An important example of collective punishment in law is the rule that all members of a conspiracy are criminally liable for the crimes committed by any member within the scope of the conspiracy, provided it was forseseeable. So if one member of a drug gang beats up a defaulting customer, the other members are apt to be guilty of assault and battery as well even though they had nothing to do with the beating. A related rule, the felony-murder rule, makes a criminal guilty of first-degree murder if a killing occurs in the course of his crime, even if the killing is by someone else and he did not authorize or even expect it--as in the case where a policeman in the course of trying to thwart the crime accidentally kills a bystander. The theory behind these rules--the theory behind collective punishment in general--is that someone other than the actual perpetrator of a wrongful act may have more information that he could, if motivated, use to prevent the act than the government has. The employer may have been faultless in the particular case, but knowing that it is liable anyway will give it a strong incentive to exert control over its employees to prevent accidents--even by such indirect measures as reducing its work force by substituting robots or other mechanical devices for fallible human workers. Similarly, conspirators have an incentive to police their members to avoid getting themselves into unnecessary trouble; and the perpetrators of a bank robbery, for example, have an incentive to avoid being armed or provoking bank guards or police.Gary Becker:
Parents should often be held responsible for harms to others caused by their younger children. Parents can discourage crimes and other anti-social acts of these children by the upbringing they provide, and also by the punishments they administer to children who engage in such acts. Since after a certain age, perhaps sixteen or eighteen, parents have much less control over children, parental responsibility for children's acts should diminish, and children's responsibility should increase as the children age. At one time, children were responsible after the death of parents for any debts their parents left. Children were also punished for other anti-social behavior of their parents. This type of collective punishment has been eliminated by developed nations, presumably because children do not have the power typically to deter their parents from contracting debts or committing crimes. The only justification for such collective punishment of children in these cases would be that parents care about the children, and that caring parents would be less likely to enter into debts they cannot pay, or engage in anti-social acts, if children were held responsible for parental behavior. But such collective punishment to children would have little effect on selfish parents, and it would increase the suffering of their children who already are harmed by having selfish parents. To take a different political example than the Lebanese one that Posner uses, should the German people have been held collectively responsible for the atrocities committed by Hitler and other Nazis? It was inevitable that many German people suffered from World War II, although bombing of Dresden and some other cities by the Allies was probably unnecessary. Collective punishment of leading Nazis was appropriate, as was the requirement that Germany pay reparations for property taken, for some of the damages caused by German occupations of various countries, and for the murder of millions of Jews, Poles, Russians, and other groups.I would be interested in what you all think of this! I think I agree with both perspectives - but I don't want it to be misconstrued to think that I don't have sympathies for Christian/Druze/Sunni Lebanese. I do. Becker and Posner don't take into account the fact that it may have caused a civil war for the secular Lebanese to go after Hezbollah. But that said, sometimes I do wonder about the innocence of the non-Shia Lebanese, when I read of the Lebanese politicians saying they would team up with Hezbollah... Anyway, I welcome comments and thoughts from both sides of the political spectrum on this!