Reciprocity in Legal System

What does the reciprocity requirement mean when a person has been the victim of criminal harm? This is more than reasonable harm inflicted on the perpetrator by a third party, such as the criminal justice system. Reciprocal acts are usually performed as part of a relationship between the persons involved and serve to regulate that relationship. One-to-many and many-to-one reciprocity often falls somewhere between direct reciprocity agreements and generalized reciprocity. Informal clubs, where admission rules circulate among members, are examples of the one-to-many variant. Bridal showers are examples of the many-to-one variant. These are the stable husbandry practices in some border communities. This is all akin to direct reciprocity, as beneficiaries are identified as such and contributors know exactly what to expect in return. However, as the composition of the group changes and the need for new meetings, marriages or barns is not always foreseeable, these cases differ considerably from well-defined individual cases. A central role of any justice system should be to improve outcomes for victims. In particular, it should ensure that it helps prevent the kind of horrific results seen in the young woman described above, when the harm a victim causes to herself is worse than that resulting from the crime.

The terms of the Constitution cannot have more than one meaning, because such arbitrariness is contrary to procedure and justice. Neither the authors nor their constitution are perfect, but the constitution can (and has been) changed. Every American generation can therefore choose to become a framer. But we cannot reshape the Constitution by executive, legislative or judicial order. Just as the original drafters were not free to impose arbitrary government on succeeding American generations, our generation is not free to impose arbitrary government on our successors by manipulating the meaning of the words of the Constitution. Let us therefore dedicate ourselves to restoring and maintaining the constitutional system in order to achieve universal freedom for ourselves and for all future generations. They will be as grateful as we are to the founding generation. The standard of reciprocity therefore requires that we provide appropriate and proportionate responses to the benefits and harms we receive, whether they come from benevolent or malicious people. Developing the conceptual details of this idea raises some interesting questions.

The following points are all covered in detail in many of the sources listed under the references below, and these authors usually make some suggestions on how best to define the conceptual details of reciprocity. What follows here is only an overview of the topics that will be examined philosophically. Generalized reciprocity is even less precise. Here, donors operate within a vast network of social transactions that are largely unknown to each other, and without expecting to receive any specific benefits in return, except perhaps for the type of social security provided by the continued existence of the network itself. Recipients may not know the donors and may not be able to make an in-kind return to this network themselves, but may feel compelled to make a return to a similar network. Blood banks and food banks are examples. But in reality, any stable social structure in which there is a division of labor will involve a system of such generalized mutual exchange in order to maintain social norms. I have two questions.

In 2261, will Americans enjoy the protection of freedom inherent in a constitutional system, or will they be subject to a capricious regime? What will this generation think of our current oversight of the Constitution and its structural bulwarks to protect civil liberties? To overcome these problems, we invented money. This has allowed for a simpler and more flexible system for the exchange of goods and services. And once we had money, we could create credit and debt systems, as well as banks, markets and financial services. A similar situation could be a person seriously injured in a traffic accident caused by someone who was driving under the influence of alcohol.