28 julio 2006

Response to Posner and Becker (Economics Nobel prize) posts

My response to “Collective Punishment—Posner” and “On Collective Punishment-BECKER”.


Dear Becker-Posner interesting blog,

I much more agree with Professor Becker’s analysis.

General comment to both: I do not agree entirely using the example of the employer (and the parents) as collective punishment. Punishing the employer (or the parent) is not the same as punishing the collective. You may argue that at the end the employees suffer the punishment indirectly, but I would say “maybe not” since they can change to another job (generally speaking). But the Lebanese can not change its country so easily. The analogy to the employer example would have been –indeed- killing the president of Lebanon and his ministers, for example. Other examples used are closer to what I understand as collective punishment.

In my opinion Professor’s Postner analysis has –from an analytical point of view- an important pitfall: It does not take into account the other side’s reaction, I miss the strategic component in his analysis. One may argue that punishing the collective can provoke less harm than the benefit obtained by that action. This might work in the short-term, however in the longer-term the hate caused by the injustice (the punishment over the innocent part of the collective) lead to more violence, and more punishment… and we keep turning the violence wheel time after time. From a “mathematical point of view” we should understand if the series converges into a value or –conversely- grows indefinitely. I would bet most of the time it grows indefinitely, and the Israeli-Palestinian-Lebanese conflict proves it. (Note: and in the case the series converge into a single value, that value would probably be much higher that any single component of the series, which is what Postner probably would take as measurement in his analysis)

Getting out of the analytical point of view, there is another comment I would like to make: the “punishment-final balance” argumentation is exactly the same that most terrorists use. When a terrorist justify his or her actions, they usually say that the harm of innocent people caused by the terrorist attack is nothing compared to the benefit of solving the situation that justify its terrorist war, therefore it is worthwhile and one should keep going that way. Getting independence over Northern Ireland is probably worth more than few thousand lives, or not? Solving starvation in poor countries is probably worth more that thousands of lives in NYC, London or Madrid, isn’t it?

I rather believe in positive actions. That’s why most conflicts are solved.

"An eye for an eye, and soon the whole world is blind." Mahatma Gandhi

"War is only a cowardly escape from the problems of peace." - Thomas Mann



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