The authors criticize the tone and substance of the current death penalty debate. The authors demonstrate that, as uncomfortable as it may sound, death is the commonality of social planning, and that all social policy decisions, including whether to have capital punishment, determine who will live and who will die. That we may execute some innocent people is an important consideration, but in light of the fact that without the death penalty other innocent people will be killed, it is not necessarily a reason to abandon it. If capital punishment deters crime, the point is obvious, but because the guilty will sometimes kill again if not executed, abolition would not obviously save innocent lives instead of merely displacing death. And just like any other form of social planning, the authors argue, such an allocation of death is the rightful province of a democratic society.
Date of this Version
Ronald Jay Allen and Amy Shavell, "Further Reflections on the Guillotine" (April 2005). Law and Economics Papers. Working Paper 5.