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A system of justice does not need to pursue retribution. If the purpose of drug sentencing is to prevent harm, all we need to do is decide what to do with people who pose a genuine risk to society or cause tangible harm. There are perfectly rational ways of doing this; in fact, most societies already pursue such policies with respect to alcohol: we leave people free to drink and get inebriated, but set limits on where and when. In general, we prosecute drunk drivers, not inebriated pedestrians. In this sense, the justice system is in many respects a battleground between moral ideas and evidence concerning how to most effectively promote both individual and societal interests, liberty, health, happiness and wellbeing. Severely compromising this system, insofar as it serves to further these ideals, is our vacillation or obsession with moral responsibility, which is, in the broadest sense, an attempt to isolate the subjective element of human choice, an exercise that all too readily deteriorates into blaming and scapegoating without providing effective solutions to the actual problem. The problem with the question of moral responsibility is that it is inherently subjective and involves conjecture about an individuals' state of mind, awareness and ability to act that can rarely if ever be proved. Thus it involves precisely the same type of conjecture that characterizes superstitious notions of possession and the influence of the devil and provides no effective means of managing conduct: the individual convicted for an offence or crime considered morally wrong is convicted based on a series of hypotheses and probabilities and not necessarily because he or she is actually morally wrong. The fairness and effectiveness of a system of justice based on such hypotheses is highly questionable particularly as a basis for preventing or reducing drug use related harm. For example, with respect to drugs, the system quite obviously fails as a deterrent and the system is not organised to 'reform' the offender much less to ensure that he or she has 'learned a lesson'; moreover, the offender does not get an opportunity to make amends or even have a conversation with the alleged victim. In the case of retributive justice, the justice system is effectively mopping up after the fact. In other words, as far as deterrence is concerned, the entire exercise of justice becomes an exercise based on faith, rather than one based on evidence.

Daniel Waterman
Religion, with its metaphysical error of absolute guilt, dominated the broadest, the cosmic realm. From there, it infiltrated the subordinate realms of biological, social and moral existence with its errors of the absolute and inherited guilt. Humanity, split up into millions of factions, groups, nations and states, lacerated itself with mutual accusations. "The Greeks are to blame, " the Romans said, and "The Romans are to blame, " the Greeks said. So they warred against one another. "The ancient Jewish priests are to blame, " the early Christians shouted. "The Christians have preached the wrong Messiah, " the Jews shouted and crucified the harmless Jesus. "The Muslims and Turks and Huns are guilty, " the crusaders screamed. "The witches and heretics are to blame, " the later Christians howled for centuries, murdering, hanging, torturing and burning heretics. It remains to investigate the sources from which the Jesus legend derives its grandeur, emotional power and perseverance. Let us continue to stay outside this St. Vitus dance. The longer we look around, the crazier it seems. Hundreds of minor patriarchs, self-proclaimed kings and princes, accused one another of this or that sin and made war, scorched the land, brought famine and epidemics to the populations. Later, this became known as "history." And the historians did not doubt the rationality of this history. Gradually the common people appeared on the scene. "The Queen is to blame, " the people's representatives shouted, and beheaded the Queen. Howling, the populace danced around the guillotine. From the ranks of the people arose Napoleon. "The Austrians, the Prussians, the Russians are to blame, " it was now said. "Napoleon is to blame, " came the reply. "The machines are to blame!" the weavers screamed, and "The lumpenproletariat is to blame, " sounded back. "The Monarchy is to blame, long live the Constitution!" the burgers shouted. "The middle classes and the Constitution are to blame; wipe them out; long live the Dictatorship of the Proletariat, " the proletarian dictators shout, and "The Russians are to blame, " is hurled back. "Germany is to blame, " the Japanese and the Italians shouted in 1915. "England is to blame, " the fathers of the proletarians shouted in 1939. And "Germany is to blame, " the self-same fathers shouted in 1942. "Italy, Germany and Japan are to blame, " it was said in 1940. It is only by keeping strictly outside this inferno that one can be amazed that the human animal continues to shriek "Guilty!" without doubting its own sanity, without even once asking about the origin of this guilt. Such mass psychoses have an origin and a function. Only human beings who are forced to hide something catastrophic are capable of erring so consistently and punishing so relentlessly any attempt at clarifying such errors.

Wilhelm Reich
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