By Carl Milsted, Jr.
Sometimes you are better off killing someone than scoring some drugs for your friends. At the same time we debate having a database of locations for released child molesters, we have states with “three strikes and you’re out” mandatory sentencing programs; the last crime need not be all that major to merit a life sentence. Bill Clinton got impeached for keeping his sexual affairs private, not for allowing the massacre in Waco.
Our nation’s system of punishment for crimes is a complicated mishmash that only a lawyer can understand – if that. Injustice abounds. Some of this is because many voters and lawmakers have strange moral priorities. But I think this is actually a small factor. The bigger problem is that many people – especially our lawmakers – fail to think of our system of rewards and punishments as a system. Laws and sentencing guidelines have been passed piecemeal with insufficient regard to making punishments fit the magnitude of the crime.
To ameliorate this problem, I propose the Moral Priority Quiz. Below is an alphabetical list of popular villains, including some demonized just by the Left and some demonized just by the Right. Your job is to rank the villains from most evil to least evil. Since we are comparing small time crooks with large businesses, do the ranking in terms of evil per dollar of business transacted. How much evil does Wal Mart do per $100 of sales? How does that compare with a shoplifter who steals $100 worth of merchandise?
A Cat Burglar
A Cigarette Company
A Crack Cocaine Dealer
A Holdup Robber
A Marijuana Dealer
A New Age Bookstore
A Pizza Delivery Company the Encourages Speeding
A Powder Cocaine Dealer
A Striptease Bar
An Abortion Clinic
Kiss (the band)
Martha Stewart (for insider trading)
Quentin Tarrantino (for sick movies)
Wal Mart (for whatever you think Wal Mart does bad)
Warner Music (for rude lyrics)
After you have ranked these villains, consider what you think the proper punishments should be. Where would you put the cut-off point below which government should not enforce morality? Compare your ranking of evils with the punishments meted out by our legal system.
If your ranking is substantially different from that of our legal system, perhaps a call to your legislator is in order.
Carl Milsted, Jr. is a senior editor for The Free Liberal.