Friday, February 24, 2006

Executions Deter Murder

Death penalty opponents dogmatically insist that executing murderers does not deter murders, mostly based on old and methodologically inferior studies.

But the last few years have seen a large number of new methodologically sophisticated studies that show that executions do deter murders. Doing studies like this right requires taking a lot of factors into account. Simply showing that states that execute murderers sometimes have a murder rate about as high as states that don’t really doesn’t get you very far, since states differ a lot in geography, culture, poverty and lots of other factors.

An overview of the new, sophisticated studies was given by economist Paul H. Rubin in testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Property Rights on February 1 of this year.

Here is the prepared text that was the basis of Rubin’s testimony.

The bottom line: we now have an impressive body of evidence that the death penalty does deter murders.

To make the argument for the death penalty, it’s not even necessary to argue that we know that the death penalty deters murders.

It’s only necessary to argue that it might.

If it might, then failure to execute murderers is a form of reckless endangerment, putting at risk the lives of innocent people who might be saved.

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