Thursday, August 04, 2011

Being On The Same Side As Idiots

I am against reintroducing the death penalty to the UK for reasons which I have stated before- executing innocent people is inevitable and I don't want to be party to that. Arguments that we would only use it if we were "really 100% sure" are silly because we think we are 100% sure when we lock anybody up. So to argue for the death penalty is to say that the deaths of innocent people are a price worth paying.

In addition I have to say I find many of those on the same side as me to be smug and stupid. Take Ian Dunt from for the first example from google news who manages to combine all the worst traits of opponents in one article:

  • Self congratulation: "The capital punishment argument is particularly unsatisfying because it is so easy to refute."- It is not easy enough for him it seems.
  •  Ignorance: "the US is the only developed, supposedly civilised country which still conducts executions."- Japan is not a developed and civilised country according to Dunt.
  • Bad Stats:  Too long to quote but he cherry picks studies to conclude that all reputable research refutes the idea that the death penalty deters crime when in fact most recent evidence point to a small but real deterrent effect although it is difficult to be certain with the social sciences.
  • Hypocrisy: "Once the deterrent argument falls apart, capital punishment proponents have very little to fall back on but their own sense of emotional outrage"- after sneering at the "supposedly civilised" USA he wants to accuse other people of relying on emotional outrage?
  • Stupidity:  "In 1996, those US states with the death penalty had an average murder rate of 7.1 per 100,000 of population. Those states without had 3.6 per 100,000."- Lesson 1 of statistics is "correlation does not imply causation" and even if it did you could equally argue that the political support for the death penalty is due to high murder rate. In reality the southern states have been about twice as violent as the northern ones since the days when they were colonies and both hanged people with gusto and enthusiasm.
 I hate being on the same side as people like this.

Update: I am now feeling slightly bad about being so harsh on Mr Dunt, so if you come here via a vanity search, then please ignore all the insulting points and just not the facts.


Laban said...

But to be fair, innocent people will die anyway, and more of them. But they'll be killed by criminals so it won't be "our fault".

I think this argument, when it comes from a politician, is cowardly. We know that innocent lives will be saved - to fail to step up to the plate because you might make a mistake shows that they're really not cut out to exercise power.

Yet the same people are quite happy to authorise military action in which they can be CERTAIN that innocents will die.

Ross said...

Yes innocent people will die either way.

"We know that innocent lives will be saved - to fail to step up to the plate because you might make a mistake shows that they're really not cut out to exercise power. "

But there is a moral difference between killing someone and enacting policies that ultimately lead people to die. If the government took a purely utilitarian approach to saving lives they could compel people to give away their organs if it saved more people than would otherwise survive.