Justice and Inequality Essay
Throughout the history of time, people have been complaining about how justice is unequally delivered with the poor being the oppressed. The rich get away with everything and the law does not apply to them. People have come to adapt to the situation of inequality in the application of justice and thus public policy has been constantly under fire (Alesina et al. “Fighting Poverty” 6). In this paper we look at how justice is delivered and how simple cases may impact on the overall justice system.
Consider this case; a wealthy man is charged $290000 for a speeding fine. Should the rich be fined according to their wealth or should the overall system be equal to each and everyone. Hacker notes that the justice system has been questioned about being lenient to the rich but in subjecting the rich to more severe punishment does not really help the situation(“The Great Risk Shift” 41).
Justice is blind and as such it should not recognize the wealth of a particular person. A murder should be a murderer irrespective of his status in society or his wealth and as such each and every person should serve the same sentence according to the law. The sections that follow shows how counterproductive a ruling as the one mentioned above could prove to be.
Inequality exists in every society but what affects people is the feeling that disparities in social status contribute to people being trampled on and oppressed (Wilkinson, “The Impact of Inequality” 18). According to Wilkinson social hierarchy and inequality has contributed to a lot of problems a given society experiences (“The Impact of Inequality” 34).
When court rulings tend to punish the rich more financially, the society is then reminded about the existing difference in power. If a rich man can pay $29,000 for a speeding ticket which is arguably more that what most people make in a month feeling of resentment may arise.
At first people may think it a good ruling in that the rich should not be allowed to get away with crime but on the overall it may instill doubt about the justice system to the citizens. Suppose another case which may require jail time arises and the judge provides the option of paying or spending time in jail, this may cause a big commotion since people know that the rich can just pay their way out.
By imposing such a huge fine on the rich offender, the judge has brought the issue of inequality to the law courts. The law should not recognize such aspects of society and in so doing the integrity of the court is undermined (Mishel et al “Working America” 32). When such a case is brought before a judge, the financial status of the offender does not matter and the ruling should be in accordance with the crime.
One although could argues that in imposing such a fine, the judge seeks to show the public that the rich cannot get away easily just because they have money. The judge tries to instill fear to the rich that committing crime no matter how small may have dire consequences’. This ruling attacks the rich where it hurts the most, their wealth.
It could be wrong not to consider how a ruling like this may impact the average citizen. Since most people who commit crimes like this may have difficulty paying the required money, they are less likely to engage in such activities such as over speeding. In contrast, the rich are able to pay these fines hence are more likely to continue doing this illegal activities since the repercussions can be easily handled (Vogel, “The Market for Virtue” 75).
According to Stone, policy making is a constant struggle on criteria classification and the boundaries of this classes and the characterization of ideals that determine the behavior of people (“policy paradox” 13). Considering this train of thought it would seem that the just hash fine is in the right since most rich people commit crime because they can pay off the fines.
Even though these huge fines may help deter the rich from committing this crimes the integrity of the court is undermined. Stone introduces the idea of inducements to create change.
She argues for both the rational method that assumes when dealing with public policy instituting more sanctions to threaten wrongdoers will have a positive behavior change and the polis model. But under the polis model, she states that such sanctions may cause conflicts between the people in society, may make the wrongdoers harden in their resolve or may be sabotaged by the courts to further themselves.
If judges start charging high fines for simple crimes just because one is rich, the courts could become a business where fines are used to further either the courts or the judges themselves. According to Stone such inducements highly rely on the target expectations and point of view and as such could be very hard to design and control them (“Policy Paradox”, 38).
In order to have meaningful reforms of the economy and capitalism, meaningless policies such as those designed to make a point on the public should be abandoned (Reisch, “Future to success” 52). The structure of institutions needs to be changed in that everyone can relate hence creating a rift in the judgment delivered between the rich and the poor is unproductive.
Whilst the poor may feel a sense of satisfaction in seeing such a sentence delivered, no real impact is made to discourage a repeat of such behavior. If the judge was to seek a real sentence, then the repeat offender’s license could have been suspended or the offender should have spent some time in jail.
The third point raised against such a ruling is the possibility of discrimination. In imposing such a huge fine, the judge portrays that the court views different groups of people. The rich are judged separately from the poor. How can the public trust such a court in other matters e.g. since women often feel oppressed should the court start granting the favors and delivering more severe punishment to men who have committed similar crimes.
Inequality is a real problem in society but it has always been there (Regnier, 13). There are very many people who feel that they are not equally treated such as the physical disabled, minority ethnic groups, religious groups etc. If the court punishes one severely because he or she is rich should it not apply the same reasoning in dealing with case involving all these groups?
Inequality mainly arises due to people’s perception. If the court treats a richer man different as it would a normal man, it then cements the feeling of inequality amongst the people. According to Pear (20), one of the reasons why life expectancy gap has been increasing is that people act different.
The poor engage in risky behavior due to the fact that the society expects them to. Doctors take extra care when dealing with rich patient since they have the notion that it is expected of them (Pear, “Gap in Life Expectancy” 20). A poor man is less likely to properly educate his kid since from experience he has learnt that the world is harsh.
In her book, Ehrenreich notes that the rich can by expensive lawyers, judges and even congressmen while the poor in society are struggling to feed themselves (“This Land is Their Land” 136). While most poor people are aware of this fact they really do not care much as it is usually kept secret. A ruling such as the one stated above may unknowingly create this feeling of indifference in the less fortunate members of society (Wilkinson, “The Impact of Inequality” 19).
The public view is that since one is rich, he may as well pay the fine this is what Reich terms as misdirected moral anger. This feeling of resentment only hinders development as it prevents people from seeing and seizing opportunities. The courts action may bring attention that the rich can get away with a lot thus enhancing outrage among the lower classes of society.
According to Reich (“Supercapitalism” 63), capitalism is slowly stifling democracy. Capitalism prospers according to what most want as individual in the process democracy which is governed by collective desires is being destroyed.
Elections are usually held under democratic principles and so is the constitution that each and every man abides by. The ruling in consideration may please a section of the society but looking at the larger picture is it endorsed by democratic principles. The law is aimed at protecting all, the rich and the poor alike.
Subjecting the rich to more severe fines may create a feeling of fear amongst this section of society. Who controls what punishment the rich should receive? The constitution has not differentiated sentencing into two parts; one for the rich and another for the poor. The issue of fairness in society can be put through a very difficult test if rulings like this were a common occurrence. The sentence for repeat offenders has been stated and through the years it has worked relatively fine.
In conclusion, the sentencing of a $29000 speeding fine could only be justified if everyone else was paying the fine. Imposing such a fine because the offender is a rich person is wrong and may prove disastrous. Inequality exists but the main problem is not that one is richer that the other but the difference in treatment (Onishi, “Revival in Japan” 37). People hate feeling inferior as compared to others and as such this is the main inequality facing people.
The court’s integrity may be undermined in that it could be accused that it is working for profits. The ruling may also be discriminative in nature thus spreading fear amongst the masses rather than settling their doubts. The ruling may also instill in peoples mind the feeling of inequality in that the rich are able to pay through any crime.
The final point against such a ruling is that it may work against democracy that people have fought to maintain for a long time. Such a ruling goes against the democratic principle for fairness to all. Justice is blind and as such one cannot discriminate between the rich and the poor when it comes to court matter once found guilty the sentence should be the same regardless of financial status, sex, orientation, religious beliefs or race.
Alesina, Alberto and Glaeser, Edward, L. Fighting Poverty in US and Europe.
Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2004. Print.
Ehrenreich, Barbara. This Land is Their Land. New York: Henry Holt. 2008. Print
Hacker, Jacob. The Great Risk Shift. New York: Oxford University Press, 2006. Print.
Mishel, Lawrence, R. et al. The State of Working America 2008/2009. New York:
Cornell University Press, 2009. Print.
Onishi Normitsu. “Revival in Japan Brings Widening of Economic Gap.” New York Times 16 April 2006: 36-39. Print.
Pear, Robert “Gap in Life Expectancy Widens for the Nation”, New York Times 23 March 2008. Print
Regnier Pat. “Are You Better Off.” Money Magazine 14 September 2007: 12-14. Print
Reich, Robert. The Work of Nations. New York: Vintage Press, 1992. Print
Reich, Robert. The Future of success. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2001. Print.
Reich, Robert. Supercapitalism. New York: Vintage, 2007. Print.
Stone, Deborah. Policy Paradox: The Art of Political Decision Making. New York: W.W. Norton, 1997. Print
Wilkinson, Richard, The Impact of Inequality: How to Make Sick Societies Healthier, London: Routledge, 2005. Print.
Vogel, David. The Market for Virtue. Washington: Brookings Institution, 2006. Print.
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