In which I channel Caesare Beccaria

The debate over criminal-justice policy often seems to take place between the disciples of Michel Foucault and the disciples of the Marquis de Sade, with the Foucauldians winning the academic debate even as the sadists mostly get their way in the real political world.

The latest issue of Michael Tomasky’s journal Democracy has – in addition to a vigorous forum on voting rights and a Jonathan Haidt essay on the political psychology of the income-distribution question – a long piece by Yr Obdt Svt on harm-minimizing crime control.

Here’s the topic paragraph:

The debate over criminal-justice policy often seems to take place between the disciples of Michel Foucault and the disciples of the Marquis de Sade, with the Foucauldians winning the academic debate even as the sadists mostly get their way in the real political world. The resulting policies manage to combine enormous cruelty with unsatisfactory crime-control results: The United States leads the developed world in both homicide and incarceration, and both of those evils land most heavily on poor African Americans.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

8 thoughts on “In which I channel Caesare Beccaria”

  1. Chait has done good work on the moral foundations, and I think his theory is largely correct in many areas. His political analysis, however, is frankly dreadful. This facile article is an example, repeating debunked canards of the right. I’m all for both Republicans and Democrats fighting crony capitalism, and I’d be happy for the GOP to become socially liberal (although it won’t happen anytime soon) but the Democrats need malpractice reform and Clinton’s crime reforms were admirable? This is a joke, and a dangerous one too. Clinton executed mentally insane people! Maybe we should chop hands off like in Saudi Arabia don cha think?

  2. Sorry to jump in O/T, but congratulations on your contract Mark. Looks like I’ll be working with you since I’m a Washington State Grower working to become a legal provider. I have been growing(medically)for seven years. I certainly hope you keep those of us who have worked in this field for years and rely on their businesses in mind. Remember. The best and most reliable providers you will have will be those of us who maintained efficient, small operations. We’re the only ones who have stayed compliant and been honest with our plant numbers. Big operators may look attractive and talk a good line, but they can’t have been both fully compliant and got that large. And none of them have been around for very long, nor will they be.
    I must say, I’m somewhat chagrined that you got the contract. I very often disagree with your positions. But that being said, I’m offering to help if I can. (At least you know I’ll tell you what I think.)
    Once again, congratulations.

  3. I like this framing. I think it applies rather nicely to education as well: few want to admit that education can’t really solve the problem of the poor parenting that is the result of – and results – in poverty. Yet a beautiful arrangement exists between bleeding-heart liberals who only see the poor as noble victims, and social Darwinist conservatives who only believe in meritocratic golden ladders.

  4. Mark:

    You mentioned Machiavelli’s thinking in this article, as you have in prior posts. Is it fair to say that you reject the school of thought that Machiavelli was this devious, evil political operative, a la the view of Shakespeare and other humanists?

    I appreciated your thoughts on Plato in the past, especially your rejection of the view that he was some ur-Leninist and that the text is much more subtle than often portrayed…

    Frank

  5. I respect you very much, but I wonder if you mixed up the title of a blog post and the title of your autobiography. Seems to me that channelling Cesare Beccharia is your day job.

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