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Leahy and Sanders Endorse Deterrence

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Vermont Senators Patrick Leahy and Bernie Sanders have endorsed the concept that greater penalties for crime have a deterrent effect.  Senator Leahy's press release says (emphasis added):

"Vermonters take pride in the natural products our state produces, and I have been alarmed by the growing number of individuals and businesses claiming to sell Vermont maple syrup when they are in fact selling an inferior product that is not maple syrup at all," said Leahy.  "This is fraud, plain and simple, and it undermines a key part of Vermont's economy.  I know that hardworking syrup producers in Maine, New York and other states have been similarly hurt by this crime.  Our bill will deter this criminal conduct."

A recurring issue in debates over sentencing policy is whether greater penalties deter.  It is a basic principle of human behavior that when you increase the cost of doing something, there is some decrease in the number of people who choose to do it.  (The demand is elastic, in econospeak.)  In most areas of policy, the only dispute is over how large the effect is, not whether there is such an effect.  In criminal sentencing, though, some people will assert there is no deterrent effect at all.  It's good to know Senator Leahy doesn't buy that nonsense.

Oh, and I'm all in favor of punishing people who fraudulently mislabel food.  But why should mislabeling syrup be a greater offense than mislabeling any other food?  I can't think of a good reason.

2 Comments

One of the few rational moments Leahy has had over the last decade.

Let's hope he doesn't "forget" this enduring truth going forward as Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

"Oh, and I'm all in favor of punishing people who fraudulently mislabel food. But why should mislabeling syrup be a greater offense than mislabeling any other food?"

Because syrup gets made in Vermont?

Oh...........wait............it can't be that.

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