QUESTION TEXT: In some jurisdictions, lawmakers have instituted sentencing…
QUESTION TYPE: Strengthen
CONCLUSION: Lawmakers think that bribery and theft are equally harmful.
REASONING: The law’s penalties for bribery and theft are the same.
ANALYSIS: This sounds like a good argument. But harm is only one reason we send people to jail. Another reason is deterrence. If we think a high penalty will stop people from committing one type of crime, we may set a higher penalty for that crime. Punishment is another reason. Some people just want the criminal to suffer.
Not everyone believes in all of these reasons, and not to the same degree. But they show that there are a mix of reasons why laws punish criminals; harm is just one. So this is a weak argument. It would be stronger if we said that the punishment for a crime was directly related to the harm the crime caused.
- CORRECT. This does it. “Proportional” means “directly related to”. So more harm = a longer sentence. Any two crimes with similar sentences must be thought to cause similar harm.
- Deciding to make something a crime is not the same as deciding on the length of the punishment.
- This shows that sentencing lengths are somewhat random. The sentences are the same today, but a bribery scandal tomorrow could make bribery seem worse. The sentences don’t tell us much about what politicians actually think about crimes; it sounds like politicians are reacting to media hype.
- We’re talking about how much harm politicians think people suffer. How much harm people actually suffer is not relevant.
- The stimulus doesn’t talk about deterring crimes. This is way out of left field.
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