Friday, January 26, 2007

Enforceable torture laws...

The discussion about the spanking laws reminded me that there was another recent discussion where the fact that a law would not be enforced was considered a feature rather than a bug.

Scouring my brain, it was the torture debate. Those opposed to rigid laws against torture would bring up the "ticking time bomb" scenario. Those opposed would say that there would be some discretion that would be in place so that someone who really saved Manhattan would not go to jail for it. Some, including I think Jonah Goldberg (though i can't find where) argued that if non-enforcement is argued before a law is enacted, it's probably a bad law.

So what makes this case different? A couple things.

  • As others have noted, if someone throght he was facing a "ticking time bomb" scenario, and would be dissuaded from some action because of the possibility of criminal prosecution, then it's probably not really a ticking time bomb situation.
  • The professed target of a torture ban is all actual torture. Those promoting a torture law would want all current acts of torture prosecuted, but not some hyopthetical future torturer. This would be the rare exception.
    Not so for the spanking bans, at least as Bazelon argued for it. The target is those who are chronic abusers, not parents who include an occasional spank in their discipline playbook. (which probably the vast majority of those who would be in violation of the letter of this law). The exception would be those who are prosecuted.

The two situations are different enough that I don't feel conflicted in supporting torture laws and opposing spanking laws.


TenaciousK said...
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JohnMcG said...

Thanks -- corrected, and I apologize for placing such an obvious error.

TenaciousK said...

Hey, it happens to all of us.

I think I'll write a post about that spanking thing - the issue's pretty complicated.

Nah, I don't think it's hypocritical to legally allow spanking and disallow torture. If parents are spanking at the level of torture, they're already afoul of existing laws anyway.