52 thoughts on “Civilized countries”

  1. Michael,

    Thank you for your comment.

    1. You’re probably right, insofar as a life in prison would be miserable. Suppose, though, that you’re convicted of a crime you didn’t commit: Would it really be more humane to get executed knowing that you didn’t do it, will never have a chance to see your family (in this world, at least) and that your name is mud?

    Excellent point. Is it more ethical to unknowingly subject someone to quick and painless death, or a long, torture-filled, painful death?

    I think our aversion to torture answers that question.

    2. We’re talking about the choice between death and life in prison with no possibility of parole.

    This is only true if you use “life in prison with no possibility of parole” as some sort of term of art, divorced from the plain meaning of the words. Obviously “lfie in prison with no possibility of parole” regularly leads to not only more crimes in prison, but walking free on the outside as well.

    Unless you’re proven innocent or somehow manage to escape, the odds of producing offspring are very low, if not non-existent–it is in society’s best interests to make sure of that, and to minimize the odds of escape

    The eugenics argument is interesting. Do you also support the sterilization of the siblings of felons? You would run into Constitutional problems here, wrt the corruption of blood, etc.

    It is also in society’s best interests to make prisons safer even for non-capital prisoners (a sizable chunk of the gangs on Gangland started in prisons out of self-preservation). Think about what’s required to do these things, and you’ll see that it’s in society’s best interests to limit the negative consequences of prisoners’ actions to the greatest extent possible.

    The way to prevent murderers from teaching murder to others is to kill them, and not allow them to communicate with the general prison popopulation. This is what you are opposing.

    What we’re left with is, I think, a philosophical debate.

    To the extent that any political debate is philosophical, sure.

    Having established that a given action is PROBABLY best for any given member of a certain class of criminals,

    No. Should read: Having established that torture and retribution are heinous acts which the state should not participate in.

    what is the best approach: to implement that action automatically, or to make sure that option is always available as a choice? You prefer the first, I prefer the second.

    No. Should read: to implement that action and reap benefits, or not implement that action and reap harm.

  2. “Excellent point. Is it more ethical to unknowingly subject someone to quick and painless death, or a long, torture-filled, painful death?

    I think our aversion to torture answers that question.”

    So you would say “Whether you’re innocent or not, life in prison stinks, so we need to execute you to save you from that hardship.”? And that’s not the only situation (aside from blind fear) which would cause someone to pick life, either: How many of your coreligionists are opposed to the death penalty for the same reasons they oppose abortion? It’s not hard to imagine a prisoner getting religion and choosing a life sentence- hardship and all- to spare the executioner’s soul and to serve penance for his own crimes?

    “Obviously “lfie in prison with no possibility of parole” regularly leads to not only more crimes in prison, but walking free on the outside as well.”

    Hence my follow-up discussion of the need to reduce prison crime for all prisoners, not just lifers. As for politically motivated pardons, didn’t I discuss that in a previous post?

    “The way to prevent murderers from teaching murder to others is to kill them, and not allow them to communicate with the general prison popopulation. This is what you are opposing.”

    Who said I wanted them in the general prison population? I’m quite comfortable with the notion of keeping lifers separate from non-lifers, career criminals from first-timers.

    “No. Should read: Having established that torture and retribution are heinous acts which the state should not participate in.”

    That too. But we also seem to agree that- under current conditions- a prompt execution is probably more humane than life behind bars. I say probably because it fails to take into account the possibility that, for a given prisoner, the greater hardship of a life sentence might be worth it.

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