Bali Trio Finally Executed

iman1_wideweb__470x3540Imam Samudra and brothers Amrozi and Mukhlas were shot to death by separate firing squads in the early hours of the Indonesian morning, six years after the Kuta nightclub explosions that killed 202 people.

Australia’s official policy on such matters is to oppose the use of the death penalty but only to intervene if Australian citizens are involved. Amnesty says this is hypocritical and endangers the lives of Australians on death row. 


Many people that i have spoken to are confused about the executions.   Has it merely elevated the trio to martyrdom status or has it finally enabled the grieving families to accept closure? Are those in favour of capital punishment uncivilised folk or is life without parole a more inhumane punishment than a painless instant death?

Personally, i have no emotional hang-ups about killing murderous psycopaths who indiscriminately kill (many Muslims also died in the bombing, which was carried out in the name of Allah). I don’t view this as an uncivilised or barbaric standpoint – but pragmatic. However i do accept the martydom argument. 

The reactions of the parents of those killed in the bombings are as diverse as the rest of the population.

David Stewart, whose son Anthony died in the nightclub attacks, has said he would be happy to pull the trigger on the firing squad rifle, adding that “I’d check the rifle to make sure I wasn’t given the blank.”

However, former Adelaide magistrate Brian Deegan, who lost his son Josh in the Bali bombings, says he’s full of trepidation about future reprisals after the executions of three bombers. 

Though i can’t even begin to imagine what losing a child must be like, i can sympathise with Mr. Stewart. I just cannot understand the latter viewpoint. Fear mustn’t prevent us from removing this cancer from our societies. We have to stand up to bullies, even though there will be consequences.

They killed 202 people. They weren’t sorry. Now they too are dead. Good.

88 thoughts on “Bali Trio Finally Executed

  1. Where is your sense of compassion Pommy? These bastards want to die for their faith, lets be altruistic and use every means available to us to assist them in this.

  2. They didn’t look like they were suffering after convivial prayer sessions with guards.

    On the other hand, they tried to get out of the executions they “wanted” at every turn.

  3. Personally I’m glad these pricks are dead. No doubt. The thought of what they did is sickening as was seeing their smiling faces on the TV over the years. But the reality is that the government carried out the punishment; not any of us, and not the families of the victims. I don’t support capital punishment by our government and I have difficulty endorsing capital punishment by a corrupt and backwards state like the Indonesian government regardless of the viciousness of the crime. There is such a thing as taking the moral high ground and I believe that at least publicly that should be the Australian libertarian position.

    *dons asbestos suit* 😉

  4. I generally oppose the death penalty, simply on the basis that I don’t trust government with a license to kill. That said, I feel no sympathy for people who commit such crimes, and frankly, am glad to see them gone…

  5. I agree with Fleeced above. The stories of people spending 10+ years in jail and then being released after it has been discovered the state prosecutors had it all wrong come around too frequently. I would never support a death penalty in Australia (and I’d be perfectly happy to see it eliminated everywhere), but these guys wanted to go, so that’s what they got.

  6. I oppose the death penalty in all cases because the justice system can never be infallible. If you support the death penalty in clear cut cases you are leaving the door open for it to be applied when the evidence is slightly more sketchy.

  7. Fuck’em. they got their just deserts. they killed two hundred innocent people and were smiling about it as often as they were near a camera.

    Glad to see them go.

  8. Compassion is irrelevant. It’s hypocritical to punish a murderer by killing him. If you accept the sanctity of human life then you should abhor the thought of taking one, no matter how it has been justified. If you supported capital punishment of the bombers then you’re not much better than the bombers, possibly you are worse.

  9. In any civilised system anyone under the sentence of death will have every possible appeal automatically exhausted. This is a safeguard against wrongful execution that is effectively infallible – definitely much more infallible than, say, flying in an airplane or any other number of activities that we consider quite OK. The death penalty isn’t used when the evidence is ‘sketchy’. When it’s someone like the Bali bombers there is no question of guilt.

    Can someone give me some evidence of an executed crim being found innocent in a modern western country in the last 100 years? Sure, they may have been on death row and later exonerated on appeal (often to something like a life sentence as they are often unquestionably guilty of the crime!). But as Daniel points out above this happens on appeal in lots of cases and is the reality of legal process.

    Capital punishment fills an important role that is rarely mentioned – it requires people to commit to the values of a civilisation with their entire being, giving them the knowledge that when these values are reciprocated they will be uphold to the highest level possible. Hence citizens can have the greatest ‘faith’ in a society that they possibly can, and this brings about a respect and affection for that society. Lenient sentencing that isn’t equal to the nature of the crime just makes a citizen distrust the values of that society, as at some level they’ll feel the society is not really providing protection or justice for them.

  10. Alex at #8, you’re full of shit. If you want to argue it out then start by justifying your position on the ‘sanctity of human life’, specifically how it applies to human life that destroys other human life.

  11. It’s hypocritical to punish a murderer by killing him.

    No it isn’t. They are mass murderers and deserve a bad ending. There is no hypocrisy in there at all. You are suggesting that supporting the death penalty is the same as bombing 202 innocents. It isn’t and your shoddy reasoning wouldn’t change anyone’s mind.

    If you accept the sanctity of human life then you should abhor the thought of taking one, no matter how it has been justified.

    I accept human life is sacred which is why I fully support capital punishment in heinous crimes.

    If you supported capital punishment of the bombers then you’re not much better than the bombers, possibly you are worse

    And your opinion is idiotic.

    I am happy to see retribution for the acts they committed. I hope they suffered egregiously for what they did.

  12. Justice is imperfect as it’s carried out by fallible humans. There’s no such thing as ‘every possible appeal’ being exhausted. The concept that one thing can be ‘more infallible’ than something else is nonsensical unless you alter the definition of infallible. Whether innocents have been executed in history is irrelevant; the idea of state execution is abhorrent and unacceptable in a free society that respects the right of self-ownership as the most fundamental right.

    People would commit more strongly to a society in which the ultimate moral code is their own, not that which has been decided for them by an omnipotent government. People who kill in a free society would be voluntarily rejected by society. The threat of capital punishment is unnecessary and would in effect reduce the incentive for people to respect the right to self-ownership as part of that ownership has been usurped by the state.

  13. Justice is imperfect as it’s carried out by fallible humans. There’s no such thing as ‘every possible appeal’ being exhausted.

    Yes there is, unless your talking about something hypothetical such as evidence that hasn’t been found yet, which is rubbish. A case can be considered and every reasonable grounds for appeal can be identified. And if your not sure if the grounds are reasonable then err on the side of caution.

    If you don’t believe this then you don’t believe in any definites in knowledge. Hence there is no way we can know any value system. Hence there is no point in having a system of law to try them under anyway. There we should just all sit down and accept our fate. I’d say the evidence of human progress suggests this isn’t how it works.

    The concept that one thing can be ‘more infallible’ than something else is nonsensical unless you alter the definition of infallible.

    Sure. You are right. If we accept that nothing is infallible then we are talking about degrees of ‘infallibility’. I’d say people apply a subconscious test and decide whether they’d put their life to something without fear of losing it. For example, flying on an airliner. I’d say the amount of people who get on commercial airliners who believe they’ll arrive safely at their destination is something extremely close to 100%. Hence they would consider flying on an airliner effectively ‘infallible’, even though we all know it’s not. Without extensive research I’d say statistics would suggest that you would have a much lower chance of being wrongfully executed than dying on an airliner.

    Whether innocents have been executed in history is irrelevant; the idea of state execution is abhorrent and unacceptable in a free society that respects the right of self-ownership as the most fundamental right.

    Bullshit. Justify this with something…..anything. I really don’t care about what you find distasteful. You might find the execution of Bali bombers ‘abhorrent’. I find it warms the cockles of my heart as these people are an affront to civil society. My right to life comes from the fact that I respect your right to life, and as beings of reason we can afford each other this right.

    People would commit more strongly to a society in which the ultimate moral code is their own, not that which has been decided for them by an omnipotent government.

    I’m not advocating omnipotent government. I’m a f#&king libertarian for god sakes! I believe the values of any civil society have to be based in reason and can only be upheld through government with consent of the citizens. I reject your statement because your values are not based in reason, not because they conflict with the values of some government. There is no moral basis on why we should not have capital punishment.

    People who kill in a free society would be voluntarily rejected by society.

    By killing them society is rejecting them……….with extreme prejudice! You are saying to them, and all their ilk, you are so unfit to have anything to do with this society that we will destroy you.

    Really though, this point is irrelevant. They don’t care if society rejects them as they have already rejected that society but committing crimes.

    The threat of capital punishment is unnecessary and would in effect reduce the incentive for people to respect the right to self-ownership as part of that ownership has been usurped by the state.

    And putting them in jail is upholding the concept of self-ownership better? I don’t see your point. What about the person who’s right to self-ownership they violated?


    ADMIN: this comment now released from moderation. To avoid automatic moderation of comments in the future refrain from using explitives such as the “f” word.

  14. My views about the death penalty revolve around utility. If the death penalty had a statistically significant impact on the rate of homicide (ie reduced it) then I’d probably support it, but only in cases of homicide and not for things such as drug trafficing. However at this point in time I am not convinced that the death penalty does produce a statistically significant reduction in homicide, so I would vote against it’s introduction. I am however not displeased that these individuals have vacated the planet.

  15. We have to stand up to bullies, even though there will be consequences.

    By consequences I infer that you mean negative consequences. I agree that we should stand up to bullies, however I’m in favour of doing so without the negative consquences in so far as this is possible. I recall hearing Chopper Read (former criminal) talking about the full on gangland wars that errupted in Melbourne a year or two back. He was saying that when you shoot a guy in the leg because he has being cheating on you then it is best to drive him to hospital afterwards and explain to him on the way that you were just doing what was necessary. He said that this approach meant people didn’t cheat on you again but neither did you get the blowback. He blamed the gangland wars on a lack of such basic respect. Now I don’t think we should shoot people in the leg, or that we should regard Chooper Read as a role model for our justice system, however I think that what he said has a basic logic about it. You should be hard on the behaviour and soft on the person. Even if you are going to execute them I think this logic should still apply because even the condemed often have friends.

  16. Alex is a moron – please ignore him

    But Fleeced, Daniel and Robbie make the often used arguments against capital punishment, namely

    i) what if we later found out they didn’t do it?
    ii) it’s awfully uncivilised, old chap
    iii) the state often messes things up, so why hand over to them the right to kill

    point (i) is obviously crucial, but the death penalty is
    rarely used unless the evidence is beyond any doubt

    i dont accept point (ii) – it’s just plain wrong, and frankly a little condescending.

    point (iii) is also valid but we do trust the state to run armies, run the police and protect us from invaders.

    Net – i agree with Terje. If capital punishment can be shown to reduce the incidence of the worst crimes, then i’m in favour.

  17. Mick, I guess at times I’m describing an ideal system and not necessarily what is practical now. I have difficulty with long gaol terms too but I accept that it’s preferable to capital punishment. I don’t trust the government and never will so any government-based punishment is undesirable from my perspective.

    The trouble I have with Terje’s position is the same problem I have with any libertarian position based on utility – you have to arbitrarily define limits and measurements that can be altered through political and statistical manipulation. I prefer libertarian arguments from a logical perspective as they’re more rigorous.

  18. My argument was simply point (iii) – that I don’t trust the state… Unlike many libertarians, I don’t have a philosophical objection to the death penalty. In fact, I don’t even believe it has to act as a deterrant… I’m quite accepting of the fact that some people need to be removed from society, and locking them up for life seems a waste of resources. However, I just fear it’s all too hard to control.

    I’m a lot more open to allowing death penalty for acts of terrorism that result in multiple deaths, since this is a war-like act. Though I fear to do so, would actually encourage a nutter to commit such a crime in order to achieve notoriety.

  19. greego

    isn’t a utilitarian position also a logical position? in fact, isn’t a position derived from ideology, by definition not a logical position?

  20. The death penalty is just in some circumstances IMO. This was one of those circumstances.

    My concerns with the death penalty are:
    1) Being entirely sure of guilt.
    2) Not trusting our political system to restrict the penalty to only murder and above.

    So I am usually against the death penalty but only for practical reasons.

    For the Bali bombers. Their guilt was obvious. And this was a act of multiple random murders. An incredibly evil crime.
    I would argue that objective justice requires the death penalty for this case.

  21. pommy – i mean an a priori logical position. ie, the natural rights position. Yes, utilitarian arguments are logical but they have the problem that utility measures are subjective and aren’t a stable enough foundation to build logic on top of (although obviously there is a lot of overlap in people’s subjective views; if there weren’t we wouldn’t have much of a society.) I prefer to think of utility measures as reality checks rather than the basis of libertarian concepts.

  22. Both libertarianism and utilitarianism are ‘logical’ positions – it’s just that the former is values-based (deontological), and the latter is facts-based.

    I think greego is arguing that libertarianism is more rigorous because it’s generally easier to measure which course of action results in the greatest individual liberty than it is to measure which course of action causes the least harm/does the most good. Measuring utility relies on statistics which can be twisted. However, i don’t think that’s any reason to discount utilitarianism.

    Libertarian and Utilitarian arguments can sometimes be in conflict with each other – e.g. it makes sense to have seatbelt laws from a utilitarian viewpoint (minor, almost inconvenience for a provable reduction in vehicle accident deaths), but from a libertarian perspective it restricts people’s choices. In this case my sense of utility trumps libertarianism, but in most situations I find the libertarian an utilitarian angles align.

    Anyway, back to the topic at hand – while I’m not mourning for them, I’m not convinced of the utilitarian argument for executing these scumbags. The martyrdom factor and revenge attacks could make things worse than the cost of keeping them locked up for life. That said, I don’t trust a future, more hardline Islamist Indonesian government not to release them.

    Not sure about the libertarian argument either – libertarianism just says that they need to be prevented from harming others, and as they’re unrepentant that’s either life in prison or death penalty.

  23. A vengeance system of justice was what we had before an impartial criminal court system. Unless we want to return to that, we need a better basis for justifying capital punishment or indeed any punishment.

    In my view there are both utilitarian and philosophical reasons why capital punishment can’t be supported.

    First, it is not a deterrent. The evidence clearly shows that the only consistent deterrent to crime is the prospect of getting caught. Sentencing, whether it is the length of imprisonment or execution, has little or no effect. Law and order campaigns focusing on touch sentencing are just as ineffective as capital punishment.

    Second, as Fleeced said above, giving the government the power to kill someone is philosophically unsound. The government is there to defend our shores and property and safeguard our contracts. It is our servant, not our master.

    The arguments in favour of capital punishment (ignoring the vengeance point above) are also utilitarian. For example, it is far cheaper to execute someone than keep them in prison indefinitely, and avoids any risk that they might escape or be released and re-offend. I’d be sympathetic to that argument but for the philosophical problem. Governments are dangerous under all circumstances. Having the right to kill criminals makes them more dangerous.

  24. Mark – anti-suicide laws are neither utilitarian nor anything else – they’re just impractical. If people kill themselves the law is hardly going to matter to them.

    Anti-euthanasia laws are non-utilitarian and non-libertarian, given the purpose of voluntary euthanasia is an indvidual’s free choice to end their own suffering.

    I assume you’re referring to my seat belt law example with your comment “if people don’t want to save their own lives, it is not utilitarian”. That’s arguable – the cost to society of paying for treatment of serious injuries would be massive with no seatbelt laws. Before you say that they should pay for their own treatment, even if this was the case, the cost to society in loss of productivity/suffering of their loved ones would outweight the cost of having seatbelt laws.

    It’s a valid example of where practicality and utility contradict libertarianism.

  25. One more for the “don’t believe in the infallibilty of the justice system” argument. I also think that the death penalty is barbaric and irrational, there is no evidence to suggest that it reduces the crime rate. In most cases the crime is a serious one that the perpetrator would have carried out regardless of the penalty. Thus further killing leads us all to the same position as the killer.

  26. The “crime” rate. Well of course not Patrick. Smoking a joint is a *crime* as well. As is urinating in public. These aren’t death penalty let alone indictable offences. The crime rate varies as police are ordered to change what they charge offenders with.

    It is well known that death penalty deters more crime than life in prison, but is generally too costly (cost of appeals to society in terms of opportunity costs like reducing the supply of police officers) and life in prison is more cost effective.

    Both the stronger marginal deterrence effect of capital punishment and the costliness of capital punishment are known. These are not disputable. Confusion over what analysts have found leads to such confusion.

    That said, there isn’t a reason why a more selective death penalty isn’t utilitarian.

    Again, executing three people who conspired to kill 202 random victims isn’t morally equivalent.

    Do you think Abu Bakir Bashir is a legitimate target of assassination? He continues to order his followers to kill Australians. It can be argued that it is a case of a foreign civilian declaring war on us and thus legitimate self defence to deal with him in such a manner.

  27. Once you start justify infringements on freedom using the cost to society you can justify heaps of regulation on personal activities. Just look at all those fatties, how much are they going to cost?

    I’m happy they shot the buggers, but I’m against the death penalty because I don’t think you can be sure the executed aren’t innocent.

  28. ALEX- stop spouting crap!
    Libertarians are not all one breed, spouting ‘All human life is sacred!’
    Indeed, Libertarians believe that the world SHOULD be run according to the Golden Rule- it should be done unto you as you do unto others! I believe that trade should be equal- if you deal unasked-for death to me, I want someone to balance the books by doing the same to you!
    My only reason for not insisting on the death penalty is the possibility of innocent people being executed- and that doesn’t seem to apply in the Bali bombing case. They revelled in their actions!
    Patrick, whilst you are right that capital punishment does not deter crime, it has been found that better policing, and therefore the likelihood of conviction, does act as a deterrent. If capital punishment is deterrent-neutral, we can still keep it as a measure of pest control.

  29. David

    I agree that the studies on the effectiveness of the death penalty on murder rates are inconclusive but it’s a quantum leap to suggest that sentence length does not matter.

    Violent teens today look at the light sentences handed out to their peers and conclude that society is not really serious about preventing violent crime, and nor does it really blame the offenders anyway (i.e. most violent offenders were abused as children, therefore it’s not really their fault).

    A good frine of mine is a criminal barrister. He is convinced that inappropriate sentencing for violent crime by guilt-ridden liberal magistrates is a cause of yet further violent crime. As he says, the gangs just don’t fear us; they only fear each other.

    He adds that things might be different if these magistrates actually lived in crime-blighted areas. But as they dont, they can afford to adopt a more lenient and ‘enlightened’ approach – fine for residents of Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs, not so good for those in Campbelltown.

  30. In China it is cheaper to kill somebody than jail them, because they lack a rigorous appeal system. But in America it is cheaper to jail somebody than kill them because of the many checks and balances.

    I prefer the American system. This undermines the “lets kill them to save money” argument.

    Regarding the deterant effect of capital punishment, the evidence is mixed. I generally agree with DavidL’s assessment (no significant deterent effect), but I admit that various studies show conflicting results.

    I agree with what many have said here. I’m opposed to capital punishment (same reasons as Terje & Fleeced) but I’m not going to cry for these chaps.

    Papa — it is not clear that seatbelts are utilitarian. First, there is some evidence that compulsory seatbelts lead people to drive more recklessly, and that pedestrian deaths increased after copulsory seatbelt laws were introduced. Second, it’s difficult to measure the utility benefit to people who don’t want to wear a seatbelt. Even a relatively small benefit is important if it happens often enough.

    As for the supposedly “massive” costs of letting people make their own decisions with seat belts (and presumably motorcycle helmets), go and tell New Hampshire in America. Really, liberty isn’t that scary.

  31. Pommy — solution to that is elected judges.

    I agree that judges are often lenient, because they are making a judgement about what would be best for the rehabilitation of the offender. I think this is sometimes a good thing. I like judicial discretion when it comes to sentencing.

    However, this approach fails to provide a sufficient dissincentive. Judges need to retain their sympathy, but have an added incentive to be a bit harsher.

    I think elections would add this incentive.

  32. Mark –

    If you were a ‘pure’ utilitarian you probably would ban drinking and smoking outright (though you might argue that banning them would cost society more – a la US prohibition). You’d be pro-voluntary euthanasia, in fact you might even support involuntary euthanasia to top off granny when she becomes a burden to society. Common sense would say that these positions are ridiculous however.

    If you were a ‘pure’ libertarian you would stick up for the rights of people to choose not to wear a seatbelt or drive a car as fast as they like no matter what cost to society. Common sense would say that these positions are also ridiculous.

    I draw on both libertarianism and utility when making up my mind on things, but I lean much more heavily towards libertarianism because:

    1. as pointed out above, utility is sometimes difficult to measure (see JH’s arguments about seatbelts above)

    2. even if the liberty being given up in the name of utility is relatively minor, it can pave the way for bigger restrictions on liberty – this is why I would be dead against the mandatory internet censorship, eveb if the utilitarian argument could be proven (which it can’t)

    p.s. elected judges is an interesting idea, but not sure it would solve the issue of lenient sentencing – don’t they have to go by precedent? If a populist judge imposes harsh sentences, what’s to stop them being appealed on precedent? Someone argued once that juries should decide the sentence as well as the verict, though that would add an element of randomness to sentences.

  33. john – agreed.

    check out the Larvatus Prodeo comment thread on the same topic. 🙂 funny to see them qing up to out-outrage each other of their contempt for the death penalty.

    Why is it wrong to kill killers? i’m not religious and i dont believe in the sanctity of life (hence im ambivalent to abortion).

    nicholas makes a good point – the libertarian principle is surely to treat others how you wish to treat you. it doesnt say anything about providing 3 cooked meals a day for murderous psycopaths.

  34. There’s no such thing as ‘pure’ utilitarianism. Utility is subjective to the individual. Period. You can agree on areas of subjective overlap and also on ways of measuring said overlap but this becomes increasingly more difficult the large the group of people; at the level of a nation it’s practically impossible.

    There is such as thing as ‘pure’ natural-rights libertarianism though. Your example of driving a car as fast as you like wouldn’t be ridiculous if it you owned the road. The state governments, as current owners of most roads in Australia, have every right to set rules about how they are used. A ‘pure’ libertarian wouldn’t argue over speed limits on public roads, they would argue about whether the roads should be publically owned at all.

  35. “it is well known that death penalty deters more crime than life in prison”
    I always smile when I read a sentence that starts with “it is well known …”. It’s often a pointer to the simple mindedness of the author and one shouldn’t treat these sort of people with anything other than gentle paternalism.
    Anyway the sorts of crimes that used to be sunject to the death penanlty here are not affected by the presence of capital punishment on the statute books. This has been born out by research and it that respect it is well known.

  36. I am astonished at the support for capital punishement this exchange reveals. In the UN the majority of nations are against, 93 having abolished it already. Although the Bali bombing was a particularly heinous crime, we cannot make an exception just to suit our onw feelings about what happened. Morozi and co probably left this world feeling thaqt they were martyrs. Life impqrisonment in an Indonesian prison would have been a tougher penalty, and they would not have received the clamour of support they are now getting.
    For the sake of those Bali Nine on death row, i am sorry the government did nto take a strong stand on this question.JD

  37. “Hi I am Patrick and I am new to Smugness Anonymous…”

    Actually Patrick – read the literature on both the marginal deterrence of the death penalty and the costs of the death penalty. What I said was true. In most cases it doesn’t make sense. Simply there is more deterrence but it costs too much.

    In short you are being dismissive of a body of knowledge you don’t know about.

    “This has been born out by research and it that respect it is well known.”

    No Patrick, this is not true. Come on, cite one peer reviewed paper or author and give a summary.

    Take for example (now Professor) Isaac Ehrlich. In 1960, he basically set out to prove the death penalty had no extra deterrence. He found he was wrong and changed his mind.

    There are also a lot of methodological flaws with a lot of papers “debunking” Ehrlich. Ehrlich has made comments on these papers.

    James – who cares what the UN does? They once had Syria on their human rights committee. Seriously, they are not role models. Like I said, life imprisonment was looking peachy for the trio and they appealed the death sentence at every turn. They have not been let off lightly.

    They’ve been let off lightly, but this is barbaric? I don’t get this argument.

    The Bali Nine are unfortunate. How could have we traded their lives? Offer the Indonesians living terrorists who killed many of their own?

    All we can do is to ask for clemency. Their situation is unenviable and the Indonesian drug law is stupid.

  38. David, I think we still have aspects of a retributivist system of justice in our current society and that a retributivist system is probably the right approach.

    I think protection of citizens right to life is still the main function of the law, but on an individual case by case basis each crime needs a just punishment to achieve this.

    Whether a punishment is a deterrent or not is of minor or no consideration because you can’t control how people think anyway.

    So my current view is that stated in this blog article

    The author identifies four classes of immoral acts.

    1) voluntary immoral behaviour eg/ gambling too much – no government intervention warranted

    2) civil crimes eg/ personal injury – monetary compensation to restore the damage

    3) criminal offenses eg/ armed robbery – requires curtailing the liberty of the criminal because this is what he has done to his victim

    4) capital offenses – the annihilation of life requires annihilation of life.

    I think those who support capital punishment must be able to demonstrate on principle that this type of punishment is necessary. (as opposed to just locking someone up).

    I’m supporting a retirbutivist system of justice. But obviously an “eye for an eye” literally doesn’t work in many cases: eg/ a thief often can’t give back what he robbed because he’s probably spent it already.

  39. Comments I’ve heard on this topic often verge on racism.

    “I wouldn’t want Australia to have the death penalty, but I’m glad those Bali Bombers are dead.”

    Apparently the risks of the death penalty are too great to allow the death penalty in Australia, but in Indonesia, with its less robust judicial system, it is okay. I guess Indonesians are basically monkeys anyway, so they don’t deserve a fail trial…

    I’m not sure where I stand on the death penalty for mass murderers. I do think that some people impose a net cost to society. I think there are both libertarian and utilitarian arguments in both support and against the death penalty. But I don’t think Indonesians deserve the death penalty any more than Australians do. The same standard should apply regardless of nation.

    Overall I’m opposed to retributive justice. I think punishments should primarily be focused on protecting society. And I support rehabilitation where possible. But I’m not naive enough to think that rehabilitation is always possible. Sometimes perhaps the death penalty is the most humane thing to do…

  40. Actually, the comments at LP reflect my own concern at the Australian government’s hypocrisy.

    Either we decide that capital punishment is right, or we decide it is wrong.

    I don’t care so much which it is. But it can’t be both.

  41. Shem – i don’t think anyone is being racist here. No one is saying that what is not acceptable for Australia is perfectly ok for Indonesians. Without wishing to put words in others’ mouths, i think the feeling is that it is none of Australia’s business to intervene in the affairs of other countries, unless the lives of Australians are at stake.

  42. James – are you one of those people who regard being a human rights lawyer at the UN the top of the career ladder?

    ie are you a massive Bridget Jones and Love Actually fan?

  43. I don’t think anyone here is saying that. But some of the comments I’ve heard in the media have amounted to as much.

    I know Kevvie was a diplomat, so he doesn’t like to piss off other countries (except the USA- but Bush deserves that). But when asked to comment on an execution that is highly relevant to Australia would it really hurt to say “Australia does not support the death penalty here or in Indonesia”.

    Australia DOES intervene in the affairs of other countries all the time. And we make comments about what is right and wrong. Surely we should at least let Indonesia know that while we respect their choice and their laws, we don’t want the Bali Bombers killed? Or do we…?

  44. Shem – the govt has made its position pretty clear.

    “We urge countries who continue to apply capital punishment not to do so.

    Foreign Minister, Stephen Smith.

  45. “For the sake of those Bali Nine on death row, i am sorry the government did nto take a strong stand on this question.JD”

    Every strong stand we have ever taken with regard to Australians caught up in their justice system has been seen as “telling them what they can do in their own country,” and has probably worked to the detriment of those we tried to help. If you want to see the Bali nine taken out and shot really quick, get Kevvy to tell Indonesia they are not allowed to do it.

    The UN is a pretty poor example to use as an example to us unless you only intend to cherry pick those ‘ideals’ that suit us personally.

    Shem; Don’t cry into your beer about racism in our attitudes, thats a crock. There is nothing wrong with not being willing to trust the government with the right to kill us. This creates no inconsistency with not caring if another government chooses to kill three mass murderers, the bastards are better under the ground than on it. If they choose to shoot some tax avoiders on the other hand, I’ll stand with you.

    Until then, there are more men needing hanging than horses that need stealing.

  46. Jim- should Martin Bryant have got the death penalty? If you agree with him getting it, then I have no problem with you thinking the Bali Bombers should have gotten it.

    Either you are for the death penalty or you are against it, inconsistency is saying that liberty is only worth believing in for Australians. You don’t trust the Australian government with the ability to dole out the death penalty, why do you trust the Indonesian government with the ability to do so? Or is liberty only important when it involves you?

    I hadn’t seen that quote from Steven Smith, pommy. But it’s reassuring. The comments I’d seen had been less so.

  47. I would not have cared if Bryant had been executed, he needed it, but I don’t think we should. It would have been a better result if we had the right to concealed carry, in which case the bastard would probably not have done it or if he had would have stood a fair chance of getting blown away when he started.

    I get a bit bloody sick of you libertarian purists wanting to adopt an interventionist foreign policy like you are pushing.

  48. Yeah, Shem, if you believe in intervention, why aren’t you in Zimbabwe, helping them rebel against their dictatorship?

  49. I never said we should invade Indonesia and force them to abolish the death penalty.

    But the role of an elected government is leadership. Even if that leadership is only verbal.

    I think it is good for a Prime Minister to stand up for his beliefs- as long as the cost is the time it takes him to speak. I don’t think Australian taxpayers should pay the cost of abolishing the death penalty in Indonesia. Nor is it right to invade Indonesia and kill Indonesia soldiers just so they abolish the death penalty.

    But I do appreciate the attempt at irony. 😛

  50. Martin Bryant had mental issues. He wasn’t/isn’t a rational human being with a consistent understanding of right and wrong in the world as we understand it. I don’t believe there would be much to gain by executing him. Perhaps it would bring some closure to some of the families, but I think that would be very limited. He is probably more use to us by keeping him alive as there is a very small chance we will be able to use him to understand that type of behaviour. Martin Bryant’s rampage is probably something more akin to a freak accident.

    This isn’t the case with someone like the Bali bombers who had full and complete faculties and used these to kill as many innocent people as they could in a planned and deliberate cold-blooded act. Civil society has every right to do whatever they like with these people, and execution is a very positive course of action in terms of healing, deterrence and sending a message that this action, these values and these type of people have no part of society.


    I came in as aggressively as I could in the ‘for’ case to try to rile up some of you to produce the most insightful argument against capital punishment that you could. I haven’t seen a rational argument why we shouldn’t have it and it just comes down to cost/beneft ratio. More or less the same over at LP (though for reasoned debate this is usually the better site, with Catallaxy 🙂 ).

    The best argument against capital punishment is that the government and judiciary cannot be trusted with this level of power. I personally believe they can be trusted to find innocence or guilt i.e. establish the facts of the case, but whether they can be trusted to use this power morally is another question. However, when we say government shouldn’t have this level of power we are actually saying something about ourselves – that we aren’t capable of delivering a moral government, or that the government is a reflection of the citizenry but the citizenry isn’t moral, or some combination thereof. Unfortunately this is probably true at the moment. However I personally believe a progressive sophisticated civil society would give their judiciary this option in certain cases.

  51. Shem,

    “Either you are for the death penalty or you are against it”

    *Are you for mass sackings?*

    Both are out of context.

    “Are you for the death penalty where it can be applied fairly to serious crimes where it has a deterrence effect and net benefit for society”?

    The question might be loaded, but you know exactly what I’m getting at and at worst you can argue about my assumptions.

  52. @52, priceless, let’s arm ourselves to the teeth and let the lead fly, look how well it works in the US.
    @55 “though for reasoned debate this is usually the better site” I suppose we are all entitled to our opinion although I’d say that the header post at LP generally reflects a great deal more research than you’d find here or a Apoplexy.

  53. More uninformed trolling eh?

    CCW states have less crime. Statistically significant less crime as well. So do countries with more relaxed gun laws, like Canada and Switzerland.

    So come on Patrick, tell us why there is more informed opinion elsewhere when you’ve been spouting unsubstantiated crap here for quite a while…

  54. PatrickB.

    capital punishment is perfectly reasonable for despicable crime.

    Retribution is a perfectly reasonable demand by the victim or their families.

  55. LP generally reflects a great deal more research than you’d find here or a Apoplexy.

    If you prefer leftie hate sites, sure.

  56. Mark, my comments should indicate that I assume most here in favour of a death penalty are only in favour where it can be applied fairly to serious crimes, where it has a deterrence effect and net benefit for society.

    But really, people here believe that Indonesia is more capable than Australia at dealing out the death penalty fairly?

    I’m not opposed to the death penalty. I’m unresolved. But I think that people in favour should be in favour of a death penalty here as well as in Indonesia. The same for those opposed. It is hypocritical to say “it’s okay that Indonesia has a death penalty, but I wouldn’t want one in Australia”.

    That’s what I mean. Either a death penalty is morally justified, or it is not. Those in favour of the Bali bombers being killed should be in favour of a death penalty here in Australia, too…

  57. The best argument against capital punishment is that the government and judiciary cannot be trusted with this level of power.

    It’s the only argument that counts. All the others are based on retribution originating from a particular moral perspective ie that certain crimes justify execution, not by the victim or someone closely associated with the victim as it used to be, but by society on their behalf.

    However, when we say government shouldn’t have this level of power we are actually saying something about ourselves – that we aren’t capable of delivering a moral government, or that the government is a reflection of the citizenry but the citizenry isn’t moral, or some combination thereof.

    Not so. Morals are essentially a matter for individuals. Even if the government accurately reflects the morals of the majority, something which can always be questioned, it does not reflect the views of everyone. That necessarily means it must be subject to serious limits in how it exercises its power.

    I personally believe a progressive sophisticated civil society would give their judiciary this option in certain cases.

    “Progressive” refers to collectivism. Sophisticated implies elitism. Both are strong reasons why governments should never be given any more authority than absolutely necessary, and certainly never the power of life and death.

  58. Morals are essentially a matter for individuals.

    What about property rights. Is that a matter for individuals? Should it reflect the views of everyone? Is a government that denies your right to property ever moral?

    “Progressive” refers to collectivism. Sophisticated implies elitism.

    Not in the context I’m using it. Progressive refers to progress, in this case towards civil society. Sophisticated means based clearly in the reason.

    certainly never the power of life and death.

    Governments will always be intertwined with matters of life and death and will always be required to make decisions on matters of life and death. The protection of your life is their primary task. They are often the vehicle through which the moral application of violence is sought eg police or military. I can’t really see how a government can escape matters of life in death in the real world.

  59. Actually, to be pedantic David, morals are a matter for society and ethics are a matter for individuals.

    But even so once you start saying morality is subjective you open the door for values like “freedom” and “life” to be treated subjectively.

    Is it immoral to kill someone, or is that merely subjective judgement? Is it immoral to steal, or again is that just subjective? If we have no objective moral standard what is wrong with dictators crushing those that oppose them?

    I guess you could say there is nothing objectively wrong with dictatorship. But it is equally legitimate for us to resist dictatorship. At the end of the day life is nothing but a power struggle and regardless of the system used it is the Ubermensch that will come out on top.

  60. “@52, priceless, let’s arm ourselves to the teeth and let the lead fly, look how well it works in the US.”

    Patrick B; If you have any recollection of Port Arthur you would be aware that plenty of lead was flying down there, unfortunately only in one direction, from the bad towards the good. Why you idiots argue that law abiding citizens should not be allowed to protect themselves is beyond me. Oh right the cops are there to do that, yeah, just like they were at Port Arthur.

    If concealed carry was allowed probably fewer than 1-2% of people would actually do it. The thing is that in a crowd as large as was there that day there is a fair chance that one or more of those people might have been armed and able to put a stop to it.

  61. These links are for Mick

    Ruben Cantu:

    HOUSTON — A decade after Ruben Cantu was executed for capital murder, the only witness to the crime is recanting and his co-defendant says Cantu, then 17, was not even with him that night

    It’s a little naive to believe that the police and judicial systems are infallible. In fact there are few more dysfunctional systems than I can think of anywhere. If an employee of a company got it wrong as much as the justice system did, they would be unemployable.

  62. Shem – I am not convinced that all nations should take a uniform approach to the death penalty. The cost benefit analysis will vary. In a poorer country the cost of jailing somebody for life might be more expensive in relative terms. Likewise in a country with very little crime there may be little need for taking a harsh line with offenders.

    For those that don’t want to give the government the power to execute they could always seek for public stoning to be introduced as a sort of communal alternative. 😮

    Personally, in Australia at this point in our history, I don’t think the death penalty has any signficant merit.

  63. Shem, I am consistent. I want the death penalty for all countries!
    BUT, I do worry about police incompetence.
    AND, I am attracted to the anarcho-capitalist idea of insurance and compensation for crimes.
    So I would accept an insurance scheme, and if people had not taken out insurance, then they would be given hard labour until they had worked off their debt to the people they had wronged, or the family of the victim.
    Therefore, if we had convicted the wrong party, they could be compensated with money, and the real guilty party would then be indebted.
    Whilst I would like the death penalty, I would also want certainty of guilt, which is pretty hard to establish.

  64. Sam’s argument is good but Terje’s is piffle.

    Sam: The State isn’t infalliable. It stuffs up. We’re libertarians after all.

    Terje: It is 107 years since Federation. No death penalty.

  65. Pommy @ #46 — great argument against the Iraq war! Good to see you’ve learnt. 🙂

    Mark — the evidence on the effectiveness of the death penalty is mixed. Have a look through the CATO website, or check out the ISIL website for links.

    The government should not do anything violent or involuntary unless there is good solid evidence that they are providing a noticable benefit to the people of our country. It is not enough that they might, occasionally, improve things by 0.1%. Not good enough. We know that nearly every assessment of government projects overestimate the benefits and underestimate the costs. We should have learnt a healthy mistrust in government projects and schemes, including killing people.

    I think there is enough evidence that catching criminals and jailing them does deter sufficient crime to make it a worthwhile activity. I think it’s quite clear that there is insufficient evidence to support the death penalty.

    Sam’s point is extremely important in a generaly context. The absurd and totally irrational trust that some people have in the police is without merit. I can pretty much guarantee you that all police are corrupt, at least to some degree. And that you and I would also be corrupt if we were in the police. I’m not blaming the police… it’s the nature of the system.

    The most moralistic christian of my friends became a cop. A few years later he was telling me the joys of beating up an offender. When he saw me not laughing at this “funny story” he explained, “oh don’t worry… he was a bad guy”. Of course, none of the police there reported the beating.

    The police are not smarter than you or I. They are not more worthy of carying a firearm. They are not a better judge of character. They are (like all humans) not always honest.

    Once again, I’m not blaming the police. Many cops are generally good people. But the institutions of government law & order are just as fallable as other government institutions and we should be limited in our trust.

    Patrick is a troll… he should be ignored unless he honestly enters the debate. Please don’t let him spark a vitriolic slanging match.

  66. “We should have learnt a healthy mistrust in government projects and schemes, including killing people.”

    I don’t think that alone is good enough to rule out the death penalty. It’s a good reason to not enforce it except in special circumstances. It is also a good reason to shy away from neconservative foreign policy, but not become an isolationist or a pacifist. Our Government failure might be a second best but optimal policy.

    “I can pretty much guarantee you that all police are corrupt, at least to some degree.”

    This goes down to how bad our laws are and discretion. But then again it can attract people who want to be corrupt. The solution to both of these is to reduce the number of laws they enforce. I have no sympathy for the bad eggs that get caught out. Basically they are predators hiding behind an institution.

    What a cop’s feelings may be and the course of action they take is immaterial to me. All that matters is that they use reasonable force and obey the law. I just hope the law is sensible and just.

  67. The expense of keeping somebody alive in a cage today should be a lesser relative burden than it was 200 years ago. If you are struggling to feed your kids and you can’t afford boots then feeding a guy in a cage is a most unwelcome burden. As such hanging people was probably easier to rationalise in cost benefit terms.

  68. I’m against the death penalty except for regime leadership in wartime.

    But I get so pissed off with these anti-death-penalty campaigners who seem to get animated when clearly deserving asswipes get put to death. How about when someone whose a bit of a bad egg but doesn’t really quite deserve to die? Why not get animated about the near-innocent or those not given over to wickedness in its entirety?

    But these particular nutballs always seem to come out when the really bad bastards are about to get killed.

  69. Mark, “special circumstances” as determined by the government. How about we have tax increases under “special circumstances” as determined by the government. Or perhaps internet censorship under “special circumstances” as determined by the government. Or perhaps we can provide industry assistence in “special circumstances” as determined by the government. Maybe we should restrict free trade in “special circumstances” as determined by the government. Indeed, let’s just cancel capitalism in “special circumstances”, as determined by… you guessed it… the government!

    That will work. As long as we can trust the politicians and bureaucrats to generally make better decisions than free people.

    Nobody here has argued for isolationism or pacifism. If you can’t learn to write the words “non-intervention” then you clearly aren’t interested in having an adults debate.

    As for corrupt police — I think you misunderstand. The “bad eggs” idea is one that simplistic people tell themselves to explain why the police are sometimes caught. I literally mean that effectively all police are corrupt. They’re not bad eggs, they are just normal people following the incentives provided.

    If all of your friends are in the police force, and one of them makes a mistake… are you really going to ruin their career? Most people aren’t like that. The police is a club, and club-members look after each other. I don’t blame them for that… but I do blame the naive fools who believe that the police are angels.

    Back to government murder. Burden of proof is on you, and you haven’t shown why Australia would be a significantly better place if the government started killing people. Therefore, no thanks.

  70. Sure John, under what “special circumstances” do we use the military?

    Well that is determined by Government too. You can’t say you’re not arguing for pacificism if the Government shouldn’t authorise deadly force under “special circumstances”.

    Your sentiment isn’t wrong. It is just a flawed way of arguing that makes some excellent points along the way but ends with some silly conclusions. But of course “special circumstances” is vague. Do you really think I meant something other than cases of murder or terrorism where guilt is beyond dispute, the punishment fits the crime and there is a deterrence effect? I think Australia’s worst murderers and the Bali bombers fit these qualifiers.

    Personally I think “all police are corrupt” is fairly simplistic. Clearly your example is a valid near generalisation but it does not apply to all police. I qualified my idea with the utter disappointment I have in the laws they have to enforce, and they are genuinely corrupt police. This isn’t simplistic. It is just like your example of why police tolerate misbehaviour from their colleagues to a limited extent. It is complicated by ethical issues police deal with, and the fact that some people make genuine careers from corrupt activity. These people are not victims of their conscience like your example, applied too widely, would make out.

    You’re loading the debate with emotive terms. The Indonesian Government did not “murder” Amrozi. The tax is theft argument is more valid than this. We both agree that most of the time the death penalty costs more than it is worth, and no one wants doubtful prosecutions to end with executions. What we disagree upon is that it has an extra marginal deterrence. I think the majority of well done research points to extra deterrence – that generally isn’t worth it in respect to opportunity costs.

    How isn’t this a reason to, like I said before, allow the use of the death penalty in (very) special circumstances? Like I said the worst category of murderers and terrorists seem to qualify without any risk of injustice or net costs to society.

  71. John; That wasn’t being vitriolic, I thought I was quite polite and courteous toward the him. Mate I’m never vitriolic here, the moderation is a bit too high.

  72. Jim — I wasn’t worried about you. You’re always the gentleman! 🙂

    Mark — sometimes we have no choice but to rely on government discretion. But that doesn’t mean we should be wanting to give the government discretion over lots of things.

    Of course you want them to only use their discretion wisely. But that’s naive. Unless the benefits of the correct use of their discretion give significant benefits, we should not risk the more probably mis-use of their powers. There are not significant benefits from the death penalty, therefore why open up another door to government action?

    Once you give the government the power to do “good” you also give them the power to do “bad”. In the vaste majority of cases the discretion is used for good and bad, and the bad outweighs the good… so we would be better off not having any government involvement.

    Consider internet (or any sort of) censorship. I’m sure it is possible to find some sort of censorship that would be non-zero and optimal at any point of time. However, I’m equally sure that the government won’t find it… and over time they will move even further away from it.

    The same applies for industry policy, free trade, tax increases and bail-outs. I’m sure the optimal amount of regulation is non-zero… but I’m equally sure that the government won’t introduce the optimal amount of regulation.

    I think you understand and agree with these points… but then you suddenly have a break-down when I’m talking about law & order. Like some other ex-conservatives you seem to hold law & order as some sort of special industry that the government is good at. Not true.

    The difference with law & order (and defence) is that it is necessary. But that doesn’t mean we should hand over a blank cheque. We should still be careful about what the government is allowed to do. And when there are certain actions that provide no signficiant benefit but can be mis-used, then those should be off the table.

    Your argument amounts to “some studies show that there may be a marginal benefit if the government introduces a perfectly operated death penalty… there’s not much down side from not having it, but what the hell… let’s just trust them”. That’s not a libertarian line of thinking.

    (One concession… I should have said “government killings” instead of “government murder”)

  73. John,

    I’m not an ex conservative, I’m an ex social democrat. Nor do I think I am writing the Government a blank cheque.

    Military force for example should not be authorised by the executive without legislature approval. You don’t seem concerned about this.

    Your characterisation of my argument is incorrect. I’m not arguing for a death penalty like what we had in Australia. I am arguing for a very limited version of the death penalty. It is not based on trust of the Government at all. It is based on a more nuanced criticism of giving excessive power to Government.

    Tell me just how a system selective enough to only allow the executions of our worst murderers and terrorists would endanger the lives of ordinary defendants in any other (murder) trial? There is no doubt about some murderers. Why is it efficient, fair or liberty enhancing to not treat them separately?

    With prosecutions, we would probably benefit with all, not just murder trials if some defences had to be successfully argued against by the prosecution as a pre-requisite for trial. The presumption should be the requirement isn’t going to be fulfilled, as we have a presumption of innocence.

    Why can you apply a flippant rule of thumb to law and order but not defence? A lot of recent US military action has provided no significant benefit and has arguably been misused. Does this mean they should abolish their military or the capacity to invade other countries?

  74. I’m not arguing for a death penalty like what we had in Australia. I am arguing for a very limited version of the death penalty

    Oh, so you’re not arguing for a bad death penalty. Only for a good one. Gotcha. Make sure you tell the government only to do “good” things.

    You can treat different criminals differently, but there is no reason to introduce government killing into the equation. It adds effectively nothing, but introduces the idea of government killing… which has historically been abused far more than it’s been used.

    My preference regarding restrictions on government actions (including government killing) aren’t flippant. It is the same preference I have for all government policy — don’t do it unless you can show a significiant benefit. Given the historical balance-sheet of government action, I think it’s the only sensible, prudent position to take.

    Regarding defence, I agree that military force should require legislative approval. I’m not suggesting we abolish the military (or the police)… but I am suggesting that we do not have government killing (or war) unless there is a bloody good reason.

  75. Government killing has been abused…but so has Government gaoling. Should we let armed robbers free or give them another form of sentence? Government does not have a good track record. The decision to reject tyranny does not mean you accept anarchy.

    Good…you agree on defence, so you agree that the Government should do good things. I hope they do. This isn’t naive, my hopes are because we agree that they don’t do much right at all. You’re arguing for a good use of military force, just like I’m arguing for a good use of the criminal justice system.

    I respect your position on costs and benefits. I don’t think you are correct, but more importantly, your argument falls into faulty thinking – like the above where we ban gaoling and become anarchists because we reject tyranny.

    This is the humorous part – you are no longer posting under the name of Temujin. On the balance sheet side of things, he made use of military force far worse than gaoling and capital punishment. Ghengis Khan has skewed this all out of proportion. But you apply this argument to criminal justice only. Why?

    (I actually think we should reduce the use of prison sentences where possible, in addition to repealing patently bad prohibitions).

    Just like you I am suggesting we don’t have Government killing without a bloody good reason. If you think it’s too hard to get what I want, then I understand that is a valid reason not to have it. I think it is possible to discriminate well enough between classes of serious criminals for this to work. Can you tell me why specifically it cannot work?

  76. Government jailing provides a significant benefit. Government killing does not. I’ve mentioned this difference several times, and it’s getting silly for you to continue pretending you can’t see it.

    That does not mean that I think government jailing is without problems. There are certainly problems, and that power (like all government power) can be abused.

    I haven’t here argued for anarchy. As I’ve repeated many many times (surely you’ve noticed), the generally negative consequences of government actions means that we should have a strong pre-disposition against their action, which can only be overcome with strong evidence of a significant benefit from their action.

    The difference beween having jail and no jail is significant. The difference between life in jail and the death penalty is small.

    Are you going to make me repeat this another 20 times before you notice it? Have you actually read it before? If not — then why are you disagreeing with something you haven’t read? If so — which part don’t you understand?

    Then you seem to be saying that because the government must use discretion sometimes, then they may as well use discretion all the time. That’s and absurd non-sequitor.

    Let me repeat (because I know saying it twelve times isn’t enough), the government should only have control over issues where their control provides a strong expectation of a significant net benefit. That is true for the maintanence of a military force… it is not true for the death penalty.

    Which part of my position on costs and benefits do you disagree with? Are you saying that costs are better than benefits? Or are you saying that there is strong evidence of a significant benefit from the death penalty? Or are you saying the government should have control of issues even if the utilitarian argument is ambiguous… just out of trust? Whichever the answer — your argument is sunk before it starts.

    Temujin was relatively more humane than others of his time. His great “mistake” in the history books was (1) winning too much; and then (2) letting his enemies write the history books.

    It’s humanly possible for the government to perhaps only kill people when it produces a net positive. It’s also possible that they will get it wrong. And even if they get it perfectly right (cough cough) the benefits are marginal at best. So — consistently applying libertarian thinking — because there is not a strong argument for a significant benefit from government intervention, the government should not be given this extra power.

    Now I’ll repeat this once more for the peanut gallary. This approach to policy evaluation never changes. In some cases (police, defence) the government power is much more likely to provide a significant benefit over the likely alternative. That is not to say that they will act perfectly or be more efficient than they are running an airline or bakery… and we should still be mindful of their many mistakes… but the benefits are significant. So in those cases, government action can be justified*.

    * For the sake of this argument, I’m assuming that private alternatives to police, courts & defence do not work. I’m not convinced that this is true… but I don’t want to turn this into a debate about the efficacy of anarchy.

  77. When you say ‘significant benefit’ you are referring to one thing: a measurable drop in crime rates. There are benefits to capital punishment that are difficult to measure but are nevertheless very real in the same way that happiness is difficult to measure, but nevertheless very real and important.

    To illustrate by example, we all agree that firearms laws should allow an individual to use a firearm to protect themselves. However, when we look at data to try and find ‘strong evidence’ of a ‘significant benefit’ it can be difficult to find. You most definitely can find a benefit, but depending on analysis it is also possible to find negative effects. And a lot of studies analysing changes in firearms laws simply provide no conclusion either way. However, there is another aspect to allowing individuals to own the means to protect themselves. It is an unquestionable symbol of a moral position – the position that the individual is paramount and the defence of their life is beyond question. It symbolises that an individual of that society is considered rational, able to be trusted with potentially dangerous items, and is fully entitled to use them in defence of their lives. Now the data may be ambiguous at times when you look at it, but this moral position isn’t. Furthermore, I’m pretty sure I can demonstrate that societies with this type of moral position are happier, more productive and better off than societies that attempt to achieve the same result through the nanny state. Even though the specific data looking at crime rates may be ambiguous.

    So if you believe that humanity’s well-being is a direct result of his moral choices, and that government is simply a means of effecting some of this moral position, then we can logically flow this position into something like capital punishment. Just like the position with firearms, this position will also deliver a net benefit by presenting an unambiguous moral position – the position that civil society exist to protect life and if this is violated all bets are off and the violator will be stripped off everything they have down to their very existence. While the data may be ambiguous, I’m pretty sure a society that lives by these values will be better off than one that attempts to achieve the same effect by ‘holding all life as sacred’ or whatever non-rational hippy values you want to crap on about, and this will be reflected in people feeling more secure, happier and more productive. (Also, lets remember that no one here has suggested that the Bali bombers aren’t guilty or deserving of the punishment they were given, proving that there are instances of capital punishment that seem to be considered accepted and appropriate by most people).

    Your position, while being a solid aspect of libertarianism, is simplistic and not all-encompassing of libertarian thought. The concept of less power to government delivering benefits is just a hypothesis that can be proven in some instances i.e. a good start. To fully utilise libertarianism and grab all the benefits it offers we need to understand the moral basis behind it. The moral basis gives us the direction and once we start putting this knowledge into practice we might find that we can gather relevant data that does prove the benefits of utilising this theory more conclusively, or end up realigning the moral theory.

    Your position is if there is no obvious benefit government should do nothing. This certainly a relevant test and a rule of thumb for quick justification of policy – but it is too crude to be the sole means to develop a sophisticated and complex system in many situations, for example, when data is starting to get ambiguous. When we decide what policy we are going to enact to test for a benefit we need to look to the moral theory. If the data is ambiguous but the theory still holds then this invites further investigation, and unless there is significant evidence to the contrary, progress decrees we should continue to use the moral theory. After all, our entire well-being depends on the morals we live by and that is the basis of everything we are arguing here.

  78. John, you remarked:

    “The difference between life in jail and the death penalty is small.”

    Yes, but why does this matter, unless the opportunity costs of capital punishment are high enough? All that matters is if there is a clear net benefit. If you mean this, you need to express yourself clearer. Where have I inferred otherwise? All I’ve done is disagree about the strength of deterrence of capital punishment. I’ve agreed about high opportunity costs. That’s why in most cases I think it shouldn’t be applied, but there is a case to apply less generally.

    I don’t understand why this isn’t a logically sound argument, if my assumptions are right.

    “Or are you saying that there is strong evidence of a significant benefit from the death penalty?”

    Yep, I don’t agree the benefits are insignificant.

    The following has some citations of good researchers in good publications.

  79. Gee, it’s been days since those executions, and so far we have suffered no revenge attacks. Are today’s enraged muslim yoofs lacking in moral fibre?

  80. Well to start out I’m an American living and about to become a citizen in this great Australia.I am also a registered Libertarian back in the States.I have been associated with the Libertarian Party and the fully informed jury group there for over 20 years.
    This execution was right, these people not only bombed the Sari Club but actually set 2 bombs, one to force the people outside and one to kill them there also, a cold calculated act.
    I read once about Black Jack Pershing when he was in Arabia and were harassed and attacked by the terrorist of their day there.They apparently caught 10 of these guys after an attack on some US service men. They stood 9 of them up to a firing squad and shot them, then took their bodies and wrapped them in pig skins and doused them in pig blood in front of the survivor and then let him go. After that,the attacks completely stopped, go figure.
    It don’t make no sense that common sense don’t make no sense no more.
    Thanks for being here and I know where y’all are now so I’ll be back.

  81. Good on ya, Bill. Feel free to comment at any time. Over here, we still keep the French spelling of words, like neighbour and harbour. If you spell them wrongly, we’ll know you’re a bloody forinner, and ignore you. Y.H.B.Warned!

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