I don’t have to remind my readers that I spend a good bit of my time disagreeing with campus leftists. Nor do I need to remind them that most of these disagreements are with leftist professors. But, until now, I haven’t written about one of the subjects upon which we frequently disagree. That is the subject of whether deterrence theory “works.”
Conservatives and leftists (I have a hard time calling them liberals because of their fascistic tendencies) have a fundamentally different view of human nature. Leftists see humans as innately good. That is why they think rehabilitation works. It is also why they think the United Nations is a good idea. If people are innately good then, surely, they can talk out their problems without resorting to war.
But conservatives have a more tragic view of human nature. We believe that people with innately destructive tendencies must be held in check. That is why we so frequently speak of traditional values. That is why we also speak of the need to have a punitive criminal justice system, which serves as a back-up plan when traditional values fail. The ideal system would mete out punishment that is swift, certain, and severe.
In a nutshell, conservatives believe the Reagan military build-up produced the fall of the Berlin Wall. And we believe that criminals, like communists, are on their best behavior when they are afraid.
Ever since I began my transformation from leftist atheist to conservative Christian I’ve been arguing with professors inclined to dismiss deterrence theory. Those professors usually fall into one of two groups. First, there are those who name a specific “get tough” program that they believe “hasn’t worked.” Second, there are those who just blandly assert that deterrence theory, in general, “doesn’t work.”
Today, I plan to respond to both of these groups. Let me start with the second group.
Every time I hear a professor say that deterrence theory “doesn’t work” I log on to his university web page to peruse his syllabi. And in each instance I find evidence that he really does believe in the efficacy of deterrence theory. That evidence comes in many forms such the assertion that “plagiarism will be punished under the academic honor code” or “those who miss more than two classes will have three points deducted from his or her final average.”
Obviously, these professors seek to deter cheating and skipping class through the medium of punishment, not negotiation. That means the professors are hypocrites – not because they fail to live up to the things they say but because they do not even believe them in the first place.