CNN ran a story today on cancer frauds which puts me in mind of one of my favorite complaints. The misuse of the death penalty. I’m not necessarily against it but have two serious reservations: first that it punishes the innocent. I’m thinking of some convict who’d mother spends ten or twelve years agonizing over him and trying, not to overturn the verdict, but simply to keep him alive in prison. If there is to be a death penalty the appeals process should be fast tracked to not more than two or three years at most. But that is not my issue here. It is that the penalty is misapplied. A murderer who faces death has offended only against the family of the person(s) that he kills. Bad enough, but what about the con man who takes money that people intend be used to help children dying of cancer, or who defrauds hundreds of old folks of their retirement savings, or the mugger who may cause lifelong physical injury and almost certainly causes lifelong psychological trauma to a person he hits. What of the bankers in their expensive suits who caused financially unsophisticated people to lose their homes by mortgaging them a house more expensive than they could actually afford when the economy downturned? What of the guy who thinks it is fun to create computer viruses that, besides costing business billions, forces me to buy security programs for my PC? Or what of the bandit who uses a gun in the commission of a crime – we have the right to assume that he would be willing to use it. None of these scum face the death penalty. Not that killing them would discourage others, but it would eliminate them. I have always found it absurd that convicts have rights. Unlike the one-off murderer, people like these have decided to make a career out of preying on society. But by definition a society is a grouping whose purpose is to promote the common welfare and defend against their enemies. It is a logical absurdity that one who preys on a society so defined can also be a member of it. In natural law, once convicted he is not entitled to the rights of membership, unlike the man or woman who just kills his or her mate. The Byzantines actually had a better punishment. For serious crime they might blind or otherwise maim the culprit allowing him to live out his days considering his wickedness and hopefully repenting before having to meet the Divine Judge. Regrettably, in our day few people have a faith and fear of the Lord that would permit such a penalty to work. Nor should this issue be taken out of context. Mistakes are and would continue to be made. But people die from curable disease and accidents, or from drugs supplied by pushers who likewise do not face the death penalty. Our youth die in questionable wars, as do the children of these wars who are quickly forgotten as mere collateral casualties. Oh, I know that this is an extreme position that even I would not defend if actually implemented; but anyone determining these things should keep in mind that the death penalty is what could reasonably be demanded if our society were to want it. In the grand scheme these crimes are more hurtful to the whole society than an occasional murder. We need a better balance.