Consider now some perpetually popular arguments against the death penalty.
The argument concerning barbarization received its most incisive formulation from Cesare Bonesana, Marchese di Beccaria, in his Dei Delitti e delle Pene ("Of Crimes and Punishments," 1764), a short but influential treatise to which, when it was translated into French, Voltaire added a commentary.
Beccaria wrote: "Laws which punish homicide ... commit murder themselves" by imposing the death penalty. The laws thereby give "an example of barbarity." Beccaria advocated life imprisonment (which meant lifelong imprisonment then) for murder because "the death of a criminal is ... a less efficacious method of deterring others than the continued example of man ... as a beast of burden [in] perpetual slavery ... in chains and fetters, in an iron cage..." These conditions of imprisonment would not be tolerated today. It is hard to see wherein Beccaria's life imprisonment would be less barbaric than the death penalty. I should think it more so. At any rate, Beccaria's argument that lifelong imprisonment is more deterrent than execution is ignored today.
However, Beccaria's objection to the death penalty as "murder" still is repeated by abolitionists, who like to refer to execution as "legalized murder." That phrase is oxymoronic (the adjective contradicts the noun it qualifies). Murder is the unlawful taking of an innocent life. Executions, being
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Publication information: Book title: The Death Penalty:A Debate. Contributors: Ernest Van Den Haag - Author, John P. Conrad - Author. Publisher: Plenum Press. Place of publication: New York. Publication year: 1983. Page number: 241.
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