It would be easy to multiply instances in support of the thesis that opinions which justify cruelty are inspired by cruel impulses. When we pass in review the opinions of former times which are now recognized as absurd, it will be found that nine times out of ten they were such as to justify the infliction of suffering. ... Consider how much brutality has been justified by the rhyme:
A dog, a wife, and a walnut tree,
The more you beat them the better they be.
I have no experience of the moral effect of flagellation on walnut trees, but no civilized person would now justify the rhyme as regards wives. The reformative effect of punishment is a belief that dies hard, chiefly I think, because it is so satisfying to our sadistic impulses.
Source: Bertrand Russell : Ideas That Have Harmed Mankind，1946
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