HALF FULL OR HALF EMPTY?
Eugene Volokh defends repeat-offender statutes against the double-jeopardy argument (that they amount to punishing someone twice for the same offense) by pointing out that they are analogous to rules providing for leniency toward first offenders.
He could, I think, have made a stronger claim. The two cases aren’t just analogous, they’re the same thing. Say the law provides a five-year sentence for burglary by someone with a previous felony conviction, but a two-year sentence for burglary by a first offender. We could call that a five-year sentence for burglary with three years off for being a first offender, or a two-year sentence for burglary with a three-year enhancement for being a repeater. Reframing the problem in this way switches its political valence: roughly speaking, giving a break to first offenders is a liberal policy, ratcheting up sentences for repeat offenders a conservative one. (Ironically, the defendant may actually have more procedural advantage if the system is called “enhancement” than if it’s called “leniency.”)
Thomas Schelling’s essay “Economic Reasoning and the Ethics of Policy” has a good discussion of reframing as a way of getting past one’s ideological preconceptions, with a couple of mind-bending examples drawn from income taxation.