Calculate the cost of deterrence

Is there a better, less addictive way to encourage ethical behaviour, asks Peter Selby in the Church Times

Calculate the cost of deterrence

The anniversaries of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs, on 6 and 9 August respectively, come during a European war. That coincidence raises with particular force the issue of the declared deterrent purpose of nuclear weapons. As a way into reflecting on that issue, it is helpful to consider rather more mundane examples of just how dominant a feature of our common life we have allowed deterrence to become.

When I travelled on the London Underground recently, the posters around the carriage, paid for by the TV Licensing Agency to encourage people to pay the licence fee, were all threats: “We’ve a van coming up your street”; “We’ve a database of all televisions”; “It’s a £1000 fine if you watch without one.” None expressed gratitude: “Wasn’t that a great Match of the Day yesterday; your licence feel helped us provide that”; “Thank you for supporting our journalists in providing the news you rely on.” Nothing of that kind; only threats; only deterrence.

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