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April 28, 2005



I think most of society, and your entry, discuss the death penalty in terms of either government mistake or whether or not it is morally right for the government to take another human life.

I have always framed the question in terms of whether or not the government should have the power to execute. In my opinion, it isn't about whether or not the government would be morally right in executing a person or whether or not certain criminals deserve such punishment. I think even if you answer that ending human life is morally ok and murderers are one category of people who deserve this treatment, it doesn't address the fundamental issue of whether or not the government should be given the power to do this, even when morally right and deserved.

It may be morally right for the government to stop virtual child pornography, and it may be that the virtual child pornographer deserves to be stopped, but our Supreme Court has refused to extend the regulatory and punitive powers of the government this far because one of the checks of government power, the freedom of speech, does not allow it. I think the reasoning is exactly analogous to the death penalty question. The prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment clearly limits governmental punitive power. Ignoring this limitation and enacting the harshest punishment possible renders the limitation nugatory.

Obscuring the question behind notions of moral appropriateness skirts the fundamental and obvious answer, that government power should not extend so far.


government power should not extend so far

What authority are you appealing to in order to reach this conclusion?


Why? Do you want to attack the proposition because there's no legal authority to back it up? Feel free if you like. It's my opinion, and while I'm sure I could right out an argument based on citations to the Federalists, de Tocqueville, etc., I don't really think that's necessary in this forum.

So if you'd like to attack it on the grounds of lack of supporting authority, feel free. It's lame and a waste of your time, though.


Write out an argument, not right out an argument.


There's a reasonable argument that a responsible government should or must have the death penalty for aggravated murder (the only kind of murder for which the USSC allows the DP). Aside from the (appealing) idea that someone who commits aggravated (first degree, worse than most) murder thereby forfeits his right to life, there is a significant general deterrence argument: the target group of to-be-deterred murderers are those deciding whether to commit premeditated, rational and deliberate killings. If they know that they may face the death penalty, at least some of them are likely to be deterred. The saving of those future, prospective victims' lives should be a significant factor when a government contemplates a possible death penalty statute. And don't buy the nonsense about how such deliberating possible killers don't care -- most do. That's why most fight the DP for years in court. Most strongly prefer three meals a day, a warm bed, a library, a gym, and LIFE to the void into which they would throw their victims.

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