Monday, February 8, 2010

Unprincipled Thinking Yields Arbitrary Results

And when the unprincipled thinking gives rise to non-objective laws, the arbitrary results can be quite harmful.

Here are just two more stories I came across today regarding unprincipled thinking in the construction and enforcement of laws: The first regards a women who was told that she was suddenly no longer an American citizen; the second is about the arrest of a twelve year-old girl for doodling on her desk.

There is a very strong correlation between arbitrary laws and the loss of ability to think in principles.


Steve D said...

Yes, and in this case the correlation is always in one direction, implying that the loss of the ability to think in principles is ultimate cause of arbitrary laws.

Regardless, the thing I can't understand is how any police officer could possibly arrest a twelve year-old for doodling on her desk. What sort of human being could possibly do that? Principles or not it seems to me that in both cases an individual had to in both cases instigate the action (either arresting the girl or writing that letter). That individual could not have had even a semblence of common human decency.

Lynne said...

Thanks for the comment, Steve.

I think the correlation goes both ways. Certainly, there could be mitigating factors in both cases, but from the reports alone, it appears that the instigating individuals were unable to understand the principles underlying the laws they thought they were upholding.

But I agree that the strongest correlation (and the most destructive action) is from unprincipled thinking to arbitrary laws.

Steve D said...

Actually, I think there are two separate correlations but they essentially go in the same direction. The cause is unprincipled thinking and this leads to both inability to properly apply laws as well as the inability to make proper laws in the first place.

In the case of the girl being arrested it would seem there would have had to be more than one adult involved, at minimum a teacher, head of school and the officer himself. That they would all take an absolutely wrong course of action is of grave concern. In a rational society they would all face some serious discipline. They should be the focus of the law suits not the city.

Mitigating factors are possible perhaps but it is hard to imagine why three adults, one of them a police officer couldn't handle a 12year old girl.

Too bad she didn't understand all this. It seems part of her punishment was to write an essay and how lack of principles leads to this sort of behavior would have been the perfect subject.

Lynne said...

Yes, that is a better formulation. They are two correlations going in the same direction.

And I can imagine some mitigating factors in the case of the 12 year-old. Repeated warnings against vandalism, repeated refusal to leave the classroom when asked by teachers, principle, etc. The use of handcuffs, while extreme, may have been to prevent her from hurting herself in a violent reaction to having to be physically removed from the classroom. However, the report mentioned none of these.

Steve D said...

I guess if you think hard enough you can imagine justification for the handcuffs but given that she would have had to be a danger to herself or others it seems a pretty implausible scenario. (I don't think just refusal to leave the classroom would quite cut it.) If this was the case then the reporter who investigated and wrote the story did a very bad job!

In any case, your conclusion that this is an example of unprincipled thinking still stands, though it would be the reporter who was unprincipled (biased or incompetent) rather than the police officer.

Lynne said...

'"We need to look at it a lot closer because it's not really made for 10-year-olds," he said at a news conference'

Said by an Indiana police officer re: using a stun gun on a kid 31 Mar 2010.