Letters to the Editor

Phi Kappa Phi Forum, Summer 2002 | Go to article overview

Letters to the Editor


AMERICA'S DEATH PENALTY: JUST ANOTHER FORM OF VIOLENCE

I was disappointed to read John D. Bessler's article in the Winter 2002 Forum ["Crime and Punishment," Vol. 81, No. 1]. His treatise advocating the abolishment of capital punishment was poorly researched and relied heavily on emotional appeals rather than empirical data.

I am in favor of enacting a nationwide moratorium on capital punishment until related deficits in our legal system are addressed. However, aside from a brief mention of these deficits, I find little to agree with in Bessler's article.

Bessler indicts society for its "violence" in using capital punishment. However, it is irrational to fault the state simply because it uses violence. States have a monopoly on violence to protect and bring order to society. The alternative is anarchy or a decentralized power structure - the source of great bloodshed during the Middle Ages. He cites a flawed New York Times study to claim that capital punishment does not deter violent crime. Ironically, the study is discredited within the pages of the same issue by Paul H. Rubin ["The Death Penalty and Deterrence"] for its failure to use a multiple regression analysis to control for the many factors leading to criminal violence. He then neglects to review other similar studies, such as the methodologically solid study presented by Rubin, which reveals that the death penalty has a sharp deterrent effect. Most of his article offers only disembodied facts, divorced from meaningful context, without real links to the elements of the problem. For instance, he suggests that executions must be bad things because states ceased to hold them publicly. This is weakly supported with the observation that disorder (such as that created by pickpockets and public drunkenness) often broke out at public executions and that past civic leaders have deemed that "corrupted morals" were the result when executions were held publicly. Nowhere is the disorder or the purportedly corrupted morals linked to serious criminal violence.

Phi Kappa Phi is an organization that values high academic standards. I would hope those standards would be applied in its Forum as well.

Douglas Abbott

Anchorage, Alaska

CRIME AND PUNISHMENT

Just a note to thank you for my issue of the Phi Kappa Phi Forum on "Crime and Punishment." I found it to be very interesting, informative, thought-provoking, and well researched and argued.

In recognizing and promoting academic excellence, your efforts are paying off. Again, thank you.

Mark L. Shurtleff

Attorney General

State of Utah

TERRORISM

The articles in the spring edition of the Phi Kappa Phi Forum ["Terrorism," Vol. 82, No. 2] may be the best collection that the Forum has ever published. The commentary by Paul Trout on page 3 ["Demonizing the United States," Forum on Education & Academics] raised a question in my mind: "If the leftist academics despise the United States so much, what do they propose should replace the present governmental system of the United States, or alternatively, how should the present system be changed?"

Follow-up articles on this aspect of the subject would be appreciated.

Paul D. Belz

Catonsville, Maryland

The last time I wrote a "fan letter" of praise and congratulations must have been three decades ago to K. Ross Toole (University of Montana historian) for his book, The Time Has Come (if memory serves correctly).

There are some things that simply need to be said, but sadly and inexplicably very few academicians have the (fill in your favorite slang term) to say them! You did, and did so brilliantly in your [Paul Trout] Phi Kappa Phi Forum essay, "Demonizing the United States."

My thanks and congratulations to you for having the insight and courage to speak from the vantage point of reason!

Charles F. Gritzner

Brookings, South Dakota

I truly appreciated the Spring 2002 issue. …

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