Death of a hacker

John Tierney has some extreme ideas as how to punish hackers who write viruses and worms and damage computers around the world. He relates to Steven Landsburg’s cost-benefit analysis of executing murderers which yields up to $100 million in social benefits. Referring to Landsburg’s views on hackers punishment Tirney writes:

“The benefits of executing a hacker would be greater, he argues, because the social costs of hacking are estimated to be so much higher: $50 billion per year. Deterring a mere one-fifth of 1 percent of those crimes – one in 500 hackers – would save society $100 million. And Professor Landsburg believes that a lot more than one in 500 hackers would be deterred by the sight of a colleague on death row.

I see his logic, but I also see practical difficulties. For one thing, many hackers live in places where capital punishment is illegal. For another, most of them are teenage boys, a group that has never been known for fearing death. They’re probably more afraid of going five years without computer games.”

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