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Henrik Unné

Corporal punishment

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As an aside: it's too bad the theory about criminal behavior dropping off as the criminal gets older isn't true. Then we could stop worrying about politicians.

:) Yeah. But speaking of criminality that isn't measured, I'm curious to see how the graphs would change if you counted criminal acts in prison. People talk about arrests and convictions, and recidivism once an offender is released. But for some reason whatever goes on in the prison, since it doesn't affect the greater public, doesn't count. The Right has gotten a lot of credit for reducing crime with harsher sentences, and I've given them credit as well. But I think the reduction is based on the incapacitation of offenders, not deterrence. It isn't that crime has been reduced, but it has been moved (not that I'm not grateful). I think any theory of crime over the life course should take this into account. It would be ludicrous to claim that someone sentenced to life after his third violent assault, and who then proceeded to knife other inmates, was no longer an offender because he wasn't arrested again.

Does anyone here have any idea whether the institution of corporal punishment in the criminal justice system would deter some people from crime, and whether it might help to reduce crime? Here in Sweden, there has been an apalling increase in the frequency of crime, and of juvenile delinquency, since corporal punishment was abolished in the schools back in the 1950s. Of course the increase in crime is at least largely due to the spread of bad philosophy through the culture, but I wonder if the abolishment of corporal punishment might not have *something* to do with it?

And how do you deal with a teenager, who has degenerated so far that he threatens a teacher with a knife? Can you stop him with any lesser means than overt physical force, including unpleasant corporal punishment?

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I wonder if there is any justification for the institution of corporal punishment in the criminal justice system, and if there are any strong objections. I am not suggesting here that the kind of excessively brutal corporal punishment that is carried on in places like Singapore be instituted. I definitely do not think that even criminals should be beaten until they are bloody. However, I have no problem with the idea that criminals, or older children who misbehave in school, should to be subjected to so-called "moderate" corporal punishment, i.e. the kind that does not cause the culprit any lasting physical injury, for example the kind of canings that were given to unruly schoolchildren in European schools in former times.

Some advantages with corporal punishment:

1) The shock of a sharp dose of corporal punishment might prevent many unfortunates from entering into a career of crime. It might "scare them away" from further crime. And if corporal punishment were meted out to first-time offenders, it might be unnecessary to send them to prison, where they might come under the influence of hardened criminals.

2) Corporal punishment is unpleasant on a directly perceptual level, so the unpleasantness cannot in any way be evaded, and it is intense. Might this not make corporal punishment a more effective deterrent than the "attenuated" or "low-intensity" unpleasantness of being physically confined in a prison?

3) The thought of the physical pain that would follow if they were caught, might make criminals nervous when they were committing a crime, so that they would be more likely to make a mistake, and get caught.

4) A caning that only takes a few minutes would be vastly less expensive than incarcerating a criminal for several years in a prison.

Some possible disadvantages with corporal punishment:

1) It might somehow make the society generally more brutal or "nasty".

2) It might engender a climate of fear in the society. I think, however, that *some* fear would be a good thing, if it was felt by the right individuals.

3) Corporal punishment is perhaps a "cruel" punishment. But I, for one, to not see why the unpleasant pain of corproral punishment is "metaphysically" worse than the unpleasant boredom of dong time in a prison.

4) The level of violence in the society might escalate if corporal punishment were to be introduced. A piece of evidence against this fear is the fact that the level of violence in the Western countries has gotten much worse during the last few decades, at the same time that the criminal justice system became less harsh. And the level of violence in Swedish schools has grown much worse, since corporal punishment in them was abolished back in the 1950s.

Any thoughts on the subject of corporal punsihment?

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Does anyone here have any idea whether the institution of corporal punishment in the criminal justice system would deter some people from crime, and whether it might help to reduce crime? Here in Sweden, there has been an apalling increase in the frequency of crime, and of juvenile delinquency, since corporal punishment was abolished in the schools back in the 1950s. Of course the increase in crime is at least largely due to the spread of bad philosophy through the culture, but I wonder if the abolishment of corporal punishment might not have *something* to do with it?

And how do you deal with a teenager, who has degenerated so far that he threatens a teacher with a knife? Can you stop him with any lesser means than overt physical force, including unpleasant corporal punishment?

I consider the deliberate infliction of pain for corrective purposes to be immoral, because it is an attempt to replace reason with physical force. You cannot force the mind, so this form of "treatment" has no rehabilitative value whatsoever. The only, only legitimate use of force is in retaliation against force. And with that in mind, look at the list of countries that still use "judicial corporal punishment" and tell me if they seem to have something in common.

I don't know about the history of criminal justice or school policies in Sweden, but here in the US I think a major reason for the increase in crime from the 60s through the 70s is the expansion of the welfare state and liberal unreason in the schools. Welfare breeds criminals. If you grow up believing that to live means to live off of others and your need is an entitlement to their work, then it's not a far leap to decide that your share is too small, that the government is stiffing you what you feel you need, so you decide to take charge of that "redistribution" directly. And more fundamentally this supports the criminal idea that force, not reason, is the base of human efficacy. Given that our intellectuals have been telling us for decades that reason is impotent, that anything ever achieved (including America's founding) was a product of force, what else can we expect? This is a great concrete demonstration that freedom is based on reason, and you can't keep the former if the latter is rejected. Preaching unreason leads to an increase in crime, as it must be.

Arrests have gone way down since the 70s and 80s, but because we started locking up a lot more criminals and for much longer periods of time. This is not a cure but a tourniquet, one that takes more resources every year to do the job. I wonder how long we can keep it up?

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A personal anecdote if you will allow me. Aged about 12 as a schoolboy, I was subjected to corporal punishment. It seriously hurt on a physical level and was humiliating. I never transgressed again to such a degree as to warrant said punishment. For me the deterrent worked.

I suspect it worked for others to as ours was a rough, but more or less ordered school.

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A personal anecdote if you will allow me. Aged about 12 as a schoolboy, I was subjected to corporal punishment. It seriously hurt on a physical level and was humiliating. I never transgressed again to such a degree as to warrant said punishment. For me the deterrent worked.

I suspect it worked for others to as ours was a rough, but more or less ordered school.

Deterrent aside, do you believe you deserved to be physically injured for what you did?

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Any thoughts on the subject of corporal punsihment?

What is the purpose of corporal punishment? Is it to control behavior before acting or punish behavior after acting? Is it proper to use physical force to control behavior one does not think is proper? What are the alternatives?

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What is the purpose of corporal punishment? Is it to control behavior before acting or punish behavior after acting? Is it proper to use physical force to control behavior one does not think is proper? What are the alternatives?

Obviously, we have to be prepared to use *some* form of physical force to stop the initiation of physical force whenever it occurs. But do we need to use physical force as a *punishment*? Well, if we incarcerate a criminal in a prison, then we are using physical force. What is the difference between punishing a criminal with incarceration, and punishing him with moderate (the kind that causes no lasting physical injury, such as scars, broken bones, etc.) corporal punishment. Is there something "metaphysically" wrong with physical pain, that makes moderat corporal punishment less acceptable than incarceration? I don´t see why that would be the case.

And as for the alternatives, in regard to schools. Here in Sweden the "ultimate" sanction against schoolchildren who disrupt the class, and thereby sabotage their classmates´ education is detention, and in extreme cases, expulsion. But the savages who qualify themselves for these punishments often *welcome* them. They often see it as getting a welcome relief or vacation, when they are denied continued education. How should we deal with these savages? And what about the teenagers who threaten their teachers with a knife (that happens in Sweden today). Actually, I doubt that corporal punishment would do much good if instituted on these savages, at that late stage. But I wonder if not fewer children would *become* such savages, if their behavior was corrected with moderate corporal punishment at an earlier stage, before it had gotten out of hand?

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But I wonder if not fewer children would *become* such savages, if their behavior was corrected with moderate corporal punishment at an earlier stage, before it had gotten out of hand?

I would say you're treating children like animals without cognition, but most people don't correct even their pets with the infliction of pain.

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What is the purpose of corporal punishment? Is it to control behavior before acting or punish behavior after acting? Is it proper to use physical force to control behavior one does not think is proper? What are the alternatives?

Obviously, we have to be prepared to use *some* form of physical force to stop the initiation of physical force whenever it occurs. But do we need to use physical force as a *punishment*? Well, if we incarcerate a criminal in a prison, then we are using physical force. What is the difference between punishing a criminal with incarceration, and punishing him with moderate (the kind that causes no lasting physical injury, such as scars, broken bones, etc.) corporal punishment. Is there something "metaphysically" wrong with physical pain, that makes moderat corporal punishment less acceptable than incarceration? I don´t see why that would be the case.

And as for the alternatives, in regard to schools. Here in Sweden the "ultimate" sanction against schoolchildren who disrupt the class, and thereby sabotage their classmates´ education is detention, and in extreme cases, expulsion. But the savages who qualify themselves for these punishments often *welcome* them. They often see it as getting a welcome relief or vacation, when they are denied continued education. How should we deal with these savages? And what about the teenagers who threaten their teachers with a knife (that happens in Sweden today). Actually, I doubt that corporal punishment would do much good if instituted on these savages, at that late stage. But I wonder if not fewer children would *become* such savages, if their behavior was corrected with moderate corporal punishment at an earlier stage, before it had gotten out of hand?

The proper purpose of incarceration is depriving the criminal of his freedom to act, since it was his initiation of force which deprived another man of his freedom. If incarceration penalties are fully administered, with no "deals" and no time off for "good behavior", they can have a good effect in protecting innicent men from the criminal.

As to savages in schools, one should aim his efforts at erradicating the cause of this savagery. If the cause which produces civilized youngsters is not identified and put into effect, there can only be more and more young savages, the existence or non-existence of corporal punishment not withstanding.

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I consider the deliberate infliction of pain for corrective purposes to be immoral, because it is an attempt to replace reason with physical force. You cannot force the mind, so this form of "treatment" has no rehabilitative value whatsoever. The only, only legitimate use of force is in retaliation against force. And with that in mind, look at the list of countries that still use "judicial corporal punishment" and tell me if they seem to have something in common.

I don't know about the history of criminal justice or school policies in Sweden, but here in the US I think a major reason for the increase in crime from the 60s through the 70s is the expansion of the welfare state and liberal unreason in the schools. Welfare breeds criminals. If you grow up believing that to live means to live off of others and your need is an entitlement to their work, then it's not a far leap to decide that your share is too small, that the government is stiffing you what you feel you need, so you decide to take charge of that "redistribution" directly. And more fundamentally this supports the criminal idea that force, not reason, is the base of human efficacy. Given that our intellectuals have been telling us for decades that reason is impotent, that anything ever achieved (including America's founding) was a product of force, what else can we expect? This is a great concrete demonstration that freedom is based on reason, and you can't keep the former if the latter is rejected. Preaching unreason leads to an increase in crime, as it must be.

Arrests have gone way down since the 70s and 80s, but because we started locking up a lot more criminals and for much longer periods of time. This is not a cure but a tourniquet, one that takes more resources every year to do the job. I wonder how long we can keep it up?

Is it not in a sense an attempt to replace reason with physical force, when a criminal is sent to prison? After all, incarceration *is* a form of physical force.

And as for the coutnries that still use corporal punishment, they lack freedom, that is true. But it is also a fact that they have a very low rate of crime. Is that only a coincidence? I do not know for certain, but I suspect that it isn´t.

Incidentally, I am opposed to the excessively brutal kind of corporal punishment that they carry out in places like Singapore. I do not think that even criminals shoud be beaten until they are bloody. I think that it is sufficient to cause the culprit some unpleasant physical pain, but that you should not physically injure him (over and above causing him some welts on his posterior that fade away after a few days). If only you make the punishment sufficiently unpleasant it will tend to deter from crime, even if it, as it should, leaves the culprit physically uninjured.

I agree with you completely that the *main* and fundamentlal cause of the increase in crime is the corrupting influence of modern philosophy. But I think that moderate corporal punishment could function as a tourniquet. And it would not take nearly as massive resources as keeping hundreds of thousands, or millions, of criminals inarcerated in prisons.

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But I wonder if not fewer children would *become* such savages, if their behavior was corrected with moderate corporal punishment at an earlier stage, before it had gotten out of hand?

I would say you're treating children like animals without cognition, but most people don't correct even their pets with the infliction of pain.

A good point. But I do not see anything "metaphysically" worse with using physical pain as a deterrent instead of other unpleasant things, such as being deprived of dessert or television.

And actually, I do not think that the use of corporal punishment per se, means that you are treating children as beings without cognition. You can say to a child - "You have free will, and it is up to you whether you misbehave. If you choose to misbehave, you will have to take some unpleasant consequences. I will spank you." I think that even a child (above the age of 5 or so) can understand that, and I think that the child will understand that you are regarding it as responsible for its actions, and that you are acting on the premise that the child has volition. The important thing here is that you should not *only* spank ("hit") the child. You should also explain to it *why* you are spanking it (namely that it has done something wrong, and that it has to, in the name of justice, pay a price for that).

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Is it not in a sense an attempt to replace reason with physical force, when a criminal is sent to prison? After all, incarceration *is* a form of physical force.

It is not the proper goal of incarceration to change the behavior of criminals, nor has that attempt been successful. The "war on drugs" in the US, for example, has not only not deterred drug trafficking; drugs are actually cheaper and higher quality today than they were when the "war" began. And despite years of mandatory sentencing and the "3 strikes" laws, recidivism remains high. The deterrent model is based on a flawed view of man, with a cognition that can be programmed by various pokes and prods by government. In fact, no error (moral or otherwise) can be corrected through punishment, only through ideas.

Now you say that you support a "moderate" degree of corporal punishment, saving the criminal from a long imprisonment. Why should he not think of it the same way you do, if it does no serious harm and he will not have his freedom taken from him? Yet you imagine that this would deter him when having years of his life taken from him does not?

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I was caned at every school went to. Six of the best left welts on my backside. How did this affect me? Not very much in the long run, but in the short run, it was a way to set limits by unpleasant consequences. Too often, the consequences are not apparent, and bad behavior continues into adulthood. As a child, I accepted that there were standards to be maintained; it is just that I often violated them. For this, I accepted the punishment. For sensitive souls, a verbal rebuke can be as effective as physical pain, and in those cases, it makes no sense to administer the latter.

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The important thing here is that you should not *only* spank ("hit") the child. You should also explain to it *why* you are spanking it (namely that it has done something wrong, and that it has to, in the name of justice, pay a price for that).

So the adult assumes the role of a force of nature, to be accepted and obeyed as a metaphysical absolute? Like a dictator does?

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The important thing here is that you should not *only* spank ("hit") the child. You should also explain to it *why* you are spanking it (namely that it has done something wrong, and that it has to, in the name of justice, pay a price for that).

So the adult assumes the role of a force of nature, to be accepted and obeyed as a metaphysical absolute? Like a dictator does?

Well, say that a child plays with matches in the house, or runs out into the street without checking for cars? Should you "negotiate" with the child on that behavior? Obviously not. You have to be firm and *unyielding*. But you *should* explain carefully to the child *why* it is absolutely not permissible to play with matches or to run out into the street without first checking for cars. As long as you explain the why of your rules, I do not think that you are being a dictator. Even if you spank the child to help motivate him to follow the rules. I do not think that spanking is usually appropriate for teaching children not to do dangerous things like play with matches or run out into the street recklessly.

I think that corporal punishment is more called for in cases of willfully "wicked" behavior, such as bullying, vandalizing, stealing and so forth, rather than for "foolish" or ignorant behavior. And naturally it is primarilly older children who commit such misbehavior. I do not think that spanking is called for much for small children, say under 7 or so.

But I have never had any children myself, so I have no direct experience. And I was never spanked myself when I was a child, so I do not know what the experience is like for a child.

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A personal anecdote if you will allow me. Aged about 12 as a schoolboy, I was subjected to corporal punishment. It seriously hurt on a physical level and was humiliating. I never transgressed again to such a degree as to warrant said punishment. For me the deterrent worked.

I suspect it worked for others to as ours was a rough, but more or less ordered school.

Deterrent aside, do you believe you deserved to be physically injured for what you did?

Well my "crime" was to be building paper boats and racing them on a stream which went through our school. I could never see why this was forbidden at the time, but I now realise they were probably worried about possible drowning and also various water born diseases like Weils disease etc

My injuries were not substantial, some brusing aside and as I seemed immune to rational persuasion at the time (as a juvenile) I would have to say, probably, yes, the use of force was unpleasant but reasonable.

I never went back, though at the time I recall plotting horrible revenge on the teacher!! Needless to say, I did not carry out this plan as an adult.

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Now you say that you support a "moderate" degree of corporal punishment, saving the criminal from a long imprisonment. Why should he not think of it the same way you do, if it does no serious harm and he will not have his freedom taken from him? Yet you imagine that this would deter him when having years of his life taken from him does not?

Moderate corporal punishment does no lasting physical harm (leaving aside culprits with certain medical conditions, and they should be exempt), but it *is* highly unpleasant. Sure, incarceration is unpleasant also, but physical pain is more directly unpleasant on the non-evadable perceptual level. And it is a fact that the crime rate is extremely low in, for example Singapore, where they have corporal punishment for numerous crimes (not that I advocate such extremely severe punishments, I have seen photos of the culprits after a caning, on the Internet, I do not think that that degree of brutality is necessary to deter many criminals from continued crime).

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Well my "crime" was to be building paper boats and racing them on a stream which went through our school. I could never see why this was forbidden at the time, but I now realise they were probably worried about possible drowning and also various water born diseases like Weils disease etc

My injuries were not substantial, some brusing aside and as I seemed immune to rational persuasion at the time (as a juvenile) I would have to say, probably, yes, the use of force was unpleasant but reasonable.

I never went back, though at the time I recall plotting horrible revenge on the teacher!! Needless to say, I did not carry out this plan as an adult.

You say that you realize this now. Did they actually tell you their reasons for not wanting you to play by the stream?

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Moderate corporal punishment does no lasting physical harm (leaving aside culprits with certain medical conditions, and they should be exempt), but it *is* highly unpleasant. Sure, incarceration is unpleasant also, but physical pain is more directly unpleasant on the non-evadable perceptual level. And it is a fact that the crime rate is extremely low in, for example Singapore, where they have corporal punishment for numerous crimes (not that I advocate such extremely severe punishments, I have seen photos of the culprits after a caning, on the Internet, I do not think that that degree of brutality is necessary to deter many criminals from continued crime).

Well, at the moment we have not only incarceration but the fear of being knifed and/or raped by other inmates, so I think the current “corrections” system already has your plan beat on pain and suffering. Yet recidivism is still high.

I had a feeling you’d single out Singapore on the list I referred to, but aside from the use of corporal punishment it’s the one country that also has a free market (far freer than that in the US as I understand it) and under 2% unemployment. So we’re talking about a very productive population that frankly doesn’t think about crime nearly as often as citizens in the US or Sweden do. Now look at all of the rest of the countries, and take Iran for example, which uses corporal punishment, and you find a serious human trafficking problem (even putting aside the crimes they call “laws” over there). Does the evidence really show that corporal punishment is responsible for a low crime rate?

And the reason why corporal punishment does not work is what I said earlier, that punishment cannot correct errors, only ideas can.

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And the reason why corporal punishment does not work is what I said earlier, that punishment cannot correct errors, only ideas can.

It takes time to change a culture´s dominant philosophy. Could not corporal punishment function as a tourniquet, and a complement to healthy ideas?

A problem is that it would take *a lot* of intellectual activism to have a chance to bring about an introduction of corporal punishment into the criminal justice system. And, of course, our energies would be put to better use promoting the spread of Objectivist philosophy. I do not advocate any kind of campaign for corporal punishment. I think that it would be a waste of scarce resources.

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It takes time to change a culture´s dominant philosophy. Could not corporal punishment function as a tourniquet, and a complement to healthy ideas?

I’ve been saying that I believe infliction of pain for corrective purposes is immoral, and also that it doesn’t work, and you ask me why we don’t just do it anyway?

A problem is that it would take *a lot* of intellectual activism to have a chance to bring about an introduction of corporal punishment into the criminal justice system. And, of course, our energies would be put to better use promoting the spread of Objectivist philosophy. I do not advocate any kind of campaign for corporal punishment. I think that it would be a waste of scarce resources.

Whose resources, and why do you think it would be a waste of them if this is a moral solution?

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Well my "crime" was to be building paper boats and racing them on a stream which went through our school. I could never see why this was forbidden at the time, but I now realise they were probably worried about possible drowning and also various water born diseases like Weils disease etc

My injuries were not substantial, some brusing aside and as I seemed immune to rational persuasion at the time (as a juvenile) I would have to say, probably, yes, the use of force was unpleasant but reasonable.

I never went back, though at the time I recall plotting horrible revenge on the teacher!! Needless to say, I did not carry out this plan as an adult.

You say that you realize this now. Did they actually tell you their reasons for not wanting you to play by the stream?

Now you come to mention it, there was no attempt to reason with us! It was a nasty, authoritarian state school. The deal was basically obey or be beaten.

I'm not sure how much I would have listened as I rather liked building and racing boats, but no effort was made. I guess for state employees, dealing with 100's of kids with no incentives to perform better and no way to be fired, they just resorted to beatings. That and a healthy degree of sadism from the man who inflicted the beatings.

Time to revisit the 'horrible revenge' plan :)

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