Re: Capital punishment

Tony Hollick (
Sat, 21 Jun 97 11:54 BST-1

In-Reply-To: <>

In that message, said:

>That's one of the few issues upon which libertarians, and even
>Objectivists, have no specific stance. I've seen Friedman make
>economic arguments against it, but I think in general libertarians
>are split just as the public is.

Unilaterally killing someone is an irretrievable act of aggression --
murder, all the worse for being carried out against a captive person with
no means of self-defence, and who may -- it may transpire -- be _innocent
of the crime for which they are executed_.

The liberal (word used in its widest sense here) argument against is that
the laws protecting rightsd should be upheld _with only the absolute
minimum of violence which may be necessary.

It is quite extraordinary that anarchists or libertarians -- of all people
-- should endorse the death 'penalty.' All this can lead to in practice is
assassinations and coldly calculated judicial murders by the State. Or
lynch mobs.

That anyone can imagine that this can possibly lead to a more liberal, or
libertartian, or more anarchist society is *entirely risible*.

[1] Execution itself is _morally indefensdible_. Ity degrades everyone
associated with its practice. That can only serve to degrade the justice
system itself. It also in itself violates fundamental laws.

CIA prohibited assassinations for moral and prudential reasons which
Richard Bissell gives in his autobiography, "Reflections of a Cold
Warrior" [Yasle, 1996]. Not least, because it degrades policymaking with
an 'Off with their head' modality of thought. He was chief economist to
the Marshall Plan, Deputy Director, Plans at cIA, and President of the
Institute for Defense analyses at princeton. He studied economics under
hayek for a year, at LSE, and found him incomprehensible (Hayek's English
was noe too intelligible back then >:-} ].

[2] It's _unnecessary_: check the murder rates country by country and
compare them with the execution rates. Supporters would predict an iverse
correlation: but there is none. In fact, countries with execution are
frequently _more_ murder-prone. Every country in Europe is safer than any
state in the US, AFAIK.

[3] In fully rights based libertarian terms, it's *impossible.*


[a] The accused is tried in court. The prosecution team, the jury and the
trial judge(s) must accept personal responsibility for the outcome. They
are all subject to execution if they turn out to have got it wrong, and
have in fact convicted (and thus caused to be executed) an innocent man,

[b] An executioner must be found. He must be liable to execution should
his executing the accused should prove factually unwarranted. You won't
find one. The jailers are accessories to murder, too. Their belief that
they were somehow 'justified' in conspiring to kill is hardly relevant as
a defence.

[c] All of the above-mentioned people must also be able to provide full
and prompt restitution to all the friends, relatives, business associates
etc., who are themselves gravely damaged by the execution _even though
they've done nothing wrong_.

[d] Not many candidates for the above-mentioned roles is likely to have
that sort of money, and no insurance company would carry the risk on their

[e] If it's a statutory death penalty, _all the people who voted for it_
are also liable and subject to criminal and civil proceedings.

------------------- * * * * * ---------------


You get to vote on the matter, try the case, or execute the person, if --
-- and only if -- you agree to this procedure.

If the man is convicted and sentenced, you must spend a month getting to
know the accused, and get to know them, their friends, family and
colleagues. Their unique and irreplaceable selves.

You must then try to learn what really happened, and why.

At the completion of the month, you _have_ to execute the accused _even if
you believe they're innocent, and you'll destroy the hasppiness of others,
perhaps deprive the world of irreplaceable talents, and be executed
yourself into the bargain.

Would _you_ accept these terms? If not, why not?

Would you ask _anyone else_ to? Seriously? How do you think they would
reply to you?


"Don't do things to other people that you wouldn't want them to do to you."