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July 28, 2014


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While I can appreciate the rhetorical device at work in the introduction to this post, I must take exception to the last item.

"I could be for the death penalty, if it could be shown to deter other violent crimes. It cannot.

"I could be for the death penalty, if it could be shown that the people put to death are 99.9% sure to be the guilty party. It cannot.

"I could be for the death penalty, if it could be carried out in a way that preserves dignity for the state as the monopolist of legal violence. It cannot."

The first item could be true, if people's behavioral responses differed. The second could be true, if we improved our murdering techniques. The last item, however, cannot, definitionally, be true.

I think that the problem lies with the "monopolist of legal violence" notion. This characterization of the state, seemingly the exclusive province of libertarians, is logically incoherent, in that it supposes the state exists outside of people. In that manner, the state is everyone. In a democracy, the state is nothing more than the expression of the collective political will. The state is no more the monopolist on legal violence than the "economy" is the monopsonist on blood oranges. The state, after all, is, much like soylent green, people.

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