Death Penalty Downunder

With the politics of capital punishment in the news lately, I thought I’d blog on three interesting pieces of work that have crossed my desk.

Realists: In new ARC-funded (but not endorsed!) research, Sinclair Davidson and Tim Fry analyse the Australian Election Study, and show a strong correlation between rating terrorism an important issue and supporting capital punishment.

Idealist: Michael Fullilove’s 2006 Lowy Institute paper on capital punishment and foreign policy is still a document I find tremendously compelling, albeit that supporting this view did recently get Robert McClelland into some hot water.

Economists: I’ve blogged on it before, but the work by John Donohue and Justin Wolfers is to my mind the best econometric analysis on whether the death penalty deters. Their conclusion: the data don’t show strong effects either way.

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4 Responses to Death Penalty Downunder

  1. reason says:

    When humans can rightly claim to be infallible I’ll consider the death penalty. Until then even considering it is immoral, it amounts to arbitrary murder.

  2. ChrisPer says:

    Ah, crap reason, reason. Arbitrary is by definition not due process, and vice versa. My main reason for opposing the death penalty is that we can afford the luxury of keeping a killer in case we made a mistake.

    In Western Australia we recently had two or three convicted murderers cleared, and unconvicted suspects also cleared, after many years as a result of further information and cold case analysis.

  3. reason says:

    Knowingly killing some innocent people (false positives) sounds like murder to me, and as we don’t know which ones are innocent it seems pretty arbitrary to me. Where is the fault in my logic?

  4. ChrisPer says:

    The fault in the logic, mate, is that it is not reasoning but rhetoric. Judgementally loaded language fails the smell test.

    ‘False positives’ are not ‘knowingly’ killed in capital punishment. Due process exists to ensure the least likelihood of false conviction and the fullest opportunity for testing that process through appeals.

    Lets agree anyway. Instead of disagreeing about the level of moral culpability of the hypothetical act, we agree that we don’t need to use capital punishment in Australia.

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