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Capital Punishment/Death Penalty [Philosophy]

Posted: Tue Sep 18, 2012 11:32 pm UTC
by lorb
First of all: I am surprised that a search for this topic did not yield any results but this may very well be attributable to my weak search skills so if this topic already exists I do apologize for doubling it.

Second: Personally I oppose any form of capital punishment/death penalty.

I think the thread title pretty much describes what the topic in here is. I put the [Philosophy] tag because personally I prefer to refute the death penalty with a well founded theory of human dignity and an innate right to life instead of statistics of wrongful executions but everything is welcome.

I think no government/state should have the option to kill one of it's citizens because any state is formed by it's citizens entering into a social contract that grants them some kind of benefit over a situation in which there is no state. In exchange for this benefit they give up on some things/powers like the "right" to take everything you want whenever you want from whoever you can. (If this sounds familiar too you it may be because it's an idea developed ~400 years ago by Thomas Hobbes.) As there is no benefit that can outweigh death it's not possible or reasonable to enter a social contract that does not grant you a right to life.

Re: Capital Punishment/Death Penalty [Philosophy]

Posted: Wed Sep 19, 2012 12:36 am UTC
by poochyena
if they don't get the death penalty, then they just sit around in jail the rest of their life, just going ahead and killing them is cheaper and less effort, it also stops that person from killing more people(like fellow immates or guards). Honestly, what does that person have to live for? his/her life is pointless.
i do believe that they should be kept in jail for several years before they are executed though, it would be silly to kill someone a day after they are found guilty.
also, people in prison(and outside of prison) should have the right to kill themselves.

Re: Capital Punishment/Death Penalty [Philosophy]

Posted: Wed Sep 19, 2012 12:37 am UTC
by liveboy21
Saying that it is not possible or reasonable to enter a social contract that does not grant you a right to life seems like a rather strange arguement to me.

It is definitely possible to be part of a social contract that can withhold your right to life because that's exactly the social contract you're in as a citizen of a country that has the death penalty or exiles or chooses not to care for the dying or withholds treatment for those who cannot pay and many more examples that have any scenario where that policy leads to the death of a person.

As for it being not reasonable, reason is irrelevant. Reason only applies if you have the choice of having the social contract or not having the social contract. Reason would then be able to have you weigh the outcomes of the decision. However, without that choice, what you think is irrelevant and you would still end up as part of the social contract.

Re: Capital Punishment/Death Penalty [Philosophy]

Posted: Wed Sep 19, 2012 12:47 am UTC
by TheAmazingRando
poochyena wrote:if they don't get the death penalty, then they just sit around in jail the rest of their life, just going ahead and killing them is cheaper and less effort, it also stops that person from killing more people(like fellow immates or guards). Honestly, what does that person have to live for? his/her life is pointless.
I'd bet good money that most people serving life sentences would prefer their life to execution. Who are you to say their life is pointless?

That being said, I don't think life without possibility of parole should exist either. I like the Swedish system, where 10 to life is the harshest punishment. We should focus on rehabilitating criminals, not locking them up and forgetting about them.

Re: Capital Punishment/Death Penalty [Philosophy]

Posted: Wed Sep 19, 2012 1:05 am UTC
by lorb
liveboy21 wrote:As for it being not reasonable, reason is irrelevant. Reason only applies if you have the choice of having the social contract or not having the social contract. Reason would then be able to have you weigh the outcomes of the decision. However, without that choice, what you think is irrelevant and you would still end up as part of the social contract.


I am going to address just this part because I think it is sufficient and also the strongest part of my argument. The state needs some kind of legitimation for any act it carries out. (Similar to the concept of democracy where the majority of the votes is a legitimation for the government.) The legitimation for the state to exist and be able to limit the freedoms of the citizens is to protect them from greater harm. (Or else it would not be rational for the citizens to even form such a state.) As there is no greater harm than death* there can be no legitimation for a state to take away the life of it's citizens.

*Yes. This is a point that can be argued about.

Re: Capital Punishment/Death Penalty [Philosophy]

Posted: Wed Sep 19, 2012 1:16 am UTC
by rolo91
lorb wrote:I think no government/state should have the option to kill one of it's citizens because any state is formed by it's citizens entering into a social contract that grants them some kind of benefit over a situation in which there is no state. In exchange for this benefit they give up on some things/powers like the "right" to take everything you want whenever you want from whoever you can. (If this sounds familiar too you it may be because it's an idea developed ~400 years ago by Thomas Hobbes.) As there is no benefit that can outweigh death it's not possible or reasonable to enter a social contract that does not grant you a right to life.


I'm personally against death sentences, but I see a flaw in that argument.

You can't just say that there is no benefit that can outweigh death. Although self preservation exists, I don't think you would have any problem finding people who have things they would die for. The safety of their families, for example, would surely be commonly considered worth the sacrifice.


Now, about your initial question: I think that death penalty is bad because it is an indication that society is going wrong.

I mean, the penal system is created mainly with the idea that people can change, and that they can be reformed. If a person behaves in a way that is against society, then there is a problem in society itself that should be fixed. Killing a person doesn't solve the problem, because that solution is attacking a symptom instead of its cause.

I'm also against life sentences without paroles. The reason is simple and practical: If you put a person in prison, without any chance of becoming better, and almost anything to lose, then you are only creating a big problem there, because that person is not going to have reasons to behave well.

I think the central idea here is that it's not correct to think about what a criminal deserves,which is an instictive and irrational point of view.

Instead, we should think how can society reform that person, and prevent the events that led to the crime from happening again.

Re: Capital Punishment/Death Penalty [Philosophy]

Posted: Wed Sep 19, 2012 2:09 am UTC
by Elliot
lorb wrote:As there is no benefit that can outweigh death it's not possible or reasonable to enter a social contract that does not grant you a right to life.
It might be reasonable. If we assume, for argument's sake, that executions are a uniquely effective deterrent against homicide, then it's possible that living in a society that executes murderers will decrease your likelihood of being killed. You have to weigh the possibility that you yourself will be executed, against the possibility that a homicide against you will be deterred. There's a risk it might work out badly for you, but I don't think you can say that something is necessarily unreasonable just because it's risky.

What you have to keep in mind, is that our hypothetical murderer has to have agreed to the social contract before committing their crime. They didn't agree to certain death; they agreed to a set of rights and responsibilities which included a possibility of death in certain circumstances.

Once the death sentence is passed, of course the situation changes. At that point, they may indeed be better off outside the social contract. It may be rational for them to try to overpower their captors and escape, for example. But that doesn't mean that their initial decision to be bound by the social contract was unreasonable, based on the knowledge they had at that time. It doesn't even necessarily mean it was a bad decision in hindsight, since it's possible that without executions as a deterrent they would have been killed even earlier (again, making the assumption that executions actually are a particularly good deterrent).

Re: Capital Punishment/Death Penalty [Philosophy]

Posted: Wed Sep 19, 2012 4:50 am UTC
by Suzaku
rolo91 wrote:I mean, the penal system is created mainly with the idea that people can change, and that they can be reformed. If a person behaves in a way that is against society, then there is a problem in society itself that should be fixed. Killing a person doesn't solve the problem, because that solution is attacking a symptom instead of its cause.

I'm also against life sentences without paroles. The reason is simple and practical: If you put a person in prison, without any chance of becoming better, and almost anything to lose, then you are only creating a big problem there, because that person is not going to have reasons to behave well.

I think the central idea here is that it's not correct to think about what a criminal deserves,which is an instictive and irrational point of view.

If I remember my studies from long ago correctly, the (penal) justice system has three overall purposes, namely:
  • Punishing/Rehabilitating offenders, and, by extension, preventing re-offending.
  • Deterring potential offenders.
  • Deterring 'vigilante justince' by ensuring that the public feel that justice has been done by the state.
The degree of emphasis placed on each of these functions, and their relative importance, is going to vary with the individual societies in question, and in a democracy will (or at least should) represent the values of the enfranchised citizens.

Relating capital punishment to these, I think it shows areas where it is effective and where it is not. For example, capital punishment is clearly very effective at preventing re-offending, and I would argue that it is also effective at deterring vigilanteism. However, it is clearly not effective at rehabilitating offenders, and (again IIRC) I believe it has been shown not to be an effective deterrant to potential offenders.

So, in a society where a high value was placed on preventing re-offending and showing that 'justice has been done', it would be rational to have a social contract that included capital punishment. Conversely, if societal values focus more on the deterrance factor, and on rehabilitation, it would be rational to oppose such a social contract. Which of these sets of values is morally superior is, of course, open for debate, and I suspect that good arguments could be made on either side.

For me personally, I tend to support capital punishment, particularly for murder, but I would certainly be able to be swayed from that view.

Re: Capital Punishment/Death Penalty [Philosophy]

Posted: Wed Sep 19, 2012 7:08 am UTC
by fifiste
rolo91 wrote:I'm also against life sentences without paroles. The reason is simple and practical: If you put a person in prison, without any chance of becoming better, and almost anything to lose, then you are only creating a big problem there, because that person is not going to have reasons to behave well.

Good behaviour begets privileges bad revocation of those or extra punishments. There's plenty of things that can be done to make your time(lifelong in this case) in prison better or worse.

I'm against death penalty because it is a power I would not like to trust to state. I do find it both funny and sad that it is usually the same contingent of people who proclaim the state/government/courts/legislature to be incompetent and meddling is at the same time the strong supporter of the death penalty.
The price of incompetence in this case is high and the death penalty once carried out would be completely irreparable/uncompensatable to the wrongfully convicted. You can free a jailed man and pay him compensation (not to say it would repair everything), but you can do NOTHING for the dead guy, unless you believe that your burnt offerings will reach him to the afterlife or some-such. (Which would be a really stupid idea to ground your justice system on I think)

I find most of those "philosophical" grounds to be some hippie bullshit.(Mwaah :cry: we would be removing the human dignity from this serial-torture-rape-killer and he like totally deserves this dignity all day long).
To my mind some people deserve to die several times in a row. I just do not think states (nor actually any other organisation) should have this power, especially that mistakes do happen. I would have no "moral" qualms in a hypothetical world of completely accurate information and completely competent courts. (Hmm added alliterative appeal)

Re: Capital Punishment/Death Penalty [Philosophy]

Posted: Wed Sep 19, 2012 1:54 pm UTC
by Tyndmyr
I oppose the death penalty generally on pragmatic grounds. The justice system is inherently fallible, and it's easier to release a prisoner from life imprisonment than it is to bring him back from the dead. In either case, the person is not committing additional crimes, so there is no real difference from that standpoint, and executions have not been a success on a cost basis.

Therefore, in modern societies, I do not see a compelling case for why executions should exist.

I will allow that in other circumstances(say, buncha people trapped on an island), no such imprisonment option may exist, and therefore, execution may be the only option. I've got no problem with it then...but I don't feel such a situation describes modern society.

Re: Capital Punishment/Death Penalty [Philosophy]

Posted: Wed Sep 19, 2012 3:17 pm UTC
by sam_i_am
People one death row get retroactively found not guilty almost every year.

When you kill someone, that's permanent, you can't un-kill them.

Image

Re: Capital Punishment/Death Penalty [Philosophy]

Posted: Wed Sep 19, 2012 7:32 pm UTC
by Bsob
sam_i_am wrote:People one death row get retroactively found not guilty almost every year.

When you kill someone, that's permanent, you can't un-kill them.


That graph is amazingly unclear.

Are those people on death row, who are declared not guilty by the extensive and exhaustive mandatory appeal process?

Or is that people who have already been put to death who are later exonerated, and who are they exonerated by?

Re: Capital Punishment/Death Penalty [Philosophy]

Posted: Wed Sep 19, 2012 7:44 pm UTC
by Tyndmyr
Bsob wrote:
sam_i_am wrote:People one death row get retroactively found not guilty almost every year.

When you kill someone, that's permanent, you can't un-kill them.


That graph is amazingly unclear.

Are those people on death row, who are declared not guilty by the extensive and exhaustive mandatory appeal process?

Or is that people who have already been put to death who are later exonerated, and who are they exonerated by?


The former, I would assume. The latter is fairly rare, as there is little motivation to continue investigation of a crime after a person has been declared guilty and then executed. Usually, executions happen quite a few years after the crime, too(thanks to the appeal process you mention), so that's another reason that additional digging afterward is unlikely to happen.

However, while getting an accurate count of the false conviction rate is always hard(the DoJ estimates overall false conviction rates at 10%, plus or minus 2%, but that's for all crimes, not merely capital ones), we can assume that the rate is non-zero. Executing innocent people is morally a big pill to swallow, so even if the rate is quite low, that's still worrying for many.

Re: Capital Punishment/Death Penalty [Philosophy]

Posted: Wed Sep 19, 2012 7:51 pm UTC
by induction
lorb wrote:The state needs some kind of legitimation for any act it carries out. (Similar to the concept of democracy where the majority of the votes is a legitimation for the government.) The legitimation for the state to exist and be able to limit the freedoms of the citizens is to protect them from greater harm. (Or else it would not be rational for the citizens to even form such a state.) As there is no greater harm than death* there can be no legitimation for a state to take away the life of it's citizens.


The legitimacy of a government comes from power, not from philosophy. Philosophical arguments about law and government are fun. It's nice to think that they are based on an objective and self-consistent underlying structure and can be deduced from first principles, but that's not really true. Laws are derived from far more practical concerns than philosophical consistency, and very often contradict each other. (And, as I'm sure you know, if you assume contradictory axioms, you can derive anything. Which means both sides get to argue back and forth forever without coming to a conclusion, which is why philosophy is so much fun.) Realistically, governments have power because they have arranged to have and keep power, not because the people collectively deduced that they should. We the citizens did not form a state, we inherited one (if we are natural-born) or bought into one (if we are immigrants), complete with pre-existing entrenched power structures. The legitimacy of the state to exist and be able to limit the freedoms of the citizens is that you can't stop it from doing so, even if you wanted to. If you can and you do, the state loses that legitimacy to you. This is called politics.

Granted, the use of philosophical arguments to shape society is a form of political power. But it's usually done as justification rather than motivation, and has a lot of competition from appeals to selfishness and bigotry, media manipulation, court stacking, etc., all of which are shockingly effective. If you really want to change things, I suggest a more pragmatic approach, like many of those posted above.

On the other hand, if you just wanted to have some fun with a philosophical abstraction (which I totally get, honestly), then I'm sorry for the interruption.

Re: Capital Punishment/Death Penalty [Philosophy]

Posted: Wed Sep 19, 2012 8:02 pm UTC
by Choboman
lorb wrote:As there is no greater harm than death* there can be no legitimation for a state to take away the life of it's citizens.

Even in the idealistic world where the state only exists to bring benifit to the people, that's not the same as benefiting each individual person. The state in that case cares about what creates the most good for the people collectively, and if it has to shit all over one guy to improve the lives of everyone else than it's usually happy to do so.

Re: Capital Punishment/Death Penalty [Philosophy]

Posted: Wed Sep 19, 2012 8:07 pm UTC
by Tyndmyr
induction wrote: The legitimacy of the state to exist and be able to limit the freedoms of the citizens is that you can't stop it from doing so, even if you wanted to. If you can and you do, the state loses that legitimacy to you. This is called politics.


It's the whole Is/Ought problem. Philosophically, we mostly all agree that the goal of the state SHOULD be to benefit it's citizens and all that jazz. It'd be wonderful. Results may vary in practice. I could certainly argue against the death penalty on a philosophical level, but frankly, I find those are a lot less convincing than pragmatic ones. Everyone values the dollars in their pocket, not everyone values the same philosophical precepts.

So, if we can get an equivalent practical outcome spending less money on these bloody expensive executions and not execute a couple innocents as a side benefit, why not? There's no practical counter-argument to that that DOESN'T involve changing the current system massively.

Re: Capital Punishment/Death Penalty [Philosophy]

Posted: Wed Sep 19, 2012 8:41 pm UTC
by Derek
rolo91 wrote:Now, about your initial question: I think that death penalty is bad because it is an indication that society is going wrong.

I mean, the penal system is created mainly with the idea that people can change, and that they can be reformed. If a person behaves in a way that is against society, then there is a problem in society itself that should be fixed. Killing a person doesn't solve the problem, because that solution is attacking a symptom instead of its cause.

I just want to point out that historically this is backwards. Most societies have capital punishment, and in fact it was historically much more common, so it's kind of hard to argue that it indicates that society has "gone wrong". Likewise, penal systems were not traditionally established to rehabilitate criminals. That is a more recent development.

Re: Capital Punishment/Death Penalty [Philosophy]

Posted: Wed Sep 19, 2012 9:29 pm UTC
by sam_i_am
induction wrote:
lorb wrote:The state needs some kind of legitimation for any act it carries out. (Similar to the concept of democracy where the majority of the votes is a legitimation for the government.) The legitimation for the state to exist and be able to limit the freedoms of the citizens is to protect them from greater harm. (Or else it would not be rational for the citizens to even form such a state.) As there is no greater harm than death* there can be no legitimation for a state to take away the life of it's citizens.


The legitimacy of a government comes from power, not from philosophy. Philosophical arguments about law and government are fun. It's nice to think that they are based on an objective and self-consistent underlying structure and can be deduced from first principles, but that's not really true. Laws are derived from far more practical concerns than philosophical consistency, and very often contradict each other. (And, as I'm sure you know, if you assume contradictory axioms, you can derive anything. Which means both sides get to argue back and forth forever without coming to a conclusion, which is why philosophy is so much fun.) Realistically, governments have power because they have arranged to have and keep power, not because the people collectively deduced that they should. We the citizens did not form a state, we inherited one (if we are natural-born) or bought into one (if we are immigrants), complete with pre-existing entrenched power structures. The legitimacy of the state to exist and be able to limit the freedoms of the citizens is that you can't stop it from doing so, even if you wanted to. If you can and you do, the state loses that legitimacy to you. This is called politics.

Granted, the use of philosophical arguments to shape society is a form of political power. But it's usually done as justification rather than motivation, and has a lot of competition from appeals to selfishness and bigotry, media manipulation, court stacking, etc., all of which are shockingly effective. If you really want to change things, I suggest a more pragmatic approach, like many of those posted above.

On the other hand, if you just wanted to have some fun with a philosophical abstraction (which I totally get, honestly), then I'm sorry for the interruption.



This may not be the case in other countries, but in the United States there is no royalty nor is there any nobility. most of the political power comes from the civilians, and it's therefore not entirely accurate to speak about the state as though it were some entity separate from your self.

Re: Capital Punishment/Death Penalty [Philosophy]

Posted: Wed Sep 19, 2012 9:46 pm UTC
by induction
sam_i_am wrote:This may not be the case in other countries, but in the United States there is no royalty nor is there any nobility. most of the political power comes from the civilians, and it's therefore not entirely accurate to speak about the state as though it were some entity separate from your self.


I'm not sure where I did that. Can you be more specific?

Re: Capital Punishment/Death Penalty [Philosophy]

Posted: Wed Sep 19, 2012 10:15 pm UTC
by sam_i_am
induction wrote:
sam_i_am wrote:This may not be the case in other countries, but in the United States there is no royalty nor is there any nobility. most of the political power comes from the civilians, and it's therefore not entirely accurate to speak about the state as though it were some entity separate from your self.


I'm not sure where I did that. Can you be more specific?


Well, what you said there doesn't quite apply as strongly to self-rule systems

Re: Capital Punishment/Death Penalty [Philosophy]

Posted: Wed Sep 19, 2012 10:19 pm UTC
by induction
Why not? Which part doesn't apply?

Re: Capital Punishment/Death Penalty [Philosophy]

Posted: Wed Sep 19, 2012 10:28 pm UTC
by VannA
sam_i_am wrote:
induction wrote:
sam_i_am wrote:This may not be the case in other countries, but in the United States there is no royalty nor is there any nobility. most of the political power comes from the civilians, and it's therefore not entirely accurate to speak about the state as though it were some entity separate from your self.


I'm not sure where I did that. Can you be more specific?


Well, what you said there doesn't quite apply as strongly to self-rule systems



Although well outside the existing argument, the USchas not actually been a self-rule system for a long time, pragmatically. The ruling structures and the oligarchy/autocratic nature of those structures prevent it.


For the topic at hand..

I eventually think there is a point where rehabilitation likelihood comes so close to approaching 0 that it should be excluded.
Found guilty for Serial murder, and rape, and anybody found guilty of multiple, separate instances of murder or rape should be eligible for capital punishment.

I don't believe in any inherent right to life that does not extend to all semi-sentient species, and I hold that it is a responsibility, as well as a privilege, and wilfully abusing it should lead you to losing it.

Re: Capital Punishment/Death Penalty [Philosophy]

Posted: Thu Sep 20, 2012 1:29 am UTC
by rolo91
Derek wrote:
rolo91 wrote:Now, about your initial question: I think that death penalty is bad because it is an indication that society is going wrong.

I mean, the penal system is created mainly with the idea that people can change, and that they can be reformed. If a person behaves in a way that is against society, then there is a problem in society itself that should be fixed. Killing a person doesn't solve the problem, because that solution is attacking a symptom instead of its cause.

I just want to point out that historically this is backwards. Most societies have capital punishment, and in fact it was historically much more common, so it's kind of hard to argue that it indicates that society has "gone wrong". Likewise, penal systems were not traditionally established to rehabilitate criminals. That is a more recent development.


Well, you could say that, if the concept of punishment directed towards rehabilitation is a more recent "achievement" of society, then keeping (or going back to) the use of punishments as simply a way to threating and eliminating criminals means staying in a less developed stage of civilization.

Although of course, that argument would need as a base the concept of progress, and admitting that newer systems are generally better than the old ones... And there's a lot of room for discussion there.

Re: Capital Punishment/Death Penalty [Philosophy]

Posted: Thu Sep 20, 2012 12:57 pm UTC
by yawningdog
I'm against the death penalty because I believe that no matter how evil a person may be, they are never truly beyond redemption. Don't get me wrong, I think a triple murderer should be physically removed from society and never allowed to return. And I don't think it is the job of the prison system to rehabilitate him. (Besides, apparently they suck at it.) But he should be afforded to opportunity to rehabilitate himself. If he does manage to find some redemption, I'm not the guy that will say "let him go free". I believe he must still live with his decisions and must still serve his sentence. He may perform whatever redemptive works he sees fit from within prison, like maybe helping other prisoners with less harsh sentences seek their own redemption.

Re: Capital Punishment/Death Penalty [Philosophy]

Posted: Thu Sep 20, 2012 1:11 pm UTC
by Tyndmyr
rolo91 wrote:Well, you could say that, if the concept of punishment directed towards rehabilitation is a more recent "achievement" of society, then keeping (or going back to) the use of punishments as simply a way to threating and eliminating criminals means staying in a less developed stage of civilization.

Although of course, that argument would need as a base the concept of progress, and admitting that newer systems are generally better than the old ones... And there's a lot of room for discussion there.


I can argue for rehabilitation on purely pragmatic grounds. It's hella expensive to keep someone in prison for life(and even more expensive to execute). If a person can be fixed and become a functional member of society again...well, you've avoided a large cost, and probably gained some productivity. So there's a very, very practical reason to prefer rehabilitation.

This does not prove that EVERYONE can be rehabilitated, of course. It may be that some people cannot be, at least with the tools we currently have. In that case, defaulting to the option of keeping them in jail is logical. But, it's still reasonable to try to rehabilitate as many as possible.

Re: Capital Punishment/Death Penalty [Philosophy]

Posted: Thu Sep 20, 2012 1:33 pm UTC
by Suzaku
Tyndmyr wrote:It's hella expensive to keep someone in prison for life(and even more expensive to execute).

Out of curiosity, is it really more expensive to execute than to keep someone in prison for life? Assuming a reasonable average age at conviction, that is.

In my experience (of discussions about capital punishment with friends), one of the better arguments for executions is that the cost of keeping people in prison is prohibitive. If what you say is true, then this argument is turned on its head.

Re: Capital Punishment/Death Penalty [Philosophy]

Posted: Thu Sep 20, 2012 1:52 pm UTC
by Tyndmyr
Suzaku wrote:
Tyndmyr wrote:It's hella expensive to keep someone in prison for life(and even more expensive to execute).

Out of curiosity, is it really more expensive to execute than to keep someone in prison for life? Assuming a reasonable average age at conviction, that is.

In my experience (of discussions about capital punishment with friends), one of the better arguments for executions is that the cost of keeping people in prison is prohibitive. If what you say is true, then this argument is turned on its head.


Well, first off, it takes quite a while to execute someone. In the US, average time to execution is 121 months. Death row typically has a special section, higher security, that sort of thing, for fairly obvious reasons(in california, this amounts to about an additional $100k per year, per prisoner. Many prisoners are never executed, but still add to cost). Ten years of that ain't cheap.

And, of course, if someone is going to die, they are going to try every delaying tactic, appeal, or other option in the book legally. I mean...if you die, it's not like you have to pay the legal fees. And if it's found to be false imprisonment, you don't have to pay legal fees(generally). So...why wouldn't you? Death penalty cases tend to be rather major affairs, with lots of publicity, lengthy trial times, etc. Nobody is gonna take a plea bargain for execution(and 97% of US criminal cases are solved by plea bargain normally).

Then of course, you have to keep execution facilities stocked, staffed, and secured.

At the end of the day, you've got states like california, who spend an average of $308 million dollars per execution on death row expenses. For that cost, you could keep rather a lot of people imprisoned for life.

Re: Capital Punishment/Death Penalty [Philosophy]

Posted: Thu Sep 20, 2012 4:30 pm UTC
by idobox
To me, the strongest argument against capital punishment is that it legitimates homicide.
Capital punishment is the government recognizing that killing people under some circumstances is acceptable, it means some things are more important to my right to live. And whatever the practical aspect, it is ethically difficult to accept.
In a case like self-defence, we're acknowledging that saving a life is worth taking another, and I don't think many would object to that, although we can discuss the specific of the boundaries and controls.
In a case like war, nowadays, it is usually sold as a way to save lives. Going to war for economic reasons (which still often happens) is not accepted by the population in western countries at least, and politics disguise their wars to make them possible, perverting the system.

But when the government decide to kill a criminal, it is very different, it revokes someone's fundamental right, with no direct effect on other people's fundamental rights.
It doesn't protect society more efficiently than putting him behind bars for life, and it is not that much efficient as a deterrent. If you committed a crime that will bring you to the electric chair if you're caught, you have nothing left to loose, and you'll be much more likely to kill witnesses and policemen to hide your crime or run.
The job of justice should be to make sure people follow the rules. Executing someone rather than sentencing him to prison for life is not justice, it's revenge, because it is harsher than what is needed to make sure that person will not break the law again.

And because of this violence of the state against it's population, justice and police becoming punishers rather than protectors, you end up with a more violent country.
Just look at the numbers of capital punishments per country. USA is fifth, behind China, Iran, Irak and Saudi Arabia, above Yemen, North Korea, Sudan, Somalia and Bangladesh.
Death penalty is a staple of authoritative, oppressive countries, countries most westerners prefer not to live in. USA, the only rich western country in the top ten, is also the country of OECD with the highest murder rate (about twice as much as the second on the list, and more than 5 times more than many others), and the highest violent crime rate, while, at the same time, only the 5th highest robbery rate.
http://micpohling.wordpress.com/2007/05/17/oecd-crime-statistic-i/
Pinning violence in the USA to capital punishment only would be wrong, but it contributes to a climate of violence, in conjunction with gun ownership and a general glorification of violence. Which lead American criminals to commit 5 times the murders and 4.5 times the violent crimes, but only 60% of the robberies Spanish ones commit.

Re: Capital Punishment/Death Penalty [Philosophy]

Posted: Fri Sep 21, 2012 2:05 pm UTC
by Trebla
VannA wrote:I don't believe in any inherent right to life that does not extend to all semi-sentient species, and I hold that it is a responsibility, as well as a privilege, and wilfully abusing it should lead you to losing it.


If we're sticking to pure philosophy and not pragmatic hypotheticals, this "right to life" seems like a very important root point to discuss. Vann brought up a good point that I didn't see addressed.

What gives a person the "right to life"? In mutually exclusive situations (two people who can't possibly co-exist), which one has the right to life?

If you start with the base assumption that "the right to (human) life is more important than anything" then you've already reached your conclusion and nothing that denies life will ever be a better alternative, no matter the personal, economic or social costs. You will suffer no retort, because it denies your assumption.

So when someone says "right to life"... what exactly do they mean?

Re: Capital Punishment/Death Penalty [Philosophy]

Posted: Fri Sep 21, 2012 4:57 pm UTC
by sam_i_am
Trebla wrote:
VannA wrote:I don't believe in any inherent right to life that does not extend to all semi-sentient species, and I hold that it is a responsibility, as well as a privilege, and wilfully abusing it should lead you to losing it.


If we're sticking to pure philosophy and not pragmatic hypotheticals, this "right to life" seems like a very important root point to discuss. Vann brought up a good point that I didn't see addressed.

What gives a person the "right to life"? In mutually exclusive situations (two people who can't possibly co-exist), which one has the right to life?

If you start with the base assumption that "the right to (human) life is more important than anything" then you've already reached your conclusion and nothing that denies life will ever be a better alternative, no matter the personal, economic or social costs. You will suffer no retort, because it denies your assumption.

So when someone says "right to life"... what exactly do they mean?


Yes and no.

Killing people is indeed a crime of the highest degree, above absolutely any non-killing crime.

But that doesn't imply that external forces have an obligation to keep you alive.

Ignoring the starving beggar does not violate his right to life.

Re: Capital Punishment/Death Penalty [Philosophy]

Posted: Fri Sep 21, 2012 5:02 pm UTC
by Tyndmyr
Trebla wrote:So when someone says "right to life"... what exactly do they mean?


Generally, the right to not be murdered.

Re: Capital Punishment/Death Penalty [Philosophy]

Posted: Fri Sep 21, 2012 10:56 pm UTC
by J L
As for mutually exclusive situations, as well as for legitimized murder on behalf of the state or the unpleasantness of a social contract potentially revoking your own right to live (which I still think is a very good argument against death penalty):

Maybe a good starting point would be to say NO ONE should have the right to decide who is to live and who is to die.

There might be situations where people are forced to fight for survival, defend themselves, maybe even kill -- but the very moment any third party, be it a state, a judge, a doctor or anyone gets to decide "you are to live, and you have to die" I get a very bad feeling.

Re: Capital Punishment/Death Penalty [Philosophy]

Posted: Sun Sep 23, 2012 3:24 pm UTC
by fifiste
Triage. Lets say on battlefield or on the case of large emergency. Lack of time and other resources. Someone will decide that those who have better chance to actually pull through with the treatment will be prioritised over those who after receiving the treatment would quite likely die anyway. Or whose treatment will take so much time/resources that could be used to save dozens of others. (Who now are going to die)

It is a situation where a third party is deciding who is going to live and who not and I'm fine with it. Otherwise it means way many more dead bodies.

Same things can happen in a military or emergency campaigns - some formations are knowingly sent to much more dangerous assignments than others. When they wouldn't there would be awfully bigger price to be paid for everyone else.

When ever any administration (that actually has any power to administer anything and be called as such) makes any decisions about any resource allocations.
Lets say do we spend more tax money on medicine or emergency services, or military, or health propaganda, or huge **** monuments etc. Some people gain and some lose. To the point of life and death. (Bob wouldn't have died in forest fire if more would have been spent on emergency services new planes not on new APC-s to keep the soldiers like Jim alive or wise versa. )

You might think it philosophically wrong that anybody could make such decisions. But practically to have any other arrangement work out better you should have lone human beings with unlimited resources for their own use at their fingertips and no maliciousness toward each other.
So in a practical world (the previously mentioned situation will if not rise ever then at least not in foreseeable future) where there are groups of people living together trying to use alltogether limited resources, and some of them are incurable ****heads, there's going to be people deciding on others peoples lives and I think removing these kind of mechanisms (by magic because no practical way exist again) would quickly turn out ugly.

TLDR: If a doctor or anyone gets to decide "you are to live, and you have to die" I also get a bad feeling. If there would be magical way that this kind of thing would be impossible I would get even worse feeling.

Re: Capital Punishment/Death Penalty [Philosophy]

Posted: Sun Sep 23, 2012 6:27 pm UTC
by lorb
Regarding fifistes post:
There is difference between a "safe as much people as you can" situation where you can't avoid to decide who gets to live and a "kill more people than necessary" situation which the death penalty is. In other words: Deciding between two human lives who can't coexist which one has to die is a different thing than deciding whether individual A may live or not (with no (foreseeable) fatal consequences for anyone else).

Re: Capital Punishment/Death Penalty [Philosophy]

Posted: Mon Sep 24, 2012 12:55 pm UTC
by Trebla
lorb wrote:Regarding fifistes post:
There is difference between a "safe as much people as you can" situation where you can't avoid to decide who gets to live and a "kill more people than necessary" situation which the death penalty is. In other words: Deciding between two human lives who can't coexist which one has to die is a different thing than deciding whether individual A may live or not (with no (foreseeable) fatal consequences for anyone else).


This still goes back to "Why does a person have the right to life?" I'll accept the term "right to life" as meaning "right to not be killed when there are no foreseeable fatal consequences to anyone else." But... what makes that a right? The U.S. constitution puts "life" on par with "liberty," so denying liberty through incarceration is just as egregious, right?

The arguments so far against the death penalty can easily be refuted by the equally arbitrary claim that "People do not have a right to life, therefore the death penalty is not a violation of human rights."

It should be obvious, in case it isn't, that I'm presenting this as an academic discussion and not a personal belief. Though, I don't necessarily oppose capital punishment on a philosophical level.

Re: Capital Punishment/Death Penalty [Philosophy]

Posted: Mon Sep 24, 2012 1:52 pm UTC
by Tyndmyr
fifiste wrote:Triage. Lets say on battlefield or on the case of large emergency. Lack of time and other resources. Someone will decide that those who have better chance to actually pull through with the treatment will be prioritised over those who after receiving the treatment would quite likely die anyway. Or whose treatment will take so much time/resources that could be used to save dozens of others. (Who now are going to die)

It is a situation where a third party is deciding who is going to live and who not and I'm fine with it. Otherwise it means way many more dead bodies.


This is solved entirely by looking at it from the murder perspective. Intentionally killing someone is worlds away from being unable to save everyone.

Trebla wrote:This still goes back to "Why does a person have the right to life?" I'll accept the term "right to life" as meaning "right to not be killed when there are no foreseeable fatal consequences to anyone else." But... what makes that a right? The U.S. constitution puts "life" on par with "liberty," so denying liberty through incarceration is just as egregious, right?


Typically, these were derived from natural rights. However, merely because the rights were listed together does not mean they are of entirely equal importance. Killing someone is also a limitation on liberty, given that the dead don't really do much. I could easily argue that it is a greater limitation on liberty than imprisonment is.

Since freedoms are not entirely binary, selecting the option that's not as bad would have some justification from a rights-based perspective. That said, from a rights-based perspective, a murderer is also violating the rights of others, so the conflict is already existing before the justice system gets involved.

I prefer the pragmatic approach myself here, but I've seen very well thought out philosophical reasoning on this subject as well.

Re: Capital Punishment/Death Penalty [Philosophy]

Posted: Tue Sep 25, 2012 8:31 am UTC
by VannA
sam_i_am wrote:Killing people is indeed a crime of the highest degree, above absolutely any non-killing crime.
.


Are you religious?
There are a few crimes I hold worse than killing. Killing affects the families of the victim, and they, in a very real sense, are more a victim than the murdered person.

I would suggest, in terms of overall social cost, rape and murder are very close, and the overall hurt, IMO, greater with rape.

WRT to liberty/imprisonment vs life/death, the same thing applies. Dead people cannot judge.

I am, still, personally inclined to resist the death penalty, and would only allow it in cases of extremity, as my original post. I am also heavily disinclined toward imprisonment, and would seek therapy in controlled circumstances, for violent crimes, and theft. Many crimes across the western world simply should not be crimes. I would also like to reinstate labour forces for working off sentences, and replace most jail time with fines, with the working option. But that is tangential to the discussion at hand.

Re: Capital Punishment/Death Penalty [Philosophy]

Posted: Tue Sep 25, 2012 1:15 pm UTC
by Tyndmyr
VannA wrote:
sam_i_am wrote:Killing people is indeed a crime of the highest degree, above absolutely any non-killing crime.
.


Are you religious?
There are a few crimes I hold worse than killing. Killing affects the families of the victim, and they, in a very real sense, are more a victim than the murdered person.

I would suggest, in terms of overall social cost, rape and murder are very close, and the overall hurt, IMO, greater with rape.


You're saying you'd rather have people murdered than raped?

Note that, if you punish them the same, this is exactly the result you encourage, since rape leaves the victim alive to report, and murder, by definition, does not. Therefore, there's no real reason for the rapist not to kill his victim afterward.

Re: Capital Punishment/Death Penalty [Philosophy]

Posted: Tue Sep 25, 2012 2:42 pm UTC
by HungryHobo
sam_i_am wrote:But that doesn't imply that external forces have an obligation to keep you alive.

Ignoring the starving beggar does not violate his right to life.


Sounds great for fully functioning adults capable of taking care of themselves.

Where do people lacking capacity fall into this?

put another way does someone leaving an infant to starve violate it's right to life?

Re: Capital Punishment/Death Penalty [Philosophy]

Posted: Tue Sep 25, 2012 6:30 pm UTC
by chenille
VannA wrote:I would suggest, in terms of overall social cost, rape and murder are very close, and the overall hurt, IMO, greater with rape.

I don't want to derail this too much, but this is something I've heard said before and don't really understand. I am not a woman, and so my perspective on rape is affected by the chances of it happening to me being much, much lower. But besides the enforcement problem Tyndmyr mentions, I know there are a lot of people who suffered rape and still managed to do great things with their life. Doesn't that count for something? When someone is murdered, everything they can bring to the world is lost.