Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Death Penalty

Powerline highlights an essay by Theodore Dalrymple, who I much admire, on the death penalty.
Although, on balance, I am against the death penalty, I do not assume that those who are in favour of it are necessarily moral primitives, which abolitionists often give the impression of believing. For most of our history, the rightness of the death penalty has been taken for granted, and it cannot be that we are the first decent, reflective people ever to have existed.
That's refreshing in itself, and the way we used to approach moral questions.  At least, we aspired to approach them that way.  Perhaps we never did.  Dalymple gives both an historical perspective and an excellent back-and-forth on the topic.
In Britain, one of the effects of the abolition of the death penalty, the downward pressure on all prison sentences, has been little remarked. Punishment has to be roughly proportional to the gravity of the crime (exact proportionality cannot be achieved), but if murder attracts only 15 years’ imprisonment de facto, what sentences can be meted out to those who commit lesser, but still serious, crimes?


Grim said...

I cannot understand the perspective of those who decided to replace the death penalty with life imprisonments. “You know that bloodthirsty killer we caught, and that rapist? I think instead of killing them we should keep them around as long as we can.”

james said...

Stipulate that solitary confinement is cruel. (necessary though, especially during intake) Most of the imprisoned are predators of one stripe or another, if I read the Wisconsin prison statistics correctly. Some are exceptionally violent.

Do we owe the other inmates any protection? If we cannot isolate the exceptionally violent forever, nor release them to prey on the public, nor exile them in any sort of reliable fashion, nor turn them loose on other prisoners--what are we left with?

I can think of a few Saudi or Chinese sorts of punishments that come short of capital punishment--all of them cruel or unusual. Or we could drug them into a stupor for years--which probably also causes permanent damage.

Is worry about the death penalty something only rich societies do?

Aggie said...

The Death Penalty should always have a supremely high evidentiary bar to meet. But once met, the silliest aspect of this argument is when people start proposing that the Death Penalty is not a deterrent, quoting psuedo-evidence from the social sciences. Well, of course it is. If you execute the murderer, he's permanently deterred, ipso facto. Something to think about, especially when you start proposing to let convicted murderers out after a few years served, with time off for 'good' behavior.

Of course it also pre-supposes that our Criminal Justice system is not prone to corruption, or at least has some mechanism to monitor and root out institutional corruption before it become rife. Our own DOJ is proof that we are not there yet, or even in the same county.

stevo said...

Interesting how this subject brings out my inner Duterte. I am the least bloodthirsty man you could meet. Yet I find myself in favour of the death penalty. I guess the real problem is that you need to have some faith in the legal system. Which is becoming more difficult for me.