Default to Kindness
If there is one policy point I’d like to make it isn’t a policy point, it’s an ethical one: default to kindness.
Or try kindness first.
In policy terms, the kind thing to do is usually the right thing to do. I’d go so far as to say, almost always.
Treating prisoners with kindness nets Finland half the recidivism rate the US, with its punitive prisons gets. That is, only half as many prisoners, once released, commit a crime in Finland.
Single payer or comprehensive universal healthcare has costs about a third less than the US system, and produces better results.
Not committing war crimes makes people much less interested in killing you. Not torturing enemies means they are far less likely to torture your people.
Helping other nations improve their standard of living makes them less likely to kill us, and better trade partners.
Happy employees are more productive and produce more profit, yet we deliberately treat employees horribly in the assumption that we get more out of them that way, despite reams of evidence to the contrary.
High minimum wages do not decrease employment, there is even some evidence that they may increase employment.
Torture does not get useful information out of people compared to regular interrogation. It is extremely unreliable, this is understood by most professionals in the business. You torture to send a message, and that message is “we torture”.
The first thing you should do, in any policy situation, is ask “what would the golden rule have me do?” Most of the time, this will be the correct policy, which will produce the best results. People who are treated with kindness, in general, reciprocate and are productive. Yes, there are exceptions, but they are just that, exceptions.
Further, kindness is the default position even with the worst people. If you allow rapists to be raped, you become a rapist. If you torture torturers, you are now a torturer. You do not, in the old phrase, sink to their level. That doesn’t mean being a pushover, it doesn’t mean no justice, it does mean that the State has no business seeking revenge and that the rules, which should default to kindness, apply equally the worst people and the best. This is not just the right thing to do, it is the only thing to do, because the State often decides the best people are the worst people, as even a cursory examination of history will attest, and it very often makes mistakes, as the many errors in capital cases have brought to light. But, again, even if someone is the worst of the worst beyond even the shadow of a doubt, they must be treated with kindness even as they are incarcerated, not just because it is the right thing to do, but because doing anything else degrades those who do it. Torturers are always corrupted by torturing, occupying armies always become weak, corrupt and brutal. You cannot do evil and not be, yourself, scarred by it.
Be kind, and remember, what you insist on your government doing to others changes your government, and will effect its treatment of you.