While I like spirited, informative, insightful political debates as much as anyone else, I dare say most of the recent socialism (and death penalty and education function) posts have been rather uninformative and uninsightful.
There are several good, basic libertarian or free market texts out there. I encourage newcomers and dissenters to first read one of these books and familiarize yourself with at least rudimentary terms such as "coercion" or basic phenomenon such as the laws of supply and demand.
Also, it would help if some analysis was done. For example:
The death penalty is a more interesting (less tired) thread, but over the years, I still think, "The most notable thing about the death penalty is how so much emotion and thought is expended over so little." How many people does the US execute every year anyway? As of Thursday 12/10, there has been a total of 64 US prisoners executed in 1998:
[ See http://www.smu.edu/~deathpen/exec98.html ]
In 1998, there were probably more email posts to the Extropian list over the death penalty than there were executions.
There are 267,000,000+ people in the US. Now let's look at the most recent crime figures:
[ From http://www.fbi.gov/pressrel/ucrpress.htm ]
>---The 1997 Crime Index total of approximately 13.2 million offenses
>represents a 2-percent decline from the 1996 total. Five- and 10-year
>comparisons show the 1997 national total has dropped 7 percent since
>1993 and is 5 percent lower than in 1988.
>---There were an estimated 1.6 million violent crimes during 1997. The
>---The number of murders in 1997 was estimated at 18,209, which is 7
>---There were an estimated total of 96,122 forcible rapes during 1997.
>---Robberies declined 7 percent in 1997 as compared to 1996
>levels. The 1997 estimated robbery total was 497,950 or 186 robberies
>---In 1997, it is estimated that over 1 million aggravated assaults
In '97, there were 74 executions. 18,209 / 74 = 246.07 -- the 1997 murder-to-executions ratio.
74 executions (in '98 as of 12/10) versus 18,209 murders (in '97) versus 96,122 rapes versus 1.6 million violent crimes.
Why, 1.6 million divided by 260 million comes to 1 in 160 -- the average US risk of being a victim of violent crime in 1997. Using the 1 in 160 figure, over the next 50 years, one has a 27% chance of being a victim of a violent crime. (Curiously, there are 535 congressbeings and senators in the US Congress; a member of the House of Representatives was mugged in DC just a few weeks ago.)
Similar analyses can be done on issues like socialism (the negative correlation between tax burden and unemployment rates in the G7 countries) and education (US spends more per pupil than any country except Switzerland, yet in a recent test, US kids ranked 18th out of 21 major nations in competency tests).
Please, if you must debate, a little research (i.e., a little Altavista, a little reading) can go a long way.