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Letter: Death penalty, conservatism are wholly incompatible

I would like to remind readers and others like Cecile Marini (“Death Penalty? Absolutely,” Monitor letter, Dec. 6) that the core values of conservatism – fiscal responsibility and small government – are incompatible with a simultaneous advocacy for the death penalty. The death penalty is a far more expensive process in all its appeals than an entire maintenance of a life imprisonment, and no government could ever be considered small while still maintaining the power to put its citizens to death. Neither does the death penalty act as a deterrent to crime, so one wonders then as to what its purpose truly is.



Legacy Comments3

Tyler: Managed both responsibly and conservatively, the death penalty is cheaper than life. Virginia has executed 75% of those so sentenced and has done so within 7.1 years, on average, a protocol tht would be less expensive than a life sentence in any US juristiction. Your complaint is against those who have dramatically and irresponsiblty increased costs. Of course the death penalty deters. All prospects of a negative outcome deter some. It is a truism. By you definition of small government we would have no prisons. Since 1973, we have only sent about 8400 to death row, but have likely incarcerated over 10 million during that period. Currently, there are about 3200 on death row, but over 2 million incarcereated. You need to rethink this.

Actually the reason why the death penalty is so expensive is because of the Liberals that want to appeal the sentence to death ( pun intended ) and passed the laws that make it that way. This does not have to be and should not be the case. Limit the appeals process but give a fair and realistic review of the proceedings that ended with this sentence. This isn't about deterrence, it's about justice. If it deters one more deep thinker from pulling the trigger then that's a plus.

Fiscal responsibility and small government are an adequate description of Libertarianism, but Conservatism usually also includes a large and defining element of Social Conservatism. Among so many other things, that usually includes "let's all come down hard on the bad guys". I agree that, on the evidence, the death penalty does not deter. People who deliberately commit capital crimes are not famous for their considered judgement, and do not expect to be caught. Elective killing on the part of government which has other (less expensive, even!) options has no place whatever in ethical and free society.

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