Capital Punishment
Although I find flaws in each of the arguments posed from both sides of the issue, I believe van den Haag?s opinions meet the mark for this rebuttal as he attempts to touch on more of the sub-arguments. I find his sub-arguments offer clarity of his thought processes and the rational construction of his opinions.
Van den Haag?s critical error in his philosophy was one easily avoided. Although I agree with some of his conclusions, the end does not justify his means. Van den Haag makes no real distinction between justice and morality as he comingles those issues as if they are reliant one upon the other. He would have us believe that if it is just it must be moral, and if it is moral it must be just.
It is my opinion that morality and justice are separate issues. Morality is a solitary pursuit. The acquiring of one?s morality is influenced from so many directions and personal experiences that it is fully conceivable, that upon a clear and determined reflection, one may not be able to pinpoint precisely how they arrived at their current moral position. But that decision is internal, made by the individual. This being true, morality becomes a variable when combined with justice.
Law is a culmination of the reasoning process of a social collective in response to the need for assurance of the health and welfare of the individuals which combine to create the collective. Justice is the fair and equal application of the law and, if one is in conflict with that law, the fair and equal imposition of penalty. What kind of society would we have if a penalty received was solely dependent upon a moral variable that may change without notice? Justice is precisely opposite of scenarios like that. The law is written and changed only with much adieu. A violator of the law can know precisely his crime and possible punishments before committing the violation. Perhaps morality plays a role in the individual legislator?s decision when he or she casts their vote. Perhaps several legislators would reach a consensus and vote similarly. Perhaps a legislator will vote a particular way but do so as a political maneuver that does not reflect his or her true morality. A morality argument has no place in a justice argument.
In his opinions concerning distribution, van den Haag states that if capital punishment is immoral, no type of distribution would make it moral and, if moral, no type of distribution would make it not so. From a binary scientific perspective, I agree this must be true. He continues by stating that maldistribution between the guilty and the innocent, by definition, is unjust. But his argument fails his own morality test as van den Haag has already determined that if capital punishment is determined to be moral, no type of distribution would make it immoral. May we not deduce that this rationale, based upon a binary scientific perspective, would demand that if capital punishment is determined to be just that no type of distribution could be unjust?
Van den Haag states, ?The ideal of equal justice demands that justice be equally distributed, not that it be replaced by equality.? I believe that van den Haag here is attempting to redefine equality and justice, or at least attempting to confuse the two. For his philosophy to work, van den Haag must combine issues that require separation, and separate issues that require combination. The key to his process is the combination of morality and justice, and the separation of issues directly conforming to the thesis of justice from justice. If all are created equal and all come before justice equally, as justice is blind, equality and justice are indelibly linked.
In van den Haag?s opinion concerning miscarriages of justice, he creates an analogy between intentional acts and unintentional acts. Intentionally executing someone as a capital punishment in no way compares to an unintentional accident victim. This is the perfect example of comparing apples to oranges. He would have us believe that one?s inalienable, intrinsic rights as American citizens and human beings being stripped away or denied for the good of the collective is acceptable. This is the antithesis of the fundamental ideals upon which this country was founded and is a direct assault on the American meaning of patriotism.
Van den Haag?s thoughts on deterrence do not help