Death Penalty

Thomas Cahill interviewed Bill Moyers here.

The first group against capital punishment were Anabaptist Christians (Shakers, Quakers, and so forth).

I hear sometimes hear anti-death penalty advocates argue that death penalty has no deterrence effects.  That is not correct.  It is rather that this deterrence effect, is not as strong as many other types of deterrence (without the conscience-sickening state controlled execution).  Pro-death penalty (often conservatives) will tell you that death penalty has a deterrence effect; they just leave out (typically) that this effect is far smaller than other activities.

So the canard that what people are really after is the deterrence of crime is out.  If they were really out to reduce crime (a noble enterprise), there are plenty of other activities to begin with than capital punishment.  [Not to mention the repeatedly proven racial and class bias of the US death penalty system].

I think Cahill has a deep point that underneath all this is cruelty (human evil is cruelty is says) and this tendency is within all of us–a deep dark primeval urging for death, for blood, for spectacles of gore.  It is an emotional, revenge-seeking desire that is often at the core of all this.  We need a sacrifice he says.  We offer up these peoples to a god of violence.

Published in: on January 15, 2008 at 6:29 pm  Leave a Comment  

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