Monday, September 19, 2005

Soft on White Collar Crime: Why punish physical, and not economic, violence?

Today, two former executives of Tyco were found guilt of 2/3 of the 33 criminal charges against them, ranging from outright theft, to deception, to manipulating securities prices. They were sentenced to serve between 8 to 25 years in state prison and are eligible for parole. Together, they stole $150 MILLION from Tyco and inflated the stock value by over $400 million.

Yet...apparently even some prosecuters think that this sentence is too harsh; as "violent" criminals often get shorter sentences. Wow...what a non sequitor.

Is there something special about "violent" crimes that makes them more worthy of punishment? Frankly, the _violence_ done to Tyco investors and the company is far more appalling to me than if the two had killed a few members of the board of directors in order to get the money they stole. When grandma & grandpa's retirement fund gets wiped out by Corporate Criminals...why do we want to soft-pedal the culprits merely because they didn't _physically_ hurt anyone?

The truth is, they did physically hurt people. Think of the folks who lost their jobs, or didn't get jobs because Tyco didn't hire more, due to the monetary theft and stock drop after the theft and manipulation became public. Isn't causing people to lack money, who then often resort to violence, a physical hurt?

Sum: Monetary violence is just as much, if not more, damaging to society than physical violence. Spreading out the pain among thousands, rather than concentrating it on a few, doesn't make the criminals any less worthy of being locked up...permanently.


Blogger RoastedTomatoes said...

I agree completely, especially in this instance.

The one concern that I have with respect to comparing violent vs. economic crime is that crimes in which the victim is reasonably capable of self-defense are less severe than crimes in which the victim is not. Sometimes (although not in this case), economic crime ends up primarily victimizing the wealthy and powerful--who certainly have the resources to defend their own economic interests. Violent crime, on the other hand, mostly targets the least powerful in any society. That might make violent crime somewhat worse in general, although not always in particular instances.

11:17 AM  

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