NYU Stern

BECCARIA (1738 – 1794)


“It is not only the common interest of mankind, that crimes should not be committed, but that crimes of every kind should be less frequent in proportion to the evil they produce to society. Therefore, the means made use of by the legislature to prevent crimes, should be more powerful in proportion as they [crimes] are destructive of the public safety and happiness, and as the inducements to commit them are stronger. Therefore there ought to be a fixed proportion between crimes and punishments.” Beccaria, On Crimes and Punishments, chapter VI

“Pleasure and pain are the only springs of action in beings endowed with sensibility.” Beccaria, On Crimes and Punishments, chapter VI

“Necessity alone hath produced, from the opposition of private passions and interests, the idea of public utility, which is the foundation of human justice.” Beccaria, On Crimes and Punishments, chapter VII

“From the foregoing considerations it is evident, that the intent of punishments, is not to torment a sensible being, nor to undo a crime already committed.***The end of punishment, therefore, is no other, than to prevent the criminal from doing further injury to society, and to prevent others from committing the like offence. Such punishments, therefore, and such a mode of inflicting them, ought to be chosen, as will make the strongest and most lasting impressions on the minds of others, with the least torment to the body of the criminal.” Beccaria, On Crimes and Punishments, chapter XII

“That a punishment may produce the effect required, it is sufficient that the evil it occasions should exceed the good expected from the crime, including in the calculation the certainty of the punishment, and the privation of the expected advantage. All severity beyond this, is superfluous, and therefore tyrannical.” Beccaria, On Crimes and Punishments, chapter XVII

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