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May 26, 2004
Execute Those Criminals in Steve Landsburg's Social Stratum
Dear me, but isn't that Steven E. Landsburg a witty fellow? Why, he used such brilliant economic logic in his Slate column to "prove" that we should consider the death penalty for the writers of computer viruses and worms (Feed the Worms Who Write Worms to the Worms). How exceedingly clever.
Here's a question though: why didn't he write about considering execution for corporate malfeasors? Perhaps his idea doesn't seem so clever as applied to people he may socialize with.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not a fan of virus-writers, but how odd that Landsburg chooses to extend the death penalty to their non-violent crimes and not the criminal acts of those more associated with his profession.
You know, Landsburg claims that:
Governments exist largely to supply protections that, for one reason or another, we can't purchase in the marketplace. Those governments perform best when they supply the protections we value most. We can measure their performance only if we are willing to calculate costs and benefits and to respect what our calculations tell us, even when it's counterintuitive. Any policymaker who won't do this kind of arithmetic is fundamentally unserious about policy.
I would be more impressed with Landsburg's claimed need for impartial cost-benefit analysis if the analysis hit a little closer to home for him.
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