The Kill Cult

Joe Doakes from Como Park emailed me about something Glenn Reynolds wrote, that I wanted to write about anyway:

Libertarian, explained in six sentences:
“So, I’m skeptical of the death penalty’s administration because the criminal justice system is a disaster. But, assuming guilt, I don’t really care much about the morality of killing people. The nation-state is all about killing people. Its sole reason for existing is that it’s better at killing people in large numbers than any other form of human organization. If you don’t like the idea of the state killing people, you don’t like the idea of the state. If you don’t realize this, it’s because your thinking is confused.”

Glenn Reynolds, Instapundit, 8:34 a.m. July 25, 2014

Far be it from me to disagree with the esteemed Prof. Reynolds, but I think it’s his thinking that’s confused.

We pay taxes to a state that excels at carrying out violence for the same reason we buy a pistol and get a carry permit; we are responding prudently to a threat by giving ourselves the means to defend ourselves, singularly and collectively, from what the law calls “an imminent threat of death or great bodily harm” or it’s state equivalent, conquest and destruction. Judgment is called for – but not “due process”.

I don’t necessarily trust the state to “get self-defense right”, but where the alternative is being conquered by someone much worse, I’ll accept the risks.

Criminal justice is not self-defense. It’s not about life or death (for the crime victim, anyway) – not anymore. The perp is in custody. It’s about making things right, which involves getting things right.

Except the state can’t get things right – not 100% of the time.

There is no alternative to self-defense – you live if it works, and if it doesn’t you die. There is a reasonable alternative to the state botching executions, or, worse, killing the wrong person entirely (as they have certainly done more than a few times).

I tolerate the idea of the state defending us imperfectly because there is no rational alternative. There are plenty of rational alternatives to the state botching the judicial execution.

There. I hope I’ve settled that once and for all.

3 thoughts on “The Kill Cult

  1. “Its sole reason for existing is that it’s better at killing people in large numbers than any other form of human organization.”

    Whiskey. Tango. Foxtrot.

    He’s calling me confused?

  2. It strikes me that if wrongful execution is a fail-safe argument against the death penalty, it also (liberal interpretation of Trayvon Martin case) is a good argument against…..armed self-defense by non-government employees. After all, finding innocents who have been accidentally shot is an easier search than finding innocents executed in our country, no? You’re talking dozens/hundreds each year vs. a few, and that disputed, since the reinstitution of the death penalty.

    So call me profoundly uncomfortable with both arguments presented here, because the clear implication of “someone innocent might die” is that we ought to wrap our kids in Teflon-coated bubble wrap and only let them play board games, really a scenario out of Rush’s “Keep our own kids safe” campaign.

    Reality here is that it’s a risk/reward question. How many innocents die in each scenario, and remember that you don’t get to choose “zero”.

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