Flogging: Let’s bring it back.

In some Southern county in the middle of a work day, three men had just finished hitching a 16’ trailer to their truck when the owner of the trailer, a building contractor, stepped out of his house. Not accustomed to strangers on his property hitching up his trailer in the middle of the day, his eyes were drawn to the scene. The three men, certainly not expecting the owner of the trailer to be home, were somewhat startled. In a moment, they decided to drive away as quickly as possible.

The owner, being a real man, jumped in his truck and gave chase while simultaneously calling 911 to alert the sheriff’s department. A headstart and complete disregard for the speed limit allowed the presumed trailer thieves to get down the road far enough to stop, unhook the trailer, and speed off again before the owner could arrive on the scene, doubtless grateful to recover his property with so little trouble.

The owner, upon arriving at the scene, being a man born for justice, disregarded the trailer and continued the chase. This must have aggravated the trailer bandits, who once again resorted to great speed to shake their pursuer. They then turned onto a long straight stretch of state highway that would take them back to their home county and at speeds of over 110 mph, rather quickly. The pursuer, unwilling to exceed 105 mph himself and unnerved at the prospect of following his prey’s example of passing multiple vehicles while cresting a hill, soon fell far behind the trailer thieves.

But the bandits had only shaken one hound, for the sheriff’s department was rapidly closing in when the thieves made the fatal mistake of turning off onto a small country road that, sadly for them, was a dead end.

When the owner finally arrived at the scene, he found several deputies with shotguns levelled and the bandits in a most piteous state. A young bandit in his twenties was blubbering like a baby. A bandit in his forties was loudly declaring his innocence and insisting that he was indeed at that very moment having a heart attack. The deputies dutifully called an ambulance, which carried the forty-something bandit to the hospital where it was determined that he was in fact not having a heart attack. The third thirty-something bandit accepted his fate stoically. 

Let’s set aside what actually happened to these three thieves and ask ourselves what might likely happen in any similar but hypothetical circumstance where a thief or vandal is caught, is known to be guilty, and no one was physically injured in the commission of the crime. 

The thief (or vandal) now stands before the judge, having admitted his guilt or his guilt having been determined. The judge will now punish the thief so that justice will be done and/or to deter the thief or others like him from committing the same crime. First, let’s set aside the question of what is justice. I don’t swim in the deep waters with Socrates. But we do all understand deterrence.  

In America our judge has basically one option – jail time, which introduces the element of cost. It would be easy for him to throw the book at the thief, but what if the warden says we’re full up and the tax collector says we don’t have the money for his upkeep? The choices are then to overcrowd the prison and thus reduce living conditions, reduce sentencing generally, or lawmakers must raise taxes.

But what if the judge had another weapon in his arsenal–namely, caning (or flogging). Yes, I’m being serious as a real heart attack. Consider the following…

As to cruel and unusual punishment, flaying someone alive or hanging them by the ankles three feet over a hog pen is cruel and unusual. Caning? Well, that’s just painful. And timeless tradition to boot!

Those that imagine it would not be a deterrent have either never been caned, or didn’t have a father that spanked, and should conduct the following exercise. Go to your stove and turn on one of the eyes on high. When it is red hot, lay your open hand flat on it and leave it there for several seconds. When you decide not to do this experiment, ask yourself why not.

Caning would cost the state almost nothing. After conviction the bailiff would just strap the thief to a post, lay three to five good licks across his back, and set him free to bleed and be consoled at home. His debt to society paid.  

What is more humane, to quickly punish thieves or to lock them up like animals?  What is more rehabilitative, to set them free in agony, thoroughly chastised that they might become productive and responsible, or to force them into a life of idleness confined with other ne’er-do-wells, some of whom may be rather nasty fellows?

What is more conducive to liberty, less crime and thus a smaller police presence and lower taxes, or a massive correctional establishment that keeps legions of non-violent men behind bars and that becomes yet another tax-sucking bureaucra-tick with a vested interest in keeping them there?

The liberal use of the cane against thieves and vandals would increase liberty and lower the anxiety level of the law-abiding generally, and lower security costs literally. We need not have to keep our property under lock and key and surveillance cameras.  

Caning as a punishment and deterrent is as simple as it sounds, and it would work marvellously to the benefit of the law-abiding and the taxpayer for whom our government has failed, for many years, to properly perform one of its most basic functions – protecting property rights. It has failed because those who would steal or vandalise do not live in terror of the law. The real prospect of being caned would change that.  

Or how about we at least give them a choice.

Judge: Ok Joe-Billy, this was your second offence. Walking out of Walmart with a TV was forgiven as youthful indiscretion. But following a UPS truck to take packages off of front porches? That is starting to look like a career choice. You want five across the back now, or 11 months in county?

M.C. Atkins

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