Laws, enforcement and technology

Discussion in 'Law and Justice System' started by dblack, Dec 31, 2012.

  1. dblack

    dblack Gold Member

    May 21, 2011
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    This topic idea was spawned thinking about what technology enables it terms of modern law enforcement, but that quickly leads to questions about what kind of laws we should be enforcing in the first place. I'm particularly interested in the growing trend of 'preventative law' and where we might be headed in light of the growing capabilities of the surveillance state and a government's ability to control its subjects.

    To get the point: We are rapidly developing the capabilities to not just catch and punish those who have done wrong, but to prevent them - to prevent all of us - from being able to do wrong in the first place. When faced with horrible crimes like the Sandy Hook school massacre, this certainly seems like a 'no brainer'. And obviously, we want to empower our police to stop a crime in progress - even if it's only in the planning stages. But where does this kind of law enforcement lead us in a general sense?

    The problem with this approach, whether in enforcement or in the formulation of the laws in question, is that it requires us to predict the future, to predict who is going to commit a crime in advance and act to stop them. Of course we can't do that reliably, so instead we generalize the concept of "threat". We characterize activities that, while not actually producing any harm to anyone else, seem to make it more likely - and we make those activities illegal instead.

    This makes reasonable sense in extreme cases. Certainly letting people build and arm nuclear warheads "as a hobby" would represents too much of a threat to society to worry about how banning such a practice might inhibit individual freedom. But we're generalizing this concept and applying it in alarmingly mundane ways. The assumption that uninsured people will impose a cost on others, for example, is the core rationale behind insurance mandates.

    Where do we draw the line? I'm of the opinion that - unless there is clear and present danger - we shouldn't be punishing people for what they 'might' do.
    Last edited: Dec 31, 2012

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