In a debate about the legalisation of drugs, we find ourselves surrounded by the usual array of bigots, calling for more policing, stricter laws, and harsher punishments. As if that is the solution to all the world’s problems.
When I made the suggestion that laws don’t solve problems but actually create new ones, the response is that murder is illegal, therefore laws do actually solve problems.
If that were the case, why are there still murders?
The vast majority of people don’t commit murder – is this because they are frightened of a life behind bars, or simply because they know it’s wrong? What about those who have already committed murder? Were they put off the idea for fear of imprisonment? It obviously wasn’t enough to stop them.
Laws can act as a deterrent to some, but only to those who don’t value the illegal activity anyway. If you don’t care about drugs, you’re not going to take them. Yet those that with a desire to perform an illegal activity aren’t always going to be put off by the law. When something is illegal, there is usually something to be gained from it, due to increased scarcity, lack of government control, or even just the temptation of the forbidden element. Laws can’t completely restrict an activity. All they can do is increase the risk of doing it.
So this is why laws are ineffective at stopping crime. Laws rely on people being caught. Therefore laws are actually just a way of ensuring punishment – not preventing crime.
Not only are laws ineffective, they’re counter productive. Prisons are horrible places where criminal attitudes feed off each other. We lock people up with criminals and wonder why they come out as even better criminals. We lock up abusers where they can either abuse other prisoners or be abused themselves, further filling them with hate and a dangerous disconnection to reality.
So crime and punishment is a failed philosophy, but any kind of reform is going to require a monumental shift in the public psyche. Few who have had their child hurt would ever want mercy for the perpetrator – but all the hate in the world isn’t going to undo the crime. It just breeds more hate.
To add to the inexorable mindset there is also lot of vested interest in preserving the status-quo. The profit made in the legal system makes up a significant portion of many countries’ GDPs – an astonishing incongruity in itself. Just how can the quantity of crime contribute positively to a country’s measure of success? Yet it does – because it means jobs and industries. Even if those industries are indicators of society’s sickness, it’s more important to have them than to make society better.
Band Aids For Cancer
Should we ever realise the error of our problem-rewarding system and decide we really did want to eradicate crime, how would we do it?
Well like all problems, we need to address the root cause. While the causes may be complex and multi-layed, we have to start somewhere. What compels a person to commit this crime? What can we as a society do to reduce the chances of this happening again in the future? We need to stop the cycles of hate, and look after each other, preventing crime by treating the psychological problems that cause people to commit them – and work to prevent this psychological damage in the first place.
As we look into the root causes of crime, we will probably find many fundamental underlying problems with our society. But this is good, because only when we recognise these problems, can we begin to work on them. This is no easy undertaking and will require us to take responsibility for our society and way of life, instead of just blaming criminals.