Tuesday, September 08, 2009

The Death Penalty

“The prospect of killing an innocent person seemed to be the one thing that could cause people to rethink their support for capital punishment. Some who were not troubled by statistical arguments against the death penalty—claims about deterrence or racial disparities—were deeply troubled that such an extreme injustice might occur in an individual case.”

Stuart Banner, "The Death Penalty"

This quote from an article in the New Yorker really stood out at me when I read it. Mainly because I find it so incongruous that we as a country would care so much about an individual miscarriage of justice, yet we do not march in the streets when we hear about collateral damage in Iraq or Afghanistan. Is it because they are not American citizens?


Blogger Tobie said...

I really think that we have different categories in our heads for injustice and collateral damage. In fact, we're willing (implicitly or explicitly) to conduct cost-benefit analysis for the cost of a life in just about every sphere other than the justice system.

I'm not sure why this is. I think that part of it is that justice is the only field that will claim that the victim deserves to die and somehow that makes it more frightening than saying that it's just one of the things that happens. Or perhaps it's that we have intentionally turned the force of the government against x person- murder versus homicide, in a way. Also, any sense of arbitrariness in the justice system sort of undermines the effectiveness of deterrence and other social goals- if people are punished without connection to guilt, then there is no incentive not to commit crimes.

September 09, 2009 12:17 AM  
Blogger Miri said...

Also because it's far away. People have less concern for things that aren't right in front of them.

September 09, 2009 3:14 AM  
Blogger jewish philosopher said...

"Is it because they are not American citizens?"

Of course.

And then people get all bent out shape because the Talmud discriminates between Jews and gentiles.

Well, duh, yeah.

September 09, 2009 6:19 AM  

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