I was going to comment on this diary, but the comment grew enough that I figured a new diary would be the better mode. So here you go:
Human beings are the most dangerous animal, by far.
When a human being is utterly broken and a proven man eater, it should be destroyed. We don't think twice about this concept with chimps and lions and pit bulls and other similar cases when a face is torn off or a child mauled.
Money is the means by which human beings store and distribute the energy of life, attention, and presence. A person standing at a machine for 10 hours earning a living is functionally imprisoned for those hours.
The expenditure of massive amounts of the life energy of non-broken humans to maintain the life of utterly broken and dangerous humans for 30, 40, 50 years or longer fails the moral test of proportionality.
Are there that many liberals who believe that Tim McVeigh should be in a cell somewhere? Saddam Hussein? Ted Bundy? Adam Lanza?
OK you say, the moral case makes sense, but in the real world in which we live, the death penalty cannot be enforced in a moral way. Mistakes are made, the expenses of maintaining the sanction cost more than the costs of housing the prisoners for life, and the penalty falls in unequal ways on unequal classes of person. That is the essence of this diary.
To that I say: you are substantively correct. But the moral choice is not to abolish the penalty, but to drive to perfect it's use and lower its cost.
Texas and Alabama should not have the right to apply the death penalty: it should be a purely federal function because the right to life is a Constitutional right.
Having only a single procedure and apparatus, all by itself, solves innumerable problems of inequality and maladministration. If a state wants to execute a prisoner, that prisoner should be remanded to the federal justice system straight away.
The moral standards to be eligible for the penalty can be arrived at in a reasonable way; crimes that involve multiple victims, crimes that are a second or greater offense, crimes that are fully and physically documented. This necessarily excludes most run-of-the mill murder cases.
The anti-death penalty diary linked above employs multiple sophisms. Let’s look at a few:
- income inequality creates crime, so therefore, punishing criminals is automatically unequal, and thus immoral. So why stop with the death penalty? The same argument holds for everything from traffic stops to grand theft. Brown people suffer more on every level in our society. Do we work on improving that, or do we cease to apply sanctions on everyone to avoid over- sanctioning disadvantaged groups?
- the massive amount of money spent running the current system costs more than imprisoning for life, and those are “precocious dollars” that could otherwise help the poor. So if the administration could be streamlined and less costly than life without parole, the death penalty is then better for the poor?
- the death penalty is pursued for atavistic reasons “out of a need to indulge our most barbarian instincts of revenge and anger” and is thus irrational, IOW immoral. So likewise, is any argument for the sanctity or specialness of human life invalid because of a need to indulge our religious or metaphysical instincts?
The diarist makes multiple mentions of the confusion/dichotomy/unexpectedness of liberal support for the death penalty. He attempts to sustain an argument that such support is “a mile wide but an inch deep” , which basically plays into the conservative trope that liberals consider everyone children who would only make better choices if they knew what was good for them.
This issue is a rock where the wave of liberal sensibility breaks; where the urge to active a desired end creates political costs that are too high.
Conservatives love strident anti-death penalty positioning. They love it because they know progressives are by and large on the wrong side of the argument to great numbers of Americans. We should not be on the wrong side in the first place, and we should seek to avoid giving the other side that potent example – that mirror image really- of intellectual hoop jumping in support of a desired ideological outcome.
This liberal deeply supports the death penalty but deeply deplores the way it’s administered.
Progressivism is the political orientation of those who favor progress toward better conditions in government and society. I believe the proper progressive position would be to push to federalize, to limit to a narrow class of crimes and criminals, and to embrace the moral understanding that yes, some crimes are too heinous and some criminals too broken to allow their lives to continue at public expense.