Chris Uggen's Blog: the white-collar execution of zheng xiaoyu

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

the white-collar execution of zheng xiaoyu

zheng xiaoyu has been executed. the former head of china's food and drug safety agency had been convicted of accepting bribes from pharmaceutical companies this may.

leftist criminologists often rail against the light sentences given to white-collar criminals in the united states, particularly when measured against the lengthy prison time served by those convicted of street crimes. this sort of disproportionality case is most convincing with respect to drug convictions and property crimes. it doesn't take a marxist to notice that poor people who steal $2,000 worth of property sometimes do longer (and harder) time than executives who steal $2,000,000 emptying a pension fund.

i suppose that a few criminologists will read zheng xiaoyu's execution as evidence that an appropriate consideration of social harm has been given its due weight at sentencing. more cynically, of course, most of us will interpret this execution as signaling that scapegoats will be found and crucified whenever big-time market interests are threatened -- in china, as elsewhere.

either way, i doubt that this execution will do much to purge the diethylene glycol from your counterfeit colgate or the melamine from your cat food.

2 Comments:

At 11:38 AM, Blogger jeremy said...

While not an advocate of capital punishment, I've always figured that if you cashed out total harm versus potential deterrence value, the most appealing targets for capital punishment would be corrupt government officials and computer hackers, although not necessarily in that order.

 
At 3:58 PM, Blogger christopher uggen said...

hmmm. i thought about connecting scooter libby with this post, so i must have been thinking along similar lines. i'm glad you didn't mention department chairs as appropriate targets...

 

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