About this Author
Ernest Miller Ernest Miller pursues research and writing on cyberlaw, intellectual property, and First Amendment issues. Mr. Miller attended the U.S. Naval Academy before attending Yale Law School, where he was president and co-founder of the Law and Technology Society, and founded the technology law and policy news site LawMeme. He is a fellow of the Information Society Project at Yale Law School. Ernest Miller's blog postings can also be found @

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May 26, 2004

Execute Those Criminals in Steve Landsburg's Social Stratum

Posted by Ernest Miller

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.

Comments (3) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Oddities


1. Matthew Skala on May 27, 2004 03:34 PM writes...

There's no point talking about the death penalty for worm authors until you've finished applying it to all the spammers; their activities cost the economy a lot more in lost productivity.

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2. Seth Finkelstein on May 27, 2004 10:53 PM writes...

"Yes, as through this world I've wandered
I've seen lots of funny men;
Some will rob you with a six-gun,
And some with a fountain pen."

Permalink to Comment

3. ajs318 on June 10, 2004 09:35 AM writes...

How about the death penalty for anyone refusing to release their source code? Most, if not all the problems associated with Windows and other closed-source software -- instability, insecurity and spyware -- stem from the non-availability of the source code.

So which is worth more - your source code or your life?

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