Sunday, November 18, 2007

Anti-Internet Boot Camp?

In Korea, a Boot Camp Cure for Web Addiction - Korean Internet addicts are sent to boot camp as a cure. Web addicted teens, engaged in dangerously anti-social behaviour, like skipping school (OK a few fanatics may actually have dropped dead at the video game controller), attend a government funded camp that forces them to exercise and participate in activities that will create a bond with the real world, like horseback riding and high ropes training. Constant surveillance is needed to avoid surreptitious computer use. One fifteen year old was on-line seventeen hours a day, gaming all night and skipping school to sleep. When he reached camp he denied he had a problem, but after a session on the high ropes produced some real adrenaline, he was prepared to cut down to five hours a day on the Internet. At some point, (maybe at, say sixteen hours a day on-line) did the parents of that Korean camper consider just taking away his computer?

OK, so why didn't I get a health warning before I sent my kid to a computer camp? And is horseback riding really the way to go here? An overwhelming majority of computer addicts, and all the Korean campers, are male. No doubt these guys need exercise for every muscle in their bodies, other than their overdeveloped thumbs, but maybe the camps should import some girls and try a dance class to complement the high ropes. It just doesn't seem like the relationships with the horses have a long-term future. These guys will be hacking into OTB the day after graduation. Real world relationships, team building - campers, let me introduce you to Color War. We'll divide into red and blue, restore your Internet privileges for an hour a day. First team to locate Osama Bin Laden wins.

Does Death Penalty Save Lives? A New Debate - Think twice, pro-life opponents of the death penalty. There is some evidence that the death penalty may actually deter future murders, thus saving more lives than it takes. For those assessing capital punishment on the basis of non-utilitarian values, this may have little impact. If you want an eye for an eye, then you don't need deterrence to make your point. If your primary moral concern is stopping execution as an act of the state, you will still believe it's wrong and should stop, even if it costs more in the lives of future victims than it saves in the lives of convicted murderers on a net basis. Of course, deterrence relates only tangentially to the the two legal death penalty issues most in the news lately - 1) is lethal injection cruel and unusual punishment and, 2) in light of DNA results producing many overturned convictions, is our criminal justice system accurate enough to impose the ultimate sanction. Even so, effective deterrence, or its absence, looms large in any debate that might result in the end of the death penalty.

So, whether its decisive to you or not, consider - is the death penalty really a deterrent? Economists insist that incentives change behaviour and tend to keep looking until they find data to support this approach in any application. Data here is sparse due to the limited number of executions in the US lately, but there is some indication that states that execute often, like Texas, produce a decline in capital crimes. Others see the same pattern of declining capital crime in Canada, which has no capital punishment. Some would argue that potential killers don't think through the penal statutes before pulling the trigger, but perhaps they do think about the death penalty at the last moment, or maybe they pause for thought before deciding to bring a gun to a robbery or an argument. This is an area where theorizing is not enough. The best analysis of the best empirical data we can get, drawing on both international and historical material, is in order.

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