This is slightly off topic, but laws and the punishment for breaking them (or threat of punishment) has never been a deterrent in our society. It's called "Deterrence theory" in the psych world.
Think of it like the "hot stove effect." We learn when we're young that touching a hot stove hurts. We learn this one of two ways: either by experiencing it ourselves, or by seeing someone else experience it. The pain is immediate and swift. If other people see the burn, they're less likely to touch the hot stove, too. Deterrence theory is based on the thought of action: if we make people think about what they're doing before they do it, and make them consider the ramifications, they'll be less likely to do it if the "pain" associated with the action is well-known -- so, deterrence theory also must focus on the publication of the pain associated with committing a crime. Basically, Deterrence theory focuses on the future action of an individual, and preventing that action with a threat of punishment. We have to "scare them straight"... ie, "click-it or ticket."
What this theory fails to comprehend is that crime is a rational choice based in a cost benefit analysis. As an example (safety questions aside), the pain associated with the fine for not wearing a seat belt is much less for some than it is for others. Personally, one of the reasons I wear my seat belt because I really don't want to have to pay the fine. $50 bucks to me hurts. But what does $50 dollars mean to someone who makes more money than I do? An unemployed person and a millionaire are forced to pay the same fine.
Deterrence theory isn't effective (and never has been) at deterring crime. Clearly, our justice system is neither immediate nor swift, and the "pain" isn't the same every time. Compounding the problem by creating more laws to break (and thus, more ability to "scare people straight") is not the answer, either.
That being said, I'm not sure what the best answer is, but it's clear we need to reform our current system. If we're going to punish someone for a crime committed, we must be consistent and fair as it relates to the individual, rather than punishing the public at-large. I believe in punishing the individual for what they do, and not attempting to regulate or control their behavior.
One thing I found interesting is the idea of the "day-fine", used in Finland. Basically, a person can be fined their income for a "day" (or multiple days, depending on the severity of the crime, up to 120 days), excluding most minor offenses. In 2001, a Finnish businessman with a yearly income of 10 million euros received a relatively mild punishment of six day-fines for driving though a red traffic light. Because the fine is a fixed percentage of taxable income, the amount totaled 26,000 euros.
... would a system like that be more effective? I wonder what the fine associated with grand larceny would be? Moreover, what would Bernie Madoff's fine be like?
I looked up "Ninjas" at Thesaurus.com.
Thesaurus.com: "Ninjas can not be found."
Well played, Ninjas. Well played.