Does Death Deter?

The debate over the empirical evidence on death penalty deterrence occupies the first half of a recent issue of the Economist’s Voice. I don’t claim to be at all impartial (Wolfers is a mate) – but the article is quite entertaining.

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8 Responses to Does Death Deter?

  1. Bring Back EP at LP says:

    deterrence is an evil concept because if you are sentenced on that basis and a person then commits the same offence you have been gaoled wrongly.

    Capital punishment is ONLY applicable as a punishment fitting the crime.
    Such a crime is murder where there is NO doubt at all eg Martin Bryant.

  2. Patrick says:

    Er, back to ‘logic and argument for the primary school and how to assume a premise’ for you, Homer! I don’t think anyone makes the argument for the death penalty solely on deterrence, or not that I have (ever) read.

  3. Patrick says:

    Although, personally, I find Wolfer’s conclusions intuitively appealing – both because I don’t think the death penalty would be strongly deterrent, and because I think it should be extraordinarily difficult to measure the extent of any deterrence.

  4. Andrew Leigh says:

    Patrick, the debate that Donohue & Wolfers are participating in is actually one in which the primary argument being made for the death penalty (eg. by Cass Sunstein, Gary Becker) is deterrence.

  5. Patrick says:

    Well, I excuse my ignorance. And I rest on my ‘intuitively’ appealingm because I am sure that they both outclass me, intellectually!

  6. Andrew Leigh says:

    It’s ok Patrick. In this instance, you’re right, they’re wrong.

  7. ChrisPer says:

    I just saw this death penalty research commentary http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/national/1110AP_Death_Penalty_Deterrence.html and thought it was a topic Andrew would address, so I searched and found this post. I personally oppose the death penalty, through knowing a murderer and seeing the tripe that media reports dished up about the crime. I don’t believe we can trust witnesses and officials enough to be certain of justice. Research on deterrence must be extraordinarily like measuring the gun law effects (eg Baker and McPhedran) and measuring the contagion effect (Phillips 1980 or so).

  8. Andrew Leigh says:

    ChrisPer, it’s a bit different, in the sense that the probability of being killed by a gun is about 100 times larger than the probability of being killed by the death penalty. Wolfers likes to say that – to a first approximation – the US does not have a death penalty.

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