Via Brian Weatherson at Crooked Timber, I learn that Singapore plans to execute (by hanging) an Australian citizen who was transporting drugs from Cambodia to Australia – and traveled through a Singaporean airport en route.
Weatherson asks the natural questions about (a) why this ought to be considered a crime against Singapore and (b) whether the punishment fits the crime. One might also wonder (c) why this ought to be considered a crime at all. But what sprang to my mind was David D. Friedman’s argument in Law’s Order: if you impose your legal system’s harshest punishment for a particular crime, you cannot impose any additional punishment to deter related crimes committed by the same person.
Say you’re trafficking drugs in Singapore, and a witness observes you making a sale. What is your incentive not to shoot the witness? Or suppose the police have the goods on you, and they’ve just arrived at your door to make an arrest. What is your incentive not to go down in a hail of bullets? What are they gonna do – hang you twice?