Capital Punishment, Right or Wrong

Today’s world is a seething morass of moral confusion.  We have much insanity running amok in governments and public life on the moral plane.  The inmates seem to be running the asylum. The criminals appear to be running the prisons. What was once holy is now profane and that which was once an abomination is now lauded from the highest pulpits of society as good.

On the one hand we have the death penalty being removed from the sanctions of law and on the other we have the murder of children being sanctioned as “good” because either they are still in the womb or because they are not really human at all yet (see Peter Singer et al.).

“Curiouser and curiouser” the world goes as God is rejected and replaced by Darwinian fitness based, collective cultural whims set up on the auction block for the highest bidder and sold by the use of sly marketing techniques.

Here I present some of the reasons why capital punishment is a necessary sanction for specific crimes.

It would be so nice if we lived in a truly peaceful world wherein all citizens lived by the Golden Rule.  Unfortunately that is not the case.  On the contrary, because humans have free will and motility, and because that means that selfishness can and does exist, we live in a world where selfish persons may make free choices to rape, rob and murder others for their own profit and reasons.

Perfect pacifism is simply not possible in such a world.

Violence is unfortunately sometimes the only means available for stopping selfish persons from destroying the lives of others. I personally deplore gratuitous violence of every kind. Thus I also necessarily deplore crimes of violence committed against innocent persons.

Therefore I ask the following questions:

  • If all violence (use of force) were always wrong why do we have armed police forces?
  • If all use of deadly force were always wrong why do we have armies?
  • What would the world be like if there were no police and no army?
  • If no amount of murdering can ever deserve the forfeit of the life of the perpetrator then what is life’s true worth? Given this, is the life of the perpetrator worth more than the life of his victims?

How long would an unarmed police officer last on the job? How many violent criminals would take advantage of the unarmed policeman? Then, how many policemen would be ruthlessly murdered on duty? Finally, in light of this, who in their right mind would want to become a police officer?

It becomes more than obvious rather quickly that in a violent world the removal of all capital punishment cannot produce peace, safety or justice.  A very superficial study of history is sufficient to reveal that where there is no law enforcement there is no real law at all, and where there is no armed law enforcement, such enforcement becomes impossible in proportion to the selfishness and criminality of individuals rises.

Generalized intelligence and virtue are the only reasons  to allow democratic freedoms, and as such intelligence and virtue are abandoned in favor of moral stupidity and hedonism, freedoms and safety are naturally lost.

What do pacificists think would happen if all death penalties were outlawed? We all know they themselves would not live very long. Certainly they would lived shorter lives than the man that arms himself.  Criminals that resort to deadly force will not be stopped by some mere written rule without enforcement.  Indeed, there is no such thing as law without sanctions and enforcement.

Now this clearly leads to the question: if capital punishment were always wrong why are our police officers and soldiers armed with deadly force?

When a soldier shoots and kills an invading enemy he is practicing capital punishment. When a police officer shoots and kills a criminal on the verge of committing murder he is applying a death penalty on the spot.  Therefore, if all capital punishment is wrong then is this soldier, this policeman also wrong? Would any victim-to-be think so? Obviously not.

Were there some other way of stopping an invading army we’d all be for it. Were there some other way of stopping a murder – same thing.  Of course in the case of an imminent murder police may use some other non fatal force like a taser if possible.  But there we get into specific circumstances of whether deadly force ought to be used or not and I’m not going to go there in this article.  The point is that there are indeed many incidents in which the response of deadly force, i.e. capital punishment, to an unlawful threat of imminent and severe harm, is the right response.

The question arises however, on whether one that has committed murder ought to be himself killed after the crime? This is the real crux of the debate.

Those opposing capital punishment most often state that if we kill the killer we are doing exactly what he has done and are thus no better than he.  This kind of thinking means that, in that view, no amount of murdering, torturing or raping can bring about the forfeit of the perpetrators own life.  It is however clear that such a view implies that the life of the killer is in fact worth more than all the lives of those that he has killed!  Does anyone seriously believe that?

The no death penalty view also implies that strict principles of justice ought not to be applied to the killer.  How so? Under strict justice if you steal 100 dollars you must repay 100 dollars plus damages to the robbed party. If you steal a car then the value of the car must be restored to the victim plus damages in lost wages etc.

Again there is no such thing as law without sanctions.  But sanctions must be equal to the value of the laws in question. Jay walking, for example, is by no means worthy of life in prison. Going 20 over the speed limit is not worth having ones arm cut off. Stealing a loaf of bread does not deserve having ones hand amputated.

Such penalties are not just in proportion to the offense but in fact severe injustice.  The scales of justice would be seriously off kilter if such severe sanctions were applied to such minor offenses.

So what of murder? Hardly a minor offense.  So, does one life not equal another life? Where do we get off pretending it doesn’t? Those who preach this kind of severely imbalanced “justice” by claiming that in fact a life does not equal another life are do not understand the very nature of justice itself.  If the sanction to “you shall not murder” is less than the value of the precept itself, less than the consequences of the crime itself, then justice is not being served at all. By removing the death penalty for such crimes we have in fact defeated justice itself and are declaring that the life of the murderer is worth more than the life of the murdered.

Under such a crippled view we can find no justification for having either armed police forces or armies at all. All killing would be murder.  The soldier defending his country from invaders as with deadly force as much as the police officer preventing murder would both be murder as well.

Another example: any man has a right and duty to protect his family from an intruder into his home.  If there is clear intent to rape, steal and to kill, deadly force is justified, if no other means is available.  Any man that would not do so would be a coward and a disgrace for allowing his family to be subjected to such horrendous crimes.

Therefore if the use of deadly force used under the circumstances is not morally wrong, how can we possibly see the delayed use of deadly force after the crime as morally wrong? A life equals a life and thus strict justice requires life for life.

About two thousand years ago and man of great learning and experience stated, concerning officers of the law, “He does not bear the sword in vain” – the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Christians in Rome.

To remain logically consistent, those opposing capital punishment are thus forced to oppose the existence of armed police and national armies as well. Is there any sane person that would indeed plead for such? Allow me to seriously doubt it.

Am I promoting persistent capital punishment in all capital crimes? No. There is indeed a place for mercy, leniency and pardon.  However nothing but leniency and pardon is exactly equal to no justice at all ever. Mercy triumphs over judgment but if no judgment is ever applied the law is without sanctions and no law at all.