Appropriate punishment for attacking politicians and their relatives

It is difficult to know what the appropriate punishment should be for any crime. But we can still take something from the economics of crime and apply it to Paul Pelosi’s situation.

Here’s what Lisa Mascaro, Stephanie Daggio and Terry Chea wrote in “Paul Pelosi Attack: Suspect Faces State and Federal Charges.” NBC Bay AreaNovember 1, 2022:

Additionally, DePape is federally charged with influencing, obstructing or retaliating against a federal official by threatening or injuring a family member. He also faces one count of attempted kidnapping of a United States official in the performance of official duties.

In other words, because of David DePep’s complaint [I say “allegedly” to save myself from a lawsuit] Assaulted a politician’s husband, charges against him in addition to the charges he would have faced if he had assaulted me.

One of the pathbreaking articles on the economics of crime was Gary Baker’s “Crime and Punishment: An Economic Perspective,” published in the March/April 1968 issue of Journal of Political Economy. I remember working through it in an intermediate microeconomics course at the University of Western Ontario during the 1971-72 academic year with Kenneth Ave. The main line I took away from the article is that the more likely criminals are to be caught, the less criminals should be punished.

How is that relevant to the DePape case? It’s fairly true that someone who assaults the husband of a woman who is second in line to the US presidency (after only Vice-President Kamala Harris) has a high chance of being caught. Chances are the police will catch the person who assaulted me. So that means assaulting Paul Pelosi should be punished lower No more than at present, as a punishment for insulting me.

Of course you can argue that protecting a politician’s relatives is more important than protecting me because attacking a relative can scare the politician away from his useful work.

The problem with that line of reasoning is that we then have to make some judgment about the value of Speaker Pelosi’s work versus the value of my work. hmm

postscript: My Biography of Gary Baker, in David R. Henderson, ed Concise Encyclopedia of Economics Here. The picture above is of him.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.