Wasting time on fb, I came across a posting with this story of vigilante justice (Go read it. Seriously.)
I imagine that very many philosophers will have two near-instantaneous reactions to this:
and "But of course I don't condone such actions, or call for their implementation in place of courts, laws, etc."
But here's what I would love: for someone to make a serious argument or, better, do a serious empirical analysis, of the relative merits of two such systems.
System A - the current judicial-prison system that we have in a country of your choice.
System B - a system in which the mothers of everyone affected by a crime get to decide what to do with the person they identify as the criminal, no questions asked.
I'm prepared to grant that there would be some avoidable viciousness in System B, as well as some innocent people who would be punished. This is obvious, but unlike serious philosophers, I don't think that observation settles the question. As an unserious philosopher - in the Chomskyan sense - I want that to be stacked up against the millions of African Americans caught up in the prison system for using drugs, the crimes that are committed precisely because the criminal was brutalized by the prison system for a prior vastly less serious "crime," the massive costs of various sorts implicit in the current system, the systematic inequalities based on wealth in a system in which the quality of one's lawyer is crucial. That is the "serious" way to approach the problem is to note the potential problems with the vigilante-mom solution and simply disqualify it from further discussion, while noting that the real massive problems with the current system are in principle contingent features, so that we need think only about some idealized version of it.
My "unserious" suggestion is that we actually do some empirical work to see which would in fact do more harm. And if, as I suspect, the moms win - by a lot, even under the most negative of empirically plausible assumptions - then why not change, and then gradually work to improve the function of mom-tribunals, rather than not change and gradually work to improve the PIC?
Because no matter how corrupt this makes me look, if I'm honest, I'm still not feeling bad about the above-linked retribution.