Today we talked about the execution of a Utah man and how it got Tweeted by the state's attorney general. Naturally this prompted death penalty discussions. One commenter summed their philosophy up nicely.
Camus once wrote about the people who carry out capital punishment something to the effect of: "It's common knowledge today that all executioners are humanists." He was trying to get at the fact that there was always an appeal to the dignity of man, the quality of mercy, the importance of the rule of law and the sanctity of justice in the discourse surrounding the executions.
Obviously Camus was being ironic. While he was a supporter of the death penalty in some cases, he saw the private murder by the state as being pure revenge. It punished not only the prisoner in the harshest way possible but also the family of the prisoner as well.
But, let me go back to these appeals to universal justice, God, the state and so on. These men who execute, this little Mormonic attorney general creature being one of them, they qualify as model citizens and family men. They dress nicely, they coach little league teams and they are good neighbors. But make no mistake. They're the worst sort of people. They're the type of men who are ready with a smile and a handshake the one moment but stand ready at the next to commit murder. These are men who hide their murderous tendencies in the loftiest of language, appealing to the highest tendencies in moral philosophy of the Age of Enlightenment, all in a vain attempt to deny the fact that they're violently ringing the life out of those they have power over when they could prevent it with a wave of the hand.
There are better ways to deal with violent criminals. We have to keep in mind that the death penalty as it's carried out nowadays hasn't been conclusively shown to deter others from future crimes. This is especially the case when criminals are executed in private, where it only serves as private revenge for the powers in government and the family and friends of the victim. Murder for private revenge is clearly wrong morally. Executing criminals in public might serve the function of preventing crime, but it's totally barbaric to execute people in public. Nobody is seriously in favor of public executions anymore, if not for moral reasons than for purely pragmatic reasons: public executions are a destabilizing element.
Ultimately, we have to recognize and understand that we're not living in a war zone and that we can deal with our violent criminals by locking them up. Wy don't we just do that? What some state governments are doing now, why, it's an attack on the philosophical foundations of the state when our government murders in our name.