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How Do We, in America, Generally Reward, Punish, or Distribute Good or Bad?

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In America we all live by laws, codes, and rules that have been put in place before we were even born

With each law and rule there is also a causal effect if we do not properly follow them. For instance, we know that if you kill someone, there will be negative consequences. Also, if we excel in our career, we will be rewarded appropriately. Justice and fairness are issues that we all strive to achieve.

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Speaking very generally, it is probably most accurate to say that the United States acts on the principle of retributivism, especially in the realm of criminal justice. It is well known that the United States incarcerates people at a rate exceeding that of the rest of the developed world, and many of its states still have the death penalty for murder, a practice abandoned by many other nations. Moreover, crimes are punished with very lengthy sentences compared to other places. It is true that the nation's penal system, as well as that of the states, claims to be based on the principle of rehabilitation, which is a utilitarian idea in that it is based on the principle that we all have an interest in criminals returning to society as productive citizens. But the nation's prisons also have very high recidivism rates. It is also true that the types of social welfare programs that attack the socioeconomic inequalities that underlie.

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The pursuit of social justice ideally ensures that people receive their fair share of benefits, and that those who commit offenses receive a fair degree of punishment. These two forms of justice are referred to as distributive justice and retributive justice, respectively (Carlsmith & Darley, 2008; Deutsch, 2006; Piaget, 1932/1965; Rawls, 1971). Philosophical debates center on the question of whether both should operate under similar or different normative principles. On the one hand are approaches that emphasize an asymmetry, arguing that they should be regarded as fundamentally different practices, governed by different moral principles (Smilansky, 2006)

According to the asymmetry account, retributive justice is aimed at rectifying injustice by using blame and punishment to reprimand and correct those who have done wrong and are deserving of punishment as a consequence. The notion of just deserts is thus the main principle.

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As can be seen, rewards and incentives actually build self-discipline, intrinsic control, delayed gratification, and intrinsic motivation

Rewards and incentives also eliminate or drastically reduce the need for direct, coercive control of a child by the parent, and therefore strengthen the parent-child relationship and the positive influence of the parent on the child.

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Blake PR, Rand DG. Currency value moderates equity preference among young children. Evolution and Human Behavior. 2010;31(3):210–218.

Smetana JG. Preschool children’s conceptions of moral and social rules. Child Development. 1981;52(4):1333–1336. doi: 10.2307/1129527.

Smilansky S. Control, desert and the difference between distributive and retributive justice. Philosophical Studies. 2006;131(3):511–524. doi: 10.1007/s11098-004-7486-x.

Smith CE, Blake PR, Harris PL. I should but I won’t: Why young children endorse norms of fair sharing but do not follow them. PLoS ONE. 2013;8(3):

Carlsmith KM, Darley JM. Psychological aspects of retributive justice. In: Zanna MP, editor. Advances in experimental social psychology. Vol. 40. San Diego, CA US: Elsevier Academic Press; 2008. pp. 193–236

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