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Archive for January 8th, 2011

What a disgusting and sad tragedy. Some nutjob apparently has killed several people, including Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. [fingers crossed, apparently she's still alive and the NPR report was wrong]

My immediate impulse is that I want the killer to suffer a similar fate. That’s an emotional reaction, I realize, so here are some quick pro-and-con thoughts.

I am very skeptical about the integrity of prosecutors, particularly those that have political ambitions and think high conviction rates make them look tough on crime (I’d much rather they appeal to people based on their pursuit of justice). So I don’t need to be convinced that it’s possible for innocent people to get convicted because of deliberate evil or run-of-the-mill incompetence by government.

But in situation like this Arizona tragedy, where there is zero ambiguity about the identity of the gunman, I fail to see any reason why capital punishment is not an appropriate penalty. I’ve looked over the academic literature and I think the deterrence argument has some merit, but I also think there’s a pure justice argument for the death penalty.

Addendum: I should add that I hope the gunman was a random idiot without a political agenda like global warming, immigration, or healthcare. It is nauseating when the political types in Washington seek to exploit tragedies.

Another addendum:  A couple of friends have said I shouldn’t have posted anything related to the shooting, other than an expression of sadness. Maybe that’s true. I don’t pretend to be overly astute on such matters. Here’s what I sent, as my explanation, in an email after getting chided: “I’m not attacking anybody or making a political point. There have been several spirited debates by commenters about this issue over the past two years, and I got several emails asking about this issue after the news broke. So I did a post describing my own internal thoughts.”

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Why hasn’t Europe fought World War III? Could it be because the Soviet Union eventually collapsed? Could it be that the NATO, the western military alliance, was effective? Could it be the mutually assured destruction kept the peace? Could it be that America’s commitment to defend Europe was a deterrent?

But all those reasons focus on the role of the Soviet Union. Let’s cast the net wider and ask why World War III, or even smaller wars, didn’t begin with fights among Western European nations. How did long-time rivals France and England avoid war? Why did the Germans not launch another war on the continent? Did these things not happen because civilization finally triumphed? Because the peoples of Europe finally got sick of fighting? Because Western European nations were focused on the danger from the Soviet Union? Because the large U.S. military presence as part of NATO helped keep the peace?

I’m not a foreign policy expert, so I’m sure this is not even close to being a comprehensive list of potential explanations. But it turns out that all of my guesses are wrong. Or they’re wrong if we choose to believe French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde, who says the creation of a pan-European bureaucracy in Brussels has been the key to peace. Moreover, we are supposed to believe that the only way to keep the peace is to impose more harmonization, more centralization, and more bureaucratization on the unwilling peoples of Europe.

You may think I’m being satirical, but this is not a joke. Ms. Lagarde was being interviewed on BBC. She was asked about plans to further erode national sovereignty and transfer more power to Brussels, and whether the people of Europe (rather than just the political elite) should get to choose whether this happens. Here’s a summary of her  mind-blowing statement from Open Europe.

…when asked whether people had ever voted for this convergence she replied, “The European project has been around for over fifty years and it was built on the back of a situation where people were at war…The European project is something we all believe in because we want peace to be maintained.”

To be fair, I don’t actually think Ms. Lagarde is stupid. There’s no way she thinks the so-called European Project, or any of its bureaucratic creations (European Commission, European Parliament, European Court of Justice, etc), deserves credit for keeping the peace. But she obviously thinks the people of Europe are a bunch of stupid peasants and serfs. Or she thinks they are so powerless, thanks to the anti-democratic structure of the European Union and the housebroken European media, that she can say something utterly absurd and be confident that there will be no adverse consequences.

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