Sunday, November 18, 2007

Capital Punishment Saves Lives

The New York Times reports this morning on roughly a dozen recent studies indicating that capital punishment saves lives. From Gary Becker to Cass Sunstein, the consensus is that a judicious and relatively quick use of execution serves as a deterrent for murder. I figured this out approximately around the age of twelve, but your run-of-the-mill academic or judge can't be expected to have such discernment and wisdom.

"I personally am opposed to the death penalty," said H. Naci Mocan, an economist at Louisiana State University and an author of a study finding that each execution saves five lives. "But my research shows that there is a deterrent effect."

The studies, mostly conducted by economists, show that for each inmate put to death, 3 to 18 murders are prevented. One study looked at 3,054 counties over two decades.

Frankly, the issue of deterrence isn't particularly relevant from my perspective. I'm more concerned about justice. Human beings are created in the image of God and have inherent worth. Thus the snuffing out of life is a crime worthy of death: "And for your lifeblood I will surely demand an accounting. I will demand an accounting from every animal. And from each man, too, I will demand an accounting for the life of his fellow man. Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made man" (Gen. 9:5-6).

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