The Death Penalty – What’s All the Fuzz About?

Guybrush

Dittohead
Everyone gets so animated whenever this topic is talked over, and personally I’m at some difficulty to see why. I’m against it, but not really passionately, I cannot say. The two main objections to it I can think of at moment are as follows: 1. If all of the countries in the West were to agree on banning capital punishment perhaps the rest of the world could be pressured into following suit. This would be a good thing, the adherents of this argument claim, since it would mean that the fate of, let’s say, the gays and the political dissidents routinely executed in some countries today would never be sealed. Rather, they would just get a life sentence, with prospects of getting released whenever the political winds shifted. (But even if the death penalty were scrapped they could still potentially be locked up for life!) 2. It works pretty badly in the West too, with some people’s being proved innocent after their execution, etc. (But even if the death penalty were scrapped they could still potentially be locked up for life!)

Both of these arguments look intellectual rather than emotional to me, which, again, is why I don’t really get why people get so worked up about this. I’m sure there are more arguments, though, but I’m off to bed now. Please feel free to add your own.
 
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bruno

est malade
objection 1 doesen't hold for the simple reason 'the world' could not care less if the west has made homosexuality mandatory or whatever, it means very little. most societies may subscribe to conventions and dress western but in practice they are regulated by run of the mill non-travelling people that are a reflection of whetever social mores and prejudices exist within a society, structures that have been in place since forever. you can have legal consensus on anything and find ghastly practises go on as they always have, typically lynching and taking justice into one's own hand. this especially in places where justice is perceived as deficient/corrupt, which is probably most of the world. one may oppose capital punishment intellectually but god forbid you find yourself within reach of a person that has raped and killed your child, as well as i think i know myself i can't predict what my behaviour might be in these circumstances. there is no west/world divide in this, i think.

objection 2 is right in that inevitably there will be a miscarriage of justice even in the near-perfect west, and death is more or less undoable. but for that matter better not to build ships and make parts for cars because inevitably one will fail and bring about the death of innocents. it's true there is something especially abhorrent about the taking of an innocent life on purpose and there is nothing more horrific to me than the thought of being wrongly accused and put to death, but i'd much rather be lynched than processed slowly through the cruel, faceless machine that is capital punishment today. it would bring me death swiftly, cost less to the taxpayer and give people get their symbolic restoration of balance without the bureaucracy.

i'm also off to bed
 
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noel emits

a wonderful wooden reason
Thanks for splitting this off into a thread Guybrush.

My objection to capital punishment is the same as I have to all state violence. It's both an emotional and an intellectual argument.

Very simply I think that societies end up mirroring the 'stated' (either explicitly or implicitly) moral attitudes of their visible leaders. If this is a simplistic truism then why do some parties claim to be baffled as to why children are becoming more aggressive while their government's wage wars abroad and conduct physical and psychological brutality at home?

I understand that we may want to 'kill' people that have wronged us but by my reasoning above this can only ultimately lead to further violence.

As we don't understand death and what it means (in a secular society, lol) we are in no position to judge the implications of taking a life. The value of life must be presumed immeasurable until proven otherwise.
 
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Guybrush

Dittohead
The mirror theory is nice, Noel, but has any sort of such causality ever been uncovered?

I don’t like the tit for tat argument at all, even though Bruno is totally right in saying that I would probably invoke it if I were the plaintiff. It’s also strangely unchristian (turn the other cheek, etc.).

Another argument I came to think of, the let’s-kill-them-to-save-the-tax-payers-some-dough one, is pretty abhorrent, but why should money not be allowed to play a part in the decision-making process? After all, it governs government policy in most every other area of society.

Bruno, I would like to hear what you have to say about the concept of a moral highground, some countries being ‘beacons of freedom’, and all that. The usual U.S. shibboleth. You seem quite sceptical, which is, I guess, why my first argument failed to seduce you.
 
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noel emits

a wonderful wooden reason
The mirror theory is nice, Noel, but has any sort of such causality ever been uncovered?
I'm looking at it from an anthropological standpoint. The attitudes and world-views of children growing up are formed by what they perceive in their tribal role models.

Do we need to dig up political studies to understand this?
 

Guybrush

Dittohead
I'm looking at it from an anthropological standpoint. The attitudes and world-views of children growing up are formed by what they perceive in their tribal role models.

Do we need to dig up political studies to understand this?
No, but I would be interested in reading them if such exist. As I said, your theory sounds sound.
 

Guybrush

Dittohead
I can't think of any civilized country who still uses it.
I have been thinking about this, and I like its implication less and less the more I ponder it. While the use of ‘civilized’ to describe a personal assessment does not normally bother me, I kind of have a problem with its use in this context since your stance highlights the exact hazy moralizing that always pops up when this topic is discussed. Why are the civilized countries deemed as such, and what is it about the death penalty that precludes the possibility of a country practising it from joining them?
 
N

nomadologist

Guest
For reasons why people get livid over the death penalty, visit Texas sometime.
 

gek-opel

entered apprentice
Aren't half the poor bastards being killed mentally incompetent/seriously mentally ill/victims of severe racism etc etc...?
 

Gavin

booty bass intellectual
Another argument I came to think of, the let’s-kill-them-to-save-the-tax-payers-some-dough one, is pretty abhorrent, but why should money not be allowed to play a part in the decision-making process? After all, it governs government policy in most every other area of society.
It costs more to execute a prisoner than keep them in prison for life.

http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/article.php?did=108

I found it disturbing during my younger more libertarian years that people who in other situations were opposed to state interference individual rights and excess government spending could be so bloodthirsty in their calls for capital punishment. Maybe just a more bloodthirsty nation on the whole; we have more violent crime and a higher murder rate in addition to the death penalty.

A May 2005 Gallup poll had 74% of respondees in "favor of the death penalty for a person convicted of murder". In the same Gallup poll, when life imprisonment without parole was given as an option as a punishment for murder, 56% supported the death penalty and 39% supported life imprisonment, with 5% offering no opinion.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capital_punishment_in_the_United_States

Guybrush does raise an interesting point though: is capital punishment radically more barbaric than many other punishments? To the point that Europe can pat itself on the back? Or is its banning merely symbolic, a way to prove who is civilized? Imprisoning people in things like SuperMaxes or tubuculoid-ridden Russian prisons is not much more humane or civilized than executing them.
 

Mr. Tea

Shub-Niggurath, Please
Staff member
What is fucking sick is forcibly resusitating lifers who've tried to kill themselves. I mean, shouldn't it be a basic condition of life that if it gets just TOO awful, with no possible hope of it getting any better, that you can pull the big S and just opt out? I mean, if someone is depressed or otherwise crazy it makes sense to try and stop them killing themselves, because there's always the chance things will get better for them. But if you're in jail for life, there's not even a theoretical possibility of that happening.

They even do this to people on death row who are going to be killed anyway!
 

Gavin

booty bass intellectual
What is fucking sick is forcibly resusitating lifers who've tried to kill themselves. I mean, shouldn't it be a basic condition of life that if it gets just TOO awful, with no possible hope of it getting any better, that you can pull the big S and just opt out? I mean, if someone is depressed or otherwise crazy it makes sense to try and stop them killing themselves, because there's always the chance things will get better for them. But if you're in jail for life, there's not even a theoretical possibility things can get better.

They even do this to people on death row who are going to be killed anyway!
The death penalty, prison enforcement, suicide laws, criminalizing drugs = your body is owned by the state.

Jail is not an end point though, plenty of people do important things there: Gramsci, de Sade, etc.
 
The death penalty, prison enforcement, suicide laws, criminalizing drugs = your body is owned by the state.
And not just the body. It was "not the collective festival, but strict divisions, not laws transgressed, but the penetration of regulation into even the smallest areas of everyday life ; not masks that were put on and off, but the assignment to each individual of his 'true' name, his 'true' place, his 'true' disease. "---Foucault, Discipline and Punish.

Foucault's suggestion audaciously reverses the Cartesian and existentialist doctrine that interiority and subjectivity are 'authentic', irreducible and asocial. For Foucault, on the contrary, it is social institutions which give rise to 'pysche, subjectivity, personality, consciousness.' In the History of Sexuality Volume 1, Foucault expands this analysis: power works by inducing us to identify with these allegedly interior states, to understand them as the 'truth' of our being. Moreover, we are everywhere encouraged to 'confess' - not any more to the priest, but to a secular psychological power, whose emissaries one can see everywhere, from psychiatric professionals to Oprah Winfrey, who insistently parrot power's demands: 'Tell us who you are, confide in us the truth of your self.'


Jail is not an end point though, plenty of people do important things there: Gramsci, de Sade, etc.
And Nelson Mandela, etc. I wonder how different South African history would have been over the past few decades had he died in prison 'accidentally.'
 
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