Walter Berns Arguments Against The Death Penalty

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The United States remains in the minority of nations in the world that still uses death as penalty for certain crimes. Capital punishment is seen by many as barbaric and against American values, while others see it as a very important tool in fighting violent pre-meditated murder. One of the supporters of the Death penalty was a man named Walter Berns (a professor of American constitutional law and political philosophy.) He wrote clearly about his view on the death penalty in his Crime and Delinquency article, “Defending the Death Penalty.” He argued that the “Opposition to capital punishment is a modern phenomenon, a product of modern sentiment and modern thought” (p. 504) and with the help of historical references and logical reasoning throughout…show more content…
We still have: men and women shooting each other over land disputes (Turf wars), people almost killing each other over being cut off in traffic, and a society that would rather videotape a situation rather than help one another out. I am not convinced that we as a society have developed enough that we are, “more concerned with human rights than were the founders of the school of human rights…”(p. 504). Despite other arguments against the death penalty, I believe that capital punishment is a morally acceptable punishment for murder. The most fundamental principle of Justice is that punishment should be proportionate to the crime, and to not execute an individual for murder goes against the proportionality aspect of the eighth amendment. Simply, sentencing someone to jail is not equivalent to the taking of someone’s life. Why give that individual who has committed the atrocity, the freedom of life when they have taken that away from…show more content…
Berns said in his article was how he described punishment as a, “reward to those who have not committed a crime and by rewarding praise to the law-abiding in turn teaches law-abidingness”(p. 508). I read this section over numerous times to grasp exactly what he was getting at. He argued that anger was a force to be condemned and that law was the tool to control anger. I never thought of it that way. I agree that in the heat of passion, anger can be destructive, manipulating, and dangerous. Which could lead to actions that might be regretful. But what confuses me, is how exactly punishment is seen as a reward. I wouldn’t call punishment a reward but more so as a measure to deter further crime. My guess is that Dr. Berns viewed punishment as a theoretical boundary set by law where individuals within the boundaries aren’t punished so therefore ultimately praised for their cooperation. Dr. Audrey L. Anton in her book called, “Moral Responsibility and Desert of Praise and Blame” describes the difference between praise for being and praise for doing (p. 80) which helped ease my confusion. In which she underlines: morality, reasoning of decision making, and how blame and praise ultimately formulates right from wrong. Dr. Anton describes praise and blame as a societal tool which separates, good from bad. Which makes sense, if a crime is committed then blame is administered to whoever committed the offense, separating those who have not
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