Severity of Penalties

Social living evolves rules enforced by that society. Penalties for failure to comply evolve. As societies grow it seems that, with diversification, the limiting boundaries of those rules become stressed, and more frequently broached. The knee-jerk response has been to increase the severity of the penalties.

However that might be counterproductive. Heavy potential penalties might induce more aggressive behavior without necessarily increasing percent compliance. The aggressive enforcement which will follow has multiple social costs: enforcement mechanisms increased, prison populations increase; individuals are extruded from groups and subgroups in other ways. This extrusion creates parallel competitive groups which having been sequestrated as individuals find consolation by aggregating into sub-groups (such as “gangs” whatever that means).

An example from beyond the formal judicial system is the Catholic Church. Much of the regulating mechanism of the church has been lost with changes in societal contexts.  Consequently the mechanisms of enforcement have been weakened although the notional penalties have (in the long term) been increased – such as the threat of ex-communication (and here we could pause to consider the Inquisition)

Perhaps the appropriate mechanism for many societies and sub- societies, faced with the changes in context of societies, is to soften the penalties.

Indeed one of the greatest strengths of the Catholic Church has been the philosophy of resolving the “social deviation” (read that as “sin” if you must) with symbolic penalties and “forgiveness”.

Some of the rigid precepts of Catholicism are now clearly unenforceable – or better phrased – approached by prompt abdication of members. That is hardly conducive to a strong and vital church.

Should the rigidity by which some of the Catholic precepts are enforced not now be softened? Should there not be more tolerance of changes from “norm” in sexual behavior?


About jp

Orthopaedic Surgeon
This entry was posted in Human Behaviour, Humans as social animals, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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