This, and other questions, is what animates Morris Hoffman's new book, The Punisher's Brain: The Evolution of Judge and Jury. Hoffman's book is part of the Cambridge Studies in Economics, Choice and Society that Timur Kuran and I edit. The publishers description is as follows:
Why do we punish, and why do we forgive? Are these learned behaviors, or is there something deeper going on? This book argues that there is indeed something deeper going on, and that our essential response to the killers, rapists, and other wrongdoers among us has been programmed into our brains by evolution. Using evidence and arguments from neuroscience and evolutionary psychology, Morris B. Hoffman traces the development of our innate drives to punish – and to forgive – throughout human history. He describes how, over time, these innate drives became codified into our present legal systems and how the responsibility and authority to punish and forgive was delegated to one person – the judge – or a subset of the group – the jury. Hoffman shows how these urges inform our most deeply held legal principles and how they might animate some legal reforms.
- Unique analysis devoted entirely to using evolutionary psychology to analyze the problems of how and why humans blame, forgive and punish
- Written by a sitting trial judge who has been on the front lines of our modern blaming, forgiving and punishment institutions for more than two decades
- Inaugural book in Cambridge Studies in Economics, Choice, and Society, edited by Peter J. Boettke and Timur Kuran, a new interdisciplinary series of theoretical and empirical research focusing on individual choice, institutions and social outcomes
I am wondering how much of the argument that Chris Coyne and I put forth in our "The Political Economy of Forgiveness" would need to be adjusted in light of the argument and evidence provided by Hoffman? Our argument is not based on neuroscience, but on economic analysis that includes questions of sorting, signaling and the passage of time. In short, we engage in a conceptual cost/benefit calculation and attempt to discuss the optimal amount of forgiveness (or forbearance) in post-atrocity situations, but the intitution seems consistent with philosophical discussions of reparations and practices such as the statute of limitations.