I was discussing the issue of proportionality in punishment with some libertarians the other day. (This means that there are strict limits on how much you can punish an aggressor. You don’t have to exercise your rightful amount of punishment, but the point is you are not allowed to exceed it.)
I agreed that this was always loosey-goosey in the theoretical treatments I’d read, but nonetheless I thought it was an important concept. For example, you can’t shoot a teenager in the back if he’s running out of your store with a candy bar he just stole.
I realized halfway into the discussion (as a pacifist I was naturally much meeker than some of the other people) that I didn’t need to rely purely on a Christian recognition that we are all lawbreakers and thus need mercy, but I could also appeal for leniency as an economist.
Besides being children of the living God (or at least some are, depending on your precise doctrinal views), human beings are unbelievably productive machines. So that’s why–in addition to being sinful and tragic–it is incredibly wasteful to shoot someone for theft. Imagine junking a supercomputer because it crashed and you lost your term paper.
And this is another aspect of how horrid the State is. In the present circumstances, most human beings come nowhere near their potential, because they are shackled. Imagine if Einstein had been a plantation slave.