Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Monday Horror Renews Debate on (and Thirst for) Capital Punishment

The satisfaction of bloody retribution notwithstanding, capital punishment is the lazy way out, as it doesn’t require us to address the real issues 

Once again the crowds were calling for blood on Monday after an individual decapitated a four-year-old girl with a meat cleaver in Neihu, Taipei. The random act of incomprehensible violence has re-energized those — a majority here — who support capital punishment and could turn into a challenge for the incoming Tsai administration that is far less amenable to maintaining the death penalty. Although anger is perfectly understandable under such circumstances, Taiwanese society cannot afford to let hot emotions dictate how it deals with such matters; cool, analytical minds must prevail in such trying times. 

The truth of the matter is that capital punishment doesn’t work, at least not if it is regarded as a means to deter heinous crimes. Individuals who butcher toddlers in cold blood in front of their mothers do not operate under the rational, cost-versus-benefit analysis that governs the rest of us. The morals (variations of “thou shalt not kill” that exist across civilizations) and instinct for self-preservation that make killing another human being so abhorrent to ordinary people do not register with psychopaths who either do not comprehend the consequences of their acts or simply do not care. With them, fear of retribution doesn’t act as a check on their actions. 

My article, published today in Thinking Taiwan, continues here.

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