Night Owl Mk. II

Return to "Crime and Punishment" essay

Back to Philosophy page

Please feel free to E-mail me with your own comments on this issue or on anything else included in my Philosophy of Life section. Debate is good!

Please report any problems with this page to the Webmaster!


Boldfaced statements are parts of the original essay (or a subsequent reply) to which the respondent has directed his comments.

Italicized/emphasized comments prefaced by (R) are those of the respondent and are presented unedited.

My replies appear under the respondent's comments in blue text and are prefaced by my initials (MB).

(R) very well done site and i'll certainly recommend it to a few of my fellow freethinkers.
(MB) The more, the merrier! I would greatly appreciate the recommendation and would love to hear from them. It's time for the voices of reason to be more widely heard.

(R) i must, however, take polite exception to your advocacy of the death penalty.
(MB) OK, let's hear what you have to say...

(R) clearly, as demonstrated in your abortion and adultery essays you, have the ability think clearly and rationally, without being confined by the moors of cultural status quo.
(MB) Obviously, I would agree... :-)

(R) it is with these same properties, clear thinking and reason, that i find the death penalty to be a nebulous moral quandry. emotionally, i find capital punishment to be nothing more than state sanctioned murder, or, more colorfully, a hypocritical absurdity. surely, when we grant the state the right to end a life to punish the act of ending life, we are digressing into an ethical anathema.
(MB) Are we? Since we have a justice system that is supposed to carry out the will of the people, has been given the right to enforce punishments, and does so so that our society doesn't have to rely on vigilantism to punish offenders, I don't know how that same system can be said to be operating hypocritically or unethically. Contrast this system with the arbitrary "justice" meted out by dictators, kings or other leaders who claim some form of "divine right" to act in any way they see fit.

(R) pragmatically speaking, i do not believe that the threat, even the act of capital punishment, behaves as a deterrent.
(MB) We can never know how many capital crimes are deterred by the spectre of the death penalty. After all, how can one count anything that doesn't happen?
    In my youth, I know that I would likely have succumbed to the temptations of juvenile crimes on more than one occasion had I not been deterred by the thought of jail time, fines and the effects they would have had upon my life and my family. A trivial example, to be sure, but one that is unlikely to be unique to me.
    The idea of deterrence is unquestionably valid. However, it only works when the penalties imposed by punishment are greater than any benefits which the crime might produce. It is reasonable to claim that there are certain individuals for whom no level of punishment has any deterrent value, but I suspect that they are in the minority of potential criminals.

(R) most acts of violence that end in human death are probally not pre-meditated, just rash, blind actions that, unfortunatelly, cannot be taken back.
(MB) That is probably true. However, the individuals who commit such acts are likely to have a history of criminal activity and/or caused their victim's death while in the act of committing a separate crime. That other crime may well be one for which they do not fear the punishment or for which they assume they will neither be caught nor convicted. This speaks more towards the general problems with our entire system of criminal punishment than towards the death penalty, though.

(R) what do i offer in place of capital punishment? certainly no easy answers there... but the punishment should be harsh, swift and life altering. our society should create a system in which even the most violent of offenders can offer the public some kind of recourse... through labor or the provision of even the most rudimentry of services.
(MB) Unfortunately, there are too many individuals and groups who are active in "protecting the rights and dignity" of prisoners to permit a general program such as you suggest from seeing widespread implementation. Also, what do we do if the prisoner refuses to work?

(R) i'm of the opinion that if we value life as much as we claim, we must avoid the ethical hypocrisy intrinsic to capital punishment.
(MB) Yes, we value life -- but who's life? If all men were equal, then all lives would be equally valuable. But, when somebody wrongly takes a life, that offender should no longer be considered equal. It may not "even the score" to execute that criminal, but it does help to satisfy the general population and to affirm that we value their lives. If we don't punish criminals sufficiently, what does that say about how much we value the victims?

(R) we must strive to protect human life at all costs (and if that means removing an offeder from society till his/her life naturally ends, so be it) even when the ramifications sit ill with our consciences and wallets.
(MB) This is true if one considers all lives to be of equal importance. To my way of thinking, a capital criminal has diminished the value of his own life and has taken something from society that can't be replaced. Keeping such a criminal in jail where he can actually benefit from having to be supported by that same society seems to be an even larger injustice.
    Sometimes there are no completely acceptable solutions to certain problems. In this case, an effort at education which would help prevent the crime in the first place is best. But, we still need to deal with the crime if and when it occurs. The worst way to do so is to be overly concerned with the "rights" of the convicted criminal.

(R) other than that, you seem like a good guy! ;-)
(MB) Hey, nobody's perfect! :-) Thanks for your excellent comments.

Created with Allaire HomeSite 4.0 .......... Last Update: 04 Jun 98

Earthlink Network Home Page