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Guilty Acts, Guilty Minds$
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Stephen P. Garvey

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780190924324

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: July 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190924324.001.0001

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(p.260) 6 Injustice
Guilty Acts, Guilty Minds

Stephen P. Garvey

Oxford University Press

This chapter starts off with Alexander v. United States, a case from the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia involving a defendant from a “rotten social background” charged with murder. The question it ultimately seeks to answer is this: When a democratic state has treated a citizen so badly, as a matter of distributive justice, that we are inclined to say of him that he has been excluded from the life of the polity, is the state nonetheless morally permitted to punish him if and when he commits a crime? It starts with several answers an anarchist might give to this question, distinguishing between a revolutionary response and a reformist response. It then moves onto discuss how a statist, as a believer in the authority of a democratic state, might respond. It concludes that a democratic state, even if it has lost its authority over the disadvantaged, is nonetheless morally permitted to punish those among the disadvantaged who commit serious (or core) crimes, but that it lacks any moral permission, derived from its own authority, to punish them for less serious (non-core) crimes.

Keywords:   social justice, distributive justice, social class, four case argument, standing, state of nature

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