Apparently we're too primitive to get beyond the juvenile practice of cutting off our nose to spite our face, and it informs our drug policy, the way we deal with the homeless, our prison system, our views on social welfare, etc.
That being said, our prisons aim to punish, incapacitate and rehabilitate. Punishment is a legitimate role for society; it is not juvenile.
I don't believe this -- neither do you. Thus in my strictly scientific sample of people in the United States (n=2), 0% believe that statement.
"in fact, many people are against letting people out of prison even once they have been cleared!" -- I'd ask you to find the name of one person who believes innocent people should be incarcerated.
The theory underpinning most of these wishes, insofar as these wishes exist and they have a theoretical rather than emotional underpinning, is that there exist a class of offenders who guilty of crimes far in excess of what they have been convicted for, that they have internalized norms condoning things such as violence and theft, and that if released they would continue to pose an ongoing risk to society.
Assuming their original imprisonment to have been the just consequences of one act for which they have been convicted, then the subsequent fantasy imprisonment would be the just consequences of the other acts of which they are (or are forecast to be) equally guilty but for which they have not been convicted.
N.b. The appropriateness and efficacy of these wishes, specific materializations of these wishes, and the way that they interact with other concerns involving the rule of law, the fundamental dignity and rights of Man, and the greater good of society... all of that is not addressed in this post, because the nature of crime and attitudes towards crime in America is a complicated topic and this post is short.
Just look at how the word "thug" is carefully used in rhetoric. The implication is that someone is a criminal simply for being who they are, not because of any particular infraction. Further implied is that people who are "thugs" deserve whatever "punishment" they end up getting, regardless of guilt or even whether they were accused of a crime. The Trayvon Martin controversy brought quite a bit of this to the surface for all to see.
You can find plenty of instances where there was resistance to letting an innocent person out of prison, start by Googling "innocence project".
> I'd ask you to find the name of one person who believes innocent people should be incarcerated.
There are most certainly stigmas in the US about prisoners. There are also stigmas are about certain kind of crimes and that racist and sexist in nature. This is a country in which politicians do not pledge to ensure fairness in the law but to be even harder on criminals.
What's your rationale for this? Personally I can't agree. I can see the logic behind punishment-as-deterrent (but then it creates perverse incentives), but punishment as an end goal itself isn't an appropriate concern for society.
But the most important feature is healing for the victims, the partial return of justice. When someone is murdered or raped (let's not cloud the discussion with morally ambiguous crimes like drugs), the victims and their families have the fabric of their lives completely torn up; they experience immense pain and suffering. Yes, I'm going for pathos, and that's on purpose, pathos is central to the argument. The knowledge that the perpetrator has pain inflicted on him is an important factor in stitching their lives back together. I'd love for a proponent of the "rational" argument to sit down across from a mother whose daughter has been raped and explain that her feelings are irrational.
Yes, this is an irrational argument, but humans are irrational (the rape itself was probably a rather irrational act) - like it or not, that's a fact of how humans work. An order of society that ignores this fact is bound to fail.
There should be strong preventive measures in place, the best policy is the one where the crime isn't committed in the first place. Education and solid ways out of poverty are important factors here. Avoiding recidivism is also important. But once the crime is committed (which is the theme here), a narrow focus on rehabilitation is blind to the "red meat" of the issue.
What you didn't get right is the role of the justice system. It's not the role of the justice system to pander to emotions. A judge does not sit down with the mother of a murder-rape victim and explain to her how she ought to feel, at least that is not the case in Norway. One could argue this is in fact the case in the US, in the sense that the laws the judges rule by pander to emotions.
Humans=\=Society. That is the gist of what I am saying.
Society is a construct, and it is not just a reflection of human nature, it is also a product of our ability to coexist.
Anyone who has been in a relationship knows coexisting means sacrifice, both emotionally and otherwise.
In Oz courts, there is often a "victim impact" statement read to the court, eg a rape victim will tell the court about the negative effects the assault has had on their life (eg can no longer have sex with partner, so is now divorced; can't leave house at night so has lost job). This impact statement will be taken into consideration when sentencing, and is often directly referenced in the judge's closing statement. Eg, "the victim has experienced years of mental anguish and you show no remorse; I am therefore pronouncing the maximum allowable sentence".
So yes, the court very much does "pander" to emotions. I'd love to hear an actual lawyer chime in, the ones I've talked to have a very strong code of professional ethics surrounding this (believe it or not.)
> not just a reflection of human nature
I acknowledge the human element, I should think no-one believes a construct doesn't reflect the maker, but society like any invention is also more than that.
When this topic comes up I'm always surprised by the flood of comments stating "well golly gee, I'm sure he's real sorry he raped and stabbed those girls, we just need to put him through some advanced reading courses then send him back on his way!" Followed by, "now if you think he should be punished for his actions well you're just barbaric and primitive and irrational".
Punishment is not irrational. It's a fundamental ethical standpoint. Mitigating factors should be weighed (mental health, IQ), but at the end of the day people need to face the consequences of their actions.
And part of the point of rehabilitation is not "golly gee, we just need to put him through some advanced reading courses then send him back on his way!" as you so childishly put it, but that the offender wouldn't be released until it was fairly certain he wouldn't offend again (because he'd been rehabilitated). I'm fairly certain that kind of rehabilitation would take years at a minimum.
Ad-homs do not improve the conversation.
> the consequences of rape is that the perpetrator got his jollies.
With the further consequence that the rapist has emotionally traumatized an innocent victim, and the still further consequence that the victim may demand justice. The point of punishment is not primarily to make the offender feel guilty. The point of punishment is to make the victim feel better.
Think of it transactionally. If I stole $50,000 from your grandma and got caught, you'd expect me to pay back the money, yes? Now say I beat your grandma with a stick because I thought it would be funny. As we're too civilized for the courts to have me beaten with a stick, instead I repay her emotional trauma with my own - through incarceration.
While your ethics might be different - you may think people should not bear the responsibility for their own actions - my ethics firmly hold that we are all accountable for our own decisions.
That is the question you really need to answer.
Is it better to stop future offending or feel good about inflicting suffering on others who are "bad" right now?
You might also want to throw into the mix the observation that a very large number of people in prison have untreated mental / behavioral issues and that a very large number of people who commit violent or sexual crimes have themselves been victims of such crimes in their formative years.
My argument is that whatever your ethics are, treating people like animals creates more animals. We all pay the cost of that.
Again, you attack me personally, this is not a good look for you. I wish harm on nobody; I long for a utopian day of mutual respect.
> You might also want to throw into the mix the observation that a very large number of people in prison have untreated mental / behavioral issues
I have already directly raised this point. You are changing the frame.
> [will] you [...] accept a 70% rate of re-offending, or would you trade your desire for revenge for a 15% rate of re-offending? That is the question you really need to answer.
I will boldly answer your question, though you have answered none of mine. Yes, I will accept a higher rate of re-offending. Ethics are not convenient, and are often not utilitarian. I would not kill one person to save ten, nor even a thousand. If holding an individual to account for their actions has a high cost, then so be it.
"Truly ethical behavior is acting according to principles even when those principles are inconvenient."
Thus, creating more victims and more criminals in the long run. We have to burn the village in order to save it?
Why should taxpayers have to pay for stone-age, eye-for-an-eye vengeance? Harsh sentencing is expensive.
Now the US prison system has become a corrupt business - and that's a separate and awful issue. But the fundamental ethical basis for punishment stands: you steal money, you pay it back - you deal emotional trauma, you pay it back.
Thus, our goal should be the lowest possible crime rate, and I'm not sure punishment for vengeance's sake is ultimately compatible with that goal.
I propose that you would feel differently if someone had emotionally assaulted you or your loved ones via rape or violence. Perhaps this is a difference in personal ethics, but I despise such assaults more than property damage; at the very least I hope we can agree that such crimes deserve to be redressed.
I cannot prove this, and I personally am not inclined to believe in proofs from first principles in these matters, but I can appeal to people's gut sense of what is moral and decent. Who really believes that a person can murder someone else (and let's suppose that they were not raised in a violent or abusive environment that would tend to normalize acts of violence), out of pure malice, and then be allowed to enjoy the same happiness as if they hadn't committed that act?
I'm aware that there are people who don't really believe in "pure malice" and are therefore more sympathetic to murderers. While I'm happy to here their arguments, my own observations and experience suggest that there is tendency in human nature to do what is wrong, and this should be punished. I'm also not arguing against taking into account a person's upbringing and even their "mental health" when sentencing.
Who really believes that such a thing would be possible, regardless of external punishment?
Surely only a psychopath could kill someone in anger and not ultimately be destroyed by the act, almost by definition, and we've already decided that those people are medical cases, and that punishing them literally does nothing.
I guess it depends on how you personally view human nature; this stuff is hard to pin down. Maybe I'm just naive.
Just think of examples of self defense, or crimes of passion (e.g. the killing of your lover's mistress). Why do we never hear of how all of these people fall into bottomless pits of depression?
Particularly in your description of it "destroying" someone, I wonder if you are thinking of "Crime and Punishment". Remember that was not a crime of passion, but a planned killing expressly chosen to be in cold blood. Killing in cold blood is a different story, but we are not talking about that.
On the subject of psychopaths, I don't think this category exists in the sense that you mean it. In particular, the personality traits usually thought of as characterizing psychopathy, do not predict criminal behavior strongly (or at all) . So I think you need to reconsider your factual claim that there is a category of people, defined by certain mental traits, who are "medical cases" and cannot be deterred from committing crimes.
As you say, people have very different views of human nature. I consider the idea that a mentally healthy person would never want to harm someone else, or else would suffer from extreme guilt if they did, to be wrong. Also, most arguments for this viewpoint, including your own, seem to suffer from the No True Scotsman fallacy.
Count on this. People are excellent at rationalizing their own actions.
But it's only fair then to ask you how you can be so presumptuous to think you can, or even should 'rehabilitate'?
Anyway, you are missing a third option. Imprisonment does not have to be about either rehabilitation or punishment. It could also, or even instead, be about detainment and isolation. In other words, you can imprison somebody not out of some sort of desire to "get back at them", and not with any hope of correcting their behavior, but merely to make sure they cannot injure people again.
Consider the case of Charles Manson: That guy is way too far gone to ever really hope that he can be rehabilitated. There is no fixing that guy; the US prison system couldn't do it, the Norwegian system couldn't do it, no "Manhattan Project of Psychiatry" could do it. Even so, that doesn't mean that the only option left is to ensure that he lives in relative misery the rest of his nature life. We could allow him to live the rest of his life out in relative comfort, so long as we never allow him to be free to harm others again.
Where we cannot 'fix', we obviously need to detain and isolate, but doing that for the safety of the public is sufficient motivation. We don't need to do that out of a desire to 'punish'. (Unless you buy into "such punishments act as a deterrent")
This is the only truly just reason for impeding anyone's freedoms. Rehabilitation is certainly a noble end, but anything else seems to be disastrously misguided, as is evidenced by the modern situation we live in. Deterrence? How do you deter someone who has no other avenue to make a living, as we have done to felons? Retribution is also a truly vulgar line of thinking, appealing to our basest instincts, and we need to grow out of it as soon as possible.
Yes, that makes sense. Rehabilitation is something that you might as well attempt while detaining somebody dangerous, but detainment is obviously the priority.
I agree that proactively making his life miserable is silly, but the question becomes "how much comfort do we provide". Different people have different ideas of how much they are willing to pay to fund this man's life in "relative comfort", and of course only naturally their desire to channel their dollars towards his comfort is lower than it probably would be for an individual who is not a convicted criminal...
Why on earth is he being locked up. Pissing away the life savings of thousands of people? Water under the bridge. Stop being so vengeful -- it's childish and unbecoming!
I think Bernie Madoff is an interesting example. He doesn't represent a threat to anybody (he is not a violent man. Furthermore we should be able to make sure he doesn't start running another scam again, even if he is free, since we know he is a con-man now), and if we discard vengeance as a legitimate reason to detain somebody, we then need to consider the value of detaining him as a deterrent to others.
If we are worried about psychopathic con-men who are incapable of experiencing fear, then detainment probably doesn't do much to deter similar crimes. I am not convinced that is an accurate representation of psychopaths though, and I certainly don't think all con-men are psychopaths anyway. Detaining Madoff probably does serve to deter similar crimes.
The question I have is if there are other punishments besides imprisonment that could fill that roll.
The likelihood of being caught is probably a bigger factor in deterrence than the severity of the punishment itself. White collar criminals probably get away with a lot of small crimes (I am guessing).
Madoff is a very extreme example because he was doomed to eventually be caught. But we can look at it the other direction and consider how many hundreds(?!?) of small and large crimes did he get away with before it all collapsed on him?
Basically, just like he isn't allowed to run a business or manage his own finances now, when he is in prison, he wouldn't be able to while outside either. Literal prison walls don't really add that much to our ability to control those things.
I suspect that in some cases it does. Fear of the law probably does a decent job of keeping most people from enjoying alcoholic beverages on sidewalks for instance. (but I also suspect that in many cases (if not all cases) the imprisonment could be replaced with other punishments. Punitive damages are one obvious example of non-imprisonment punishment.)
In cases like Charles Manson, I doubt punishment is valuable. Crazy people aren't exactly known for their fear of consequences. If this is the case, then punishment of Charles Manson would be pointless and frankly verging on barbaric (though detainment of Charles Manson would of course be absolutely essential).
At the same time, the reason why I do not currently break the speed limit (to an excessive degree) when I feel that it is safe is that I am not keen on being slapped with a fine. Speeding fines are a punishment that seems effective at discouraging me from speeding.
Cost benefit analysis makes sense. "I am going to hurt you and make you suffer" rarely does. There are exceptions but it is generally a desperate ploy, not one focused on a goal. It is generally an admission that we don't know how to accomplish a civilized environment. We don't know how to design an effective society. We are too stupid, collectively, as Americans to achieve civil solutions. So we are sfimply going to hurt you.
I think that it would be fair to say that this sort of imposed cost is a punishment. It seems to meet definition 2b here (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/punishment). That cost/punishment/whatever isn't worth the reward, so I don't do it.
I mean, it isn't a "speeding tax" or "speeding fee" that you pay for the retroactive right to speed for a while.
As another example, the fine here for violating open container laws in a public park is something like $25, which I would gladly pay on some nice summer days for a personal permit to drink in the park. I don't drink in the park and accept the possibility of that fine though, despite the naive cost/benefit ratio working out. It isn't just about the $25, I also don't want to be fined. The "fine" part I don't like; the "$25" part is okay.
(Repeat offense will of course result in the loss of your license, a penalty that acts as a more severe punishment but also a form of detainment. When your license is taken the idea is that you cannot endanger the public until you prove yourself capable of driving safely (prove yourself rehabilitated))
Thanks for the discussion.
I read about a case like this in Sweden. Kjell-Eric Eliasson, who was a soldier at the time, was sentenced in 1986 for a sadistic murder of a young single mother. He butchered her and dumped the corpse into a well outside his mother's farm.
The man was sentenced to a mental institution. He was treated for a single (1) year and then released to as "cured", much to the horror of the relatives of the murdered woman. Some 25 years later, in 2010, he lost his job as a highly paid government official, when the truth about his dark past hit the internet.
Was it right to release him? It seems he lived the next 25 years well, with a great career and paying his taxes. So society didn't need to be protected from him any more. But was it morally right? There is a perceived need of revenge, of punishment. Of some justice.
Details of the case are here (use google translate to read)
And if "rehabilitation" is all that's required for freedom, it shows a disconcerting lack of value for the victims of crime.
 for that claim.
I'm friends with a woman who works with prisoner rehabilitation and treatment of violent prisoners and sex offenders, and the work they do is scientifically sound, using evidence-based methods. There are very strong, proven casual links between the rehabilitation and recidivism.
> And if "rehabilitation" is all that's required for freedom, it shows a disconcerting lack of value for the victims of crime.
Indeed. "Not only must Justice be done; it must also be seen to be done." -- Lord Hewart
Imagine another incident, a careless driver who runs over someone at a stoplight because they're texting. How should this manslaughter be treated? With a remedial driving course?
In practice judging rehabilitation with perfect knowledge is impossible, and so are one year sentences for murder. In the real world we would balance out the likelihood of actual rehabilitation with concerns regarding public safety.
The difference may seem academic, but I don't think the difference in attitude could manifest itself in how the banishment actually takes place. For example:
If you are part of a group of sailors that want to banish that big meanie captain and start their own little floating hippy commune, do you throw the captain overboard? Or do you throw him into a lifeboat with a radio and enough food to last until he is found?
The second is not best described as 'punishment'.
To answer your answer in the more general sense: If you raped someone in my community, I might maintain that I'm not justified in causing you direct physical harm. But I do know that you're never doing any business with me. Other people in the community might feel the same, some might not, and if they shelter you, depending on the circumstances, I may or may not include those individuals in my exclusion. If I'm too broad in my banishment, eventually, I myself lose out, so there's a feedback mechanism somewhere in there. I guess that's punishment.
Of course, if you're a direct physical threat to the community, that community is justified in using proportional force in resisting that threat. That would be protection.
Sometimes it's one, sometimes it's the other. I suspect most of the times it would be a mix.
It could however, hypothetically, be the case that the sailors felt that their lives were being endangered by the captain (who perhaps seemed intent on sailing off the edge of the world, as historically inaccurate that fear may be) and felt that he needed to be removed from command for their safety. This could be done non-violently (perhaps by simply threatening 'civil disobedience') and the captain could decide to not fight the will of the sailors and just live out the rest of the voyage in his quarters, but it is doubtful that any captain would choose that option. When this ship-turned-hippy-commune was eventually caught (the rightful owner would be furious after all), the captain certainly wouldn't want it to look like he tolerated the arrangement. The mutinous hippies, ever understanding of the captain's plight, could therefore offer the option of non-violent banishment by lifeboat.
Anyway, this non-violent banishment by lifeboat would not be done out of a desire to punish the captain. I think that banishment can either be done out of a desire to punish, or a desire to remove a threat. It doesn't necessarily need to be both, though usually it probably is. Anyway, I think we are agreeing there.
How so? Who benefits from punishment, and what do you mean by "legitimate"? Do you consider punishment ethical?
I do consider punishment ethical, from a utilitarian perspective it acts as a deterrent, and preventing men from benefiting from evil acts appeals to a human sense of justice and well ordering.
Society benefits, in that it is deterrent to crime and as a tool to uphold law.
But that doesn't mean that the punishment should be the highest priority for imprisonment.
The point is that positive reinforcement is more effective than negative reinforcement.
While it's true that "our prisons aim to punish, incapacitate" (see three-strikes law), I doubt about the rehabilitation part; there is undeniably an interest in making them profitable.
"And certainly I'll grant you that people have been
wrongly convicted -- but that is a very small part of the
> Punishment ... is not juvenile.
Criminal law making shows little evidence of utility analysis, operations research, actuarial research, experimental psychology, etc. For the most part it appears to just be one big emotional carnival act designed to draw in the rubes and part them from their money.
Don't be too hard on yourself. A conservative coalition that includes a right wing populist party that want prison to be less about rehabilitation and more about suffering and punishment just won the general election here. The next four years will see how much impact they can have on the system..
I agree the war on drugs is a much bigger factor.
128k out of 1.6m, or 8%. Graph of the incarcerated population: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:US_incarceration_timeline-.... The prison population started exploding in 1980 with the drug war and the war on immigration, but for-profit prisons had less than 10,000 prisoners as of 1990. It's a lagging effect--the for-profit prisons are sprouting up because we put so many people in prison, not the other way around.
Do you really account for it?
Assuming that there is a certain percentage of people who will not commit a crime under any circumstance, another percentage of people who will commit a crime and are not deterred by any punishment, there remains a sub-population who will offend if the cost-benefit ratio is right. The only way to drive up cost for this population is by making them suffer, unfortunately.
Do you see another solution?
Plus, the empirical data on sentence lengths as a deterrent is fairly weak. People do seem to respond to likelihood of being caught: a 6-month sentence you are virtually sure to get is more of a deterrent than a 6-month sentence that you have maybe a 5% chance of being caught and sentenced to. But especially at the high end, there is little to no evidence that having prison sentences of 30 years is more of a disincentive than prison sentences of 10 years.
What? I'm talking about hypothetical situations. This means by definition cases in which the increase in incentives to offend is more than counteracted by other factors.
That's the sort of system one would expect in a medieval country, we can and should do better.
For example: In the case where housing programs for the homeless actually directly _save_ the gov't money, the only argument against them is "I'm taxed enough already!!! Stop giving my money to people who are homeless because they deserve it!!!!". Telling them that, empirically, it's far more likely that the state is saving money from doing this is useless, because "facts are just another opinion" is a disgustingly prevalent belief around here.
through reduced spending on homeless-related law enforcement and emergency medical care, and this doesn't even include the indirect economic value of lower crime and higher property values
If that is so, we need to introduce re-education courses for victims who primitively persist in calling for revenge (though they call it justice) following the misery resulting from destruction of treasured possessions through to rape and murder of family members.
One thing has to be noted every time: Norway has no life sentence (well it does, for the military) (and it has a 30 years sentence for crimes against humanity as required by the Rome Statute) but it has forvaring, "preventive detention".
It is indeterminate length sentence tacked onto initial 21 years, which translates into the ability to extend the imprisonment by increments of 5 years if the prisoner is still considered a danger to society. The prisoner can petition for parole every year during forvaring, but there is no limit to the possibility of extension, so forvaring effectively allows for life in prison.
UK prison policy is a catastrophe for everyone, prisoners, their families, their victims, society. News at 11.
The X years means a chance to be free (hope) if you remove that what is their motivation to be peaceful?
Especially since by that time they may be quite a bit older and another sentence might mean 'for life'.
Some people may feel overwhelmed when released. They suddenly have to go to work and get along with people after living in a box having food provided for them.
It may just seem too stressful and they would just commit another crime to go back to jail.
This absurd situation (where someone wants to go back to jail) only happens when criminals are turned into animals and kept in boxes for extended periods of time without any support.
There are of course, avenues of appeal, but it allows the state to imprison or place conditions upon extremely dangerous individuals for an indefinite period of time.
I know a lot of guys like him. The US prison system is not worried about rehabilitation. It's about punishment and removal from society, regardless of how you come out. It's a terrible place meant to scare the crap out of you and that's basically it. And now it's one big industry.
The police picked me up late on a Friday and I spent the weekend in a Nassau county jail. It changed my life...
When I hear people dismiss the power of deterrence it makes me realize they don't have the particular category of cognition that was thrust upon me by my own impulsiveness. Seems like you have a similar context as I -- now may we both never lose it.
: yes; attempted manslaughter -- in New York Penal Law, "Attempt" is a separate article that can be applied to any crime: "§110.00 -- Attempt to commit a crime. A person is guilty of an attempt to commit a crime when, with intent to commit a crime, he engages in conduct which tends to effect the commission of such crime."
I keep the difference straight be remembering the phrases "county jail" and "federal prison", which makes it clear that going to prison is much more serious, and a much worse place to be.
The idea of prisons (or even proper police forces) operated by individual counties in the US still strikes me as odd, but then, those counties are likely more comparable to German states.
Of course, he is a fundamentally gentle soul; this anecdote doesn't apply to the hardened criminals.
> Restorative justice (also sometimes called reparative justice) is an approach to justice that focuses on the needs of the victims and the offenders, as well as the involved community, instead of satisfying abstract legal principles or punishing the offender.
"Your Honor, I did burn down that orphanage, but I really need a new car. And prison is too punitive!"
I honestly don't see how much good can come of the current setup. Maybe that say more about me than it does about the setup - but what good can come from brutalising these people?
When you try to use pain to make someone comply, the underlying message is that when they start complying the pain will stop. But ex-cons are effectively black-listed from most respectable jobs, they generally have very little by way of life skills, their social network is generally tied to criminals, there's no real welfare system to speak of to support them.
The pain doesn't sound like it really stops, changes intensity maybe. Meanwhile there's lots of relatively easy money to be made from drugs, slavery and the like.... I suspect you need a very strong character to work your way up decently from that sort of starting position - I just don't see how effectively torturing people would give them that.
- national health care (dental might be exempted, but still capped after a certain amount)
- stable, cheap, state-subsidized public transport with great coverage
- school system equivalent to Sweden (though Sweden does arguably not have the best one in Europe I still encounter many shocking things when speaking to Americans)
- included in that: ability to go to university without being in debt for the rest of your life / without scholarships / without rich family
- clean cities, low crime rates, low to non-existent amount of guns in circulation
- widespread atheism, embracing science
- widespread high bandwidth, affordable internet access
I could list more things but I think this is enough for now. I'm not saying that all of these are without flaws or that we are the best at them, but the US lacking so many of these in a widespread manner makes me not consider it a first world country.
Edit: I forgot a big one!
- Employment security: No unfair terminations, regulated pay, overtime/nightshift/weekend pay regulated ...
Edit 2: This is in response to a "dead" comment I got. In case you've got show-dead disabled here's the comment
"..And where your tax rate is up to 60% of your income. http://www.theguardian.com/money/2008/nov/16/sweden-tax-burd... - polaris9000
Yes, our tax rates are much higher but that's not the whole story. If you compare average personal income between Sweden and the US (I couldn't find a source on median income) you have approximately 10k USD more in net-income in the US. I'm not an expert in finances so I won't try to adjust this for things like the gap between poor&rich (which would pull the US down a bit).
How much of these 10k are gone after spending them on all the things we get delivered through our taxes? (Health care, subsidised public transport, education and so on)
And one thing that doesn't directly affect everybody's life quality: How much better is our infrastructure (paid for / subsidised by taxes)? I'm speaking about everything ranging from streets to power grids to internet connections.
How much more stability do we have in our lives and how much better is the average life satisfaction?
I'm sure there is no canonical answer to any of these but I'm also sure that Sweden scores better on average (and remember that this was originally about Norway, which is doing much better than Sweden)
But then again, you'll be wealthy in a hugely unequal society. The benefit of the Swedish system is that everybody gets those benefits and safety net, improving the society as a whole.
Here are a few other benefits of living in the US:
- THE place to be if you're in tech, there will never be an Apple or Google coming out of Sweden unfortunately
- More interesting career opportunities, you can do anything you want (if you're prepared to move around)
- Much more, better and affordable food
- Going out, eating, drinking, doing stuff in general doesn't break the bank
- You're not patronized in the same way (systembolaget, overbearing regulations etc, "we know what's best for you")
- Better weather (depending on where you are)
- A society much more friendly to immigrants (maybe counter intuitive). This is a big one. As a native Swede, you don't realize how much discrimination there is in Swedish society, even for highly educated professionals. People have to change their last name to something Swedish-sounding just to get an interview. In the US, nobody gives a shit where you're from, as long as you know what you're doing.
All in all though, I've decided to move back, for many of the reasons you listed, as well as a relatively sane political system, move vacation, parental leave and ease of travel. The biggest factor though is being closer to family and friends.
How much does that have to do with the extreme risk of hiring? (Owing to the difficulty of firing.)
Cute. The inferiority complex is palpable. You create very specific custom goalposts for being a first-world country and then you just happen to meet them. Cheers mate, congrats on making your small nation a good place to live. Don't be so insecure.
"There are so many cultures here that all get along better here than they do anywhere else in the world"
Yes, there are many cultures in the US. If I use language as a proxy for culture, then according to one reference there are 311 languages spoken in the US.
There are 820 in Papua New Guinea, 742 in Indonesia, 516 in Nigeria, and 427 India. So it seems like there are even more cultures in those countries, and a higher diversity. By your argument, those countries should be economic and culture engines, yes?
Sure, that's not an exact measure since in the US there are many different cultures which use English, but then again Hindi plays a similar role in India. You've made the assertion, so it's up to you to back it up.
Or, if I simply ask Wikipedia for countries ranked by diversity it gives me http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_ranked_by_eth... , which ranks Cameroon as the most culturally diverse country.
The US is 84th on that list. Canada is 37th on that list, Belgium is 43rd, Switzerland 53rd, New Zealand is 69th ... and Sweden is 128th.
It does not seems that the diversity of the US is sufficiently enormous or exceptional as to give rise to your conclusion. Eg, India has more people and more diversity, but doesn't have the same economic and cultural influence as the US, so certainly something is missing in your analysis.
Then you say "get along better here than they do anywhere else in the world." What does that even mean? How do you know that the diversity of cultures gets along better in the US than in Canada, or in Belgium? Is it a (provincial) belief of yours, or if not, what is the basis for your analysis?
USA is ranked #1... by a huge margin. The fact we rank so low on your cited Wikipedia page is a evidence to my assertion that we "get along". Unlike so many other countries, we integrate and assimilate our immigrants.
Those are very different concepts.
"Unlike so many other countries, we integrate and assimilate our immigrants"
What does 'diverse' mean to you? Since I don't think it means what you think it means. Assimilation is a process which reduces diversity.
Also, in that list the US is indeed #1 ... in the total number of immigrants. If you re-sort by "Immigrants as percentage of national population" then it's:
UAE - 83.7% (but I don't include guest workers)
Saudi Arabia - 31.4%
Australia - 27.7%
Canada - 20.7 %
United States - 14.3%
The main factor in all of these numbers is that the US has a high population. Once you switch to per-capita, it drops in the ranks.
Congratulations, there's a lot of people living in the US.
Sweden - 15.9%
After the US, the next most popular country of those generally considered "Western" is Brazil; the US has a little over 1.5× the population of Brazil. Number 3 is Mexico. Germany's number four.
Of course you are able to move freely and there's no legal barrier preventing your employment, but in practice you are rarely on equal footing with locals. There are both linguistic and cultural externalities at work here, which are simply absent over the pond.
Just let me say, Sweden is a really GOOD place where to live- No need to troll around.
It's not that hard to find an area the size of Germany in the US where the population density is the same or higher than in Germany - just as you'll find parts or states that has the population density of Sweden.
> the term does not necessarily imply superiority
Those for whom the term does imply superiority lie largely on the right, politically speaking, while those on HN lie largely on the left, in my experience. It seems to me that there is a difference between calling someone out on an inferiority complex, and calling someone out on sharing a country with people who have an inferiority complex.
> It seems to me that there is a difference between calling someone out on an inferiority complex, and calling someone out on sharing a country with people who have an inferiority complex.
And that person didn't say that he's from the US, for that matter. But you can read a personal attack into it if you want.
However, please take into account that your country's population is nearing 10 million whereas the US's population is over 300 million.
What I am trying to say is: The programs that are working out so well for you may be much more difficult to implement in a country with a population the size of the US.
Incidentally, I have no idea why my comments are being shadow-banned, but thanks for replying anyway.
People living in some USA state have the right to decide to govern themselves more like Sweden - if they wish and vote so. It's important to attempt comparisons with a variety of places, since they might show which policy directions you might want to choose and which to avoid.
Please bear in mind that 1) that number is the highest marginal tax bracket, only paid by those with the most income, and 2) it's actually 57% not the rounded up value of 60%.
For comparison, the marginal tax rate for the highest tax bracket in the US was above 60% during 1932-1986, with a peak was 91% in 1946-1964.
Of course you're mostly just sniping numbers, since that article you quoted also says Swedes say they are "very happy to pay high taxes because I know I am getting value for the money later on."
In the US we pay for things directly which are, in Sweden, paid indirectly through taxes.
Do you really care if you pay 5% less in taxes only to have to pay 10% of your income per year in health care?
There is one difference: you can't shop around. It's probably not a problem in Sweden, but in a lot of other "government provides everything" countries, there's a huge variation in quality of government-provided services (like schooling and doctors). You might get stuck with a crappy doctor (because of geographical assignment), while there's a great one on the next street. If I can keep my 5%, I pick my own doctor (within my budget).
I gave a counter-example to show why.
I did not say nor mean to imply that it was a universal counter-example, although it seems you took it that way.
Your argument now is that "low taxes and affordable access to good services is better than high taxes and haphazard access to good services."
This is a different argument, and in fact is the same argument that I'm making, which is that you have to look at all of the costs and benefits, and not just simple income tax rates.
But sure, the article was written to discredit America. Everything revolves around you.
In the UK, the press often goads the public with stories of "soft" sentencing. The article mentions a young man serving 11 years for murder. That pain will last a lifetime for the family of the murdered person. If I wondered if I could accept a sentence of 11 years as suitable punishment for the murderer? Would I be so bitter and angry that I'd wish for more? (Yes, I know this is why we have courts to make judgements).
some crimes are easier to stomach than others. some sentences are not meant to help the person going to prison, but protecting the population from that very person.
the lax practices in western europe have led to numerous cases where prisoners where able to rape/kill people while they were on "prison vacations", in german called "freigang". very often an expert psychatrist had deemed the prisoner to be stable and reformed.
a guy in austria has just killed 3 policemen plus 1 ambulance driver. if he doesn't kill himself (standoff is still ongoing) - what exactly is there to reform? 4 people are dead, the lives of their families are forever impacted by this. why should the assailant have any right to return to society? he decided to deny this right to 4 direct victims.
should marc dutroux ever go free? breivik? why do they need to be reformed? should the gangrapers in India go free?
the victims and their families should come first. you rape, kill, maim? consciously? ok, face the consequences. this reformation BS is ignoring the plight of the victims and their families.
For cases like Breivik we have forced psychiatric admission, which can be a life-sentence. In fact this was the key point of the Breivik case: Whether he was in a psychotic state of mind, and even more importantly, whether his extreme (religious) views could be deemed delusional.
Revenge is barbaric, and granted some degree of barbarism simply exists within all of us, some more than others.
The court system shouldn't be based around barbarism, and the american use of "justice" really is just a synonym for revenge. Pure and simple.
I don't want this. I don't want to live in a country where our flaws doom us, where mistakes are never forgiven.
Norwegians live in a country where all the money in the world cannot have a man (legally) killed or sentenced to life.
Norwegians live in a country where men and women who take wrong turns in their life are given the opportunity to redeem themselves (and they do, almost always.)
I live here, I love it here, and I love it for reasons US citizens see in movies, but not in society.
Redemption? Or lack of recidivism? The former is hard to quantify, the latter claim is lacking attribution.
[EDIT] for a typo...
Because they are human beings, and we don't want to show the same callous disregard for human life that they did.
When you drag out murder, you should also keep in mind that murder has one of the lowest reoffending rates of most crimes. I don't know what the current reoffending rates for murder is in Norway or Austria, but in the UK it stands at around 3%, and 1% commit a second murder (the rest carry out some other crime).
Murder is most often a crime of affect where it clear from the outset that the offender is highly unlikely to be in the same situation again.
So these "numerous" cases you refer to are still a tiny proportion. Yes, it sucks. But conversely, it'd suck for the 97% that won't commit another crime to be punished more because the remaining 3% will commit another crime, or because 1% will kill again.
If we accept that it's ok to keep people locked up because they might commit another crime, where is the threshold where we pre-emptively lock people up because they may commit a crime sometime in the future? It's easy to find population subsets where the likelihood that someone some day will end up in prison is vastly higher than 3%. Why not lock them up the day they are old enough to be criminally culpable? How would that be any different than keeping people locked up because they might reoffend.
> the victims and their families should come first. you rape, kill, maim? consciously? ok, face the consequences. this reformation BS is ignoring the plight of the victims and their families.
How does locking someone up forever help the victims? It does not repair the damage.
i feel the big differentiator is if you yourself have ever been victim of a crime. once you have experienced the feeling of utter helplesness your perspective changes. same is true if you get children - practically all young parents i know turned around their stance on punishment once they thought about someone maiming/hurting their kids.
it's all easy as long as you are the casual, non-involved observer. the moral high horse is a great viewpoint.
and to be clear, i am talking about violent crime, not shoplifting. right now you can get higher sentences for hacking a computer than raping your neighbor. which is perverse.
How would that help me? Is there any evidence at all that this actually helps victims?
> i feel the big differentiator is if you yourself have ever been victim of a crime. once you have experienced the feeling of utter helplesness your perspective changes.
This is too easy a dismissal. Even if it does change your perspective, that does not determine whether or not harsher punishment of the criminal will help you - people often wish things that has different effect than they believe it will have. There is also to my knowledge little indication that e.g. most Norwegian victims of crime cry out for drastically harsher punishments, despite sentences that in the US would often be slammed as slaps on the wrist, so it is by no means given that victims of crime will feel an urge for harsh punishment; that seems to be more culturally specific.
> practically all young parents i know turned around their stance on punishment once they thought about someone maiming/hurting their kids.
I have a four year old son, and though the thought of anyone harming him is one of the worst things I could imagine, it has not changed my stance on punishment at all. I am sure I would feel an urge to kill someone who harmed him; at the same time I am very much aware how little my urges reflect my long term emotions, and how often they will temporarily be out of step with what I consider moral once I have had a chance to calm down.
There is a reason why we do not let the victims judge or sentence.
This is the wrong way to look at it. Using single events for emotive arguments is wildly misleading.
Austria has a homicide rate of 0.6/100k. The US has a homicide rate of 4.8/100k - eight times as much. You will always be able to point at an event somewhere and discuss how evil it is, but overall the Austrian system is working incredibly well to keep the homicide rate so low. It's one of the lowest in the world.
this reformation BS is ignoring the plight of the victims and their families.
'lock 'em up and throw away the key' is performing poorly in the US at the moment, so except for particularly severe crimes, you have to let people out at some point. And if they're not rehabilitated, then you've stacked the cards against them not reoffending.
- Norway: 4,000 prisoners / 5M population (0.08% incarceration)
- United Kingdom: 84,000 prisoners / 63M pop. (0.13%)
- United States: 2,270,000 prisoners / 317M pop. (0.72%)
The US prison population rises to about 7M when you include everyone "under correctional supervision" (e.g., in probation, on parole, in jail, etc.), increasing to a >2% figure. But I don't have apples-to-apples figures for the UK and Norway in this regard.
Norway is around 70/100k, 'first world' countries in general are around 70-150/100k, New Zealand is an outlier at 200/100k and the US is an extreme outlier at ~720/100k. The US really is way out of step with its contemporaries on this issue.
Grouping everyone together sounds nice and mushy and makes you look like a good hearted person but is unrealistic.
You just implied that all inmates are rapists and stabbers. Herein lies the problem of the anti-rehabilitation crowd: they argue against rehabilitating prisoners using the worst examples they can find, ignoring that most prisoners don't fit their description.
Those things alone are pretty terrible. And that's before you get into the whole "solitary confinement/tacitly accepted rape/etc" things that plague prisons.
Interesting fact: The word penitence, from which we get penitentiary, stems from the latin "paeniteō" - which means "to bring regret"...
This is a seriously heart warming story.
That's interesting considering the US had the same rate in 2007 and we have treat our criminals completely different. This would lead me to believe treating criminals like people isn't the key to successful punishment and eventual rehabilitation.
"During 2007, a total of 1,180,469 persons on parole were at-risk of reincarceration. This includes persons under parole supervision on January 1 or those entering parole during the year. Of these parolees, about 16% were returned to incarceration in 2007."
EDIT to add: To further support that interpretation of the figures, the European reoffending rate is about 70%, and it's a lot more likely that the discrepancy between Europe and the US is ~2% vs ~50%.
> recidivism rates between 1994 and 2007 have consistently remained around 40 percent.
"For example, why do Wyoming and
Oregon have the lowest overall recidivism
rates for offenders released in 2004, and
why do Minnesota and California have
the highest? Why does North Carolina
return relatively few ex-offenders to prison
for technical violations of their parole,
but reincarcerate a comparatively large
proportion for new crimes? What drove
the recidivism rate down by 22.1 percent
in Kansas between 1999 and 2004, and
what drove it up 34.9 percent in South
Dakota during the same time period?"
"Florida and New York began the
twenty-first century with nearly
the same size prison population
(about 70,000 inmates). During
the ensuing decade, Florida added
30,000 inmates and now has more
than 100,000 persons behind bars.
Meanwhile, New York’s prison
population fell below 60,000. Yet
the crime rate dropped in both states
by about the same rate. In fact,
New York’s crime drop was slightly
larger (29.2 percent) compared with
Florida’s (28.2 percent)."
The closest comparisons I could find between your link and mine were:
* Reconvictions of released prisoners after 3 years: 46.9% vs ~38% (fig 3, yellow line)
* Resentenced to prison after 3 years: 25.4% vs 30% (fig 3, red line)
(US numbers from 1994, Norwegian from 2005)
Translation for the figures from SSB:
* Fig 1: People who were charged with a crime
* Fig 2: People who were sentenced
* Fig 3: People released from jail
* Blue line: Charged with new crime
* Yellow: New sentence
* Red: New incarceration
16% of parolees, not 16% of ex-inmates, right?
(Better as in: more money is spent per prisoner than per child or senior in government care ).
Also, prisoners are given free health care and dental work, something that "free" Swedes have to pay for. Coincidentally, illegal aliens are also given free dental work (they pay 5$ per appointment).
Something is seriously wrong with Sweden when criminals are taken care of better than [law-abiding] citizens.
"Varför får fångarna på fängelser bättre mat än oss i skolan? frågade John Edin." -- "Why do the prisoners in prison get better food than we do in school? asked John Edin"
The response by the local politician Christer Lindström was:
"Jag har ingen aning om vad internernas mat kostar. Men i skolan kostar en portion 30-35 kronor. Det är ointressant vad andras mat kostar, det viktiga är vad vi erbjuder." -- "I don't have a clue on what the internees' food costs. But in school a portion costs 30-35 kronor. The cost of others' foods isn't interesting, the important thing is what we offer."
So from that dialog we don't know: 1) is John Edin correct? 2) what does "better" mean? and 3) is the price difference unreasonable?
Regarding the last, children on average over the 12 or so years of school need fewer calories than adults, so I would expect that less money is spent per person in feeding a child than an adult.
As for "criminals are taken care of better than [law-abiding] citizens" .. okay, that's where I know you're being deliberately obtuse.
How good is the public road system for the criminals? How good is the mass transit system? How much parental leave time do criminals get, and how much are they paid for it? Do prisoners get paid sick leave? And so on through a long list of public services that prisoners don't get or can't use.
Or more concisely, why not also complain that prisoners get free housing, free food, and free heat, while law-abiding citizens have to pay for those themselves?
While this argument does not extend to school children and illegal immigrants, I find it absolutely necessary to consider when complaining about free healthcare for prisoners.