I'll observe that in both the criminal justice and counterterrorism fields, there seems to be a tendency among policymakers to treat punishing the innocent as a kind of close second-best to punishing the guilty. And, of course, in bureaucratic terms it is -- a conviction is a conviction and a clearance is a clearance, whether or not you've got the right guy. In crime control terms, though, it's a terrible error to be wasting resources (prison space, prosecutors' and judges' time) on punishing people who aren't criminals. It's also a terrible injustice, of course, but it's not a tradeoff between justice and effective crime control -- punishing the innocent is counterproductive, just like torturing innocent people and wasting your time chasing down their "leads."What if the point of criminal justice and counterrroism isn't to punish the guilty, nor to satisfy any particular bureaucratic benchmark, nor to control crime, nor to produce either leads or "leads"? Or, what if each of those points is real, but incidental to a different, broader purpose?
-Yglesias, getting so fucking, goddamn, agonizingly close
Follow me if you will, me droogs. Imagine if the purpose of all those prisons and torture chambers, those false convictions and false confessions, isn't to control the poor bastards rotting away on the inside, but to control we poor bastards rotting away on the outside. What if the prisoners themselves are incidental to the program.
Now if that were the case, wouldn't a little dance in the direction of the arbitrary be pretty fundamental to the deal. Oh, you wouldn't want it to be entirely so. You wouldn't want to snatch just anyone from the street and throw him in the oubliette. If it were totally irrational, it would devolve into farce. But if a few thousand out of two million adjudicated members of the American Prison Club were not to belong. Well, that would seem to suggest an appropriate unease to your average citizen. And perhaps there could be an element of demographic inequality to it all to encourage some healthy, intercommunal mistrust.
You might say that such a program is pretty monstrous. You might object by saying that if that were the case, wouldn't it implicate not only America in its moment, but every society and every civilization, all the way back to the first stone circle and the first grain store?
Well. Wouldn't it?