Death Penalty Opposition: Not About Individual Rights

Across the country, there are movements afoot to outlaw the death penalty. My former home state of Maryland recently ended the death penalty, and my current home state of Delaware is likely to follow suit.

What troubles me the most about it are the reasons given for ending the death penalty. Few if any suggest that it’s bad for the government to have life-or-death power over individual life; and that to make an error in such an important matter would be an injustice of the greatest magnitude.

More often, you hear all the stale platitudes about how we must forgive others, turn the other cheek, and not heighten the tragedy of a horrendous crime by adding to it another murder.

In other words, the reasons most often given for opposing the death penalty are not in defense of actual or potential victims—such as a wrongly accused defendant in a murder trial; the ones defended are the guilty, precisely because they are guilty. ‘We’ve got to forgive them,’ is the underlying point of ending the death penalty.

Yes, I know that all of Judeo-Christian morality has taught us this. But if we’re honest about it, traditional morality is wrong about most things. A majority in advanced civilization have been willing to accept that traditional morality is wrong about things like abortion, sex before marriage and homosexuality. Why won’t anyone question how wrong religion has been about forgiveness?

I believe it was Adam Smith who wrote that mercy to the guilty is cruelty to the innocent. This strikes at the core of why conventional moral ideas about forgiveness are, in fact ‘ immoral. That quote names the very reason why nobody rational would ever forgive anyone who did something atrocious or horrible either to himself, or to someone he values. If we’re honest about it, we’d all admit it, at least to ourselves. But few of us ever want to be caught admitting it in front of another.

I actually support the death penalty in limited cases, where certainty of guilt exists and the crime is horrendous. I bet most of the people who are ready to seize guns from the hands of law-abiding citizens after the tragic shooting in a Connecticut school would never, ever support the death penalty for that shooter, had he lived. I would. We’re told that it’s not for humans to judge. Why not? Who else is there to judge?

At the same time, I recognize and appreciate the reluctance of handing the government power to kill somebody who might be innocent. Every day, we see our government playing fast and loose with more and more of our Constitutional, individual rights. Each year, government passes new laws or directives justified in the name of any perceived or actual economic ’emergency,’ individual rights be damned. With people like Barack Obama, John Roberts, Michael Bloomberg and John Boehner running our courts and governments, how wise can it be to give the government the power of life-or-death?

But it’s neither liberty nor individual rights that concern the most strident death penalty opponents. In most if not all cases, these are the same people who support government control of medicine, government nationalization of private industry, and outlawing handguns.

Fighting for the elimination of the death penalty while simultaneously supporting all the other things our government is presently undertaking is more than merely irrational; it’s downright dark. Collectivist, socialist nations have been responsible for murdering more innocent souls than any free republic could ever possibly have done with the rare usage of the death penalty. Collectivism-socialism is where our elected leaders are presently taking us, even as they shout for the rights of mass murderers to be forgiven.

Something else is motivating these death penalty opponents, and whatever it is—it isn’t pretty.


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