Economics and the mid-life crisis have much in common: Both dwell on foregone opportunities

C'est la vie; c'est la guerre; c'est la pomme de terre . . . . . . . . . . . . . email: jpalmer at uwo dot ca

. . . . . . . . . . .Richard Posner should be awarded the next Nobel Prize in Economics . . . . . . . . . . . .

Friday, March 18, 2005

What Would Be the Deterrent Value of Cruel and Unusual Punishment?

I have a strong presumption that there are many fates worse than death [digression: Woody Allen says an evening with a life insurance salesman is one such fate; I often use the example of someone's previous marriage to an now-ex-spouse.]. I can readily imagine that life in prison wouldn't be much better than dying for many of us. If so, it should come as no surprise that there are some serious questions about whether capital punishment has much, if any, deterrence effect on murder. I wrote about this topic here.

Jack recently sent me an article from The National Post [National Post; Date: Mar 17, 2005; Section: World; Page: 17]($subscription required) about the use of a punishment in Iran that would probably be considered "cruel and unusual" in North America.

Mohammad Bijeh, branded “the Vampire of the Desert” in the Iranian press, was lashed 100 times with electrical cables and stabbed in the back by a furious brother of one victim before a blue nylon rope was placed around his neck by the mother of another murdered child.
I am reasonably confident that if I had been the parent of one the children abused and murdered by Bijeh, I would have wanted him to suffer. You may call it a thirst for revenge; I prefer the nicer term, "retributive justice."

If people respond to incentives, I wonder if this type of punishment has more of a deterrent effect than the type of capital punishment practiced in the U.S.

Update: I am not the only one who feels this way. See Volokh
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