Clearly and succinctly written, On Crimes and Punishments by Cesare Beccaria is a document that outlines in the clearest fashion the delicate balance between justice and mercy, crime and punishment. He takes great pains to describe the distinctions that separate one crime from another and the importance of balance in meting out punishments. This revolutionary work, clearly one of the most important documents in the foundation of several new governmental bodies, outlines the necessity of equality, fairness, and the necessity of a social contract between rational beings, enabling people to live safely together. Beccaria examines in detail the importance of the principles of pleasure vs. pain, justice vs. mercy, and the relationship that exists between the individual and the government.
Becacaria's work became of one of the foundational cornerstones of the new emerging governments of the United States and France. Written in 1764, it incorporates the theories of John Locke and Rousseau influencing the fledgling representative democracy of the United States. Its tenants became the guide the Framers of the Constitution incorporated the protection of the civil liberties of its citizens and the importance of justice for those choosing to live outside the established social order and apart from the tacitly implied social contract.
Believing that a civilized society was created to protect property, namely one's life, freedom, and general estate, John Locke becomes an important resource for Becarria, who expands upon this notion and outlines specifically how those who infringe upon the liberties of others should be punished so that future crime is deterred. Believing that it is better to prevent crimes than to punish them, Beccaria's work clearly outlines many of the ideas that would later become the Bill of Rights used by the United States of America.
[...] Crimes and Punishments” by Cesare Beccaria Clearly and succinctly written, Crimes and Punishments” by Cesare Beccaria is a document that outlines in the clearest fashion the delicate balance between justice and mercy, crime and punishment. He takes great pains to describe the distinctions that separate one crime from another and the importance of balance in meting out punishments. This revolutionary work, clearly one of the most important documents in the foundation of several new governmental bodies, outlines the necessity of equality, fairness, and the necessity of a social contract between rational beings, enabling people to live safely together. [...]
[...] While contemporaries such as Hobbes would argue that social states needed a sovereign, and others such as Rousseau would take a different stance, arguing that the best government is one directly ruled by the people. Rousseau concedes, however, that the people often did not understand and were not capable of knowing what their true will was and would need a leader to act for them until they could handle the responsibility on their own. In these views of leadership and authority, Beccaria finds his own perspective. [...]
[...] Examining Chapter One, Origin of Punishment” and Chapter Twelve, Intent of Punishment,” Beccaria explicitly states that living in a peaceful and secure society is merely a sacrifice. The individual gives up part of his or her own liberty, namely the freedom to pursue pleasure at any and all costs to other individuals, and in return for sacrificing a small part of carte blanche freedom, he or she obtains the safety and protection of the government. Laws are put into place, according to Beccaria's thinking, not to limit those who would choose to live according to the social contract, but to deter those who “will always endeavor to take away from the mass, not only his own portion, but to encroach on that of others.” (Beccaria, Ch.1) He realizes that while we may wish to live in a state of Utopia, there will always be those individuals whose “passions” will fall outside the consideration of the general good or the good of others. [...]
[...] He understands that crime is inevitable and unfortunate. He does not have an unrealistic belief that crime will ever end and that human beings will live in a state of peaceful co-existence. He is quite practical. He states, “Neither the power of eloquence not the sublimest truths are sufficient to restrain, for any length of time, those passions which are excited by the lively impressions of present objects.” (Ch. Punishments must, therefore, “prevent the criminal from doing further injury to society, and to prevent others from committing the like offense.” (Ch. [...]
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