My Shadow\'s The Only One That Walks Beside Me

Eugene Volokh writes that, in some cases of particularly heinous crimes, the response should be more than simple justice.

Also, though for many instances I would prefer less painful forms of execution, I am especially pleased that the killing — and, yes, I am happy to call it a killing, a perfectly proper term for a perfectly proper act — was a slow throttling, and was preceded by a flogging. The one thing that troubles me (besides the fact that the murderer could only be killed once) is that the accomplice was sentenced to only 15 years in prison, but perhaps there's a good explanation.

I am being perfectly serious, by the way. I like civilization, but some forms of savagery deserve to be met not just with cold, bloodless justice but with the deliberate infliction of pain, with cruel vengeance rather than with supposed humaneness or squeamishness. I think it slights the burning injustice of the murders, and the pain of the families, to react in any other way.

I cannot agree with this.

Though humans have an enormous ability for goodness and nobility, we also have the capacity to carry out acts of extraordinary evil. Of the millions of atrocites committed during the last century, most were carried out by someone with a deep conviction that what he was doing was correct, even morally required. Even though we look back with horror at how people could do those kinds of things, they thought they were being righteous and just. To get to that point, the victim had to be seen as something less than human - an untermenschen, a "bourgeios leech", one of the "old people"...

I try to live my life without hating anyone - whether it's criminals, politicians, or ideological opponents. Hate is the seed that transforms normal people into monsters capable of justifying barbarity and wickedness. I hope it's just a rhetorical flourish gone too far, but Volokh's appeal to the "slight" done to the suffering of the families by humane punishment sounds eerily like just the sort of justification that makes good men do horrible things.

Not only must governments not obtain the power to systematically mete out calculated agony, the demons hiding inside each and every one of us seeking an excuse to emerge must constantly be conquered. "Cold, hard justice" is the only appropriate punishment, both for civilization's sake, and for keeping whole that thin thread that ties each of us to our own virtuous humanity.

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Here is the reality of "Cold

Here is the reality of "Cold Hard Justice" in California, the domicile of Eugene Volokh. Scott Peterson is more likely to die of old age than by execution. Appropriate?

As an aside, if it is okay to love, why is it not okay to hate?

Hate is negative sum, love

Hate is negative sum, love is positive sum.

Amato ergo sum.

Or something like that, I have no idea how to speak Latin. :)

Perhaps you just need more

Perhaps you just need more self-control in your thoughts--the ability to only hate those who need to be hated without letting it boil over into other areas.

I have no problem with the punishment of monsters.

Perhaps you just need more

Perhaps you just need more self-control in your thoughts–the ability to only hate those who need to be hated without letting it boil over into other areas.

Maybe I do. But I sure don't trust people in power to exert 'self-control'.

I have no problem with the punishment of monsters.

If that had been Volokh's argument, I wouldn't have made the post.

"Maybe I do. But I sure

"Maybe I do. But I sure don’t trust people in power to exert ’self-control’."

And you call yourself a libertarian.

"If that had been Volokh’s argument, I wouldn’t have made the post."

I should have been more specific. I have no problem with the slow and painful punishment of mass murderers.

The problem is not what

The problem is not what decent men will do to evil men, the problem is the harm decent men do to themselves when they over-indulge in hatred of evil. That's no crime but it is a vice which diminishes one's own life.

Wrong, with vengeance My

Wrong, with vengeance
My friend Eugene Volokh writes sensibly about nearly every other topic in the world, but yesterday revealed an inexplicable blind spot (Mar. 16) on some basic issues of crime and punishment. John Cole, Jonathan Wilde,...

But *why* support

But *why* support excruciating punishment/death-by-torture for monsters?

It can't be to right the wrongs they've committed. Nothing you do to them will undo what they've done. The dead will not rise, the maimed will not be spontaneously healed, the shattered lives will still be shattered.

It can't be to cure them of their monstrousness.

Please don't say. "To give the victims and/or their families closure." That's what counseling is for. Torturing people to make other people feel good is, to put it mildly, quack psychotherapy. I'd hate to see a therapeutic model based on torturing the object of one's rage and grief catch on.

What's left? Just your own feelings of gratification?

How does that make you different from them?

Don't say "I'm different because I only advocate savagery against people who deserve it."

Any society that allows, encourages, and condones bestial behavior inevitably - inevitably! - expands the circle of people who are subjected to bestial behavior. Name me one, just one, society that celebrated 'righteous torture' that didn't wind up torturing people for simply being of the wrong religion, or socially suspect, or in some other way demonized and marginalized. Name me one, just one, society that celebrated 'righteous torture' that was a crime-free Utopia.

It isn't just a slippery slope. It's an icy one: the descent is swift and total.

Jonathan Wilde: I agree with

Jonathan Wilde:

I agree with you on humans' capacity for evil and good. We are all potentially capable of both.

"To get to that point, the victim had to be seen as something less than human - an untermenschen, a 'bourgeios leech', one of the 'old people.'"

Yes, demonized, or at least dehumanized. A wide range of epithets have been or might be used to accomplish this. "Monster" works as well as any.

"I try to live my life without hating anyone - whether it’s criminals, politicians, or ideological opponents.

Me too. Thanks to my Catholic school indoctrination. The nuns drummed it into us that hate was a sin, and now I can't persuade myself otherwise, try as I might.

"Hate is the seed that transforms normal people into monsters capable of justifying barbarity and wickedness."

I see it somewhat differently.

I don't agree with the "normal people" vs. "monsters" dichotomy. For one thing, once we get it into our heads that a person or a group is a monster, we are more likely to treat them as such, with results similar to the situations you described above. Perhaps an even greater likelihood is, if we see the Others being treated as monsters, we won't object.(also with similar results)

Also, when it comes to "justifying barbarity and wickedness" there's always normal people who are quite up to the job. "No Monsters Need Apply," as it were.

As I said, I believe hate is wrong, but I don't think people have to hate to act this way; rather, they-we, that is, 'merely' have to experience a 'failure of empathy."

All the best,

Coldly exterminating those

Coldly exterminating those who deserve torture is itself an act of mercy.
And a way to raise yourself above the lynch mob, and a hedge against torturing the wrong guy by mistake.
Much to recommend it.

"What’s left? Just your

"What’s left? Just your own feelings of gratification?"

There's one that you forgot: deterrence. I'm not saying I'd fully buy that justification, but, the argument can be made.

Also, if the law as a whole realizes gradations (harsher crimes deserve harsher punishments; running a stop sign warrants less punishment than assualting someone), then this gradation should be fully realized. Though, it's as if, as it is now, there is a threshold that is reached, and anything beyond that threshold warrants painless execution. So, for example, a man who killed his wife in cold blood, and the mastermind behind the 9/11 attacks, would both face the same painless punishment---even though the latter is, quite obviously, more heinous than the former.

The absurdity of this is

The absurdity of this is further realized when someone is given multiple life sentences :lol: for some horrible crime(s). In reality, the punishment is identical to someone getting a single life sentence.

EV calls for repeal of the

EV calls for repeal of the 8th Amendment prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment. Does anyone know whether a punishment, to run afoul of the 8th, has to be both cruel AND unusual? What if a really cruel punishment were routine, or a humane punishment was weird?

The "and" is deliberate and

The "and" is deliberate and logical. It's not for nothing they didn't write "cruel OR unusual."
:behead: