Does massive white collar crime deserve the Death Penalty?

If serial killers deserve the death penalty, I contend that massive scale thievery also does.

What do serial killers deprive their victims of? Time. The time that they otherwise would have been able to have had they not been killed.

What do white collar criminals who steal millions (or even billions) of dollars of money steal? Time. Time equals money. And when we’re talking massive amounts of money, we’re talking entire lifetimes worth of work pissed away due to greed.

At a certain point, losing enough money becomes just as bad as killing somebody. Our government acknowledges this when it does cost/benefit calculations on environmental policies. Look at this story from the Washington Post:

Let’s use Bernard Madoff as an example. He allegedly stole 50 billion dollars.

50 billion divided by 7.22 million equalls 6,925 lives worth of money lost! That’s twice as bad as Osama Bin Ladin!

Well, I don’t support the death penalty, but I agree. That level of thievery can create as much or more suffering as any guy with an axe. And yes, they can kill people too indirectly ( people dying because of shoddy products, the suicide of people whose lives have been ruined beyond repair for example ). If a mere serial killer deserves the death penalty, then surely someone who does far more damage does.

What Der Trihs said.

Wait…did I just say that I agreed with Der Trihs? :eek:

Serial killers are considered criminals because they deprive their victims of life, not of time. The basis of the law against murder still stems from the sacredness of human life. As the Declaration of Independence says, our Creator has entitled us all to life. That’s why it’s as much a crime to kill an 80-year-old as a 30-year-old.

Using up someone’s time is not a crime. If it were, certain members of the Straight Dope Message Board would have been lynched a long time ago.

No theft is as bad as murder regardless of the amount, because there is no sacredness in money. Even if certain government agencies assign a dollar value to a human life, it still is not true. After all, a few years back the government claimed Saddam had piles of WMDs, but it still wasn’t true.

I,M sure you are aware that ths wouldn’t be possible under the current US constitution because it would be cruel and unusual, but that’s a side point to your issue.

At first I totaly disagreed with the iea but I may be coming around to it. I support the death penalty for other non-murder crimes, such as rape in certain circumstances (not sure if I could fully articulate my feelings on the boundaries here). I think I’d support the DP for WC crime only if the criminal leaves large numbers of people destitute (and again, boundaries are fuzzy).

There’s no sacredness in air, either. That doesn’t mean that suffocating someone isn’t murder.

Money is important; taking away someone’s life savings isn’t trivial. And as I said, you can kill by theft; by skimming off money dedicated to safety inspections or producing a shoddy and dangerous product, or fraudulently denying someone’s medical insurance long enough for them to die…

I disagree that human life is “sacred.” Or at least, that our society consistantly holds all human life to be sacred. Tell that to the Vietnamese and Iraqis we’ve killed because they happened to live within the geographical boundries of a government we disapproved.

Yeah, I don’t think it would be totally unreasonable. But the hard part is deciding just how much becomes death penalty-worthy. And this brings in the issue too of whether some of these things should actually be crimes. I mean, we all agree that rape and murder are bad, but what about just tricking people without forcing anything on them? When does it cross the line from being an a-hole to being a capital crime?

Vox Imperatoris

Sorry but your premise is entirely convoluted. Fortunes are made and lost in the course of a lifetime, and what was lost can be regained. No amount of money can ever compare to losing one’s life. When you lose your life, you don’t have a shot at getting it back.

That being said, it’s still a major crime and I think life imprisonment is appropriate if the scale is massive enough.

That’s a good point. It will be more difficult to draft the statutes defining the crime, and juries may be more reticent to convict if the DP is an option.

This brings up the issue of whether the punishment is for the harm done to the particular victim(s) or the harm done to society as a whole. The harm to society of certain types of WCC is arguably greater than the harm to society of depriving it of one or more members (especially if those members are drug dealers or other distasteful characters).

Precisely. Just because we don’t see the consequences and aftermath of white collar crime as well nor as immediately as we do when a maniac with a shotgun goes apeshit, doesn’t mean they aren’t there.

White-collar crime is made easier by that very fact - you’re not harming anyone, you don’t see a pleading human being, you’re just… tweaking numbers, right ? No harm done, right ?

I wouldn’t call for the electric chair either, cause that’s just barbaric, but there really ought to be much longer jail times for it when such faraminous amounts of money come into play, not just your run of the mill “embezzlement, 2 to 5 and a fine” (or whatever). And a better enforcement of said laws.
Which begs the question : where to draw the line ? When does fraud, embezzlement and the like become too much for the existing laws & punishments, and how to scale a new punishment ?

white collar criminals should have all assets seized and used to repay those they took advantage of as best as possible. As far as punishment goes a lifetime of menial labor with all proceeds going to the victims until paid back with interest. Going to jail for a decade or two then coming out and living like kings of their swiss bank accounts is as ridiculous as the death penalty. Every sentence should last “until you pay back what you took”, watch the bank accounts open up pretty fast then, and if they can’t then its hard labor for life.

I say ditch Club Fed and put them all in Federal Ass-Pound prison. I suspect that would discourage them more than a threat of the death penalty would.

(Seriously though…WTF is up with Club Fed? Absurd their prison time be remotely tolerable)

While that is appealing on the face of it I think it smacks too much of Debtors Prisons which we do not do.

The difference is, victims of monetary crimes can in theory be made whole. All it takes is money.

But if someone kills you or injures you, you can never be made whole.

And so property crimes are treated differently than violent crimes.

I support either the death penalty or a true life sentence, no parole for non-violent crimes such as massive fraud (say a $ billion or so), voting fraud, and destroying world treasures (e.g., the Buddha statues). Oh, and maybe for approving torture.

And the basis of the death penalty, which is included in law, does what, exactly? I seem to recall that the Declaration of Independence was involved in something of a war, in which there was quite considerable loss of life. The law already says that, in some cases, killing is acceptable. The question is whether theft on a grand enough scale is significant enough a crime to also be included in those crimes which can take the death penalty; and whether or not, if so, it should be.

Well, I rather tend to disagree on your issue of sacredness, as I suspect you’ll find unsurprising. But I think you’re missing out that money can mean life in many cases. You think a theft of 50 billion will have no effect on lives? That seems somewhat naive.

Anyway, my own personal view is still that i’m against the death penalty, but that it seems fair to me if the DP is in place for crimes above a certain amount of money to be eligible for it as well. I’m not entirely sure how we’d go about setting what that amount has to be, though.

yes, as long as it is accomplished in a short amount of time and not ten years from now, painful and very very public.

I fully agree that our society does not treat human life as sacred, but it still is sacred. Our society is simply wrong on that issue.

Nevertheless, most of us maintain some trace of the idea of the sacredness of humanity, and that’s the basis of our laws on murder. Right now, murder earns harsher penalties than theft. That’s the way it’s been since execution for theft was abolished centuries ago. That’s the way it is in every country, as far as I know. That’s the way it typically has been. Where does that fact come from, if not from a belief in a special and unalienable value of human life?