May 30, 2024

Landsburg's Modest Proposal

Steven E. Landsburg has a somewhat creepy piece over at Slate, calling for the death penalty for computer worm authors. Ernest Miller responds.

UPDATE (12:15 AM): James Grimmelmann has some interesting thoughts on Landsburg’s proposal.


  1. A couple of anonymous commenters at LawMeme assert that Landsburg doesn’t intend his piece to be taken at face value. They don’t offer any support for this, though. I certainly know of some people who argue, apparently sinceerely, for the death penalty for spammers, based on a similar argument.

  2. It ain’t science, but it sure is dismal.

    Landsburg’s schtick seems to be the the application of the most rudimentary economic methods to problems and situations which have been dumbed-down to the point of absurdity.

    A reasonable antidote to this trivialization of an important explanatory method would be, say, Becker’s Economic Approach to Human Behavior. Landsburg should read it right away.

  3. The whole arguement assumes you can only deter someone by threatening to kill them. I think the threat of being put in prison for the rest of your life is more than sufficient to deter most people. The others who are not detered by such a prospect are unlikely to be detered by anything anyways.