Saturday, August 29, 2015

CRAIG EDWARD KELSO, State Murder and American Nihilism

I am NOT a pacifist, though I am pacifistic.

Violence is the lowest expression of human nature. Males love violent movies, violent sports, even violent music, and women routinely get chick boners when guys fight for whatever reason (and in my experience, women are the real lovers of violence, fanatically so). Clearly, there’s something rather primal about our desire for violence.

Recourse to violence must always be a last resort.

If someone were to attack me, I’d defend myself … and I’d do so to the point of making sure the person who initiated violence would not be able to do so again. This would include death.

Again, I am not a pacifist.

Recently I listened to a debate, though it was really a rally. The subject was a ballot initiative to convert the current death penalty process in California to a lifetime prison sentence without the possibility of parole. The person advocating the plan made her entire set of arguments based on fiscal rationales. Her point was how the death penalty trial and appeal steps are too costly. And, if the death penalty was simply abolished, X amount of money would be saved. She then took that savings and applied it to, theoretically of course, unsolved rapes and murders (and she added how victims of these crimes are disproportionally African American and Latino).

Oh boy.

Look, the blood lust of the average American is infinite. It literally goes on forever. Similarly, the average American believes in government power, especially to kill. And though the average California voter is sensitive to budget-based arguments, this lady and her crew’s ideas are not going to sell.

No way.

All an astute voter would have to do in such a debate is point out how government legal beagles (defense attorneys, etc.) have made the death penalty artificially expensive. And since the anti-death penalty gal is betting her hopes almost exclusively on money and costs, her entire reasoning collapses.

She’s not arguing principle. She’s not arguing morality. She’s not arguing ethics.

She’s stepped into the utilitarian ring of political economy. The retort to her is speeding up, taking out the redundant road blocks of the death penalty. Streamline it. Heck, a bloodthirsty Californian would scream, a bullet only costs a few dollars!

And when someone pointed this out to her (not me), she flipped through her notes nervously. SHE WASN’T PREPARED. She knew statistics. She knew process. She had polls. What she didn’t have was a grounding in ethics, in logical debate.

The death penalty is a moral scourge because it sets an illegitimate intermediary between the perpetrator and the victim. The intermediary isn’t accountable to the victim, and isn’t explicitly charged or contracted by the victim to seek justice. The state just picks up the case, and chauvinistically asserts its monopoly to resolve the issue. What floors me is how comfortable people are with this scenario. Consider all the services the state offers, from the DMV to parking tickets to education. Can you think of ONE AREA the state performs any service adequately? It over-promises and under-delivers. So now apply that to literal LIFE AND DEATH issues. You sure you want “the people” to hold such power?

But the gal heading an end to the death penalty wasn’t capable or willing to even begin arguing along such lines. No religion. No ethics. No morality. She is a symbol of what is so very bothersome in modern debate. She is valueless. She is blank. She is nihilistic. This issue is probably just a career stepping stone for her. Something to put on her resume.

Giving the government the power to kill, the power to pick and choose who gets killed and for what, is a most dangerous game. A bald act of recent American policy involved the killing of a US citizen in a foreign country (a Muslim cleric who’d spent time in San Diego). No trial. No due process. Just death. His killing was celebrated all over the US. It’s an unsurprising outgrowth of American nihilism.

Making a moral issue an economic issue, and divorcing philosophy completely from the discussion, is an even more disturbing phenomenon. It violates good economics, and it is an offense against decent people everywhere. It won’t end the death penalty in California. No. What such a doomed-to-fail display WILL DO is embolden and empower statists who want to put as many people to death as possible.  

And I mean it.
Craig Edward Kelso is the author of Anarcho-Capitalism (2014), a primer on the philosophy of peaceful, stateless cooperation. His curriculum vitae include a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from San Diego State University, and a Post-Baccalaureate secondary education credential in both Social Science and English Language Arts. Kelso taught for nearly a decade in the American public school system, and was voted by colleagues Teacher of the Year, twice in his short tenure, earning numerous accolades from chambers of commerce, mayors, state assembly persons, governors, congresspersons, senators, and even Wal-Mart. Currently he struggles to earn an opportunity to be employed, working as a laborer, dishwasher. He is deliriously happily married to Myra Kelso, living in Southern California with their adorable children. 

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