The Death Penalty

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The death penalty is a widely controversial subject that involves the execution of an individual as a form of punishment to deter individuals in a society from committing the same crime. I believe the death penalty is a form of evil that cannot be justified or reasoned in any way by taking the life of a person. Not only does this process take years, where a prisoner is essentially put on a waitlist for death row, but also takes a toll on family member’s lives as well. In addition, important members of society, such as doctors have to confirm and administer the drugs, partaking in the execution and going against their professional ethics because they were told to do so. The death penalty strips away society’s morals and values one life at a time, disregarding the fact that an actual human life is being taken. What does that say about us? This promotes retribution, hostility, and vengeance in our society, which we can no longer blame on the person being killed, but only ourselves as participants in this vicious act.

Cesare Beccaria’s “On Crimes and Punishments” was one of the first critics to openly see how unethical the death penalty was. He described capital punishment as “It appears absurd to me that the laws, which are the expression of the public will and which detest and punish homicide, commit murder themselves, and in order to dissuade citizens from assassination, commit public assassination.” Beccaria questions whether the state or even the public has the right to execute an individual, just as the criminal did to someone else. This irony of don’t murder people or the state will kill you, doesn’t deter criminals. What gives the government the right to sanction killing, when we inherently know it’s the wrong thing to do? Beccaria also brings up the fact that the entire justice system needs to be readjusted, shifting away from these severe methods of punishment.

Not only does it influence the wellbeing of the prisoners, but also the public. He states “Can the groans of a tortured wretch bring back the time past, or reverse the crime he has committed? The end of punishment, therefore, is no other than to prevent the criminal from doing further injury to society, and to prevent others from committing the same offense.” This only promotes the violence and acceptance of execution, disrupting society’s morals and values. This “eye for an eye” mentality doesn’t undue the wrongs committed by an individual, therefore why is it still practiced? This essentially puts murderers in the spotlight for a crime, taking away the empathy that should be shown to victims and family members of the individual.

Jeremy Bentham, another philosopher, and Beccaria both agree on the idea of deterrence, which can be achieved when people fear the punishment of a crime committed. In Bentham’s “Principles of Morals and Legislation,” he proposes the Principle of Utility that gives authority to policymakers to design institutions, which produce the most happiness. Both Bentham and Beccaria believe in order to achieve this happiness by the members of society, the amount of crime has to be reduced. Criminal actions promote pain and unhappiness in a society, therefore punishment is needed to dismantle crime and ultimately increase the overall amount of happiness. Instead of giving the death penalty, these philosophers would agree that imprisoning criminals for a certain amount of time prevents them from committing delinquency, which in turn is beneficial for the community. This death penalty alternative, as a form of punishment, supports Bentham’s Principle of Utility by maximizing the most pleasure through the incarceration of criminals.

Philosopher Stephen Macedo argues in his “Homosexuality and the Conservative Mind” that our traditional understanding of marriage expands more than the primary goal of bringing children into the world. Some heterosexual couples choose to not have children and just enjoy the companionship of marriage, sharing that mutual love for one another. Isn’t that what marriage is about? The caring, comfort, and cooperation with each other that fulfills a loving spouse, no matter what type of marriage individuals choose to be in. Same goes for those heterosexual relationships that are sterile. Should they abstain from being in a marriage because they cannot produce children?

The new natural law shares a double standard, which can be solved by eliminating sex from sterile heterosexual couples. Similar to homosexual couples, these sterile individuals may enjoy the “friendship” benefit of a relationship, but not participate in sex, due to the distraction of what essentially a marriage should entail: procreation. Macedo promotes that the acceptance of equal rights for homosexual marriages does not require eliminating the entire traditional methods. He further states to deny rights and opportunities to a certain class of people, who identify a specific way outside of the norm such as homosexuals, is unjust.

Michael Kinsley states “The solution is to end the institution of marriage… Wait, I’ve got it: Privatize marriage…If you and your government aren’t implicated, what do you care?.” Kinsley’s liberal approach is to let everyone do essentially what they want when it comes to marriage. Whichever or wherever a couple wants to celebrate their marriage, let them do it their way, and step away from government sanctioned marriages. I agree with Kinsley’s approach because if conservatives don’t believe in homosexual marriage, then they don’t have to participate in it.

If the church doesn’t stand behind it, then homosexuals can celebrate the unity of their relationship elsewhere, where they are supported. This shows the equality between homosexual and heterosexual couples, eliminating the debate that whether or not a “gay lifestyle” is supported by the state. In addition, Kinsley brings up a problem with his argument about what happens with the children, health care, finances, and pensions. These factors are more complicated and have to be reworked in the system, if this approach were to become a reality.

In the beginning of this chapter it is mentioned that “marriage is a vital social institution” that brings stability, comfort, and mutual companionship in our society. Aristotle would further argue that social institutions are surrounded by morals, values, and rewards. Professor Sandel believes a morally neutral approach to the same-sex marriage debate is impossible, which I agree with. In general, neutrality is impossible within itself because philosophers are bias of their own personal opinion, just like everyone. To leave our personal uprooted desires out of justifying our reasoning is unrealistic. The most basic judgement revolving around marriage is religion, which supports the fact marriage is a unity between individuals. This ideology already poses a moral view on what essentially marriage entails and is supposed to be.

In addition, from a biological perspective, heterosexual couples are inherently made to produce children. As mentioned earlier, this does not always happen for a number of reasons, therefore is heterosexuality the only way we should accept because our bodies are made for it? If the whole purpose of marriage is procreation and some couples choose to not have children, are they wrong for getting married? Same goes for homosexual couples who biologically can not have children. It is impossible to eliminate morals from same-sex marriage, due to the definitions surrounding homosexuals and heterosexual couples. Sandel proves a point that no matter how hard we try to stay morally neutral, it is impractical, due to the opinions and justifications we share within ourselves.

Affirmative action is the practice of favoring certain individuals of a particular group over others, who have been known to be discriminated against. Affirmative action policies are displayed in workplaces and school admissions, that play a factor in what individual gets that specific job or into that certain school. This selection process is unjust based on factors such as gender and race that people cannot control. Schools and jobs are using this as an excuse to rewrite the past wrongs in history by favoring and coercing individuals of certain characteristics that are held to a much lower standard than whites are.

Richard Bernstein brings up a case from Austin, Texas, where Cheryl Hopwood was denied acceptance into law school because of affirmative action and being white. She had a 3.8 gpa, a difficult upbringing, and worked her way through high school and community college to pay for her tuition. The University of Texas claimed they “set aside roughly 15 percent of its law school seats for blacks and Mexican-Americans, who are admitted under different criteria from all other students, including minority students” (Bernstein). The university further states that their affirmative action policy works “in a state that is 40 percent black and Mexican-American… although minority students are admitted at a lower standard than whites” (Bernstein). Because Hopwood was white she was held to a higher standard than a minority student, even though she was more suitable, based on the deciding factor of race.

Putting aside a set number of minority applicants is not the problem, whereas holding these students to a lower standard is. What does race have to do with the time, effort, and work an individual puts forth in his/her studies? In addition, ethnic minorities also received free tuiton, a scholarship, and an 89% acceptance rate of the 23 Mexican-American applicants and all 4 black applicants that were accepted (Bernstein). This clearly is enough incentive to persuade minorities to go to the University of Texas, where if this wasn’t the case with all the advantages, Mexican-Americans and Blacks would most likely have gone to other law schools elsewhere. This only further discriminates against white applicants by providing extra benefits to those of specific races, which would have not been the case if they were white.

In James Sterba’s “Objections to Affirmative Action”, he states affirmative action “confuses the legitimate goal of eliminating discrimination with the illegitimate goal of seeking certain proportionate outcomes.” As an advocate for affirmative action, Sterba points out that he firmly disagrees with this argument. He further goes on to explain if the acceptance of eliminating discrimination is achieved, seeking proportionate outcomes is unavoidable and is a following consequence of the first goal. As Sterba sees this argument for affirmative action, it ultimately produces a relatively opposite view. Seeking these proportionate outcomes is essentially a short-term solution to a much bigger problem.

By giving these individuals a lower standard and a running start to attempt to decrease discriminatory behavior in hiring as well as accepting applicants, this disregards the problem affirmative action is trying to fix. Yes, affirmative action fixes the problem by allowing more individuals of race on paper, but in reality they are not providing a solution, rather a temporary fix. This unfair discrimination degrades the minority community, who are obtaining these advantages, by demoting their ability to work just as hard as whites. Why should a black or Mexican-American student continue to better themselves, knowing they have 89% chance of getting into law school, due to their race?

Under the laws of the United States of America, all people are equal and should be treated accordingly, therefore affirmative action is reverse discrimination. History should not be used as a justification for present day discrimination against non-minority groups. Affirmative action goes against meritocracy, putting race as a more important and dominant feature of selection. Instead of giving Hopwood admission into law school, the university chose to put a less qualified candidate in her position because he/she displayed to be a part of the Mexican-American or black minority group. Regardless of racial identification, the most capable person should be admitted or hired because of qualities that will influence their success and prosperity, not to fill a quota. In turn this will only further separate the dispositions we already see as a result of affirmative action by predisposing minorities as lower-class citizens that need help to reach those achievements of their white counterparts.

Military service should be an all volunteer decision, as it currently is, and be an individual’s choice if he/she wants to go into the army. In John Locke’s “Second Treatise of Government,” he states “So tyranny is the exercise of power beyond right, which no body can have a right to. And this is making use of the power any one has in his hands, not for the good of those who are under it, but for his own private separate advantage.” Locke disagrees with the act of tyranny, which is essentially the way the military is structured. Each individual is set up to take orders from a higher rank, with more authority, and being controlled by a commander. This is a setup the army has built their ideology around for some time, leaving little room for liberty, free will, and a difference in opinion from higher rankings. John Locke emphasizes this concept of freedom through his liberal philosophy. By mandating individuals should partake in something they do not want to do is restricting this liberty, therefore it should be on a voluntary basis to join the military.

Not even the government has the right to force someone into an action they are not willingly able to do. Why should the government have authority and control over an individual to decide whether or not he/she should go into the draft, when they are perfectly capable of making that decision for themselves? Locke mentions “every man has a property in his own person: this no body has any right to but himself.” Our bodies are the property given to us by God, and we are in control what we want to do with them. This cannot be taken away from us. If we want to use our bodies to go into the military, we are able to do so, just like if we choose to not go into the military, that decision is ultimately up to us.

When a government uses conscription, our bodies are used as property of the state, which Locke would not agree with. He continues to address that every individual has the natural right to “life, health, liberty, and property.” By forcing a draft upon people that do not want to participate this is eliminating the life, health, and liberty to choose what to do with their own personal bodies. Even the government does not have this right to go against an individual’s will and force them into war.

This likelihood of unpreparedness, lack of experience, and training will result in innocent soldiers being killed, due to the unnecessary compulsory draft of individuals. This only promotes resentment and rebellion for making an individual do something they do not want to do. According to James McPherson in his “Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era,” people whose names were drawn out of the lottery to be drafted participated in unspeakable measures to get out of going to war. Some individuals fled to Canada, practiced self-mutilation, bribed doctors to file faulty documents of disability, hired substitute volunteers, all of which got them out of conscription.

Bounty brokers were soon developed to hunt for the best deal and bitter slogans were created for those who could afford essentially buying their way out of the draft. Famous mottos such as a “rich man’s war and poor man’s fight,” and “Three hundred dollars or your life” only further promoted this resentment and widening the gap between the rich and poor. If an individual is forced into doing something he/she does not want, especially as important as fighting for one’s country, how is this different from creating an army of slaves? Everyone is not cut out for serving in the army, whether physically or mentally, and potentially killing a person can take a toll on an individual’s well-being. Unlike voluntary soldiers, who are willing to undergo immense training and take it seriously, conscription compromises the quality of the military as a whole, affecting everyone involved.

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The Death Penalty. (2019, Sep 21). Retrieved from https://papersowl.com/examples/the-death-penalty/

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