6 Arguments Against Justice (Part 2)
This post gives you the next three arguments against justice. For the first three, click here.
Back to CX.
Is it just to execute someone for stealing a dollar?
So justice requires that punishment be proportional to the crime?
What is the proportional punishment for breaking someone’s rib with a baseball bat?
Again, the first two questions extract an easy pin admission, making the real routine harder to wiggle out of. If the witness gives a specific answer, ask for an explanation. “2 years? Why not 3? Why not 1?” In all likelihood, the witness will really struggle to give a consistent answer to a straightforward question. If he tries to evade by saying it’s complex, offer any details he wants – age of the victim, nationalities, whatever.
The details don’t matter. The problem is that executing a cute adage like “make the punishment fit the crime” is usually impossible because there is no exchange rate between crimes and punishments. The same goes for right action and reward, if that’s part of the definition of justice. They are incomparable by mortal means – and yet, justice requires that we get it right. That makes justice dysfunctional as a value because you can’t tell if it’s being upheld or violated.
If justice is defined using a version of the third definition, point out that many laws – most, depending on your political views – are evil. Human society has seen some pretty horrifying laws over the millenia, including mandatory infanticide and incest. There’s no way to predict whether fair enforcement of the laws is a good thing because you can’t predict what the laws will be.
Fun question to which there is no good answer: “Does the United States have any unjust laws?”
6. Unrealistic and Unfair
Enforcing justice even in the majority of infractions is impossible. For example, in spite of constant vigilance from highway patrol officers, the average DUI convict has driven 80 times while drunk before being arrested. Attempting to partially enforce justice only creates unfairness: some people are punished for wrongdoing, others get away free.
You’re not making this argument from an anarchist leaning (unless you want to). The fair and realistic thing to do is create laws that pragmatically pursue the counter-value. You still want laws, but they shouldn’t be made in the pursuit of justice.