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Maybe the closeness of dictatorships in our history is the cause, resulting in more doubt in the judgement of jurors. Or the horrors of WWII?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Oct 13th, 2005 at 02:09:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't know, DoDo.
The lessons of two world wars did not seem to bear when former Yugoslavia started to disintegrate more than a decade ago.
I'm wondering whether this has to do with the individual vs. community issue.  In the US, the focus tends to be more on individuals and their success (or lack thereof) while the welfare states of Europe have more focus on the success of the overall community.  
By extension, the failure of an individual in the US through criminal behaviour is his own - (s)he's a threat to society, and punishment will be harsh.  In Europe, the community takes some responsibility for the failures of individuals and criminals are not only punished - there is also an attempt to rehabilitate to return the individual to a productive role in society.
by ask on Thu Oct 13th, 2005 at 02:34:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think you've basically got it.  Also at a more right brain level, Americans see cases where, for example, a big 12 year old boy brutally murders a small 4 year old girl, and they are outraged.  Right now, I think the majority of Americans think that boy's moral standards are formed, and he is likely to do that again in the future.  They don't want that to happen, so they want him put away.

America is a representative democracy, where opinions change over time.  It's possible this view will change.  But right now, that's what they think.  I'm guessing that Americans are interested in the fact that most of the world disagrees with them, but would say at the end of the day, it's their country, and they'll decide--so they won't support the government signing something that is against their views.  

by wchurchill on Fri Oct 14th, 2005 at 02:41:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Uhh, congratulations then.

You successfully entered the Middle Ages. :)
According to the German wikipedia Romans accepted 8 year olds as fully responsible adults while savage German barbarians in the Middle Ages distinguished between children, teenagers and adults.

See my comment below.

Not to mention the fact that most European countries are representative democracies too. Just in case some people don´t know it.
And that some European countries changed their views a hundred years back when they were allegedly Imperial monarchies. And not an enlightened republic like the US of A....

Just saying....

by Detlef (Detlef1961_at_yahoo_dot_de) on Fri Oct 14th, 2005 at 07:35:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm not challenging the right of European democracies to make a different decision--it's perfectly their right, and i applaud it.  I'm just agreeing with the poster who I responded to, as to why Americans believe as they do--and that they have their right to decide that, and not go along with everyone else in the world.  It's a free country.
by wchurchill on Fri Oct 14th, 2005 at 07:51:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
to your post. And it actually supports the point that you make there. It was the phrase "welfare democracy."  For some reason I recoiled at that. People in the US are so programmed to have negative reactions to the word "welfare."  But what is wrong about the state caring about the welfare of its inhabitants?  I don't know if my initial reaction is indicative of the cultural differences I first wrote about, or just the result of Republican brain-washing--not that I ever thought myself susceptible to that.

La vie n'est de soi ni bien ni mal, elle est la place du bien et du mal selon que vous faites.
by Time Waits for no Woman (time.waits_at_gmail.com) on Fri Oct 14th, 2005 at 10:14:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, I think due to cultural differences.
I used the term 'welfare states' - and I meant to convey something positive.
by ask on Sat Oct 15th, 2005 at 11:58:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Look at

According to the history overview there, the idea of different "punishments" for children, teenagers and adults date back to the Middle Ages.

Anyway, German criminal law in 1871 codified it into three stages:

  • children till age 12 can´t be prosecuted (in some German states back then age 14)
  • Between age 12(14) and 18 milder punishments
  • Starting with age 18 punishment as adults
(And with the first special "Youth" courts and prisons at the beginning of the 20. century in Imperial Germany.)

And in 1923 in the Weimar Republic they codified a special "juvenile criminal law", the basis for todays law (somewhat different from the age groups mentioned above).

So the idea of milder punishments for "teenagers" to "educate" them, not punish them as adults, is older than the Nazi dictatorship and WW2. The first steps were even taken before WW1.

by Detlef (Detlef1961_at_yahoo_dot_de) on Fri Oct 14th, 2005 at 11:07:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]


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