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12/18/2005

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Wes

However, other things being equal, the state has an interest in incentivizing people (or reducing the disincentives) to become police officers.To the extent that there is a shortage of police officers at all, this shortage does not seem so severe that it's necessary to kill people to alleviate it.It's interesting that given the choice between paying police officers a higher salary or taking human lives as a means of incentivizing people to become police officers, many people would prefer the taking of human lives.I guess many people value their own money more than other people's lives.

dan C

Since this is the holidays, lets look at drunk driving and the death penalty.

(in 2003) 14,630 of those people were killed in crashes that involved a driver or non-occupant with blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 or greater. (This is from KeRo Corporation, MADD has a number around 17,000. This does not count those injured by drunk drivers.

If we execute ten drunk drivers a year (drivers who killed someone but survived themselves), I assume we can stop 90% of all fatal drunk driving accidents. Ten executions will save about 13,000 people a year, or 1,300 people per execution. Don't foget the 3,000 people per execution we save from serious injury.

Would you execute ten very guilty drunk drivers to save 13,000 people?

Isn't it moral to prevent such mass murder?

lincoln

Pettibone,
1)All lives are not equally valuble.(you may be able to use the word "precious" here.)I believe that,say,Denton Cooley's life is more valuble than mine.
2)I know(actually knew) a murderer who never claimed he was innocent,He's been executed.He beat his wife to death while on a furlough.Broad daylight.Traveled over 100 miles to do it.
3)I did state Capote felt the guilt of the person was irrelevant to the deterrent effect.I specifically stated I doubted anyone here subscribed to this.(Actually,even this view isn't new.It is most cleverly expressed in "The Mikado",a 19th century operetta where the Lord High Executioner sings ,"As someday it may happen that a victim must be found,I'm making up a list".
4)At least you address the law of diminishing returns.
Look,too often this forum becomes a "gotcha"-partly-I suspect-to impress the other writers and moderators.Is it possible to address seriously whether any (of the non moralists) one feels there is a deterrent effeect to capital punishment that is beneficial to general society?

T.Gracchus

Econometrics do not normally provide casual explanations, and in this case appear not to. It would be helpful to the assessment of the various studies finding a deterrrent effect if some causal explanation(s) for the effect would be provided. The probabliity calculations are likely well beyond the abilities of almost everyone involved in the sorts of crimes which might result in a death sentence. If true (I do not know that it is), some other explanatory mechanism must be offered.

A deterrence theory requires a causal story in order to work. (It is one of the things that distinguishes deterrence from impediments or discouraging factors.) I have not read all of the studies cited, but those which I have read offer nothing plausible as a causal mechanism. Absent that part of the story, the most the econometrics could show is the possibity of deterrence, but cannot provide useful evidence of deterrence.

Which suggests that none of the studies finding the presence or absence of an effect tell us anything useful about whether capital punishment is justified.

R Gambel

I usually regret doing this but, Aren't you leaving out a party at interest? It seems to me that if everyone gets "life"; no prisoner has an incentive to behave in jail. What's to stop them from forever trying to escape even if that involves killing one or more prison guards? Isn't the marginal cost minimal, like solitary confinement for a while? Alternatively, I guess society could so construct prisons (with automatic feeding of prisoners and such) but that would itself be at great cost.

So, at least killing a prison guard should recieve a death sentence. The next step away would be kidnap victims and hostages whose killing would have no marginal costs were it not for the death penalty.

W

Is it possible to address seriously whether any (of the non moralists) one feels there is a deterrent effeect to capital puni>hment that is beneficial to general society?

It is the deterrent effect on society caused by public renunciation of murder by convicted murderers if we had a genuinely redemptive culture in which rehabilitation was the sole purpose of imprisonment.

W J O'B

1. forget about the problem of executing the innocent, for the same problem arises with life imprisonemnt. there may be a longer yime to discover that the convicted was innocent, but the effort will be less--so an innocent person convicted of murder is presumably more likely to have innocence brought to light if he is sentenced to death than if he is sentenced to life in prison.

2. forget about the "its-wrong-to-kill-so-its-wrong-for-the-govt-to-kill" argument: its also wrong to lock people up in small rooms against their will for long times.

3. the problem with capital punishment, is that it is much more expensive than imprisonment, and--despite what posner asserts--there is no compelling evidence that it deters (beyond the alternative).

4. if it did deter, and that justified it, then why not just torture and humiliate murderes before putting them to death in truly painful ways?

Ryan

>People who buy life insurance don't think they're
>about to die, but they know there's a
>chance so they do it anyway.

There's an interesting question; What percentage of people on death row owned life insurance at the time they committed their crime?

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