Tag Archives: Violence

Violent Offense Under Bounties & Vouchers

I recently talked to some smart high school students about the voucher and bounty crime reform scenario. They imagined bounty hunters spending most of their time in chases and gun fights, as in cowboy or Star Wars movies. So they were against the scenario, preferring such violence roles to be filled by government employees.

But in fact bounty hunters today spend almost no time in chases or fights. And that was true throughout history; bounty hunters have been widely used in Rome and England for thousands of years. (I’ll discuss that history more below.) Movies emphasize rare scenarios to create conflict and drama. The main job of most bounty hunters was to collect evidence, and then to sue in a court trial. As lawyers have always done to prepare for and engage in lawsuits.

Okay, you might ask, but in a world of vouchers and bounty hunters, sometimes there would be gun fight or car chases, right? So who would be authorized to participate in such activities, and what powers would they have or need? That is, who would do violence in this scenario?

First, many parties, maybe even everyone, could be allowed to stand ready to defend themselves violently. Okay, you might say, but won’t offensive violence also be needed sometimes? If so, who is authorized to do that?

Well, note that a person found to lack a voucher would need to be assigned one immediately. Perhaps a “public option” voucher who keeps clients temporarily in a detention center. And offensive force might be needed to move such a newly found client to such a detention center.

Actually, this isn’t a special case, as in general vouchers and their representatives would be the main parties authorized to use offensive force. After all, vouchers would often be authorized by their client contracts to physically punish their clients. And if a client seems to be about to hurt others, perhaps via force, their voucher is usually the party with the strongest interest in stopping them. As they have to pay for any resulting damages.

Thus voucher-client contracts will pretty much always authorize the voucher to use offensive force against their client, both to punish them, and to prevent clients from causing harm. And the rest of us don’t need to decide what kinds of force should be allowed there, if those two are the only parties effected by their choice.

However, what if a third party ends up getting hurt when a voucher uses offensive force on their client? In this case, either the voucher or their client is likely guilty of a crime, and the voucher is on the hook either way to pay damages. To avoid these losses, vouchers would likely make deals to help each other in such situations, and have their clients agree to such behavior in their voucher-client contracts. Thus in the general bounty-voucher scenario, most offensive violence would happen between parties who had agreed by contract beforehand on how violence is to be handled.

Vouchers who have made such voucher-voucher deals also seem well-placed to handle people discovered to be without a voucher. Thus a simple solution for this case might be to hold a fast auction to see which nearby voucher is willing to take on this person as a client at the lowest price. This voucher would then have the job of transferring this client to a public option detention center, after which that detention center would become the client’s official voucher. At least until that client could arrange for a new voucher.

Note that under this voucher-bounty system, as long as everyone has a voucher then there is no need for any other party besides a voucher to forcibly detain anyone, either to ensure that they appear in court or to ensure that they can be punished. As vouchers are fully liable for such failures, such tasks can be delegated to them.

As I said above, fights and chases have not actually been the main complaints about bounty hunters in history. The main complaint in the last few centuries, which led to cuts in their usage, seems to be that bounty hunters were typically for-profit agents, whereas many thought government employees could be better trusted to promote the general welfare.

Here are the other main complaints about bounty hunters that I find in this article on the history of their usage (called “qui tam”) in England. Bounty hunters have at times made false accusations, committed perjury, coerced witnesses, faked evidence, tempted people to commit crimes, threatened jurors who ruled against them, and enforced the letter of laws against the spirit of the law.

Bounty hunters have also at times filed their claims in distant expensive-to-travel-to courts, and detained the accused before delayed trials, and used the treat of such treatments to extort concessions. They have accepted private settlements (i.e., plea bargains and bribes) instead of going to court. And they have accepted payments from guilty folks to do a bad job at trial, when such efforts prevent future trials from being held on the same accusations.

However, the government employee police who replaced bounty hunters have also done all these things. Some assume that such employees will do such things less often than would bounty hunters. But I don’t know of evidence that supports this claim. And remember that government police can much more effectively maintain a “blue wall of silence” that prevents the reporting and prosecution of such things. Whereas bounty hunters will happily turn on each other, just as one can easily hire a lawyer today to sue another lawyer, or a P.I. to investigate another P.I.

Note that we can greatly cut the harm of private settlements via keeping the bounty and fine levels close to each other. And no one besides vouchers need to detain anyone.

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Might Disagreement Fade Like Violence?

Violence was quite common during much of the ancient farming era. While farmers retained even-more-ancient norms against being the first to start a fight, it was often not easy for observers to tell who started a fight. And it was even harder to get those who did know to honestly report that to neutral outsiders. Fighters were typically celebrated for showing strength and bravery, And also loyalty when they claimed to fight “them” in service of defending “us”. Fighting was said to be good for societies, such as to help prepare for war. The net effect was that the norm against starting fights was not very effective at discouraging fights during the farming era, especially when many “us” and “them” were in close proximity.

Today, norms against starting fights are enforced far more strongly. Fights are much rarer, and when they do happen we try much harder to figure out who started them, and to more reliably punish starters. We have created much larger groups of “us” (e.g., nations), and use law to increase the resources we devote to enforcing norms against fighting, and the neutrality of many who spend those resources. Furthermore, we have and enforce stronger norms against retaliating overly strongly to apparent provocations that may have been accidental. We are less impressed by fighters, and prefer for people to use other ways to show off their strength and bravery. We see fighting as socially destructive, to be discouraged. And as fighting is rare, we infer undesired features about the few rare exceptions, such impulsiveness and a lack of empathy.

Now consider disagreement. I have done a lot of research on this topic and am pretty confident of the following claim (which I won’t defend here): People who are mainly trying to present accurate beliefs that are informative to observers, without giving much weight to other considerations (aside from minimizing thinking effort), do not foresee disagreements. That is, while A and B may often present differing opinions, A cannot publicly predict how a future opinion that B will present on X will differ on average from A’s current opinion on X. (Formally, A’s expectation of B’s future expectation nearly equals A’s current expectation.)

Of course today such foreseeing to disagree is quite commonplace. Which implies that in any such disagreement, one or both parties is not mainly trying to present accurate estimates. Which is a violation of our usual conversational norms for honesty. But it often isn’t easy to tell which party is not being fully honest. Especially as observers aren’t trying very hard very to tell, nor to report what they see honestly when they feel inclined to support “our” side in a disagreement with “them”. Furthermore, we are often quite impressed by disagreers who are smart, knowledgeable, passionate, and unyielding. And many say that disagreements are good for innovation, or for defending our ideologies against their rivals. All of which helps explain why disagreement is so common today.

But the analogy with the history of violent physical fights suggests that other equilibria may be possible. Imagine that disagreement were much less common, and that we could spend far more resources to investigate each one, using relatively neutral people. Imagine a norm of finding disagreement surprising and expecting the participants to act surprised and dig into it. Imagine that we saw ourselves much less as closely mixed groups of “us” and “them” regarding these topics, and that we preferred other ways for people to show off loyalty, smarts, knowledge, passion, and determination.

Imagine that we saw disagreement as socially destructive, to be discouraged. And imagine that the few people who still disagreed thereby revealed undesirable features such as impulsiveness and ignorance. If it is possible to imagine all these things, then it is possible to imagine a world which has far less foreseeable disagreement than our world, comparable to how we now have much less violence than did the ancient farming world.

When confronted with such an imaged future scenario, many people today claim to see it as stifling and repressive. They very much enjoy their freedom today to freely disagree with anyone at any time. But many ancients probably also greatly enjoyed the freedom to hit anyone they liked at anytime. Back then, it was probably the stronger better fighters, with the most fighting allies, who enjoyed this freedom most. Just like today it is probably the people who are best at arguing to make their opponents look stupid who enjoy our freedom to disagree today. Doesn’t mean this alternate world wouldn’t be better.

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