Why Trust the State with the Power to Kill You?

One of the core contradictions in the Thing That Used to be Conservatism is that curious way in which, long after it has abandoned any faith whatsoever in the ability of the state to manage a health care system or a post office, it still maintains a rock solid belief that the state should be able to kill us.

Some conservatives, however, are beginning to seriously re-examine that assumption.

Readers are, of course, familiar with my view, which is that the death penalty, which not intrinsically immoral, is still the wrong thing to do in almost every case and should be (as our last three popes and the entire American episcopacy agree) abolished.  The argument of the author above is something more along the lines of “It’s worse than wrong: it’s stupid” by which he means that it’s stupid to entrust the power to kill into the hands of an inefficent and increasingly tyrannical state.  Not the first argument I’d use, but certainly a prudent one for Catholics to consider in a rapidly de-Christianizing culture in which our God King (and therefore all his successors) claims the power to kill anybody he likes on grounds of “national security”.  Catholics who argue zealously in favor 0f the death penalty seem to me like Christians during the reign of Nero shouting, “Why *can’t* the Emperor light his gardens with the bodies of all those riff raff in the catacombs!  It’s his *job* to keep order!  Us decent citizens believe in law and order!  If the state puts you to death, you had it coming!  We innocents have nothing to fear!”

Tell that to the innocents we’ve already executed.

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