Wednesday, December 26, 2012

A Crime Might be a Crime

            I mentioned in iPhone 6: for Toddlers that I was writing from outside the office of one of my professors. While I was sitting there pondering what to do with my time, I found a stack of journals that were free to a good home. Being the nerd I am, I offered them a good home. This essay was inspired by The Rich get Richer and the Poor get Prison:Ideology, Class, and Criminal Justice (TRRPP), but does not have any connection with the journal and does not endorse all findings presented in it.
            Crime is a wonderfully ambiguous term. It is a crime to drink alcohol if one is below the age of 21 if he or she is in America unless the individual is married. Alcohol in general was completely illegal in America for a time. It is a crime to profess certain religions in some countries. It is a crime to smoke marijuana in Utah but not Colorado. It is a crime to do something somewhere even when it is not a crime to do the same thing elsewhere… probably.
            The above paragraph leads to several possible conclusions: there is no right definition of what crime is and what it is not (this approaches Adarsh’s view in Hitlerwas a Good Guy.); there is a society or culture out there that has the right definition of crime, and everyone else is wrong; there is a proper definition of crime, and no one has reached it yet (my view in Save $ by Not Killing People). There are other essays on QBA that state what the authors here think is the truth, but this essay is focusing on why we are at this point of legal ambiguity, regardless of if it is right or wrong.
            One of my favorite movies is O Brother, Where Art Thou?. In it, a bunch of relatively cheesy stuff and awesome songs happen, and then the line, “The law is a human institution,” spoken by the sunglasses wearing uber-sheriff, pops up, followed by even more cheesy events. What does this have to do with TRRPP and this essay? Almost everything. Stating that laws, the means through which actions are made criminal, are a creation by Man as opposed to a discovery explains why it varies so much from culture to culture.
            While two squared will always equal four no matter what symbols are used to represent the quantities and operators, the same is not true with the law. The law is the creation of precedent piled on compromise piled on making what was legal in an old country illegal in this one as a form of rebellion. They drive on the wrong side of the road in Europe, for those of you who didn’t know. However, those alterations to the law were in areas that dictated morally neutral actions. It is just as illegal to murder in America as it is across the pond.
            So what does this mean? Good question, but we generally don’t get answers here.



-Jason Rossiter

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