Classical school of criminality believed that rationality is the only guide to human actions. Cesare Beccaria and other leading philosophers of this school of thought argued that humans act rationally in evaluation of the actions to be done and those to be discarded. It is at this juncture the concept of consequentiality is taken into account. It is argued that before a human being takes on the course of action to follow, he/she carries out an arithmetic calculation of benefit-to-cost ratio, which is known as hedonic calculus. A rational being will give preference to pleasure against pains, and choose a strategy, which maximizes pleasure while at the same time minimizing the pains. The philosophers defended their argument by explaining that pain and pleasure are the two major results of our daily actions. The former is vice and the latter is morally good. Therefore, judgment will be based on maximization of what is morally good (pleasure), while at the same time maintaining vice (pain) on its low level. The beneficial in this case should be quantified on community basis; an act should be gauged on the percentage of the people who benefit from such an action. A higher percentage implies a good action, and vice versa.
Another major thought brought up by this school of thought, is that punishment is the basic tool for ensuring deterrence to social evils. They argue that instead of instituting long trials on a culprit, instant penalty will work best and this as a result will make people fear doing wrong. The idea of the argument is that the government should discard those things which do not bring happiness to society through punishment. It is also argued that punishment will only implement this purpose if there is equity in its administration at all. Crimes and the punishments must correlate proportionately.
Jeremy Bentham has left a legacy in relation to law reformist. His contribution to classical school is well seen through his classical utilitarianism. He is accredited and regarded as the forebear of the classical utilitarianism. Bentham was against French revolution, which used fierce, and wanted a drastic change in British society. He believed that human actions are controlled by nature and not the sovereign power. He argued that nature provides pleasure and pain as two rulers that control human actions. Utilitarianism is a concept of evaluating good or wrong acts on the basis of consequences. The concept considers an individual rational enough to make decisions on various causes of actions and will tend to select that act, which produces maximum satisfaction and pleasure to him/her as an individual and the community on the whole. On the other hand, he/she will as much as possible do away with those actions with minimum benefits, i.e., the ones which course of action will lead to pain, be it on individual ground or in the whole spectrum of the society.
Cesare Beccare was against cruelty as well as death penalty. Instead, he advocated for certain instant punishment, though lesser concentrations should be given to punishment as the means of solving the crime problem in a society. The government should focus on other means of eliminating crime, for instance, through civil education and acknowledgement of good behaviors by offereing rewards. Another significant input was that of equity: he advocated legislative procedure in solving criminal disputes instead of the judicial way, since there were no professional ethical issues observed by the judges in deciding on the punishment to give, alternatively they preferred their own prejudices. Beccare also argued that utility must be present in making decisions on the punishment to be installed. It means that the pain of the punishment should outweigh the benefit that is realizable from the act.
James Q Wilson’s argument lays more emphasis on deterrence of crime in society. \Even though he believes that punishment is the best model of crime deterrence, he puts more focus on the root causes of the crime. He argued that the government does not possess proper skills for curtailing crime. According to his argument, the government should opt for those strategies that maximize the risks of the crime, and thereby, reduce the benefits of the act. He is a follower of rationalism, and believes that a rational being will evade the acts, which have a higher risk and relatively low benefits.
In a nutshell, the three philosophers view mankind as a rational beings who will like to maximize those actions, which will bring pleasure to them, and discard those with pain in them. They perceive punishment but on equity basis as the best policy to curb crime. Their legacy still remains pressing nowadays.