LETTER: Moral debate in the USA

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The Independent Online
Moral debate in the USA

From Mr Robert A. Nye

Sir: As an American reader who does not share the murderous convictions of the majority of his countrymen, I would like to express my admiration for your coherent and moving editorial opposing capital punishment ("4,000 miles from Georgia", 7 April). You zero in on the most powerful of the arguments against the "life-for-a-life" position: it degrades us all to wish death for another and simply contributes to a general atmosphere in which further killing is more rather than less likely. By largely abandoning the empirically weak deterrence argument in favour of the argument for "justice", it may be that the enthusiasts for capital punishment in the US inadvertently concede this point.

In any event, a newspaper editorial condemning capital punishment in no uncertain terms is nearly inconceivable in the US today. Simple and quickly enacted moral solutions to all matters of public policy are far more popular than time-consuming and patient studies of useful alternatives. There is a certain point at which the refusal to reason through traditional moral issues itself becomes immoral; I believe we have reached that point in the United States.




8 April