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The social contract theory… they make the contract… you just sign it… if you know how

April 20, 2012
Photograph of a slave boy in Zanzibar. Nationa...

A slave boy in Zanzibar. National Maritime Museum, London, England.

The author Barry Krisberg in “Redeeming Our Children” asks, should we think about juvenile offenders as members of our own family instead of some “other“…?

The social contract theory… crudely as follows:  Imagine you were going to set up the rules for a society, but once you have set it up… you must become part of it… but… you have no way of knowing or influencing what [your position] will be in it.  In other words, you must simply take your chances.  You will end up somewhere… but where… is the question.  How then would you set it up?

For instance, if you based its economy on slavery, you could end up as slave or slaveholder… of course there is a higher probability of your being a slave than a slaveholder, apropos (the typical ratios of slaves to slaveholders in typical slave-based economies).  So, what kind of system would be in [your] best interests?  Would this kind of possibility influence your decisions?  Would you set it up to be a [just and equitable] system… or… would you design it to be partial towards a few… but conversely… unjust toward others?

Krisberg asks us a similar kind of question.

What kind of juvenile justice system would you set up if [your] child were going to be in it?

Would it be a punitive deterrent-based system similar to those found throughout most of recorded history?

Would it be…?  Focused on pre-enlightenment ideas of social revenge and retribution – [much like the system, we have now]… or… a more cost effective, outcome-based system that places high values on both social safety as well as rehabilitation.

Alternatively, for that matter… what kinds of… political, economic, legal, and criminal policies and systems would you institute…?  What kinds of… schools, colleges, hospitals, etc… would you set up if you knew you or your child might possibly be in them?

The choice is ours… we can do as we are and have been doing for oh… let’s say the last 6000 years or so… or we can so something much better.  So what’s it gonna be?

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