Monday, November 06, 2006

Good And Bad Arguments Against the Death Penalty

For a number of reasons (Here I discuss one of them) I think the Iraq war was a big mistake. But sympathy for Saddam Hussein certainly wasn't one of them. And now that the mistake has been made, there is no reason not to use it to do something good, like executing Saddam.

Yet particularly here in Sweden and in most other European countries, the death sentence is condemned and people say it is in principle wrong with executions-even for a mass murdering tyrant like Saddam. But on what ground are the death penalty supposed to be wrong on principle?

Is it because it is always wrong to kill someone? That everyone has a right to life, and that the justice system cannot violate the normal moral laws? But if it is wrong with the death penalty because murder is wrong, isn't prison and fines wrong because kidnapping and theft is wrong? This argument is not really an argument against death penalty, but against all forms of punishment.

The point is that criminals by not respecting other people's rights have given up their moral claim on others to respect their rights. And as murderers have chosen that they do not respect other people's right not be killed, they cannot claim any right not to be killed by others.

There is another argument against death penalty which is basically valid: namely that if you execute someone and later find out he was innocent you can't free and compensate him. That would by contrast be possible with life imprisonment. For this reason and because life imprisonment is almost as tough punishment as the death penalty, I am basically content with having that as toughest punishment.

But in murder cases where there is zero doubt about guilt, like the case of Saddam Hussein, it is just to execute them.


Anonymous pinus said...

Actually, there has been some research done that concludes that lifelong imprisonement is actually a much tougher punishment than execution, at least in the eyes of serious felons.

And there is one more argument against executing Saddam - this will certainly make him a martyr. The question is whether we want this. Maybe letting him live till death quietly and silently without any chance for public appearances would do less harm. Of course, there is always the counterargument that, if imprisoned, he may be freed and come back once. This would almost certainly not happen if he was executed. So it's a Sophie's choice...

10:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are right the iraq war was a big mistake!!

12:39 AM  

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