Crime, Punishment and Immigration
March 15, 2007, 03:10 PM
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I have mixed feelings about the article Let a Thousand Arpaiovilles Bloom!. I think there are serious human rights and public health problems with the existence of a huge prison population in the US. I`m not suggesting that we ignore the issue of illegal immigration-but when we apply serious punishments, we need to ask ourselves how much deterrent is applied for each specific punishment we apply—and what kinds of side effects are produced.

Long ago, I read that Incan society had an interesting custom. In their society, the higher the social rank of an offender the more severe the punishment. Finland has something similar today—the traffic ticket of one high tech mogul there was 1$103,000 dollars, because no matter what your income, your fine is two weeks pay. We can and should apply similar policies to the immigration issue.

Just one or two public trials convicting the most extreme cases of treason—which might be appropriate for CEO`s that have risked key technologies by their immigration practices and donation. I have a lot interest in Howard Foster`s use of RICO in the immigration area—that practice could be expanded.

Ultimately we need new laws-and fundamentally new ideas about jurisprudence and government. Singapore strikes me as one of the more interesting of the less democratic regimes on the planet. In particular, they tend to pay their government officials quite well-and ban any other sources of income. Their punishments for entry level offenses can be quite severe-as the son of a US businessman found out when he was caned for vandalism—but their level of imprisonment is substantially less per capita than the US.

I don`t think we need an expanded prison system providing sadistic guards and gang members with expanded opportunities for expressing their base desires. We can reduce the need for overall levels of punishment by carefully selecting high level targets. If each employment of an illegal alien mean a fine equal to 10% of an employers net worth—and we developed techniques to "pierce the corporate veil" and go after major investors in illegal immigration, simple expropriation of high profile, wealthy individuals would have enormous deterrent effects here.

We need to start considering illegal immigration a form of financial fraud-and really looking seriously at the folks that profit the most from it-who often aren`t immigrants themselves. However, society is always going to have some punishment that is its most severe—extreme fraud that affects thousands of people deserves the same punishment as murder or treason. George Stigler once calculated that only a few hundred thousand dollars in additional wages were necessary to provide incentives for construction workers to risk each accidental death. If we properly assess the value of citizenship, calculated mass importation of illegal aliens, diluting fellow citizens citizenship rights, thus falls into a similar moral category as calculatingly killing hundreds of people. I suspect that only a few such higher level punishments would be necessary to make a huge point in this respect.

I am a radical. That means I believe in getting into the root of the problem. I fully expect poor people to follow what they think are the best economic opportunities available to them. Only modest changes in incentives are necessary to change their behavior. But if we allow what have status of legitimate businessmen to dangle valuable citizenship rights in front of them as incentives, we must expect high levels of illegal immigration of poor people even if there are substantial risks of punishment and death. Shipping every illegal alien home will do relatively little long-term if the wealthy pretenders to being "Americans" keep their ill-gotten financial gains-and accompanying social status. Even substantial application of the death penalty to illegal aliens themselves might not do much. In England, there was once a death penalty for picking pockets. The hangings were public—and frequented by pickpockets.

I would like to move towards having a much smaller prison system in the US-even if meant continuation of capital punishment and adoption of flogging for "gateway" offenses(like hiring of illegal aliens by a citizen). If the kind of incentives I propose were adopted, I don`t think we`d need Arpaiovilles, but could think instead of building camps that would help transition folks voluntarily deporting themselves in an orderly fashion. I would prefer workers that leave America do so to good jobs in their homelands, more money in their pockets than they hoped for coming to the US, some valuable skills-and a positive enough attitude towards American government and institutions they would be inspired to build something similar after returning to their homelands—and a solid understanding this generosity and responsibility is not weakness. We should do this even if it takes every penny Carlos Slim and Bill Gates have to accomplish this transition.