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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The hate crime bill reminds me of something

Two weeks ago, while stuck at an airport with CNN omnipresent, one of the big news items of the day was the signing of a new federal hate crimes bill. Suddenly, I realized it sounded vaguely familiar. I was reminded of the old practice of life insurers charging a higher premium for blacks than whites.

Now, please recognize that these insurance companies weren't charging a higher premium just because they could. The premiums were based on the higher mortality rates for blacks at that time.

Do you see the problem? The higher mortality rate was true, but the cause wasn't skin color. In other words, correlation does not necessarily imply causation.

Most hate crimes deserve to be punished harder. They are more brutal. They are premeditated. They intend to terrorize, not just harm the one victim. But these are the reasons these crimes should be punished harder. It has nothing to do with the defining characteristics of the perpetrators and victims. And to create a law that can be used selectively, and in a way that inherently criminalizes thought, isn't the way to punish the criminals that need to be punished.

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