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Tyler Cowen

Making Room for Second Chances in the #MeToo Era

Second or even third chances are essential in life, but questions of forgiveness are never easy.

Too soon?

Too soon?

Photographer: Rich Fury/Getty Images North America
Updated on

The longer that the #MeToo movement continues, the more important these questions will become: When should offenders be rehabilitated, allowed to resume their careers, and readmitted to polite society? Whether we like it or not, as the list of wrongdoers grows, questions of forgiveness will begin to outnumber questions of punishment. The thing is, questions of forgiveness are never entirely easy.

Much Christian doctrine, and especially Catholicism, emphasizes the value of confession, forgiveness and redemption. Thus it is not hard to convince many Americans that sinners should be given a second chance. This impulse occasionally finds its way into policy; just last month, a prison-reform bill became law, reflecting notions that criminals can indeed be rehabilitated. In her book “The Up Side of Down,” Washington Post columnist Megan McArdle stresses how many features of American life, including bankruptcy law and startup culture, depend on second, third or even more chances.