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I've had a varied career, mostly as a technical writer for various high-tech firms in eastern Massachusetts, which is my home of origin. I enjoy speculating about many kinds of technical and philosophical concepts far beyond my level of education. I hope this blog will be an opportunity for me to express some of the ideas that have been percolating for years in my mind. I would consider a respectful exchange of ideas to be the ideal result of this effort.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Capital Punishment Revisited


Well, here it is...my very first post on my brand new blog. I figured I'd start with something that is not the least bit controversial .... capital punishment! Although this would become obvious soon enough I need to make a disclosure. I am a lefty, a progressive, a liberal, a democrat or whatever you want to call me. I am not a communist or a socialist. I believe in the representative democracy that structures our lives and society. I also believe that some changes are needed but I'm pretty happy with the way things work. If our political orientations are in radically different directions and you are not comfortable with my opinions, I can only say "Live long, prosper and be well."

And now to the subject at hand, institutionalized murder, i.e. capital punishment. People argue vehemently on both sides of this issue but all of the opinions I've seen don't come to the core of the question. The arguments range from 'an eye for an eye', to 'they won't do it again', to 'it's cheaper than life in prison', to 'it's a deterrent' and on and on. The only one of these that I'll address at this moment is the 'cheaper than prison' screed simply because there are real numbers to prove this, not just emotion or rhetoric. In reality, according to studies I've read, the average cost to bring a prisoner to the point of execution is about $5,000,000.00. Yup, five million buckaroos. With all the appeals and legal costs and super-tight confinement this is not an inexpensive operation. On the other hand, the average cost to maintain a prisoner in a secure prison environment is $20,000 per year. That's right twenty THOUSAND buckaroos a year. Some very simple math will show that that five million dollars would allow us to imprison our murderer safely away from society for, ready for it??? Two hundred and fifty years! 250 years. Now that's what I call a bargain.

The opposing argument I would like to propose, however, is one that I think trumps all the other arguments. One of the major aspects of a democratic society is that those who are governed cede to the government many of the rights they would normally possess. For instance, although we have the right to protect our homes and families we have ceded that right to the government in the form of the various law-enforcement organizations. Although we have the right to educate our children, most of us have ceded that responsibility to either the government or some other organization, school etc. We don't pave our own streets, or wage our own wars, or regulate our drugs or meat or whatever. We allow our elected representatives to perform those tasks for us.

Summing up, in a civilized nation, none of us have the right to commit premeditated murder on another human being, and I don't know how else capital punishment can be described. It is premeditated, ritualistic and barbarous. Since we do not have that right, it follows then as the night unto the day (Hamlet) we cannot cede that power to the government. We cannot give away what we do not have or own. All other arguments to the contrary, this is I believe the bottom line. We do not have the right to commit murder and neither, therefore, does our government. I firmly believe that it is just that simple.

Thank you for your kind attention.


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