Attitude Media Crime and Punishment

Justice for an Unjust World

by, John F Groom

  • 17 of 18

Honesty and the Simple Moral Code

      “Blatantly irrational behavior is rapidly being established as the norm in almost every area of human endeavor. There seem to be new customs, new rules, new anti-intellectual theories regularly foisted on us from every direction. Underneath, the nation is roiling. Americans know something, without a name is undermining the nation, turning the mind mushy when it comes to separating truth from falsehood and right from wrong. And they don't like it.”- Martin Gross, The End of Sanity
      The key to returning sanity is a simplified moral code, one that draws a bright and clear line between honesty and dishonesty, and does not tolerate the latter, great or small, excuses or not. This cannot work as the result of legislation; it must be embedded in the values and culture of a society.
      The most important thing to understand about the law is that the law it is not the most important thing; the moral code that people internalize is what really matters. The most heinous of crimes, such as the gang rape of Muktai Mai, was done in the context of community permission. Laws against intellectual property theft haven’t protected the music industry when people don’t really believe that copying songs is wrong. Slavery in the US prior to the civil war was perfectly legal in the US, and runaway slaves could legally be beaten. Mass appropriations of property, even murder, have taken place around the world within the context of the law.
      The law and its machinery should reflect, not conflict with, the sound moral convictions of a people. The law should not just be a massive, complicated machine that people use to enrich themselves at the expense of productive members of society.

The Rule of Law

It’s easy to tell a rich society from a poor one. In a poor one, such as Indonesia, someone who saves time by cutting in line may be regarded as “smart”, or “savvy”. In a rich society, where certain ideas are culturally embedded, such a person is just regarded as a jerk.
      Sure, there are plenty of people who get away with stealing in rich societies, and profit by criminal action. But such action is the exception, not the rule. Poor societies can’t create wealth because of massive and endemic corruption. When former Brazilian president Fernando Cardosa was asked if he envied anything about English society, he quickly replied “the rule of law.” Brazil is beset by systematic

corruption, and that makes it impossible to build a society where affluence is widespread; the cost of just about every product and service is increased by the costs of paying bribes and generally working the system. More importantly, corrupt systems change the type of person who prospers. India is another good example; the most basic things, like clean drinking water, are problematic because people routinely try to pass off tap water as clean bottled water by refilling plastic bottles with unfiltered tap water. Each act of a simple day is one that requires caution; in a corrupt society, thought that should be going into creating value is just going into daily survival.

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