The Instigator
Lostdeathwing
Pro (for)
Losing
6 Points
The Contender
Rob
Con (against)
Winning
23 Points

A hypothetical just society would use the death Penalty as a form of punishment.

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 12/11/2007 Category: Politics
Updated: 9 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 2,348 times Debate No: 218
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (5)
Votes (9)

 

Lostdeathwing

Pro

In order to examine the workings of what defines a just society, we must first ensure that the environment is fit for justice. A suitable environment is one in which there is a) political stability and b) stability of the justice system. These terms combined are defined as social stability, so in order to determine who won the round we must decide, who increases more social stability. Social stability is necessary and is a prerequisite component of a just society because the opposites of it is anarchy or tyranny, both of which allow for infinite rights violations through the lack of any system of punishment or governmental checks. This means that individuals are not given their fair due and any reason for forming a society has evaporated. The first priority of a just society, therefore, is to ensure it can remain just and look to other values.
I contend that the death penalty is necessary to maintain social stability.
If dangerous criminals are permitted to survive, society is constantly at risk. Many criminals sentenced to death exhibit no of remorse and a lack of moral stability. Because of this, it is extremely dangerous to keep them functioning in society. This is especially true in environments filled with insurgencies or other challengers to a just society. Ernest Van Den Haag (legal philosopher) explains, "In some fairly infrequent but important circumstances, the death penalty is the only possible deterrent. Thus, in case of acute coups d'etat, or of acute substantial attempts to overthrow the government, prospective rebels would altogether discount the threat of any prison sentence. They would not be deterred because they believe the swift victory of the revolution will invalidate a prison sentence and turn it into an advantage. Execution would be the only deterrent because, unlike prison sentences, it cannot be revoked by victorious rebels. The same reasoning applies to deterring spies or traitors in war- time. Finally, men who, by virtue of past acts, are already serving, or are threatened by, a life sentence, could be deterred from further offenses only by the threat of the death penalty."
Because prison fails to solve for the real scenarios above, it not only does not contribute to social stability; it only severely detracts from it. The death penalty solves for these problems through A) deterrence of current criminals from brinking into the death penalty. Van Den Haag says "Capital punishment is likely to deter more than other punishments because people fear death more than anything else. They fear most death deliberately inflicted by law and scheduled by the courts. Whatever people fear most is likely to deter most. Hence, the threat of the death penalty may deter[s] some murderers who otherwise might not have been deterred. And surely the death penalty is the only penalty that could deter prisoners already serving a life sentence and tempted to kill a guard, or offenders about to be arrested and facing a life sentence. Perhaps they will not be deterred. But they would certainly not be deterred by anything else. We owe all the protection we can give to law enforcers exposed to special risks."
B) Through unquestionable prevention, outlined by Jeremy Bentham, "The most remarkable feature in the punishment of death, and that which it possesses in the greatest perfection, is the taking from the offender the power of doing further injury. Whatever is apprehended, either from the force or cunning of the criminal, at once vanishes away. Society is in a prompt and complete manner delivered from all alarm."
Rob

Con

First, while I will concede that social stability is important for protecting people's rights, it is crucial that we not neglect other aspects of what makes a society just. A tyranny is not necessarily socially unstable; it is entirely possible for an unjust society to be relatively stable.

You note that "The first priority of a just society, therefore, is to ensure it can remain just and look to other values." Let's examine, then, what sorts of values we promote with the death penalty.

The clearest message sent by the death penalty is: "killing is not inherently wrong". If it is perfectly OK to execute people even when they pose no immediate threat (i.e., it's not self-defense), then the message we send is that murder can be justified, as long as the person in question _really_ deserves it. Whereas banning the death penalty makes it exceedingly clear that killing people is never the answer to a problem, allowing it, even if only in special circumstances, leaves the rightness of killing a certain person up to the discretion of individuals. We promote a culture of death and of retribution, rather than one of cooperation, tolerance, and working to resolve problems nonviolently.

More generally, the death penalty dehumanizes people, making their right to life conditional upon their actions rather than inherent. It promotes the socially harmful attitude that not all people deserve to live, encouraging more brutality and less compassion from the citizenry.

We must also keep in mind that innocent people are often killed by the death penalty--including people whose names would have eventually been cleared had they been given a life sentence. Surely we do not want to say that a just society needlessly kills innocent people. See http://forejustice.org...

Even if the death penalty were necessary to maintain social stability, then, it seems that to the degree that it promotes social stability at all, it promotes it at the expense of its justness, its morality. And since the subject of debate is what a just society would do, not merely what a stable one would do, this is a crippling problem for the "Pro" side.

You say that society is constantly at risk from criminals it doesn't execute, but you could use that logic to justify executing all people who ever break the law; where do you draw the line? That aside, the risk is not really that great from imprisoned criminals. Moreover, even disregarding the fact that treating people humanely benefits society in itself by promoting good values like compassion, forgiveness, and nonviolence, there are many other potential benefits to society from not executing criminals: it saves money and resources (the average U.S. execution costs $2-5,000,000) which can then be put into important social causes; prisoners (even disregarding ones that can be fully rehabilitated) can be put to work in various ways to benefit society and make up for the damages they've caused, and then some; and it spares the lives of inmates who were falsely convicted and could later be cleared and return to being productive members of society. For more details, see http://www.econ.ilstu.edu...

Nor is the death penalty the only recourse available for preventing crimes from people who are already imprisoned; there are plenty of other options available, such as solitary confinement. Some prisoners might even consider the death penalty a blessing by comparison.

Presumably you acknowledge that the death penalty does not serve as a significant deterrent in the vast majority of crimes, and studies bear this out. Criminals, especially ones acting out of passion or desperation, rarely think ahead far enough to consider what possible punishment they will receive if they are caught. While it might seem on paper that a criminal would be more deterred by the death penalty than by a life sentence, in practice that eventuality is usually too abstract to significantly influence the behavior of someone, especially if they don't expect to be caught by law enforcement anyway.

You thus focus only on a very specific and unusual instance: rebels seeking to overthrow the government. Here, I am not sure that your quoted arguments really correspond to reality: rebels intelligent enough to consider the long-term consequences of their actions are unlikely to realistically expect that they will be successful in overthrowing a modern, established nation, and ones who lack that foresight aren't likely to drop all their plans just because they fear they may someday get the chair. Plus, rebels who do expect to be liberated as heroes in the foreseeable future have little to fear considering how many years of appeals there are before the actual execution.

But even if I concede to you that the death penalty might in some rare, select instances help deter potential rebels, you don't address the danger of using the death penalty in such cases: we risk turning the attackers into martyrs, thus adding fuel to the fire of their cause. In the long run, if we truly care about peace and stability, we should treat such people humanely in order to maintain the moral high ground. By doing so, we take the wind out of our enemies' sails, dismantle their attempts to portray us as evil, murderous, unjust, etc. Whether a few imprisoned individuals live or die hardly matters in the grand scheme of things; what matters more is for the state to maintain its just, compassionate image in order to nip hostile sentiment in the bud and prevent future coup attempts. Promoting fear through execution will merely promote more hate in the long run.
Debate Round No. 1
Lostdeathwing

Pro

Lostdeathwing forfeited this round.
Rob

Con

To be clear: a just society's goal should be to protect and further the wellbeing of its people (and, indeed, of all people, since being just requires a lack of bias toward or against other societies). Killing people as a form of punishment does not, as a rule, serve the interest of such a society.

In addition to the obvious fact that it robs the criminals themselves of a chance at happiness (which, if done merely out of spite or "eye-for-an-eye" rather than for the betterment of people in general, is decidedly unbefitting a just society), and the even more troubling fact that a horrifying number of people sentenced to death turn out later to have been innocent, it also deprives society of the resources which could be gained back from a prisoner's labor; of, at least in some cases, a real potential for rehabilitation and the eventual re-introduction of a functional member of society; of the enormous amount of money wasted in the process of getting someone executed (which indeed exceeds the cost expended on someone serving a life sentence by many times); of the "moral high ground" in international affairs (in addition to the martyrdom issue, although we are dealing with hypotheticals, it behooves us to remember that no developed nation in the Western world, other than the United States, still makes use of the death penalty); and of a clear, simple moral statement to the populace that it is never--never!--OK to kill someone just because they've wronged you in some way.

All of those costs, in the long run, are not outweighed by whatever value we might get out of making it 100% impossible for someone to commit a crime again (which is sufficiently well ensured for people serving life sentences anyway), nor by whatever emotional satisfaction anyone might get out of seeing a criminal "get what he deserves" (an unhealthy way to deal with one's hurt or trauma if I ever heard one! forgiveness and rising above the criminal, rather than perpetuating the cycle of violence and death, is the only healthy way for victims to ever truly move on), nor by whatever miniscule deterrent effect capital punishment might have on potential criminals (which studies to date have failed to consistently demonstrate; even if it would make _sense_ if the death penalty scared more people away from committing crimes, this doesn't seem to be the case--remember that people actually committing crimes are rarely thinking or acting like ideal rational agents).
Debate Round No. 2
Lostdeathwing

Pro

Lostdeathwing forfeited this round.
Rob

Con

It's unfortunate that we weren't able to have more of a debate. If you read this at a later date, I'd love to hear your response to my points in the future.

In any case, to sum up, note that I am not denying that there are hypothetical situations in which some hypothetical just society might need to kill someone--this is particularly obvious in "the greater good arguments", where someone might need to die in order to save many other lives. However, the key point to keep in mind here is that this is _not using the death penalty as a form of punishment_. "As a form of punishment" necessitates a punitive factor; you aren't "punishing" someone when you kill them just to prevent some otherwise-unrelated future tragedy, because one could do the same even for an innocent person, at least from a utilitarian perspective or something akin to one.

What is most significant is that no argument has been put forward to justify "eye-for-an-eye" revenge committed by a just society; this rules out purely retributive acts by an ethical justice system. As a result, all we are left with are the rehabilitative and preventative values of the justice system for society--the former of which is obviously terminated by execution, and the latter of which has never been shown in studies to have a significant impact on potential criminals. This makes the case for implementing the death penalty, and especially the case that a just society would _have to_ utilize the death penalty (a claim Lostdeathwing makes without qualification in saying "a hypothetical just society would use the death penalty as a form of punishment"), untenable, particularly considering that my points about the costs, dangers, and risks of employing the death penalty have not been refuted.
Debate Round No. 3
5 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 5 records.
Posted by gack1224 9 years ago
gack1224
Why are people voting PRO in this debate? Please explain to me how you can side with someone who forfeited the last two rounds while CON clearly explained and extended his own analysis!
Posted by Rob 9 years ago
Rob
Buletman, the average execution costs vastly, vastly more money than caring for a prisoner for the rest of his life--manyfold more. The only real way to make executions cheaper would be to cut out the appeals process, which would have the effect, obviously, of killing vastly more innocent people.

So, the choice is: waste ridiculous amounts of money on executions, or kill lots more innocent people and save that money.

Or we could just do something silly like getting the both worlds and abolish the death penalty--saving the money squandered on executions, and also reducing the number of innocent people executed to 0.

But I guess that would be less fun. Let 'em fry!!
Posted by buletman 9 years ago
buletman
If we just took a convicted person and took them out back and shot them in the back of the head "Of Mice and Men" style, it would not be more expensive. However, this may not be the best, because then it leaves the convict, who MAY actually be innocent, SOL.

Ha, but yes, I had heard that executions are more expensive. But I can't really understand this, when we have to make room for the prisoner, feed the prisoner, bath the prisoner, pay for people to watch over the prisoner, pay for the judge's time to reveal the multiple appeals that the prisoner would file, medical aid if that person has a health condition, etc.

I'm sure the "facts" are laid out in that site, but if the system had an overhaul, I'm sure we can make it that execution could be far less expensive than housing a prisoner for the rest of his/her natural life.
Posted by Ineffablesquirrel 9 years ago
Ineffablesquirrel
Executions are far more expensive than housing a criminal in prison on life without parole. Check out this site for facts on this topic: http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org...
Posted by buletman 9 years ago
buletman
While I do believe in the death penalty, as it is more prudent in most cases, I can't help but to side with Rob so far. It is very well stated. The only thing that bothers me is that murder would exist no matter what. There always will be passion crimes, conspiracies to attain what one wants, etc etc. So while I agree the message being sent is "Murder is OK if he/she/they really deserve(s) it," it is still a necessary way to punish some crimes. Also, depending on age, it is cheaper than housing and feeding them for the rest of their natural life.
9 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 9 records.
Vote Placed by U.n 1 year ago
U.n
LostdeathwingRobTied
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Reasons for voting decision: Forfeiture.
Vote Placed by Ineffablesquirrel 8 years ago
Ineffablesquirrel
LostdeathwingRobTied
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Vote Placed by longjonsilver 9 years ago
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Vote Placed by buletman 9 years ago
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Vote Placed by paul_tigger 9 years ago
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Vote Placed by james94 9 years ago
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LostdeathwingRobTied
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LostdeathwingRobTied
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Vote Placed by Rob 9 years ago
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Vote Placed by adamh 9 years ago
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