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Punishing States and the Spectre of Guilt by Association

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Proponents of punishing states often claim that such punishment would not distribute to members of the state, and so it would not subject innocent citizens – those who did not participate in the crimes, or dissented, or even were among the victims – to guilt by association. This essay examines three features of state punishment that might be said not to distribute to citizens: it is burdensome, it is intentionally so, and it expresses social condemnation. Ultimately, I contend that when a state is punished, the burdens do distribute to citizens as intended, condemning burdens – that is, as punishment. Thus the nondistribution of punishment thesis fails as a response to the guilt-by-association objection.

Affiliations: 1: Robina Institute of Criminal Law and Criminal Justice, University of Minnesota Twin Cities, Minneapolis, MN, USA


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