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Would Objectivism's legal code be results based, intent based, or

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Scenario 1: I get on the road, and accidentally get in a car wreck and kill someone. Whether I have desired to or not, I have used force. I have negated not only their mind, but their entire existence.

Scenario 2: I get on the road with the intent to kill someone. The result is the same, but the intent is different.

Under an Objectivist legal code, would the sentence for Scenario 1 be lesser if there is any at all, or would they both be the same? If possible, I would desire you to use an Ayn Rand quote or Objectivist principle in your answer. I have a feeling, though, the answer will be subjective and that most of you will believe Sc. 1 should deserve a lesser sentence.

Still, I'm curious. :)

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Objectivism does assign differing moral levels due to intent. An error made out of ordinary ignorance is not considered morally reprehensible, but evasion (willful ignorance) is.

Similarly an accident--a genuine accident--would be less severely punished than either gross negligence or willful harm.

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Scenario 1: I get on the road, and accidentally get in a car wreck and kill someone. Whether I have desired to or not, I have used force. I have negated not only their mind, but their entire existence.

You haven't used force unless you somehow violated the rules of the road. If you followed all the rules, then the other person is not your victim at all. He is the victim of the road system(which he was, presumably, using voluntarily, thus assuming the risk that he could be killed), and you are entirely innocent.

If you have violated the rules of the road and that caused the accident, then you are responsible for the death. However, justice doesn't mean the victim's fate alone is what determines your punishment. When you stand trial, it is still you and your actions being judged. And there is an objective difference between causing someone's death through negligence and murdering someone with premeditation. Therefor any objective punishment will be different for the two.

If possible, I would desire you to use an Ayn Rand quote or Objectivist principle in your answer.

I used a principle in my answer: justice. But Objectivism, while quite clear and to the point, is far from easy or simple. You're not going to understand what Ayn Rand means by the word justice from just a quote or two. As a start, you could read the entry for Justice and related entries, at aynrandlexicon.com

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Scenario 1: I get on the road, and accidentally get in a car wreck and kill someone. Whether I have desired to or not, I have used force. I have negated not only their mind, but their entire existence.

Scenario 2: I get on the road with the intent to kill someone. The result is the same, but the intent is different.

Under an Objectivist legal code, would the sentence for Scenario 1 be lesser if there is any at all, or would they both be the same? If possible, I would desire you to use an Ayn Rand quote or Objectivist principle in your answer. I have a feeling, though, the answer will be subjective and that most of you will believe Sc. 1 should deserve a lesser sentence.

Still, I'm curious. :)

From The Letters of Ayn Rand, from a letter to John Hospers dated April 29, 1961:

7. I am glad that you agree with me on the issue of justice vs. mercy. It is an enormously important principle that embraces all of one's relationships with men: private, personal, public, social and political. But you say that you are not clear on what I would regard as the deserved, in specific cases. My answer is: the basic principle that should guide one's judgment in issues of justice is the law of causality: one should never attempt to evade or to break the connection between cause and effect—one should never attempt to deprive a man of the consequences of his actions, good or evil. (One should not deprive a man of the values or benefits his actions have caused, such as expropriating a man's wealth for somebody else's benefit; and one should not deflect the disaster which his actions have caused, such as giving relief checks to a lazy, irresponsible loafer.) What specific form of reward or punishment is deserved in specific cases depends on the full context of the case. In personal relationships, the rewards deserved by virtue range from an approving smile to falling in love; the punishments range from a polite reproach or protest (when the action involved is an error of knowledge) to a complete break (when the action is
proved
to be a willful, conscious, deliberate immorality).

But you ask me what is the punishment deserved by criminal actions. This is a technical, legal issue, which has to be answered by the philosophy of law. The law has to be guided by moral principles, but their application to specific cases is a special field of study. I can only indicate in a general way what principles should be the base of legal justice in determining punishments. The law should: a. correct the consequences of the crime in regard to the victim, whenever possible (such as recovering stolen property and returning it to the owner); b. impose restraints on the criminal, such as a jail sentence, not in order to reform him, but in order to make him bear the painful consequences of his action (or their equivalent) which he inflicted on his victims; c. make the punishment proportionate to the crime
in the full context of all the legally punishable crimes.

This last point, I believe, is the question you are specifically interested in, when you write: "I find it difficult to say whether a man who has committed, e.g. armed robbery, deserves one year in jail, five years, ten years, or psychiatric therapy to keep him from repeating his offense." The principle of justice on which the answer has to be based is contextual: the severity of the punishment must match the gravity of the crime, in the full context of the penal code. The punishment for pickpocketing cannot be the same as for murder;
the punishment for murder cannot be the same as for manslaughter, etc.
It is an enormously complex issue, in which one must integrate the whole scale of legally defined crimes and mitigating circumstances, on the one hand—with a proportionately scaled series of punishments, on the other. Thus the punishment deserved by armed robbery would depend on its place in the scale which begins with the lightest misdemeanor and ends with murder.

What punishment is deserved by the two extremes of the scale is open to disagreement and discussion—but the principle by which a specific argument has to be guided is
retribution
, not
reform
. The issue of attempting to "reform" criminals is an entirely separate issue and a highly dubious one, even in the case of juvenile delinquents. At best, it might be a carefully limited adjunct of the penal code (and I doubt even that), not its primary, determining factor. When I say "retribution," I mean the point above, namely: the imposition of painful consequences proportionate to the injury caused by the criminal act. The purpose of the law is not to prevent a future offense, but to punish the one actually committed. If there were a proved, demonstrated, scientific, objectively certain way of preventing future crimes (which does not exist), it would not justify the idea that the law should prevent future offenses and let the present one go unpunished. It would still be necessary to punish the actual crime.

Therefore, "psychiatric therapy" does not belong—on principle—among the alternatives that you list. And more: it is an enormously dangerous suggestion. A. Psychiatry is far from the stage of an
exact science
; in our present state of knowledge, it is not even a science—it is only in that preliminary, material-gathering stage from which a science will come. B. The law, which has the power to impose its decisions
by force
, cannot be guided by unproved, uncertain, controversial hypotheses or guesses—and the criminal cannot be treated as a guinea pig (I am saying this
in defense
of the criminal's rights). C. Since the
prevention
of crime is a
psychological
issue, since it involves a man's
mind
(his premises, values, choices, decisions), it would be monstrously evil to place a man's mind into the power of the law, to let the law prescribe and
force upon him
any course of treatment involving or affecting his mind. If "
the prevention of crime
" were accepted as the province and purpose of the law, it would permit and necessitate the most unspeakable atrocities: not merely psychological "brainwashing," but physical mutilations as well, such as electric shock therapy, prefrontal lobotomies and anything else that neurologists might discover. No moral premise—except total altruistic collectivism—could ever justify that sort of horror.

Observe that it is I, the unforgiving egoist, who am more considerate of the criminals (of their
rights
) than the alleged humanitarians who advocate psychiatric treatments out of an alleged compassion for criminals. A penal code has to treat men as adult, responsible human beings; it can deal only with their actions and with such motives as can be objectively demonstrated
(such as intent vs. accident)
; it cannot assume jurisdiction over men's minds, brains, souls, values and moral premises—it cannot assume the
right
to change these by forcible means.

(If a man is
proved
to be legally irresponsible, that is,
insane
, it is a different issue: the law then has the right to commit him to an insane asylum—since, being incapable of reasoning, he is unable to claim the rights of a rational man. But even then, the law does not have the arbitrary power to impose treatment on him, particularly not treatment that might result in physical damage or injury. And, even in cases of insanity, the issue of proving it is enormously complex, controversial and dangerous, since no fully demonstrated, scientific knowledge is yet available on what can be taken as proof.)

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From The Letters of Ayn Rand, from a letter to John Hospers dated April 29, 1961:

Thank you for the very best answer, that from Ayn Rand herself!

I will note, as one with very different experience with risk calculus, there are no accidents with control rods latched, a key in the ignition, or a round chambered, there is only negligence. This hung in my briefing room...

"Responsibility is a unique concept

You may share it with others, but your portion is not diminished.

You may delegate it, but it is still with you.

If responsibility is rightfully yours, no evasion, or ignorance or passing the blame can shift the burden to someone else.

Unless you can point your finger at the man who is responsible when something goes wrong, then you have never had anyone really responsible."

— Hyman G. Rickover

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