Quite frequently you will hear somebody say that “they wish they would bring back the death penalty” usually as a result of some news story about the latest horrific child molester or something similar. This is an understandable reaction for the majority of people as it is an emotional response that overrides and clouds the rational part of the part. Some people base their decisions on emotion and some people base theirs on logic. But there’s much more to this debate that needs be taken into account that is often overlooked by our emotional counterparts.
I’m neither for nor against Capital Punishment, in fact I’m actually for both options. But how can someone be both for and against something? Well it depends on the time and place in history. I like to think of all the cultures on earth in the current timeline, as being on a bell curve where you have the tribal savages on one end of the extreme and super advanced, technological cultures on the other end. Now a normal distribution bell curve tells us most of the cultures, (in the current time) will fall roughly in the middle, with some cultures leaning more towards the primitive society end of the spectrum and some leaning more towards the culturally advanced end. There isn’t actually and never will be a perfect culture as I like to think that the sky’s the limit however there most definitely are the primitive cultures with very little cultural advancement present even today. Some tribes in the Amazon Rainforest and the tablelands of Pupa New Guinea have remained in a prefect tribal state with very if any influence from western civilisation. So this isn’t actually a normal distribution bell curve but one that looks something like this.
So when is Capital punishment tolerated and when can it be beneficial to society? Well I would say that the death penalty should be acceptable at either end of the bell curve, ie the savages and the advanced end and I will break down each side individually. Primitive tribal societies are generally living in pretty crappy conditions. They are at arms with the environment and the weather. Disease and animals are a constant threat and generally just staying alive is a daily struggle. Now I’m not saying that living in these conditions that these cultures do is impossible but if you look at the average life span compared to our own considerably easy lives you will find quiet a difference. So living like this you can’t have little Jonny running around committing heinous crimes. What are they going to do? Send him to a psych and try to rehabilitate him back into society? These cultures dealing with trouble people have far too much to lose with these outcasts running around. Now these cultures do in fact engage in capital punishment with their own form of judicial system. It’s definitely not a perfect system and I’m sure wrongly accused people have been executed in these cultures, but that’s the collateral price that needs to be paid for a system that largely works for them in that time and place.
So the other instance where Capital punishment should be implemented is in the higher developed cultures. But to understand why you need to understand why it doesn’t work for the majority of cultures living in the meat of the bell curve. Call this my argument against if you will. I personally live in Australia which I think would fall smack bang at the peak of the curve. Most western cultures in my opinion would fall in this area. Places like Japan and Switzerland in my opinion are leaning more towards to advance side of the curve while parts of the Middle East and some African cultures are leaning more towards the “shit hole” side of things. So why doesn’t capital punishment work for those of us at the peak? Bureaucracy, Corruption, Cost, Not a Deterrent, Not a solution to the bigger problem, Other options available, Rehabilitation available and the list goes on. But Dude, What about if someone rapes a little girl?!? I hear your mind asking yourself in self-absorbed righteousness. Well congratulations to you for cherry picking one of the very few circumstances where almost every person on earth would agree that capital punishment is fully acceptable. This example however would be such a small percentage of cases that is nowhere near enough reason to implement capital punishment as a whole into these societies. What about the untold millions executed throughout history for their political reasons, race, religion, and even having the wrong ideas? If you allow capital punishment for any reason no matter how heinous the crime, then you open the flood gates for the possibility for being executed for any number of reasons even the more trivial, shown countless times throughout history and even currently. You only have to read a book about any one of the more oppressive regimes to understand what a tyrannical government is capable of. So when have a not too advanced, not to savage culture that has capital punishment implement as a possible solution to criminal activity. Who decides if the punishment is justified? Are there appeal procedures put in place? Are there fail safes to ensure that corruption doesn’t result in unjustified executions? How sure are you that non bias is present in the Jury and Judges? These exact reason are why “some” countries that do use capital punishment have such lengthy and costly procedures. This is even before you get to the actual morality and ethics of the subject. And it’s in fact these reasons that many countries have done away with capital punishment, opting for the much cheaper and simpler solution of life imprisonment.
So understanding why Capital punishment doesn’t work in the meat of the bell curve, its easy to understand why the perfect advanced civilisation is able to make it all work. These theoretical societies have the resources to mitigate everything I just said. In theory perfect civilisations are free from corruption and bias, have much more refined judicial systems and have unlimited funding for the process. The process has most probably been streamlined and ethically and morally it ticks all the boxes. So like I said earlier I don’t believe any one culture has or ever will reach the “perfect” status, but some more than others are definitely leaning more in that direction, and therefore in a better place to implement capital punishment. So looking forward to the future as certain cultures advance socially and culturally it’s a subject that should become re-evaluated.