield includes a poster from Southeast Missouri State University that nicely summarizes both the institutional infantilization of university students and the current double standard on booze and consent rules:
There is universal agreement that any female (though not male) who has passed out is incapable of giving consent to sex. But as the spectrum of reaction to alcohol or drugs comes closer to the sober end, it becomes increasingly problematic. The word used to describe a woman who cannot consent is “incapacitation.”
What is incapacitation? That’s impossible to say. It usually described by either specific instances of conduct (“if she’s puking her guts out, that means she’s incapacitated”), which offers no guidance when she’s not puking her guts out, or when she’s done puking her guts out, or before she’s puking her guts out.
The underlying rationale is that a woman who is so drunk that she cannot formulate knowing, intentional and voluntary consent, cannot consent to sex. This is a dubious standard, as the incapacity to consent doesn’t mean she would not consent, but that she cannot consent.
To put this in context, consider a person who fully consents, enthusiastically desires to engage in conduct, but wasn’t specifically asked beforehand. This person can truthfully assert that it was non-consensual under the Affirmative Consent standard, because she never overtly expressed consent.* The objective standard is not met, although the subjective standard is fully met.
The problem is reminiscent of drunk driving, which was determined by the objective inability to perform the tasks necessary to safely drive a car before the law turned to Blood Alcohol Content as a proxy, an inadequate measure but a convenient one for law enforcement to prove. Sexual incapacitation suffers from a lack of definition and no objective basis.
What is clear about incapacitation is that it’s not when there is “liquor in the cup,” or when “she has touched alcohol,” any more than it would be a crime for her to thereafter get behind the wheel of a car. Yet, the notion that any alcohol (or drugs, which don’t seem to find their way onto posters or flyers as much) per se vitiates consent is spreading and being used as the hard and fast line.
September 28, 2015
I’ve written on many occasions about what I call universal criminality, the crowning achievement of the modern police state, under which there are so many vague, overbroad and counterintuitive laws that every single person is in violation of at least a few of them at all times. Nearly any encounter with the police can be turned into “assault on a police officer” or “resisting arrest”, almost any business can be twisted into “racketeering”, virtually any financial transaction can be redefined as “money laundering” and even normal friendships or business interactions can be tortured into “conspiracy”. But while charges like these can be used to harass, bankrupt and imprison the target, possibly for many years, they often lack the firepower necessary to totally destroy his life forever; after his release from prison he might still be able to find work, have a normal social life and rebuild his shattered fortunes into some semblance of a comfortable existence. Worst of all (from the prosecutorial viewpoint), the public might even side with the victim, turning him into a martyr both during and after his state-sanctioned torture and caging. But there is one weapon in the state’s arsenal which, used properly, will utterly destroy a person’s life. At the end of the process he will have no money, no friends and no home; he will be completely unemployable and condemned to everlasting surveillance, shunned by society and unable even to avail himself of even paid companionship without triggering still more awful consequences. If the prosecutor is really lucky, his victim may even be murdered by the police or other thugs or take his own life. And all it takes to detonate this thermonuclear weapon of modern law is the sending of a single email.
Maggie McNeill, “Instant Criminal”, The Honest Courtesan, 2014-09-19.
September 25, 2015
J.R. Ireland on the modern day puritans who lose sleep because someone, somewhere, might possibly be looking at porn:
One thing that I have noticed a lot of advocates of sex-worker rights tend to miss though is the parallel between anti-prostitution arguments and anti-porn arguments. I think that the reason for this is simple — prostitution is still illegal, whereas pornography is not only legal, but very visible. It’s all over our computer screens, in fact, and can be found quickly and easily, provided you have the ability to engage in a simple Google search. That means that most pro-prostitution advocates avoid really talking about the issue of pornography, since it’s assumed that this is an issue we’ve already ‘won’ and which we don’t really need to continue babbling about.
Unfortunately, this ignores the fact that there is a burgeoning anti-porn movement that is coming not from the normal enemies of pornography on the right (i.e. Catholics, Baptists, Methodists, etc. who oppose porn on religious grounds), but from leftists who oppose porn on what are alleged to be left-wing grounds — fear of exploitation, a desire to prevent sex-trafficking, a distaste for the vulgar trappings of sexualized patriarchy, and so on.
Anti-Porn feminism is far more advanced in Britain than it is here since British feminists tend to be, and you’ll have to pardon my language, bug-fuck crazy nightmarish lunatics with fake degrees from mediocre universities and a level of self-loathing and insecurity unknown to the sane. It is from this leftist anti-porn position that the activist Gail Dines has arrived. In 2010, she wrote a book entitled Pornland: How Porn Has Hijacked Our Sexuality and since then she has been on the leading edge, the spear-tip, the vanguard of leftist opposition to pornography.
First, Dines tries to argue that ‘sexual assault centers in US colleges’ have ‘said that more women are reporting anal rape.’ Which sexual assault centers? Care to name them? Care to give me any sort of citation for this claim? Of course not — facts are for the patriarchy and we’re in the post-fact world of third wave feminism now!
Indeed, I find it somehow unlikely that sexual assault centers in US colleges are reporting an increase in rape given that American rape rates fell substantially between 1990 and the present:
Go look up any statistics on the incidence of rape and you will find them to be broadly similar — a spike in the 70s and 80s (which happened to coincide with a general increase in criminality) followed by a lengthy decline ever since. Now, were porn actually causing an increase in rape rates due to ‘sexualizing violence against women’ and ‘normalizing’ practices like rape, you would not have expected to find such an obvious decline in sexual assault rates, would you?
The second claim Dines makes is regarding the scary normalization of pedophilia which she claims is occurring directly resultant from porn involving teenagers. First of all, ‘teen porn’ does not ‘normalize pedophilia’ since the teenagers in teen porn are supposed to be 18 or 19 — in other words, post-pubescent and fully grown women. This isn’t even taking into consideration the fact that many actresses in teen porn are actually in their 20’s and are just ‘playing young,’ but we’ll ignore the fact that this is all fantasy anyway, since the fact that pornography isn’t based on reality seems to be a constant source of confusion for Gail Dines.
Prosecutors, and regulators more generally, like vague standards that are impossible to enforce consistently. It gives them a great deal of discretion in whom they target and how. It is a threat that can be wielded to force pleas to lesser crimes or other “voluntary” actions that obviate the need for a messy trial they might lose.
Megan McArdle, “California Accidentally Legalizes Campus Sex”, Bloomberg View, 2014-09-23.
September 24, 2015
I am often asked if, by calling “sex trafficking” a myth, I’m saying that there is no such thing as coercion in sex work. The answer, of course, is “not at all”; what I’m saying is 1) that coercion is much rarer than “trafficking” fetishists pretend it is; 2) that the term “trafficking” is used to describe many different things along a broad spectrum running from absolutely coercive to absolutely not coercive, yet all of them are shoehorned into a lurid, melodramatic and highly-stereotyped narrative; and 3) that even situations of genuine coercion rarely bear much resemblance to the familiar masturbatory fantasy of an “innocent” middle-class girl in her early teens abducted by “pimps” from a shopping mall, bus stop or internet chat room.
Maggie McNeill, “The Face of Trafficking”, The Honest Courtesan, 2014-10-10.
September 20, 2015
Kathy Shaidle explains why using a movie’s worldview (even something as funny as A Fish Called Wanda) is not the best way to develop your own philosophy of the world:
From William James and Herman Hesse to the Beats and the Beastie Boys, Buddhism has long appealed to a certain type of post-Enlightenment Westerner — the one who yearns to fill his “God-shaped hole” with anything but God, that uptight, bossy old guy with all the boring rules and hang-ups (man.)
Buddhism — which looks from the outside like agnosticism but with cooler tchotchkes — is the obvious choice.
Now, Americans in particular take a lot of guff (see: “I forgot my mantra…”) for seeming to prefer trompe l’oeil religion — what Flannery O’Connor had her Hazel Motes concoct: a “Holy Church of Christ Without Christ.” That’s probably not surprising considering you’re a country cofounded by deists.
But while it’s funny to witness lily-white lapsed Catholics, still supposedly stinging from Sister’s ruler, sitting in Zen meditation classes where they’re sure to be slapped with an even bigger stick, let’s remember that Buddhism was an Eastern religion first. It’s like Pearl Harbor: They started it.
And “they” aren’t all the unadulterated egalitarian Klaatus of our Big Sur wind-chime fantasies. Buddhist scandals — both sexual and fiduciary — receive only a slender sliver of the media attention and resulting popular scorn that, say, Catholic ones do. (Oddly enough!) Stand-up comics don’t crack jokes about perverted Theravada monks.
Yet lists of Buddhist big-shot malfeasance include such karma-killers as spreading AIDS and drinking oneself to death. And that’s just in America.
Over in Thailand, the “top Buddhist authority bars women from becoming monks,” but some are now insisting (stop me if you’ve heard this one) that female ordination is just the enema the nation’s corrupt and constipated religious authority needs most.
September 16, 2015
At Gods of the Copybook Headings, Richard Anderson comments on a story about Chinese drivers ensuring that pedestrians they hurt in traffic accidents don’t survive to sue them … because incentives matter:
Smelling a story that was too interesting to be true, I texted a friend who lives in China. He read the article and texted back that every word was correct. This behaviour was so common that it was a kind of dark joke. The phrase “drive to kill” was considered practical life advice for young and old alike. These are not members of some obscure and barbarous cult. China is one of the oldest and most accomplished of human civilizations.
The legal explanation for this — a moral explanation I suspect is impossible — is a combination of a weak insurance system and easily bribable courts. An injured pedestrian can become a lifetime financial liability for the driver. Murder convictions, even in cases with clear video evidence, are still unusual. Faced with a choice of becoming a bankrupt or a murderer the popular choice seems to be the latter.
Homo homini lupus est. Man is wolf to man.
Mainland China is, of course, a dictatorship. It seems likely that in a functioning liberal democracy, such as those of the West, very basic legal reforms would long ago have been implemented to remove these quite literally perverse incentives. The rulers of China have deigned it beneath their notice to make such minor improvements.