Matt Yglesias makes some good consequentialist arguments for bringing back corporal punishment. I imagine that lots of the resistance to this idea comes from the different attitudes people have to doing harms (for example, by flogging a criminal) and allowing harms (for example, by putting a criminal in prison where other prisoners keep raping him). Even if it isn't me personally doing the flogging but the government acting as my representative, corporal punishment trips the 'doing' intuition. On the other hand, the harms done to the criminal by other prisoners count as things I've allowed but not as things that I've done. Doing harms is usually taken much more seriously than allowing them.
It's interesting how imprisonment -- the currency of punishment today -- allows us to do so little harm but allow so much.
Moby Dick as Philosophy, Redux
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