Democracy or tyranny?
There are several issues that can be viewed through the framework of choosing personal rights or public safety. One is wearing a mask, another is gun control. Some consider abortion to be yet another.
Do you value one over the other?
Share why if you wish.
Using a smart phone is definitely convenient. But it also means you are carrying a tracker with you everywhere you go. Which is more important to you, your personal rights (like privacy) or your convenience?
Share why if you wish.
Safety is at the heart of a number of today’s most pressing issues. We all want to feel safe, but what does that really mean? Is it even possible to be safe from everything?
There are several different threats facing us, and fear of those threats drive our behavior, from how we speak, to who we vote for, to how we want our taxes allocated.
Some people feel they are not safe on an individual, personal level. For example, someone might be afraid of crime, so they advocate for a larger, more powerful police force to protect them. Alternately, others may fear the police, so they urge law enforcement reform.
Some people fear getting sick, or transmitting the virus to others, so they stay at home, or wear a mask when they go out in order to be safe.
Some threats are more nebulous. Climate change threatens our entire species, but that danger isn’t concrete. How can we safeguard the world from this danger?
Safety is harder to pin down as the threats get more abstract. How to we stay safe from losing our way of life, whether it be from other countries, degrading social or political norms, or zealots or terrorists? Or our own tyrannical government?
What is the best way to ensure that we are all secure and able to prosper? Is it through force, like a powerful military or law enforcement? Is it through a social safety net to protect the weakest or most disadvantaged? A strong set of laws, with a punitive penal system? An armed populace? Collective action, including protests?
How can we be safe?
When someone commits a crime and they are convicted, they may be put in prison. What do we hope to achieve through this incarceration?
Incarcerating criminals, particularly violent criminals, might make our society safer. If you remove the dangerous individuals from the general population, so the theory goes, those that remain are the law abiding ones.
(This, by the way, is one of the reasons some people support the death penalty. If the most dangerous criminals are put to death, they will not be able to re-offend, and we are therefore a safer society.)
A second possibility is one of reformation. If someone who has committed a crime is isolated until they experience and show remorse, that person can be rehabilitated. They can then be reintroduced to society.
Yet another is putative. If someone has wronged us individually or as a society, that person needs to be punished. That punishment can take on different forms: removal from society at large; kept in confining or restricting quarters; forced labor; removal from any human contact; etc.
Incarceration can also be seen as a potential deterrent to others. If you break the law, this will happen to you. So you’d better not break the law!
There may be other possible reasons as well. Each one of these has merits and flaws. However, to answer this question we need to answer a different question first: what are we trying to achieve? What is the outcome we want, and what is the best way to get that outcome? Do we want punishment? Do we want rehabilitation?
In other words, what is the purpose of incarceration?