The Cost of Evading Moral Argument

At Deseret, I’m writing about the hamstrung compromises we get when people disagree on moral grounds but fight on practical grounds. I’m writing specifically on the death penalty, but it’s only one, particularly painful example, of how America sometimes makes a controversial policy legal but impossible.

For years, the moral issue of the death penalty has been contested on practical grounds, leaving us with a system worse than a clear victory for either side. While other nations either permit or outlaw executions, America has expressed its mixed feelings by allowing states to attempt executions while hamstringing them on how.

This mess is the result of years of deliberate attempts to chip away at the feasibility of the death penalty. Without a clear path to outlaw executions in Congress or at the Supreme Court, the anti-death penalty movement has focused on making them impossible to carry out. Activists have targeted the suppliers of lethal drugs, putting pressure on companies to stop selling their drugs to states that will use them to kill, and asking European countries that have banned the death penalty to place export restrictions on the drugs. 

They have won a Pyrrhic victory with these tactics. Any veterinarian can put an injured dog to sleep, and several states have authorized doctor-assisted suicide that is intended to provide a predictable, painless death. But for the people we condemn to death, the killings are improvised and slapdash. 

Read the whole thing at Deseret