107 How to dispense with punishment now 5 Jan 2021

Replacing the ineffective

Reinventing myself has meant finding and discarding things that no longer apply. As I was doing this to physical objects, I came across the paper appointment books that had been fundamental to my income for decades. They had enabled me to keep my appointments. I had forgotten that I had ever used paper appointment books. I was amazed how quickly the past becomes distant and out of sight. In 50 years of piano tuning, I had used them nearly four times as long as I have used electronics (telephone, PDA—you do remember Personal Digital Assistant?).

Seeing these relics from the past started a series of reflections about other relics that should be relegated to the past. What should be discarded when newer is better? The first item to enter this pacifist's mind was “learn war no more.” OK, that one is self-evident; we realized that war is senseless, meaningless, futile destruction that makes everybody poorer. Peaceful law enforcement is the principle “we who have agreed collectively govern ourselves.” There is no rationale for region A to impose control over region B. Other articles expound that pacifism is the most powerful tool for effective coexistence. Although the practice of war lingers in pockets of ignorance, acquiescence is a condition of the past.

It is worth devoting this article to my next category of inquiry, namely punishment. It ranges from mildly negative to grisly and has subtle implications. In comparison to medieval times, horrific punishments seem to be left behind. Closer inspection shows there is still a redemptive shift to be accomplished.

Definitions—the groundwork

We first define the old model to clarify aspects to be changed. This is a dour section of an article for a happiness blog. It is a foil against which we will see how far we have come. The progress it reveals is the happy part.

Punishment theory

Traditionally punishment has four functions.

·        Incapacitation: Imprisoning a habitual thief takes away opportunity to steal. This is impeccable logic that is complicated to apply. Death and incarceration of an offender can prevent certain repeat offenses. However, they only prevent; they do not improve anything. Condemnation of capital punishment is for other articles. Let it suffice to point out that as a matter of definition civilized societies have already abolished it.

·        Deterrence: Future crime is reduced by the expectation that it will be punished. On its face, this is a fear of punishment argument. It can be refined by appealing to better motivation. Fear of painful consequence is darkly negative. Imposition of penalty can be replaced by loss of reward. Sloppy performance can be deterred much more effectively by reduction of pay than by flogging. Reduction of reward is a self-explanatory natural consequence, not deliberately imposed pain.

·        Restoration: Perpetrator and society work together to reestablish rightness. Returning stolen property can reverse a physical loss. More often, an offense such as bodily or mental injury cannot be directly reversed. Rightness is restored with difficulty as parties arduously collaborate to heal the individuals and the community (articles 16 and 25). This has everything to do with replacing suffering, not imposing it.

·        Retribution: This entire concept had already been discarded by the time I was in law school nearly four decades ago. Offenders are unhappy people who are already hurting and responding to their misdeeds by increasing their pain is illogical applied sadism. Let us hope that retribution is already a forgotten mentality of the past.

Punishment physicality

My next candidate for obsolescence may be slightly ahead of some readers. I want to remove all forms of physical punishment. There are some forms of physical restraint required in treatment of certain mental conditions. The violently insane might require padded cells or closely supervised limited physical surroundings to prevent injury to the sufferers or to those around them. This incapacitation, as required for safety, is another self-explanatory natural consequence, not a purposeful imposition of pain. It is a humane protection, not a punishment. Other uses of incarceration are rejected as medieval crudeness. Similar reasoning applies to flogging, often called caning. Inasmuch as beating on an offender’s body does not make the world safer, the process is as unsuitable as imprisonment and likewise needs to be replaced by more positive motivation.

In summary, deliberate infliction of pain is motivated by evil and punishment retards healing. Today’s outlook shows the better way!

Instead, the bright hope

I am a product of good example and the positive expectations of other people. Good people have put me on the course of happiness. Therefore, I have energy to spread my happiness to you as sharing my pleasure, not as avoiding pain. Article 44, production for use, shows we are eager to practice what we have learned. Article 97 shows the importance of the familiar. We live what we know and understand. Again referring to my friends in the hospitality industry, I point out how much chefs are suffering now when they cannot apply their talent of providing great dining experiences.

I have been using the phrase “self-explanatory natural consequence” to describe the cause-and-effect nature of motivation. Actions that point to sadness increase sadness and those that point to happiness increase happiness. We cannot increase happiness by making others sad. It follows naturally that children reared with kindness will motivate others kindly while those reared in fear of punishment will be at a loss to practice positive motivation. Imperfect as I am, my great enthusiasm for the positive comes from the endless supply of the best positive inputs. I imitate what has become familiar and seek my own meaning by amplifying the good signals that are passing through. That is peak motivation (article 15).

Our operating principle, our mindset, is never punitive. It is persistently positive-motivational and where necessary restorative. Ernstraudian philosophy dispenses with the concepts of sin and guilt (article 33). Today we dispense with the concept of punishment because it is a barrier to progress. Nurture is self-rewarding, and our realization of human potential is our imitation and then internalization of good examples and positive expectations.

Photo by Carl Jorgensen on Unsplash

 Audio file

Cover email:

Growing the future includes laying the old behind when it holds us back. Today we replace a big negative roadblock with a happier, more productive mindset. The beacon points to better life based on good example and positive expectations.

Complete and Continue