Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Can't You See I'm Guilty?

Mike Madison uses the recent Nuggets/Mavericks game to ask whether one can claim a right to be punished. Admittedly, this is based off a somewhat unique situation -- a late-game foul designed to stop the clock. But there are some parallels to "real life". Think civil disobedience. You break the law to get the great media shot of being dragged away, arrested. But suppose the police officers just agree to let you do what you're doing, so as to not feed the cameras. Can you claim that they are breaching their duty as well?


The Gaucho Politico said...

yes. It seems fairly straightforward that the violation of the rule should be punished in those instances. In the case of civil rights the statutes being violated were created to prevent the exact type of behavior on display. If the shots of being arrested would actually tend to show that they law is "bad" then not enforcing it is not the answer. Repealing it is. In the case of basketball, the end of a game foul is a well known practice and if the nba didnt want it enforced they should expressly alter the rule and not allow for selective enforcement and the host of issues that come with that. Typically we dont enforce laws when they create an injustice for the alleged violator and here thats not the case.

Stentor said...

One of the defining features of a punishment is that it's something you don't want (otherwise it wouldn't be a deterrent, nor would it visit badness on you as retribution for your bad act). So if you want the punishment, it's no longer punishing. I think you could say that the ref who refuses to call the foul to stop the clock, and the police officer who refuses to arrest the civil disobeyers, are punishing them by giving them what they don't want. If the point of punishing people doing a sit-in is to get them to stop doing sit-ins, for example, arresting them might just *increase* the number of sit-ins if it generates good media for the cause. So the "right to punishment" in these cases is really a right to have the letter of the law followed even when it's contrary to the spirit.