home > archive > 2006 > this article


Search this site Search WWW

The capital punishment imperative

By Gennady Stolyarov II
web posted March 27, 2006

While I thank Dr. Robert Murphy for raising intelligent and original challenges to my assertion that murderous Islamist fanatics ought to receive the death penalty, I find his arguments mistaken. Capital punishment follows from every man's inalienable right to property and is necessary to preserve that right.

Property rights are linked to the death penalty by the law of non-contradiction itself. If man has natural rights –  rights he possesses by his very nature as a volitional being – then every man must have these rights. A criminal, by denying another his rights, commits a fundamental contradiction: he presumes that his victim does not have the same rights that he does. Yet if one's very humanity justifies these rights, then one cannot be allowed to honor some people's rights and not others'.

The contradiction must be resolved in one of only two ways: either a man recognizes the need to honor a given right for both himself and others and thus abstains from crime, or he honors the given right in neither himself nor in others. In the latter case, he cannot consistently uphold the same right for himself that he has violated for others. By committing a crime, a criminal implicitly forfeits the right he denied another. For the sake of consistency in rights enforcement, the proper authority has the obligation to intervene to deprive the criminal of the right he has forfeited. If the proper authority is unable or unwilling to enforce this natural, universal justice, then any party may do so if willing. This justifies killing in self-defense – under circumstances where it would be impossible to summon the police or try the assailant.

This non-contradictory approach to justice and natural rights is implicit in Murray Rothbard's "two teeth for a tooth" principle. Under this rule, an offender who deprives an individual of a given amount of property must not only return the property he has stolen; he also forfeits his right to equivalent property. Thus, if X steals a television set from Y, he must return the television set to Y and allow Y to take a television set (or goods of equivalent value, as judged by Y) from X. But what if the criminal deprives his victim of a property that cannot be returned – his life? By Rothbard's principle, not only does the criminal owe his victim one life in restitution; he owes two. Thus, every murderer may justifiably be killed twice for the irreparable damage he inflicted. Of course, since a man cannot die two deaths, even capital punishment for murderers is insufficient.

As for whether Dr. Murphy himself can give prior authorization not to press charges against a potential murderer, the answer is, "No." The murderer does not harm Dr. Murphy alone; he irreparably harms everyone engaged in beneficent, consensual interactions with Dr. Murphy. My life, for one, would be damaged irreversibly if a third party were to coercively deprive me of association with my favorite economics professor. The damage would be even greater to Dr. Murphy's friends and family. The request of any injured party would suffice to give the offending brute the death he deserves.

Furthermore, not depriving rights from those who have forfeited them leads to deprivation of rights from the innocent. If murderers can kill their victims with impunity or merely receive free upkeep for life at taxpayers' expense – known as "life imprisonment"– as a result, no disincentive will exist against such actions. Innocents will perish, and the guilty will walk free or be comfortably incarcerated. It is no wonder that today – with even the infrequent death sentence taking an average of 11 years to be carried out – murder is rampant. Instead of abolishing capital punishment, I would suggest eliminating amnesties, excessive and frivolous appeals, and unwarranted compassion for those who have none. 

G. Stolyarov II is a science fiction novelist, independent philosophical essayist, poet, amateur mathematician, composer, contributor to Enter Stage Right, The Autonomist, Le Quebecois Libre, and the Ludwig von Mises Institute, Senior Writer for The Liberal Institute, and Editor-in-Chief of The Rational Argumentator, a magazine championing the principles of reason, rights, and progress. His newest science fiction novel is Eden against the Colossus. His latest non-fiction treatise is A Rational Cosmology. Mr. Stolyarov can be contacted at gennadystolyarovii@yahoo.com



Send a link to this page!
Send a link to this story

 

Home


Send a link to this page!
Send a link to this story



Get weekly updates about new issues of ESR!
e-mail:
Subscribe
Unsubscribe

 

 

1996-2013, Enter Stage Right and/or its creators. All rights reserved.