Tuesday, September 04, 2007

I Love the Logic

Found in a link at Sentencing Law and Policy. CA’s gov is likely to veto the redoubtable Senator Romero’s bill creating a real sentencing commission with teeth that might actually be able to shape more sensible policymaking in that state because the gov “thinks that final authority (on sentencing laws) should be with elected officials who are accountable to the people." Unlike, that is, the elected officials who are accountable to the people and who would authorize the commission as the thing to do on sentencing laws and would retain legal ability to end it at any time.


The reality is that that commission, were it to be formed, would be far more likely to be threatened with imminent dissolution at any time by that same legislature for coming up with off-the-wall policy than likely to allow boogeymen “elites” to ever saddle policymakers with something that just wouldn’t fly with them. That’s not opinion; it’s based on something called actual history of sentencing commissions (as in USSC, OR, MI, almost MA a few years back, ad infinitum). And, as constituted, the commission would have the kind of representation that would be insulted to be called “elitist,” well-known and hard-working representatives of all the knowledgeable practitioners and participants whose experience and expertise are, yes indeed, more informed and attuned to reality. We’ve seen other policy areas in which policies decided by “masses” and their demagogues were creating fiscal and monetary disasters so “experts” were brought into independent bodies to oversee. Can you say “The Fed”? And anyone who thinks the Fed nevertheless has never since been attuned to the “masses,” for good or bad, has no grasp of our economic history. There’s no reason to believe the same interplay of voters and independent agency wouldn’t happen with the kind of commissions Senator Romero or the state corrections officers are proposing.

The fact is that those proclaiming the sacred sovereignty of the “masses” and their legislators over corr sent policy have either been in conspicuous silence or active opposition when those “masses” or their legislators have enacted laws they don’t like, like medical marijuana, mandatory substance abuse treatment instead of incarceration, or restorative justice. Once again proving that arguments are selected not for their adherence to reality or consistency in principle but for whether they advance the interests of the sophists who benefit psychically and/or professionally from our current system. As regular readers know, I’m not a big supporter of commissions and can recommend other options that can have impact if a state legislature doesn’t want to go that way. But that’s not what’s happening here. It’s way past time for us to move past this ideological knee-jerking and focus on what actually works, not what makes us feel superior or lets us play politics like it’s paint ball, before we’re all California.

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