Skip to main content

Mark Krikorian: Governments were made for executions

In the wake of the Troy Davis execution, NRO's Mark Krikorian argues that we wouldn't even have government if citizens didn't want murderers killed. (He doesn't name Davis, weirdly.) It's an odd argument.
If the state refuses, as a matter of policy, to execute murderers under any circumstances, it rejects the reason people submitted to government in the first place and underlines its own legitimacy. And this isn’t just theoretical bloviation — people sense it in their hearts, even if they don’t think about it in those terms. That was the appeal of Chuck Bronson’s Death Wish movies — when the state fails to carry out its most elementary duty, people will resort to vigilantism, i.e., they seek justice in the only way available to our ancestors in pre-political times.
It's true that one of the things that makes a government a government is that it largely has a monopoly on force. But I guess I'm hugely dubious about the idea that governments are made for the express purpose of executing people. And Krikorian's Charles Bronson example is illustrative of that. "Death Wish" came out in 1974—two years after the Supreme Court (temporarily, it turned out) ended the death penalty in the United States. But the crime wave of the 1960s and 1970s had started several years before that.  People were already fed up.

I don't think people don't find their government illegitimate when it doesn't execute murderers. But they do find government illegitimate when it can't generally keep a lid on the number of murders, and generally bring murderers to justice. Pile that on top of a whole range of other, mostly lesser crimes, and people don't feel secure in their communities. New York hasn't executed anybody since 1963; the city faced questions of governability during the crime wave—along with a financial crisis—but was reborn in the 1990s thanks to a combination of demographics and policing that had nothing whatsover to do with the death penalty. New York became safer, so people became more confident in the city as a place to work, play, live, and pay taxes.

That's where a government gets its legitimacy: Protecting and serving its citizens. Killing a few of those citizens doesn't necessarily get the job done, especially—as in the case of Troy Davis—when there are real questions of innocence. The State of Georgia in particular, and death penalty jurisprudence in general, face more doubts about their legitimacy today than they did yesterday. It's not because they refused to execute a man.

Comments

Notorious Ph.D. said…
There are also entirely legitimate governments, past and present, who have banned the death penalty. And yet they somehow manage to limp along.
namefromthepast said…
Executions are just one form of killing to serve and protect.

From 2003 to 2004 DOJ report shows over 2000 killings by local and state law enforcement while there are "only" 1262 executions from 1977 to 2009.

When we ask gov't to perform any task we should bear in mind that ultimately the only power it has is coersion through deadly force.

Many genuine, peace-loving, well intentioned people don't understand this and are miffed when the animal they are feeding bites when, in fact, it is all it is able to do.

Take it or leave it on the death penalty it is only a tiny fraction of the people our government kills at home or abroad. At least those executed had benefit of trial by peers.

Popular posts from this blog

Yoga

I've been making some life changes lately — trying to use the time I have, now that I'm back in Kansas, to improve my health and lifestyle. Among the changes: More exercise. 30 minutes a day on the treadmill. Doesn't sound like a lot, but some is more than none, and I know from experience that getting overambitious early leads to failure. So. Thirty minutes a day.

One other thing: Yoga, a couple of times a week. It's nothing huge — a 15-minute flexibility routine downloaded from an iPhone app. But I've noticed that I'm increasingly limber.

Tonight, friends, I noticed a piece of trash on the floor. I bent over at the waist and picked it up, and threw it away.

Then I wept. I literally could not remember the last time I'd tried to pick something off the floor without grunting and bracing myself. I just did it.

Small victories, people. Small victories.

Liberals: We're overthinking this. Hillary didn't lose. This is what it should mean.

Interesting:
Nate Cohn of the New York Times estimates that when every vote is tallied, some 63.4 million Americans will have voted for Clinton and 61.2 million for Trump. That means Clinton will have turned out more supporters than any presidential candidate in history except for Obama in 2008 and 2012. And as David Wasserman of Cook Political Report notes, the total vote count—including third party votes—has already crossed 127 million, and will “easily beat” the 129 million total from 2012. The idea that voters stayed home in 2016 because they hated Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton is a myth. We already know the Electoral College can produce undemocratic results, but what we don't know is why — aside from how it serves entrenched interests — it benefits the American people to have their preference for national executive overturned because of archaic rules designed, in part, to protect the institution of slavery. 

A form of choosing the national leader that — as has happened in …

I'm not cutting off my pro-Trump friends

Here and there on Facebook, I've seen a few of my friends declare they no longer wish the friendship of Trump supporters — and vowing to cut them out of their social media lives entirely.

I'm not going to do that.

To cut ourselves off from people who have made what we think was a grievous error in their vote is to give up on persuading them, to give up on understanding why they voted, to give up on understanding them in any but the most cartoonish stereotypes.

As a matter of idealism, cutting off your pro-Trump friends is to give up on democracy. As a matter of tactics, cutting off your pro-Trump friends is to give up on ever again winning in a democratic process.

And as a long-term issues, confining ourselves to echo chambers is part of our national problem.

Don't get me wrong: I expect a Trumpian presidency is a disaster, particularly for people of color. And in total honesty: My own relationships have been tested by this campaign season. There's probably some damage…