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Q: Is the United States Isolated in Using the Death Penalty?

| 16 Comments
A:  Although we are often told that the answer is "yes," in fact the answer is "no, not at all."

Now if abolitionists wanted to ask whether the United States is isolated among predominately white countries in using the death penalty, there would be a different answer.  But being politically correct, they prefer to avoid that question.

Next question:  There are eight countries in the world with a population over 150,000,000.  How many have an active death penalty?

Answer:  Seven.
Here's the most recent world census I can find.  I will bet good money that the huge majority of the world's population lives in countries with capital punishment.  But you won't see that on any abolitionist websites.

P.S.  The only country with a population of over 150,000,000 that does not have capital punishment is Brazil.


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16 Comments

So let's look at those other countries
China - Not a democracy and horrific human rights violator.
India - 5 executions since 1995.
Indonesia - Hard to find stats but looks like 18 executions since 2013. Also not a great human rights record
Brazil - No death penalty
Pakistan - Need i even describe their horrendous human rights record?
Nigeria - 7 executions since 2007. Not a great human rights record, but seems to be improving.
Bangladesh - 44 executions since 2007. Horrendous human rights record.

So most of these countries use the death penalty rarely if at all and many have horrible human rights records. A group you are proud to belong to?

I am proud to join the great majority of my countrymen, and the Supreme Court, in backing the death penalty, you bet. You might also know that Washington, Lincoln and FDR not only supported but used capital punishment. It was likewise supported by John Stuart Mill, who wrote a famous essay defending it.

How many of those people would you describe as barbarians?

Are Obama, Bush, Clinton, Bush, Reagan, etc., etc. also barbarians? All supported the death penalty. How about Frankfurter, Harlan and Scalia?

But for however that may be, I thank you for not contradicting a single word I wrote. You may regard Oriental, Middle Eastern and African people as "backwards," but I respectfully decline to join that opinion.

Interesting, I did not use the words "barbarian" or "backward." I pointed out that many of the countries you cited don't actually impose the death penalty with any frequency and that many are horrific human rights violators, facts that you appear not to dispute. Your original point did not seem to have anything to do with American views about the death penalty, nor did my comment so why your response is all about that I have no idea. Rather, you appeared to be trying to rebut the point that those who oppose the death penalty make about the U.S. as an outlier. My point, to be clear, is that if you look at democracies that respect human rights most, if not all, do not have the death penalty. Do you disagree with that or will you respond with another irrelevant polemic.

-- "I did not use the words 'barbarian' or 'backward.'"

Correct. You used the ideas, not the words, e.g., "horrific human rights violators." If you want to change those ideas, feel free. P.S. I will continue to use accurate paraphrasing, as does everyone else writing on a blog.

-- "I pointed out that many of the countries you cited don't actually impose the death penalty with any frequency..."

Neither does the United States. But my criterion for having an active death penalty is taken directly from one of the leading abolitionist groups in the country, DPIC (https://deathpenaltyinfo.org/abolitionist-and-retentionist-countries) (defining a country as having an active death penalty if it has carried an execution in the last ten years).

N.B. I also omitted major countries like Russia and the Philippines, which actually do have the death penalty (in an exceptionally crude and gross form) but don't say so out loud.

-- "... and that many are horrific human rights violators."

Since you consider execution per se to be a violation of "human rights," they're ALL human rights violators, no?

And likewise with the people who support executions, right? Like the American patriots and jurists I identified and you decline to mention? Yes? No?

Are you their moral superior?

-- "Your original point did not seem to have anything to do with American views about the death penalty..."

My original point was a rebuttal to the routine but false claim made by abolitionists that Americans' beliefs about and practice of capital punishment are outliers.

-- "...so why your response is all about that I have no idea. "

You have plenty of idea, but want to feign puzzlement in order to score what you oddly regard as a debating point.

-- "My point, to be clear, is that if you look at democracies that respect human rights most, if not all, do not have the death penalty."

But since you view ANY employment of the death penalty as an infringement on "human rights," your "point" is simply a tautology.

-- "Do you disagree with that..."

Of course I disagree with it -- since, like most of the American leaders you despise (no, you didn't use the word "despise" either, but you make it more than clear that that is your attitude) -- I support the death penalty.

-- "...or will you respond with another irrelevant polemic."

Kindly clean it up or face the quite realistic prospect that I will delete your future responses. You are free to debate ideas. It is best to do so without insults, or to write elsewhere.

I maintain that "barbarian" is not an accurate paraphrase of "appalling human rights record." Is it your position that my description of the human rights record of any of those countries was inaccurate?

My understanding of the abolitionist point here is that if you compare the United States to countries with similar levels of industrialization, similar political systems, i.e. democracies, and similar income levels, the United States stands out in having the death penalty. If you look at your list the United States has very little in common with those countries other than having more than 150 million people.

You could also compare the countries with the most executions last year.

1. China
2. Iran
3. Saudi Arabi
4. Iraq
5. Pakistan
6. Egypt
7. United States

To me the United States stands out in this list as the other countries, while not barbarian, have very poor human rights records and only one, Pakistan, is a democracy.

Also, your assertion that saying that the United States is isolated in having the death penalty really means, among predominately white countries is simply inaccurate. There are 195 countries in the world. Saying how many have the death penalty is tricky. 23 Countries carried out executions in 2016, which is about 12%. However, about 58 countries have the death penalty on the books, though many have not used it in a decade or more. Taking the larger number would be about 30%. either of those numbers puts the United States in a distinct minority.

There are 54 countries in Africa, none of which could accurately be described as predominately white. 16, 30%, have the death penalty in law and practice it. 19, 35% have abolished it. Another 18, 33%, have not had an execution in over 10 years. So it does not appear to be the case that it is only among white nations that the death penalty is disfavored.

I believe that the better measure of whether the United States is isolated in having the death penalty is people not borders. That is, the better measure is the POPULATION of the countries having the death penalty, not simply the NUMBER OF COUNTRIES (since about half the world's countries have a population of less than five million (which is to say, less than the population of Lahore, Pakistan, or less than 1.6% of the population of the United States)).

With that sole dissenting note, however, I believe that I would start to become repetitive, so you have had the last word.

Whenever there's an execution in the US, it always brings a bit of satisfaction to me--not from bloodlust or some sort of revenge--but because I am glad I still live in a country that has the moral courage to carry out the judgment that some crimes are so awful such that death is the only just punishment.

When we get into debates about other countries etc., we lose the focus on the fact that capital punishment is justice. And it is moral. Whether or not China chooses to join us is irrelevant in my mind.

What irks me to no end about capital punishment today is that we never cease to be condescendingly lectured to by abolitionists, but we never push back against the moral problems with lawless stays. Consider for a moment a family member who has endured loss and years of pain and who puts their lives aside to prepare for the execution of the murderer of their loved one, and then there's some unexplained stay by some imperious federal judge or judges. Ponder the morality of that . . . .

"When we get into debates about other countries etc., we lose the focus on the fact that capital punishment is justice."

Bingo!

I wrote this entry simply to rebut the frequent claim that the United States is uniquely punitive. It's just not so. Most of the world has the DP. And I don't believe that people in mostly agricultural and/or less prosperous countries have any less of a sense of justice than anyone else. Liberals often tell us that "people are people the world 'round," and in that, at least, I agree with them.

The population of countries that have the death penalty would make sense as a measure if those countries were democracies in which the people were choosing to have the death penalty. Since most are not I do not see the population figure as evidence of anything except perhaps the fact that nondemocratic regimes with large populations find the death penalty useful. The fact that those countries have the death penalty does not indicate that the majority of the people in those countries think the death penalty is just. I would also note that of those countries the largest that is a democracy is India, which has executed 5 people since 1995.

Indeed, if you look at countries that actually use the death penalty in any significant way the only democracies are the United States and Pakistan. The fact that nondemocratic states that happen to contain lots of people have the death penalty does not strike me as powerful evidence that the death penalty is just. Indeed, if you think what passes for justice in places like China or Egypt is just then we have such different ideas of what justice means that further conversation is probably not going to be fruitful.

The question of whether you think international comparisons matter is a separate and legitimate one, I'm simply addressing the claims you are making.

lol The only time being a "democracy" matters to a liberal is when they want to exclude brown people from a conversation.

The irony, of course, is that in many of your favored white European countries, "the people" did not choose abolition at all, bureaucrats did. England, for example, still has a healthy support for the DP but the voice of the people was ignored in 1998.

A Polish poll showed support for reinstating the DP to be at 63% but the thoroughly UNdemocratic EU has outlawed it.

"The only time being a "democracy" matters to a liberal is when they want to exclude brown people from a conversation." Not to get to far off the topic, but you mean like republicans doing everything they can to stop minorities from voting under the guise of preventing voter fraud that does not exist?

Unlike you, I don't speak for others, but democracy maters to me everywhere and I think people of every color should have it. My point was simply that where it does not exist, regardless of the color of the population, that country's laws are not indicative of the populations preferences.

Also, the death penalty in England was eliminated by an act of Parliament. How is that undemocratic? The EU is governed by an elected parliament which passed the death penalty ban.

Also, democracies don't govern by poll results. (If we did marijuana would be legal and the government would be fully responsible for ensuring people get health care.) http://www.gallup.com/poll/196550/support-legal-marijuana.aspx
http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/01/13/more-americans-say-government-should-ensure-health-care-coverage/

Your words, " the people were choosing to have the death penalty."

My point was merely that whenever the DP is abolished, it is very seldom "the people" who are clamoring for it. In fact, it usually comes directly in opposition to the people, including abolitionist US states.

Yes, in England it was done in a democratic (kind of) process but it WAS against the will of "the people."

The truth is that your ilk care little about what the "people" want. "The people" whose opinions matter to you are the liberal political elite.

You stated: "Not to get to far off the topic, but you mean like republicans doing everything they can to stop minorities from voting under the guise of preventing voter fraud that does not exist?"

Huh? You are so racist that you believe minorities are incapable of getting a photo ID? Are you an "alt-right" Charlottesville type?

Was the Democrat insistence on photo identification to enter their convention in 2016 because they wanted to keep minorities out?

You stated: "My point was simply that where it does not exist, regardless of the color of the population, that country's laws are not indicative of the populations preferences."

That's clearly untrue. China's use of the DP may be "indicative of the populations preferences" or it may not. You certainly provided no evidence it isn't.

One more point. You stated clearly and decisively that China's use of the death penalty was not " not indicative of the populations preference," implying that it disqualified them from being counted as a population that supports the death penalty.

Does the same go for the UK, which banned the DP in a move that was CLEARLY not "indicative of the populations preference?" Or Poland? Or many others?

You see, you are trying to have it both ways. You want to discount China for possibly going against the will of the people yet keep the UK in hand for doing the same thing, going against the will of the people.

Not indicative of the population's preference means does not indicate what the people's preference is. That is, it is not evidence, in either direction, of what people in China think about the death penalty since they have no say in it. Presumably the laws made in a democracy are indicative, at least, of the preferences of the people in that country and their priorities. The fact that people did not vote out their representatives in the UK when they eliminated the death penalty suggests, at least, that it was not very important to them to have it. In any event, they appear to have come around. http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-32061822

As I noted, and you ignored, there are policies in the US that do not match public opinion. That is how representative democracy sometimes works.

Do you find it at all interesting or revealing that most of the countries using the death penalty are not democratic but are oppressive and authoritarian?

The fallacy in judging the USA's death penalty based on the company it keeps is the failure to account for the differences between how nations administer capital punishment. Death penalty systems are not generic. My informed/educated guess is that other nations apply the death penalty to a much broader spectrum of crimes, including political ones, than the USA. For instance, I recently entered Singapore and noticed a red highlighted warning that drug smugglers could be executed. The USA has made the effort to narrow the death penalty to the most deserving murderers. It provides procedural protections and review that are probably unmatched. Whatever one may think of the success of this endeavor, you cannot perjoratively lump the USA with other capital countries without taking these differences into account. To that extent,bare international comparisons are incomplete and misleading.

Agreed.

In death penalty debates, the anti side regularly asserts that having the death penalty places the United States in the same category with despotic regimes. Nonsense.

Any rational system of classification begins with the most important distinctions at the top, separating the major categories. Biological classification, for example, begins with separating plants from animals, only later gets down to separating felines from canines, and later still separates dogs from wolves.

If you wanted to classify countries by their legal systems, you would begin with such major distinctions as due process of law, not criminalizing political dissent, free exercise of religion, etc., and democratic adoption of the governing laws.

In a classification tree of countries' legal systems, then, by the time we got down to whether a system had capital punishment or not, the United States would be in the same category as Japan, and perhaps India and Taiwan. (I don't claim to be knowledgeable on their legal systems, so I hedge on that.)

Should it bother us that we are with Japan rather than Italy? Doesn't bother me in the slightest.

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