Natalie Solent

Politics, news, libertarianism, Science Fiction, religion, sewing. You got a problem, bud? I like sewing.

E-mail: nataliesolent-at-aol-dot-com (I assume it's OK to quote senders by name.)

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( 'Nother Solent is this blog's good twin. Same words, searchable archives, RSS feed. Provided by a benefactor, to whom thanks.
I also sometimes write for Samizdata and Biased BBC.)

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Thursday, August 12, 2004
The rapist won his money fair and square. There is nothing on a lottery ticket that says, "criminals need not apply" or "criminals will have their winnings taken off them." It is - or was - a basic principle of justice and law that a man should be punished under the law as it stood when he comitted his crime. To add an extra punishment (confiscation of winnings) afterwards is a dangerous precedent. Next stop, retroactive punishments for acts that are not crimes now but might become crimes in the future. A British court sentenced this man to a specific punishment. He can lawfully be given that punishment and nothing else.

Nor should the law be changed to forbid criminals from claiming lottery wins in the future, although that would be less outrageous than what is being proposed now. Where would that stop? Denial of the right to buy lottery tickets to people with parking tickets? To adulterers? Let's just keep things that should be separate separate, shall we? On one side we have the justice system, so much a bedrock of what makes a state a state that even half the libertarians I know allow it to be legitimate. On the other hand we have a gambling game. There may be times when I think the one has a damn sight too close a resemblance to the other, but there's no reason to make it official.

It's not fair, you say? Of course it's not fair. It's a lottery, stupid. Ten million people pay their money and get nothing. A few hundred people pay their money and get a completely undeserved something, ranging from a tenner to several million. Those few hundred weren't chosen for their virtue. Random, spectacular unfairness is what you sign up for when you buy a lottery ticket. If you think (as I do) that the justice system is too soft on rapists and other violent criminals, then change that. Politicians shouldn't fool around with something unrelated because they haven't got the stomach to reform what needs reforming.