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The Left is wrong on capital punishment There's nothing principled about its rejection of the death penalty


December 1, 2021   5 mins

The state of Oklahoma plans to execute Bigler Jobe Stouffer II on December 9, and officials there are hoping for an uneventful procedure. For the past decade, Oklahoma’s lethal injection program has attracted international scrutiny for its botched executions, including one in 2014 that lasted nearly 45 minutes and another this past October in which the prisoner convulsed and vomited over himself.

Citing these events and their potential conflict with the American constitution’s prohibition of “cruel and unusual punishment”, Stouffer’s lawyer appealed for a stay of execution; but the request was denied. The 79-year-old was convicted of killing a woman and seriously injuring a man in 1985. He has been on death row for 36 years.

I am a single-issue voter because of capital punishment. I would support almost any politician committed to abolishing it. I think the practice infects societies with the singularly putrid idea that someone, or some bureaucracy, could have a right to the body and soul of another person. And I suppose I should feel encouraged by the fact that public opinion in the US is turning against the death penalty, that the Democratic Party declared support for its abolition in its 2016 platform, and that voicing this stance appears a necessity for aspiring politicians on the American Left.

I should feel encouraged, but I’m not. What is notable in the Left’s new anti-death penalty rhetoric is the absence of any principled rejection of capital punishment. Instead, the Left focuses on racial bias in the implementation of capital punishment. This focus no doubt responds to a horrifying record of the death penalty’s use in the United States, but it is also symptomatic of a Left that is reluctant to profess values other than equality, shackling social and moral analysis in the process.

Things weren’t always this way. Old guard voices on the Left, such as Bernie Sanders or the American Civil Liberties Union, continue to condemn the death penalty by citing the inherent value of human life or the need to limit the power of the state. But you will struggle to hear that language from progressivism’s frontline ambassadors today. President Joe Biden, once a hawk on capital punishment, now clarifies through spokespeople that he has “grave concerns about whether capital punishment, as currently implemented, is consistent with the values that are fundamental to our sense of justice and fairness”. Vice President Kamala Harris agrees, and stated during the 2020 race that she opposed the practice for “how it has been applied, which has been to really do it in a way that has been [
] against people of color”.

Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg introduced his call to end capital punishment by claiming that it “has always been a discriminatory practice”. And in August 2021, 17 Senate Democrats signed an open letter to Biden urging full repeal on that grounds that “there are serious concerns about arbitrariness in the application of the death penalty, its disparate impact on people of color, and the alarming number of exonerations in capital cases”.

When my home state of Colorado repealed the death penalty in 2020, the main justification offered by the bill’s leading sponsor, Democratic State Representative Adrienne Benavidez, was that “it has been a very discriminatory practice, not just towards people of color, but people within geographic areas within the state”. As our Democratic governor, Jared Polis, signed the repeal into law, he justified it with the argument that “the death penalty cannot be, and never has been, administered equitably in the State of Colorado”.

Concerns about racism in death sentences are justified. While some scholars suggest that minority defendants are no longer at greater risk of receiving a death sentence, black people appear disproportionately vulnerable to wrongful convictions, and research shows that the execution rate remains significantly higher for murderers of white, rather than black, victims — up to 17 times higher, according to a review published in 2020.

Those statistics make for frightful commentary on the state of racism in American society. But they are not indictments of capital punishment per se. If the worst thing about capital punishment is inequality in its application, can’t we solve the problem by executing more white people?

Equality by itself is hardly irreconcilable with the death penalty. It is at the heart of the most powerful philosophical justification for capital punishment, that of Immanuel Kant. Following talionic law, Kant regarded the death penalty as an indispensable centerpiece for a rational justice system.

As he wrote in The Doctrine of Right:

“What kind and what amount of punishment is it that public justice makes its principle and measure? None other than the principle of equality (in the position of the needle on the scale of justice), to include no more to one side than to the other.”

In other words, crime and punishment must be identical. The rational response to a killing is a killing, always. And the ability to implement such a response was, according to Kant, the hallmark of a dignified society that had overcome animalistic, sentimental impulses.

We can fault Kant for attempting to impose an abstract rationalisation onto irrational actors, but we cannot say that his ideal system is biased. So long as it enforces equality in the proportionality of punishments and the universality of their application, it is the very model of impartiality.

Kant’s reasoning helps us to see why criticism of capital punishment, if it is to confront the practice in general, must observe values beyond equality, such as the sanctity of human life and the limits of state power. On its own, the principle of equality struggles to explain why states can claim sovereignty over to their subjects’ property or freedom but not over their lives. Nor can it help us distinguish among different types of state killings; say, the instrumental killing of a renegade shooter in emergency law versus the symbolic killing in the execution of a prisoner.

But if today’s anti-death penalty voices are motivated by values other than equality, they seem uninterested in saying so. This may have to do with entrenched rhetorical habits in American politics. Libertarians and conservatives own the language of limited state power, while appeals to the sanctity of human life are mostly associated with the anti-abortion movement. Conversely, death-penalty abolitionists may believe that the best way to cultivate support for any position among leftists is by tying it to anti-racism. Recent survey data suggests declines in support for the death penalty are driven by shifts among key Left-wing demographics like the young and the college-educated.

But the reason for this silence may also be ideological — a reflection of the belief that equality is the Left’s only worthwhile cause. Historically, after all, the Left has been suspicious of ideals like nationalism and religious faith on the grounds that they can distract from inequality. Perhaps now it also considers conversations about universal human dignity, compassion, and the rights of the individual too off-topic to suffer.

Such ideological narrowing stultifies and dehumanises. A political culture that cannot think outside of group disparities and power differentials will struggle to identify, describe, and respond to some social problems. Similarly, if the death penalty were to be abolished because of a technicality in its implementation, it would be a missed opportunity. A principled rejection of capital punishment is about far more than capital punishment. It is about the incalculable value of human life, the non-sanctity of mobs, collectives, and bureaucracies, and the demand to reduce violence throughout society.


Benjamin Teitelbaum is an American ethnographer and political commentator. He is author of War for Eternity: The Return of Traditionalism and the Rise of the Populist Right.

BenTeitel

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Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
2 years ago

I am glad you believe so thoroughly in Rights – like the right of every criminal to have access to a victim….

“I think the practice infects societies with the singularly putrid idea that someone, or some bureaucracy, could have a right to the body and soul of another person.”

WTF??????? Have the right to their soul? Come on. And no one wants their body – just that they pay for their cruelty. Bit hysterical there. But what about their victims? They tormented and violated and wrecked people out of choosing to do so. That is unacceptable, totally.

I am pro death penalty. If someone does something so despicable then society needs to remove them from society completely. No more ability to harm Prison workers, other prisoners, or even themselves. I just cannot see why this is an issue. And because it is right. You kill for your advantage, for cruelty, for some reason you have no right to… Then what is more just than that you die?

Innocent people die every day, we all die, it is just the result of life, and so we shorten it for those who do evil, so what is wrong with that?

You mad liberals, you kill the innocent and protect the evil. Anti-Death Penalty – Pro Abortion on demand… You all are crazy.

Karl Francis
Karl Francis
2 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

Intelligent, heartfelt post. I totally agree with you. The protection of society should be paramount. Crimes of dreadful brutality and cruelty must be countered, NOT EXCUSED.

karolpawlik85
karolpawlik85
2 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

Capital punishment is unjust because it will never be applied to those in high positions who cause mass murder through political or institutional means (unless they’re on the losing side of a war). Hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis died because of the Iraq war, which was started on false premises. Should everyone responsible for that debacle, including the entire Bush administration and every Congressman who voted for the war, be rounded up and executed or was it A-OK because their lies had state legitimacy at the time?

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
2 years ago
Reply to  karolpawlik85

Getting pretty fuzzy logic there. War, and basically Military/war Ethics are a fascinating line of thinking, maybe you should look into them as they are quite different to civil and individual ethics really, and very much so historically.

Maybe start with ‘The History of Warfare’ by John Keegan for an easy read, and necessary history, as people today are so utterly ignorant of history and war. Think of the great Post WWII war crime trials, Nuremberg and Japan. A tiny amount of people were hanged and imprisoned, for what involved the deaths of 100 million, sort as a representative group, not actual punishing individuals – Gen Yamashita was a particularly interesting judgement:

General Tomoyuki Yamashita was hanged in Manila on February 23, 1946. The fate of this officer, a first-class fighting man,affirmed something new in the annals of war. For Yamashita did not die for murder, or for directing other men to do murder in his name. Yamashita lost his life not because he was a bad or evil commander, but simply because he was a commander, and the men he commanded had done unspeakably evil things.”

It really is not reasonable to conflate street crime with Political war. Use separate times to argue each.

JP Martin
JP Martin
2 years ago
Reply to  karolpawlik85

I am guessing that you are not a fan of Max Weber lol

Bret Larson
Bret Larson
2 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

They may deserve death, but do you, as society, deserve to be their killer?

Cheryl Jones
Cheryl Jones
2 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

Yes I object to that as much as I object to the Conservative right’s obsession with life at conception and the death penalty. Both positions equally contradictory and indefensible. There is a middle ground. Some abortion should be acceptable, the earlier the better, but on demand like it’s nothing? Just plain wrong. and some people really do deserve the death penalty. I definitely sway more your way, I see zero point in keeping scumbags alive at taxpayers expense when there is zero chance of rehabilitation and zero room for sympathy considering the heinousness of some of their crimes. The scum who killed the little 6yo in the UK that’s been in the headlines this week – I wouldn’t feel an ounce of remorse if they got the Chair. There are 8 billion people on this planet, we’re not running out and they wouldn’t be missed.

John Riordan
John Riordan
2 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

It is possible to be a right-winger and still to oppose the death penalty – I am one such person.

If nothing else, the existence of Death Row in the USA is a joke anyway – did you know that the leading cause of death on Death Row is old age? How is justice served by killing an old man thirty years after the crime that got him arrested? And after he’s cost the State a billion dollars in prison time, legal fees, justice costs etc exhausting the vast appeals process? Doubtless you’ll say that there’s no need for this and he should be strung up outside the courtroom on the same day he’s convicted but really, is that progress?

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
2 years ago

I’ve no moral objection to the death penalty, there are undoubtedly some evil people who deserve to be made into a human swingball for their crimes. However I’m against it because firstly I don’t believe it’s a deterrent, the murder rate in countries that have the death penalty never seem to be any better than those without. My main reason though is that if somebody is wrongfully convicted, you can’t release a dead man from prison. I’m also not a fan of how the Americans drag out the whole process. To let a man rot in jail for 30 years just to bump him off at the end seems highly immoral

Tim Bartlett
Tim Bartlett
2 years ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

One thing you never hear is that someone would be happy for their own, innocent, children to be killed as the inevitable consequence of the death penalty. They always assume it’ll be someone else’s.

Simon Denis
Simon Denis
2 years ago
Reply to  Tim Bartlett

These are pacifist objections. Logically, they prevent the declaration of any war, because of collateral damage. And even the poor soldiers are ordered, indoctrinated – so who are we to fight and perhaps kill them? Given the practical weakness of the pacifist case in war – if good men do nothing, evil triumphs – is it not equally feeble in the enforcement of justice? Yes, the death penalty will bring a tiny number of innocents to the gallows – but its absence means the far greater injustice of leaving the dead unavenged and the bereaved inconsolate all the time. The left and even the centre have a finnicking horror of the realities of human nature. These include, as a simple point of fact, that vengeance assuages grief. And as Lord Chancellor Bacon observes that vengeance is wild justice, so justice must be vengeance tamed – but vengeance still.

hayden eastwood
hayden eastwood
2 years ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Billy Bob, the argument of false accusation for the death penalty is, to my observation, the strongest argument against it.

The other argument you raise about capital punishment not deterring murder risks a correlation-causation confusion.

It is impossible to unambiguously conclude from the numbers that there is no deterrent effect of capital punishment. It could well be that capital punishment is a response to the high murder rates and not a cause of the high murder rates (as some leftwing pundits claim) or, for that matter, an indication of ineffective policy.

To really tell whether capital punishment has an effect, or not, we must know what the crime rate would have been in the absence of capital punishment, which is difficult (if not impossible) to establish.
Moreover, prison is filled with people who are high on the narcissistic spectrum (because high narcissism levels allow criminals to falsely believe that they are able to dupe law enforcement). What we don’t know, and what we cannot reliably investigate, is what proportion of rational, humble psychopaths, perform a cost-benefit analysis of cold blooded murder and decide against it precisely because of capital punishment.
Since the criminal justice system only effectively investigates people who, by definition, are not deterred by the threat of punishment, it is unsurprising that certain academics conclude that punishment does not work.
One need only look at how the normal population responded to drunk-driving prosecutions to see that deterrents can (and often do) work.
The question is, do such deterrents work for people with a propensity for murder, and who are motivated to kill others when the rewards outweigh the perceived risks? I’m not sure anyone has a good answer to that.

Last edited 2 years ago by hayden eastwood
Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
2 years ago

There are arguments made by reputable medical/legal people that the largest cause of death is in fact medical error.

This a reality of collateral damage, the medical practitioners try their best, but their 6 minutes with the patient, to make a diagnosis and a treatment plan, just is not all that safe.

We accept this as there is no reasonable answer.

In death penalty cases the state goes to HUGE effort to not kill the innocent – and also it would be remarkable if someone utterly innocent of ever doing anything wrong was judged wrongly – it may happen, but again – life is just that way. When Dresden and Coventry and Tokyo were firebombed and hundreds of thousands killed….

Life cannot be regulated to zero risk and still have any society function, and without society we all die – it is not reasonable to only allow something based on zero risk – the best means are put in place, and that is the best can be done.

Cheryl Jones
Cheryl Jones
2 years ago

If they are not deterred then I imagine that is a reason why the death penalty is required for them.

Matt M
Matt M
2 years ago

Americans beware! We got rid of the rope on the promise that murderers would spend the rest of their lives in prison. Fifty years later and the average time spent in prison for murder in the UK is 9 years!

Last edited 2 years ago by Matt M
AC Harper
AC Harper
2 years ago
Reply to  Matt M

I would let some convicted murders out sooner if it was beyond reasonable doubt that they would not kill again. I’m thinking of some particular crimes of passion that were one-offs.
Those that were convicted of murders on more than one occasion I’d be resigned but resolute, and require them to be executed.
Those in the middle (probably the largest category) who killed for gain or personal satisfaction could be locked up until it was safe to release them, possibly never.

Matt M
Matt M
2 years ago
Reply to  AC Harper

Sounds like a fair system.
I think there is no practical possibility of capital punishment returning in the UK. In which case I would like us to lock up all murderers on whole-life tariffs.
I would allow the Home Secretary to commute the sentence, so your crime of passion could be reduced to 10 years or whatever.
But crucially I would take the decision to commute out of the hands of judges. If the jury convict someone of pre-meditated murder the judge must pass a whole-life in prison sentence. It can only be changed by a politician who ultimately answers to the people.
Otherwise, over time the sentences will get shorter and shorter again until we end up in the crazy situation we saw last week where Colin Pitchfork (murdered two 15 year old girls) is out on parole and stalking women again.

Last edited 2 years ago by Matt M
Karl Francis
Karl Francis
2 years ago
Reply to  Matt M

Absolutely.

Marcia McGrail
Marcia McGrail
2 years ago
Reply to  AC Harper

Ah, yes..the ‘give them a second chance’ thought process for second or more occasions murderers. Perhaps you would recind that opinion if your family were the victim(s) of such evil?

AC Harper
AC Harper
2 years ago
Reply to  Marcia McGrail

Are you replying to my post, because that’s not what I said.

Jacqueline Burns
Jacqueline Burns
2 years ago
Reply to  AC Harper

Presumably, if they did kill again, you would agree to them being executed. Just a shame that another innocent (or more) would have to die for your conscience to be clear.

Simon Denis
Simon Denis
2 years ago
Reply to  Matt M

As with abortion, originally meant to be “controlled” now a free for all. The left has perverted morality to such an extent that the innocent are routinely butchered in their mothers’ wombs – without anaesthetic – whilst murderers are indulged and excused – always supposing they parrot a sufficiency of right-on pap to the parole board, that is.

Karl Francis
Karl Francis
2 years ago
Reply to  Matt M

Excellent post. Society is simply not being protected to the kind of standard that most of us would like to see.
We have, over decades, been shockingly let down by all governments.
A referendum on this matter is long overdue.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
2 years ago
Reply to  Matt M

Tony Martin, Sgt Blackman – the un-guilty pronounced guilty for political reasons………

Lefties have a bad track record of persecuting people for political ideologies – like the most significant USA Prosecutions lately – legal, president, guilt and motivation are not the issue – it is done for Neo-Marxist appeasement.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago

I used to be anti capital punishment, but now I am not so sure for the reason that so many criminals are released before term and commit more crimes. The West seems to be so soft on crime. I guess my argument should be that the entire system needs to be tightened up.
And a note to the author
 progressives are looking for equity and not equality – this concept is especially dangerous when trying for a robust and fair judicial system.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
2 years ago

Unless everybody has the same start in life and same opportunities then you can’t have equality either

Martin Bollis
Martin Bollis
2 years ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Or we could just accept that inequality is an immutable part of the human condition. We can do things to ameliorate it but attempts at abolishing it can only be authoritarian (see Harrison Bergeron below) and inevitably doomed to fail.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

What we know: Equal Opportunity: no-one has exactly the same start in life and the same opportunities as another person – even within class and racial groups. Equity: logically and experientially we have seen the huge pitfalls of equity, which ironically results in both racism and inefficiency.
Are you then suggesting that both equity and equality of opportunity get binned?

JP Martin
JP Martin
2 years ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

This sounds like an argument for eugenics because much is determined before birth.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
2 years ago

I know – to a liberal the answer to imbalance in Prisoner numbers by identity is that more of the side lacking numbers must be jailed too, irrespective if they commit crimes.

The snag is for every male prisoner 9 women need locking away as well. Equity demands it, or let 9 violent, psychotic men out instead. That means a vast number of more innocents will be brutalized, which is just collateral damage in the march to an ‘Equitable World’.

F***ing insane Neo-Marxist, Post Modernism at work.

‘Harrison Bergeron’, a dystopia story by Kurt Vonnegut. The office of ‘The US Handicapper General’ is coming up for appointment under Biden’s initiative 3008.

“In the year 2081, the 211th, 212th, and 213th amendments to the Constitution dictate that all Americans are fully equal and not allowed to be smarter, better-looking, or more physically able than anyone else. The Handicapper General’s agents enforce the equality laws, forcing citizens to wear “handicaps”: masks for those who are too beautiful, loud radios that disrupt thoughts inside the ears of intelligent people, and heavy weights for the strong or athletic.
One April, 14-year-old Harrison Bergeron, an intelligent, athletic, and good-looking teenager, is taken away from his parents, George and Hazel Bergeron, by the government. They are barely aware of the tragedy, as Hazel has “average” intelligence (a euphemism for stupidity), and George has a handicap radio installed by the government to regulate his above-average intelligence.
Hazel and George watch ballet on television. They comment on the dancers, who are weighed down to counteract their gracefulness and masked to hide their attractiveness. George’s thoughts are continually interrupted by the different noises emitted by his handicap radio, which piques Hazel’s curiosity and imagination regarding handicaps. Noticing his exhaustion, Hazel urges George to lie down and rest his “handicap bag”, 47 pounds (21 kg) of weights locked around George’s neck. She suggests taking a few of the weights out of the bag, but George resists, aware of the illegality of such an action”

Read the story…….

It is what is coming… ‘Equity’, but first they take all your stuff and money and give it to those who ….. well, you know how it works….

Alison Tyler
Alison Tyler
2 years ago

I suspect increasingly that people confuse equity and equality and assume incorrectly that they are interchangeable.

Matthew Powell
Matthew Powell
2 years ago

I have no moral objection to the death penalty. I believe that there are circumstances in which the killing of another human is permissible.

However, the judicial system, in my opinion can never provide the accuracy and impartiality to administer such a terminal punishment. The Jury system, like democracy, is the worst way of determining guilt, aside from all others. Juries can and do arrive at guilty verdicts, for the most irrational and even contradictory reasons and yet their decision must stand. Any punishment must be tempered by the fallibility of the system which arrives at it.

Nor can there be degrees of guilt to allow the death penalty to be permitted. There are cases where the defendant is clearly guilty but introducing a spectrum of probabilistic guilt, rather than bar of “beyond reasonable doubt” could likely lead to a higher proportion of innocents going to prison at the lower end of the spectrum and I agree that “it is better to let the crime of a guilty person go unpunished than to condemn the innocent.” Especially in an age where political activists are eroding the presumption of innocence until proven guilty.

Finally, whilst some deserve to rot in prison for their crimes. The sins committed in our youth are often perpetrated by a very different person than the one who will exist 20-30 years in the future. Individuals can change and no longer pose a threat to society. I see no reason beyond a certain point to continue to both burden society with costs of incarceration and imprison the potentially reformed.

We cannot offer an opportunity for redemption, to those we have already killed.

Arnold Grutt
Arnold Grutt
2 years ago
Reply to  Matthew Powell

“Finally, whilst some deserve to rot in prison for their crimes.”

To say this is to me morally worse than the careful application of the death penalty.
Liberals have never understood that the human understanding of ‘justice’ as a righting of unbalanced scales is universally seen as right and instinctive and always has been. It underlies all law.

Last edited 2 years ago by Arnold Grutt
AC Harper
AC Harper
2 years ago
Reply to  Matthew Powell

I have no moral objection to the death penalty. I believe that there are circumstances in which the killing of another human is permissible.”
Fair enough, so let’s move on to details. Perhaps we should only execute convicted murderers who have killed on separate occasions? That reduces the risk of judicial error. And it also puts proven murderers beyond their ability to murder innocent people yet again, whether other prisoners, prison guards, or the general public.

Dennis Boylon
Dennis Boylon
2 years ago
Reply to  AC Harper

Serial killers should be an easy one. I mention above… war criminals or people who steal the life savings of the elderly. These “white collar” crimes are far more destructive to society than most realize. People who are given special status and power in society should be judged harsher not more leniently. This seems to be where our “justice” system is most broken. It is too easy to buy off judges and law enforcement if you have the means. It is too easy to break the law and get away with it once you are wealthy and in a position of influence.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
2 years ago
Reply to  Matthew Powell

You might find it difficult to find a jury who would convict if the death penalty was on the table

Dennis Boylon
Dennis Boylon
2 years ago
Reply to  Matthew Powell

This is close to my position. If it was possible for humans to manage and judge better… I think it should be used for proven serial killers and wealthy /powerful criminals. Particularly those that commit war crimes or steal the life savings of the elderly. They can afford good legal defense. The problem is humans aren’t really up to the task of judging others and sticking to laws and rules. The powerful bend everything to their favor or just judges and law enforcement off. Just look at the revelations coming out from the Maxwell trial and it just started.

Jacqueline Burns
Jacqueline Burns
2 years ago
Reply to  Matthew Powell

But surely the death penalty is for a heinous crime which HAS BEEN committed. They can become a saint afterwards when they stand before the great judge whom we all will face.

Arnold Grutt
Arnold Grutt
2 years ago

“I am a single-issue voter because of capital punishment. I would support almost any politician committed to abolishing it. I think the practice infects societies with the singularly putrid idea that someone, or some bureaucracy, could have a right to the body and soul of another person.”

The second sentence of this is incomprehensible to me.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
2 years ago
Reply to  Arnold Grutt

And let us not forget the great line from the movie ‘Caddyshack’

Judge Smails:
I’ve sentenced boys younger than you to the gas chamber. Didn’t want to do it. I felt I owed it to them.”

andrew harman
andrew harman
2 years ago

My opposition to capital punishment has always rested on one simple principle: it just gives the state far too much power; that the state should not have the right to officially and legally take a life.
This is despite my conviction that there are some, owing to their deeds, who do not deserve to continue living.

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
2 years ago
Reply to  andrew harman

I think this is a very weak attitude. On the one hand I have a conviction that
. and on the other hand I have a conviction that
. OK. A short answer is, “I don’t know” which is hardly worth a post.

andrew harman
andrew harman
2 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

No, I think you are being facile and condescending. Ultimately I am opposed to it and the reason is not mitigated by my subsidiary thoughts. What an individual deserves and what actually should happen to them are somewhat different things. There is a distinction. Important word was despite.ï»ż

Last edited 2 years ago by andrew harman
Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
2 years ago
Reply to  andrew harman

I see myself as a practical person and theory-for-sake-of-theory gives me the creeps.
When Harold Wilson banned the death penalty he made a speech which focussed on the difficulty politicians suffer when they are involved in the issue. This is what is happening in the USA (mostly). There is a law which allows capital punishment, the judges follow the law, there are many appeals and pleas and the Governor (politician) ducks the issue and passes it on to his successor.
I would be pro-capital punishment in theory but I know it would not work in practice. So, no good.

andrew harman
andrew harman
2 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

I would be pro-capital punishment in theory but I know it would not work in practice. So, no good.

I think this is a very weak attitude. On the one hand I have a conviction that
. and on the other hand I have a conviction that
. OK. A short answer is, “I don’t know” which is hardly worth a post…..

So the truth is we are actually both somewhat conflicted?

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
2 years ago
Reply to  andrew harman

No, I am against laws which can’t be policed. The government in the UK just made a law which said that it is illegal to touch your phone when you are driving. But you can use the touchscreen on your car as often as you want. You can look at text messages on your smart watch, which takes some concentration because of the small script.

If laws can’t be policed or there is a lack of will for the policing, then the laws are totally meaningless.

andrew harman
andrew harman
2 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

So in fact you are for it in principle but against it in practice whereas I am against it in principle and ultimately in practice, even though I think that there are some who probably deserve it, which is a different issue. You are more conflicted than I am.
All practical positions in the end have to have at least some basis in principle. So to say you are only opposed to something because you consider it impractical is pure evasion.

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
2 years ago
Reply to  andrew harman

I am for many things. I am for a health service which is a service. I am for children being forced to understand the concept of risk instead of being protected from the world. I am for Trump.

But I also need to be a realist and see the world as it is and not in some ideal dream. Where is the problem?

I am not conflicted. I try to take on practical things and not get sidetracked with idealised situations.

Last edited 2 years ago by Chris Wheatley
andrew harman
andrew harman
2 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

My position is not idealised. It is based on a realistic appraisal of how large the state should be (something many of us have become concerned about I think in recent times) and the practical implications of that. I take your point that there is a gap between what we would like and what is reality but you were in error to assume that I was trying to have it both ways. I wasn’t.

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
2 years ago
Reply to  andrew harman

OK! Truce?

andrew harman
andrew harman
2 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

I think we have reached a measure of consensus, or at least as much as we can!

Doug Pingel
Doug Pingel
2 years ago
Reply to  andrew harman

As Isaac Asimov said, “Don’t let your morals stop you from doing what’s right” Followed by Winston Churchill’s, “Sometimes, someone has to do what has to be done.”
One of the biggest arguements against capital punishments was the need for absolute proof of guilt but surely with modern (scientific) methods of detection and analysis that proof is more easily found.
I think [on edit – I know] that there are several categories of murder for which I would be happy to take on the duties of State Executioner.

Last edited 2 years ago by Doug Pingel
Karl Francis
Karl Francis
2 years ago
Reply to  Doug Pingel

Totally agree. Wickedness must be countered.

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
2 years ago

Libertarians and conservatives own the language of limited state power, while appeals to the sanctity of human life are mostly associated with the anti-abortion movement.

I always find it really weird that the people most opposed to the killing of criminals are largely the same as those who most support the killing of unborn innocents.
It’s not a potential-miscarriage-of-justice objection either, usually. People opposed to the death penalty are usually opposed to it even in cases where’s no doubt the perp did it. So there are people who think actual killers should not be killed, but that unquestionably harmless unborn infants should be.
The argument for abortion is sometimes that the kid, if born, would have had a rotten life anyway. If that is an argument for abortion, however, then it’s logically also an argument for infanticide, paraplegicide, and of course for capital punishment of people who’d otherwise spend the rest of their days behind bars.
I’m opposed to capital punishment on the practical grounds that if the verdict is mistaken, the consequences are irreversible. If someone is wrongly jailed, they can be released and – monetarily at least – compensated somewhat, then live out their life with their good name restored. Capital punishment ensures this can’t happen, and you have to rely on the public sector to be sure it never needs to. What could possibly go wrong?

Last edited 2 years ago by Jon Redman
Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
2 years ago

“The Left is wrong about capital punishment.”

It is hard for me to see the issue as Left vs Right. The title is just to get UnHerd members into an anti-Left rant.

As usual, the whole thing fails with the the politicians – ANY politicians. The government can make laws but then in extreme cases, the politicians have to carry out the laws. Question: what class of people have the least backbone and always want to be seen to do the ‘right’ thing?

The politicians fail and people are left on Death Row for 35 years.

Last edited 2 years ago by Chris Wheatley
R S Foster
R S Foster
2 years ago

…can’t help thinking that if there is a principled objection to taking the life of a convicted murderer…the possibility of a principled objection to taking the life of a wholly innocent but unborn child needs to be somehow wished away. Not least because the argument for the executing the murderer is about it’s overall moral value to the whole of society…the argument for killing the unborn child is…ultimately…about the convenience of the woman carrying it…

James Joyce
James Joyce
2 years ago

I’m not a one-issue voter here, but I agree that this is a complete disgrace for the US and that Europe and other civilized countries tolerate this. At times, some European Pharma companies have refused to provide the drugs used in executions if they could determine, but I have a different approach.
Suppose the people involved in this–judges, politicians, the US Supreme Court justices, were refused entry to Europe because they are involved in this? The Supreme Court members are not overworked, some like to summer in Italy, give lectures–suppose they were refused entry into the EU because of this? Governor of a state signing a death warrant? Same.
This would generate a lot of news and would certainly focus the media on the issue.
I completely agree that the hard left seeing this and everything else through only a racial lens is wrong. Same with the war on drugs.

Dustshoe Richinrut
Dustshoe Richinrut
2 years ago

I don’t think President Biden’s clarification through his spokespersons, as quoted in the piece, is a clarification. The “grave concerns” part is a slick way to hide the ambiguity of the words that follow after.
Well done spokespeople people!

Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
2 years ago

It’s good to see a principled rejection of capital punishment. I have swung on this – first a supporter, then against for purely practical reasons, and have now, after much thought, settle into a position of opposition from the point of the sanctity of life. I do believe a person or nation should be able to protect itself against aggression, so I’m not a pacifist, though.

Colin Elliott
Colin Elliott
2 years ago

I was puzzled about the headline ” The Left is wrong on capital punishment. There’s nothing principled about its rejection of the death penalty”, until I realised we’re talking about the USA, because actually, the Left has proved itself exceedingly keen on the death penalty, preferably after a ‘confession’, and based on offences like being ‘traitors’ to being ‘critical of the leadership’.

Cheryl Jones
Cheryl Jones
2 years ago

I have been brought up to believe the death penalty is wrong and uncivilised. But the older I get the more I think culling our society of truly evil individuals is a far greater benefit than cost. The only caveat is to be 100% certain. Some terrorists by virtue of self immolation or a sharpshooter’s gun, get the death penalty regardless and it feels like justice.

John Riordan
John Riordan
2 years ago

So this array of left-wingers whose concern about capital punishment is about how the effects are demographically distributed instead of the principle issue of whether the State should have the right to execute people, presumably they’re fine with capital punishment as long as there’s no racial injustice involved?

I suspect we could have a bit of fun with this: get an article published in the New York Times that recommends the use of quotas to manage execution targets, with five white people to be executed for every black person. This could only be achieved of course by making more crimes capital offences for white people, but that’s fine because racial justice is more important, right?

I bet that if this was written in a sufficiently serious tone and with enough of the left’s preferred rhetorical bullshit, loads of supposedly intelligent people would probably agree with it.

MJ Reid
MJ Reid
2 years ago

The death penalty only deters the person you have put to death, nobody else. If it did, the USA and, for example, Saudi Arabia would be crime free. They are not. That in its self proves that the death penalty does not work and is simply vengeance by the state.

Legislators have to take take the emotion out of the justice system. Emotion has no place in deciding the sentence for someone who has done wrong. Neither does religion have a place in justice legislation.

To be fair, legislation on justice should be based on the UN Convention on Human Rights, which was written after WW1 to prevent the Holocaust and what happened in Japan and Burma happening again. The death penalty is an abuse of a person’s hunan rights and should be abolished in all countries not just the USA. Any country that thinks it okay to murder their citizens cannot be called civilised and needs to be condemned for human rights abuses.

Let’s call out the USA on its human rights abuses in the same way we call out China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, North Korea and Afghanistan… There are many!

MJ Reid
MJ Reid
2 years ago

The death penalty only deters the person you have put to death, nobody else. If it did, the USA and, for example, Saudi Arabia would be crime free. They are not. That in its self proves that the death penalty does not work and is simply vengeance by the state.

Legislators have to take take the emotion out of the justice system. Emotion has no place in deciding the sentence for someone who has done wrong. Neither does religion have a place in justice legislation.

To be fair, legislation on justice should be based on the UN Convention on Human Rights, which was written after WW1 to prevent the Holocaust and what happened in Japan and Burma happening again. The death penalty is an abuse of a person’s hunan rights and should be abolished in all countries not just the USA. Any country that thinks it okay to murder their citizens cannot be called civilised and needs to be condemned for human rights abuses.

Let’s call out the USA on its human rights abuses in the same way we call out China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, North Korea and Afghanistan… There are many!

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
2 years ago

Aleister Crowley?

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
2 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

Hmm, hadn’t read it so wouldn’t have known that.

Samuel Gee
Samuel Gee
2 years ago

I’m not impressed by this essay. It leaves out the fact that save for the 8th Amendment penal policy is for the individual states to decide. That’s why any national ban requires you to provide a constitutional reason for the ban. Back in 70s the 8th Amendment itself was used to put a moratorium on CP. The methods of CP were deemed to be cruel and unusual. The SCOTUS could not ban capital pinishment directly but could ban almost all of the then current methods and vicariously CP itself. That was rolled back and some states opted for a medicalised procedure to get over the frying and gassing objections.
The reason why the left has opted to use the equal protection part of the 14th Amendment is not a lack of principle as such but a realisation that finding the electoral majority to incorporate a new Constitutional amendment banning CP outright does not look possible. It would require a two-thirds majority vote in both the House of Representatives and the Senate or by a constitutional convention called for by two-thirds of the State legislatures.
So the 8th Amendment objection having been overcome they are now using the 14th.
For my part and for the record I don’t have a principled objection to CP. I am not a pacifist and the state routinely enters into actions such as war and armed policing which results in death of citizens and others. Even the mundane issue of arming of police officers requires that we accept a priori that the officer acting as an agent of the State may be required to use lethal force in certain circumstances. Circumstances much less prescribed than those at play in a court room.
I don’t advocate a return to CP in the UK for practical reasons but unless you are some sort of anarchist, pacifist denying the state the right to exist and/or avoid using lethal force in all and any circumstances (which would amount de facto to the end of the state), then you have already conceded the actual principle.

Jonathan Story
Jonathan Story
2 years ago

I remember the 1960s, when the Jenkinsites used to argue in the media that “of course, the death penalty is not a deterrent”! The “of course” was there to tell you that your intelligence was inferior to theirs, and the rest of the phrase was there to poo-poo the idea that anybody in the heat of passion would think for a moment that killing Willy was a bad idea. The argument just left out of account the 99% of people who would likely say when confronted with a Singaporean certainty of death if discovered carrying drugs that perhaps it might to sensible to not carry them, to desist from murder, gang rape or whatever. Singapore went one way: a liberal economy and a society with a clear reward and punishment system in place; the UK under Jenkins malevolent tuition went another, with no clear idea of right and wrong, and a per capita income half Singapore’s. Well done, Jenkins.

Jonathan Story
Jonathan Story
2 years ago

I remember the 1960s, when the Jenkinsites used to argue in the media that “of course, the death penalty is not a deterrent”! The “of course” was there to tell you that your intelligence was inferior to theirs, and the rest of the phrase was there to poo-poo the idea that anybody in the heat of passion would think for a moment that killing Willy was a bad idea. The argument just left out of account the 99% of people who would likely say when confronted with a Singaporean certainty of death if discovered carrying drugs that perhaps it might to sensible to not carry them, to desist from murder, gang rape or whatever. Singapore went one way: a liberal economy and a society with a clear reward and punishment system in place; the UK under Jenkins malevolent tuition went another, with no clear idea of right and wrong, and a per capita income half Singapore’s. Well done, Jenkins.

Oliver Elphick
Oliver Elphick
2 years ago

Death is the proper penalty for murder.

Judy Johnson
Judy Johnson
2 years ago
Reply to  Oliver Elphick

. . . in your opinion.

Tony Taylor
Tony Taylor
2 years ago

I googled Bigler Jobe Stouffer II (could such an absurd name be attached to anyone other than an American murderer?) and landed on a page of the local Tulsa newspaper which matter-of-factly profiled all the Oklahomans on death row – 27 at last count. Ignore the details and you could be reading a list of potential football recruits. It is impossible for me to conceive of living in such a place.

Tony Taylor
Tony Taylor
2 years ago

I googled Bigler Jobe Stouffer II (could such an absurd name be attached to anyone other than an American murderer?) and landed on a page of the local Tulsa newspaper which matter-of-factly profiled all the Oklahomans on death row – 27 at last count. Ignore the details and you could be reading a list of potential football recruits. It is impossible for me to conceive of living in such a place.

Julie Kemp
Julie Kemp
2 years ago

It strikes me that ‘the left’ and/or ‘the hard left’ want to confine everything, thought, emotion, reproduction, justice everything in tangent to such, to this scientifically proven (eg quantum level) ‘unreal’ ie materialistic or superficial world!
How could their idea of utopia then be enabling, enhancing, even exciting when low human thought power (egoic and self-serving) is ‘in charge’. It’s lifeless essentially and gives nothing to or for the Human Being to grow and experience what It really is all about.
This material and superficial (not in a derogatory sense) world has many factors or powers informing it – ‘the left’ ignore, dismiss and denigrate such believing it is only ‘this world of their making’ that has any compassion! Such is egoic ignorance if not fraud.
I don’t like the death penalty. I don’t like flies or cockroaches but i don’t go around killing them all but do limit where i can.
As a rich and poor Human Being i know that the death penalty is an acceptable ingredient in the mix ‘given’ us. There are reasonable and fair grounds for a heinous criminal history to be exacted upon by a death penalty. A body politic with strong sensitive statecraft has the full gamut of powers given it because it has the Sense of justice and forgiveness at its core.
This world prefers homeostasis in body and mind and spirit. Getting to know this on a personal level is a grand journey – some say it is ‘the hero’s journey’.

Last edited 2 years ago by Julie Kemp
Julie Kemp
Julie Kemp
2 years ago

It strikes me that ‘the left’ and/or ‘the hard left’ want to confine everything, thought, emotion, reproduction, justice everything in tangent to such, to this scientifically proven (eg quantum level) ‘unreal’ ie materialistic or superficial world!
How could their idea of utopia then be enabling, enhancing, even exciting when low human thought power (egoic and self-serving) is ‘in charge’. It’s lifeless essentially and gives nothing to or for the Human Being to grow and experience what It really is all about.
This material and superficial (not in a derogatory sense) world has many factors or powers informing it – ‘the left’ ignore, dismiss and denigrate such believing it is only ‘this world of their making’ that has any compassion! Such is egoic ignorance if not fraud.
I don’t like the death penalty. I don’t like flies or cockroaches but i don’t go around killing them all but do limit where i can.
As a rich and poor Human Being i know that the death penalty is an acceptable ingredient in the mix ‘given’ us. There are reasonable and fair grounds for a heinous criminal history to be exacted upon by a death penalty. A body politic with strong sensitive statecraft has the full gamut of powers given it because it has the Sense of justice and forgiveness at its core.
This world prefers homeostasis in body and mind and spirit. Getting to know this on a personal level is a grand journey – some say it is ‘the hero’s journey’.

Last edited 2 years ago by Julie Kemp
Jacqueline Burns
Jacqueline Burns
2 years ago

It is ridiculous to claim that the death penalty is racist unless proof can be provided that shows that non-minority criminals who commit similar heinous crimes do not receive the same sentence. However, that is not the argument being given. The fact is that a minority of people, of all colours, races, faiths & creeds commit crimes usually totally unrelated to their numbers in the larger community in which they live. If a particular group appear to be committing more of these heinous crimes, the answer lies within that community’s practices of education not by abolishing the death penalty.

Jacqueline Burns
Jacqueline Burns
2 years ago

It is ridiculous to claim that the death penalty is racist unless proof can be provided that shows that non-minority criminals who commit similar heinous crimes do not receive the same sentence. However, that is not the argument being given. The fact is that a minority of people, of all colours, races, faiths & creeds commit crimes usually totally unrelated to their numbers in the larger community in which they live. If a particular group appear to be committing more of these heinous crimes, the answer lies within that community’s practices of education not by abolishing the death penalty.

R Baron
R Baron
2 years ago

Capital punishment on the statute books saves lives.

David McDowell
David McDowell
2 years ago

Arguments against the death penalty all weak and sometime even dishonest.
Innocent convicts being hanged is really only an important consideration if you believe we should live for ever, otherwise termination is just a question of time and circumstance.
Deterrence failure is another false friend and can be applied equally to any kind of criminal penalty.

Karl Francis
Karl Francis
2 years ago
Reply to  David McDowell

The ‘Abolition Of Victimhood’ should be the paramount responsibility of our courts and government.
The current state of affairs treats Joe Public as little more than collateral damage. The powers that be lack the will, the imagination and the moral decency to really clean up our society and make it safer.
Higher standards begin with higher expectations!
We are all at fault.

Last edited 2 years ago by Karl Francis