Saul Smilansky's 10 Moral Paradoxes is a delightful book. The paradoxes are easy to appreciate and though it's written in a light and accessible style, it still has plenty of philosophical heft.
I'm intrigued by the paradox Smilansky labels the non-punishment paradox. Here's the gist:
Suppose that a state subjects criminal offense O to punishment P. P is so effective at deterring O that perfect deterrence is achieved: No one in the state commits O. (We'd need to stipulate a number of assumptions here about the consistency with which P is applied to O, the effectiveness of enforcement, the degree to which O's being subject to P is publicized, etc.) But suppose further that P is a "radically severe and disproportional punishment" — life imprisonment for jaywalking, say.
Herein the paradox: Despite P's being disproportionate to O, it's hard to object to the state's subjecting those who O to P. After all, given perfect deterrence, no one will be actually suffer P. Hence, no one is in fact punished beyond what they deserve because though the state is willing to inflict P on those who O, its willingness to do so is exactly what dissuades anyone from O-ing. (Not to mention that we duck various procedural worries about punishment: Perfect deterrence means no worries about punishing the innocent!) At the same time, we would (Smilansky says) view with horror a system of punishment that licensed P for offenses O.
On certain simple consequentialist views, there need be no paradox here: We should embrace perfect deterrence as having clearly the best overall consequences. I have a few nebulous ideas about how the paradox might be resolved, but does anyone have a proposed solution? Or is there no solution?