Merry Andrew wrote:
...There are those, of course, who will say that anyone who wantonly takes a human life should be prepared to suffer the consequences of losing one's own life. OK. If you're prepard to admit that your only justification for capital punishment is vengeance, then perhaps you'd be willing to go back to a pre-industrial society scenario where vengeance was lawfully exacted by the injured party, without interference from the state. I find it ironic that the state today kills people as a lesson to all that killing people is wrong.
I believe it would be more accurate histiorically to say that the state took the right for retribution away from the victim in exchange formaking it an obligation of the state - subject ti judicial procedure & review.
.And there is the moral conundrum, of course. Is the executioner morally less guilty of homicide than the convicted felon whom that executioner executes? As Hamlet said to Horatio, chew on that.
You imply a very curioous view of morality. In most moral concepts the intent and motivation of the perpetrator is a significant, often defining factor. Clearly the actions of a soldier in a just war, or those of an executioner carrying out the judgement of a court enforcing established law are profoundly different in their moral meaning than those of one who kills in a robbery or sexual assault. If you are unable to find moral distinctions in these actions, then perhaps we have nothing to discuss.
Certainly capitol punishment carried out as it is today -- put off by years of appeals, review, bureaucratic delay and even political timidity, so that its eventual occurrence is unlikely -- is no deterrent. Forty plus years ago in this country and in Western Europe execution was carried out generally within weeks of the sentence. I suspect that indeed had significant deterrent value. One can easily befuddle willing minds with selective sampling and biased statistics, but common sense tells us otherwise.
Those who oppose capitol punishment should reflect on the purpose of its alternative - perpetual imprisionment. Clearly reform of the individual perpetrator is not the object of this punishment: the object is vengence at the hands of the state. Indeed one would be very hard pressed to demonstrate any efficacy of our prisions in achieving reform of those who don;t choose it themselves, even for lesser sentences. Those who accept the (usually biased) statistical demonstrations of the lack of deterrent effect of capitol punishment for murder should also consider the statistical indicators for the deterrent effect of imprisionment for lesser crimes such as drug dealing and theft.