A post that got me thinking (torture edition)
… well, not just the post itself, the exchanges in the comments as well.
I have a very well-defined prior: I don’t like the idea of torture as a method of punishment substituting incarceration one bit, I find the very idea horrible – but I have a hard time arguing just why I dislike the idea so much.
The externality-argument that “someone has to do the torturing” has some merit, but there’s more to it. The same problem also applies to incarceration – someone has to keep the door locked, even if the people on the other side scream and beg to be let out. Maybe there’s a difference in scale, but there is no difference in kind. Besides, even if prison guards are an order of magnitude below torturers on this scale, how about the people pushing the button in gas chambers? The externality problem could probably be solved anyway. Torturers could theoretically be compensated monetarily for the inherent risk of “moral degradation” that their jobs possessed, just as security guards could be (the fact that they are not is not, as far as I can see, an argument against the introduction of corporeal punishment). If one is not concerned about the externalities imposed on the torturers, but rather about the offenders (“people who torture others are evil“, ect.), then common standards (reducing the degrees of freedom on part of the torturers) and supervision would be ways to minimize this risk.
The more I think about this, the more the word taboo springs to mind.
Do read the post and the comments, it is an interesting discussion.