Readers in Council,
The Japan Times,
5-4 Shibaura 4-chome,
Minato-ku, Tokyo 108-0023
Because letter writers and essayists against capital punishment begin with a false premise, they miss the mark. Even if the threat of capital punishment does not deter heinous crime, it remains to be noted that deterrence is irrelevant to the capital punishment debate. Capital punishment is punishment. If I said that, in fact, execution is indubitably the most excellent and effective deterrent because it guarantees that perpetrators of heinous crimes never repeat their offense, I might be accused of misdirecting the discussion and deliberately ignoring the serious issue of the wrongly convicted - a phenomenon that seems to be revealed with disturbing frequency.
My point is a mater of free will. It is not rightly the place of the government, its armed agents and judicial officials to prevent me from living in a heinous fashion, but only to punish me if I choose to do so. Death penalty opponents seem to deny the freedom of the will, and the personal moral responsibility that we all bear as a result of it, as part of an agenda to democratize human society by bringing the greatest good to the greatest number - and deny me at least some freedom in the process. But that denies our independent nature.
Published on Sunday, December 30, 2001 as “Death penalty foes have it wrong.”
I keep on this topic whenever possible, and I believe it, too, that “Death Penalty” or “Capital Punishment” mean exactly that - penalty, punishment. Maybe it is an artifact from a culture that conceived of God as a punishing divinity. But I tend to take a dim view of synonyms, and when anti-capital punishment human rights groups attack it from the perpective of failure to deter heinous crime - which I acknowledge - they are missing the point and trying to change the discussion. So I need to continuously prick at their dishonesty. Deterrence is not the point. The point is punishment, which is why Capital Punishment is called that.
The threat of punishment after the fact leaves us greater freedom to deviate - and I think humans not only deserve but require maximum leeway to err in order to maximize our humanity. But any penal strategy designed to deter robs us of our freedom - even the freedom to commit heinous crime. It sounds odd, but there is an important point here.