The deterrence theory of criminal law is about making an example of wrongdoers. As one British statesman put it:
Men are not hanged for stealing horses, but that horses may not be stolen.
In late 18th century Britain, there were 220 possible capital offenses. In actual fact, only about a fifth of death sentences actually resulted in execution. For the less severe crimes, there were ways of reducing the penalty. Benefit of clergy evolved into a one-time mercy allowance. Enlistment was another avenue. Surely this was a great recruitment tool for the British Navy. It’s certainly better to hoist ropes than to be suspended by one.
The following are some old-time punishments that have been effective deterrents. Some are rather harsh, so this is merely something to think about, not necessarily specific recommendations. We’ve covered flogging and the cucking stool before; here are some others.
Reciprocal penalty for false accusations
The first items in Hammurabi’s Law Code concerned false accusations.
If any one bring an accusation of any crime before the elders, and does not prove what he has charged, he shall, if it be a capital offense charged, be put to death.
If he satisfy the elders to impose a fine of grain or money, he shall receive the fine that the action produces.
Determining the truth of the matter involved a flotation test in the sacred river. Ancient Anglo-Saxon law had similar trials by ordeal. One method involved grabbing a stone from a cauldron of boiling water—one hand deep for ordinary cases, elbow-deep for serious ones. Making accusations required skin in the game.
Trial by ordeal is a bit outdated, though modern lie detectors don’t do much better. Still, making a perjurer face the same penalty as the falsely accused did is the major takeaway.
Who deserves it
Perjury and obstruction of justice are increasing problems. There have been countless cases where someone is accused of something dreadful, facing “trial by media” and general character assassination while it’s under investigation. Then when the truth comes out, the media that promoted the story (because it fit their narrative) is curiously silent. Meanwhile, false accusers are seldom punished. Instead, they get lots of attention and accolades. This needs to end.
One way out of the death penalty for petty criminals in Britain was agreeing to be sent abroad. To pay for the trip, they would become indentured servants. This meant temporary slavery, though of course there were clever ways of increasing the nominal seven year term. About 50,000 came to colonial America this way. After the American Revolution, Australia became the destination for debtors and pickpockets.
Much was wrong with all this. However, removing troublemakers is needed more than ever before. If the tradition is revived, we’ll forego indentured servitude and just load undesirables onto troop transports.
Deportation of some of the following is already permissible. It’s time to enforce laws already on the books, and perhaps add some new ones.
Who deserves it
First, illegal aliens should go home, no questions asked. That’s what normal countries do, including the places they came from. Also, those recently granted citizenship who become career criminals here can leave too. “Aztlan” supporters, including participants in groups advocating Mexico’s conquest of the American Southwest, are clearly subversives who should GTFO.
Foreigners advocating Sharia law should be deported, because this contradicts Constitutional law. That’s sedition. Naturalized immigrants supporting Sharia law should go too, because they lied during their citizenship oath when they agreed to accept our legal system.
Spies should be deported, even from “friendly” countries, even merely for industrial espionage. Dual citizens in government positions who agitate for wars that benefit their other country of citizenship should leave too. Those conflicts of interest are treasonable, which is why dual citizens don’t belong in government positions. Politicians, lobbyists, or media figures covering for spies or warmongers-by-proxy should leave too.
The Middle East isn’t exactly considered a high-trust society, but theft is very rare. That’s because the thief gets a hand chopped off. It’s pretty nasty, but it works. It’s excessive to punish petty theft so severely. Unlike Sharia standards, this should be reserved for the worst cases.
Again, this is gruesome, though the Fifth Amendment does specifically mention “crimes punishable with loss of life or member”.
Who deserves it
Robbing a liquor store might get five years in prison. However, stealing with a pen is different. White collar crooks generally get much lighter sentences (if anything), probably served in Club Fed. This is despite stealing orders of magnitude more than the contents of a cash register and a bottle of bug juice.
Suppose that if a million dollars in economic damage is involved (theft, embezzlement, stock market manipulation, etc.), chopping off the hand becomes a possibility. That would give crooks something to think about!
This can go further; over a billion could constitute capital theft. This has precedent from British law; stealing goods of twelve pence (about the price of a silver spoon then) was a hanging offense. Keep in mind that after the banksters and Wall Street whiz kids crashed the economy ten years ago, not a single arrest followed. If they’d feared becoming lamppost ornaments, maybe they’d have reconsidered their high-stakes gambling.
Jail therapy for addicts
Whenever a Viet Cong guerrilla got hooked on opium, they’d put him in a hole in the ground for three weeks. The addicts went through withdrawal, their brain chemistry normalized, and meanwhile they contemplated their mistakes. As we’ll see, Communists are more sensible sometimes than liberals.
Unfortunately, jailing someone for addiction was deemed cruel and unusual punishment, according to Earl Warren’s hug-a-thug Supreme Court. The Robinson v. California case of 1962 was the first misapplication of the Eighth Amendment.
Lawrence Robinson, who had needle tracks on his arm, either confessed (according to the cop) or didn’t (according to him) to using heroin. Instead of learning from his 90 day sentence, he lawyered it up to the Supreme Court. The majority opinion ruled that addiction is only a disease. Didn’t they know that junkies usually steal to support their habit? Didn’t they realize people get hooked because they abuse illegal and dangerous narcotics repeatedly? Nope; they argued that maybe he was born that way—yes, really.
Were these bleeding-hearted judges utter dimwits? Or did they understand perfectly but push a soft-on-crime agenda for nefarious reasons? Robinson himself died of an overdose before his SCOTUS appeal was even filed. However, the Supreme Court kept it going to make their point, even though the outcome obviously wasn’t going to affect the dead junkie.
Who deserves it
Fortunately, people still do get busted for dope possession, allowing them a chance (hopefully) to unscrew their heads before they kill themselves. So should addicts.
The US Constitution’s Eighth Amendment forbids cruel and unusual punishment. Prolonged executions like drawing and quartering, breaking on the wheel, hanging in chains, and crucifixion are indeed excessive. However, because the Constitution supposedly is a “living document”, the Supreme Court habitually legislates from the bench, especially since the liberal Warren Court. That’s why all this won’t fly.
Finally, disproportionately severe penalties are unjust. However, it’s equally true that the law is an ass.