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Objectivist Penal Code

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Consider a country with a Constitution containing strictly O'ist principles and philosophy. Namely, rights to life and liberty are established and guaranteed by courts, military, police, etc. (not funded through taxation). It is the ideal government. Thus, a criminal is presumably one who violates the Constitution, through the initiation of force on another individual.

- How would an Objectivist penal code function? How ought criminals be punished? What do you do with them?

- Are all instances of "initiation of force" considered equally immoral? Are there varying levels of severity? What are they?

- Should "fair compensation" be provided to the individual against whom the crime was committed? Who provides it? How?

Presently, most penal codes suggest individuals ought to be 1) locked up in prisons funded by taxpayers, or 2) given the death penalty. From an O'ist perspective, I'd suggest there's objections to the manner in which both of these are carried out. It appears as if the underlying aim is to remove the criminal from society, so he does not commit crimes again; therefore it is conceivable that 3) relocate them to another country, is another possibility, although this may serve impractical.

Remember:

There are no conflicts of interests among rational men.
Edited by dmastt
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First of all, the role of a Constitution is not to lay out a system of civil and criminal laws by which we can govern a country. Rather, the Constitution delimits the powers and responsibilities of various aspects of government. Within the context of these limitations, the legislature constructs a body of laws that address these types of concerns. Thus, criminals don't violate the Constitution; criminals violate laws. The agents of government are the ones who can violate the Constitution, if they step outside the limits set within it.

Secondly, here is a list of threads addressing various aspects of your concerns:

Should justice be retributive or restorative?

Rewriting the Constitution (A Capitalist Constitution)

How would an objectivist legal system run?

Deportation as an answer to crime?

Prisons!

Enjoy :)

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Finished reading all those links, Dante, and I do concede that a criminal is one who breaks the law, not the Constitution. Thanks for correcting me.

Generally speaking, I've found a few trends between all of those threads:

1) Prison is exile, except inverted. The problem here is cost. Who's responsible for funding prisons? Surely, the prisoners and private donations ought to be the major source of income, and prisons should be self-sustaining. What happens to a prisoner who refuses to work to support his imprisonment?

2) Prisoners still have rights. Namely, the right to life. Is there any circumstance where an O'ist would reason that another individual no longer has the right to live?

3) Victims must receive compensation of an equal value.

4) Prevention fails. Criminals will always exists, and the law will always be broken, sometimes on accident.

I'd like to hear your opinions. Post away!

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2) Prisoners still have rights. Namely, the right to life. Is there any circumstance where an O'ist would reason that another individual no longer has the right to live?

The death penalty debate is still ongoing in Oist circles. Most Oists I know believe that there are crimes that merit the death penalty.

Rand's position was that capital punishment could be morally justified but did not come out unequivocally for it as she found the falliable nature of jurists too problematic to risk an innocent man's life on.

On retaliatory force as applied by the criminal justice system Rand says this:

"The retaliatory use of force requires objective rules of evidence to establish that a crime has been committed and to prove who committed it, as well as objective rules to define punishments and enforcement procedures. Men who attempt to prosecute crimes, without such rules, are a lynch mob. If a society left the retaliatory use of force in the hands of individual citizens, it would degenerate into mob rule, lynch law and an endless series of bloody private feuds or vendettas.

If physical force is to be barred from social relationships, men need an institution charged with the task of protecting their rights under an objective code of rules.

This is the task of a government—of a proper government—its basic task, its only moral justification and the reason why men do need a government."

(Virtue of Selfishness)

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1) Prison is exile, except inverted. The problem here is cost. Who's responsible for funding prisons? Surely, the prisoners and private donations ought to be the major source of income, and prisons should be self-sustaining. What happens to a prisoner who refuses to work to support his imprisonment?

- Im not sure slavery is an appropriate punishment in general, all though it may sometimes be warranted.

Theres also the question of whether prisons should be private and profitmotivated, given the incentive to get people in jail. Opens the door to corruption, as seen with this judge handling juvenile offenders.

Administrating prisons (per definition using force) seems a legitimate government job.

2) Prisoners still have rights. Namely, the right to life. Is there any circumstance where an O'ist would reason that another individual no longer has the right to live?

- A bunch. War comes to mind primarily, but focusing on civil law people convicted of murder could certainly be executed.

The right to life is a good thing because it makes it possible for me to life my life optimally.

But there any no advantages for me (or presumably you) to avoid executing murderers, assuming you can be certain of the persons guilt. On the contrary, it would seem in both of our interest to get rid of people posing such a great threat to the rest of the population.

4) Prevention fails. Criminals will always exists, and the law will always be broken, sometimes on accident.

- You should back that statement up somehow, as I doubt that is the case.

Do you think pickpocketers are as common in Iran as in New York?

Do you think cocain is used at the same regularity in Singapore as in Europe?

What makes someone commit a fellony is imo a combination of risk of getting caught relative to the possible punishment.

Lets say armed robberies had a sucessrate of 99.9% - but came with the death penalty.

People would be willing to take that risk, while they would not if the punishment was merely five years but a 80% chance of getting caught.

But to say that the level of punishment does not play into the frequency of criminal endevours is simply wrong.

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4) Prevention fails. Criminals will always exists, and the law will always be broken, sometimes on accident.

If you mean by this that there will always be criminals and rights violators, I don't doubt it, but I wouldn't characterize that as "prevention fails." Laws set up to enact justice on criminals who violate rights do generally reduce the number of people who violate rights in the future.

And of course, the "on accident" part is certainly true. Rand explicitly states that even in a society of rational individuals who respect each others' rights, there would still be a need for objective adjudication of disputes. For example, it is entirely possible for two rational people to disagree about the implications of a particular clause in a contract, and it is necessary to have an objective authority to settle such disputes.

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  • 2 weeks later...

3) relocate them to another country, is another possibility, although this may serve impractical.

AC130 to carry about 100 prisoners: a few million dollars

Need it anyway to move cargo: - a few million dollars

Parachutes: about $500/prisoneer

Fuel needed to detour AC130 on their way to pick up cargo: $700-1000 maybe

Air dropping criminals far away from our society and returning them to a state of Nature: priceless

Very Cheap... Relatively speaking.

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  • 4 months later...
  • 3 weeks later...

AC130 to carry about 100 prisoners: a few million dollars

Need it anyway to move cargo: - a few million dollars

Parachutes: about $500/prisoneer

Fuel needed to detour AC130 on their way to pick up cargo: $700-1000 maybe

Air dropping criminals far away from our society and returning them to a state of Nature: priceless

Very Cheap... Relatively speaking.

And inflict them on another society? This is pure nationalism (your country is the only one that matters), not any form of justice.

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