This book asks why it is morally permissible for the state to punish people for breaking the law.
Boonin (philosophy, Univ. of Colorado, Boulder) argues against the theories that punishment may have good consequences and that victims are entitled to a measure of retribution. Readers will want to examine his arguments in detail, but, in short, he contends that punishment does intentional harm to people and is therefore wrong. Instead, he recommends restitution: those who break the law should be made to restore the property and happiness of those who have suffered. Obviously, murderers cannot restore life, and victims of rape cannot have the harm undone or their sense of security fully restored, but, he argues, something can be done to make the world a better place. However one assesses the arguments, though, it seems undeniable that some people need to be segregated because of their behavior. Although nothing in Boonin's argument appears to refute segregation as long as people are not harmed, it would be hard to distinguish it from punishment. The bibliography offers a rich choice of works on rival theories, but nonprofessional readers will do best to have in hand the long-established standard review of all the traditional arguments, A.C. Ewing's Morality of Punishment (1929). This book is intended for academic philosophers, but it should attract a wider audience.-Leslie Armour, Dominican Univ. Coll., Ottawa, Ont.