Friday, December 16, 2022

Doing the Right Thing the Wrong Way

I've written numerous times that I'm pretty ambivalent about capital punishment. There are some crimes so heinous that you can't just walk back from them and say "Hey, I'm sorry I ate grandma's face with some fava beans and a nice chianti, but I was off my meds. I'm feeling better now and ready to be a productive member of society!" I'm comfortable with the concept of having society's lifeguard blow the whistle and order that dude out of the pool.

Thing is, it turns out that a lot of people wind up on death row for Felony Being Black In A Lineup with a further count of Aggravated Having A Bad Lawyer. It's bad enough having to try to make things right with a dude you've locked in a cell for years by mistake, but it's impossible to do with a dude you've put in a coffin.

Conservatives don't trust the government to do most anything right, from writing & enforcing gun laws to delivering the mail, but when it comes to making sure they strap the right guy in Ol' Sparky, suddenly y'all act like the government couldn't possibly screw up.

So while in theory I'm pretty okay with the idea of capital punishment, in some frictionless setting where all cows are spherical and have equal mass and libertarianism works, here in the real world I just don't trust people to implement it right. 

If we as a society screw up and off the wrong dude, who gets the sentence for that? Or do we all get ¹⁄₃₃₃,₀₀₀,₀₀₀ of a sentence? 

All of this is a lead-up to suggesting you go read Kevin D. Williamson's piece about the lame duck Oregon governor effectively nullifying the death penalty in her state via executive Calvinball: 
Here we have two competing moral and political considerations: The death penalty should be abolished, but executive unilateralism of the sort being practiced here by Gov. Brown is an invitation to chaos. This raises an old question, one that has especially vexed conservatives in the liberal-democratic context: What do we do when a bad process produces a good outcome?
I do envy his writing chops.

If you get this wrong, there aren't any do-overs.