Cussen and Block: Death Penalty and Soft Drugs Chapter Review

Issue 12

The problem whether the death penalty should be abolished is an urgent law and social issue that has both numerous apologists and opponents. In this chapter Michael Welch gives the reasons why it should be abolished, and Ernest van den Haag identifies the counter arguments.

Welch states that the capital punishment encourages the murder only by its existence and it illustrated the wrong way for further development of the society. The reasons for the death penalty need to be really serious and the moral tight of someone to decide whether the person has to die for his/her crimes. Welch writes that the rationale for the capital punishment is closely connected with the current state of culture in the country. People were condemned to the death penalty for adultery in Saudi Arabia not so long ago, even though the rest of the non Islamic world considers such sin not to be that heavy.

People often say that the death penalty is the way the person has to pay for his/her crime. It also refers to the problem who has enough wisdom to judge the sins of the other people. Welch does not pay much attention to the ethical side of the problem, even though I think it is important. In the case of the “payment for the crime” he refers to the idea that we are not living in the Middle Ages when the personal vendetta was the usual reaction to the insult.

It is possible to argue with the ideas expressed by Welch on this issue. First of all, the nature of people did not change from the Middle Ages and people still want their tragedy to be paid fully by the insulter. People, whose beloved ones were assassinated by a serial killer will not be able to understand why this person deserves living. Van den Haag states that the crime is an indispensable part of human nature.

The dubious nature of ethical norms that determine the actions that deserve the death penalty can also undergo criticism. It is possible to assume that for the country that condemns to the capital punishment for the adultery it is normal. People there know that it is among the worst sins, they believe in the words of the Koran and it does not seem that the Arabs in that country were protesting actively against it. The death penalty for the adultery shocks only the people from the other cultures.

Welch might propose the idea that the human nature will not be overcome if nothing will be done for it. There is no objective need for people to stop being aggressive, cruel, anti-social, because no one protests against it. The capital punishment satisfies the need of people that the evil is killed, the blood is shed and the eye was paid for the eye. Until there is no need for people to change their nature, which is quite Utopian in fact, the humans will kill each other legally and illegally. Van den Haag’s position is not sentimental and he describes the impossible cruelties from the criminal history to illustrate the unchangeable nature of people. He emphasizes that the primary duty of the state is to control criminals and guarantee justice, even it is made through the capital punishment.

In my opinion, it is really not appropriate to judge the moral traditions of the other cultures according to our norms of living. The Western civilization is not the only one in the world and every nation has to go its own way in order to understand that the human life is valuable. I do not think that imposing this knowledge will be understood at all if the time has not come. The human nature that develops on its own pace is also a good explanation to the desire of people for vendetta.

Issue 12

The debates around the legalization of drugs seem to be unstoppable. The pros and cons are numerous and it is possible to find the counter argument for almost every idea. In this chapter Cussen and Block try to prove that legalization of the drugs will support the ideas of freedom in the United States and will decrease the crime rate in the country. Dalrymple argues whether the crime rate will really decrease if every adult person will be legally permitted to kill him/herself with the drugs.

According to Cussen and Block the war with the drugs is a heavy social burden and millions of taxes are spent on preventing the thing that in fact can not be prevented as long as people want to escape the reality. The governmental ban on selling drugs is one of the reasons of illegal drug trafficking organizations. Dalrymple does not agree with such naive point of view that if people will get the drugs they need they will not buy more. He writes that usually they need more and various drugs, and when it is not a problem to find them. The number of death rate from overdose and popularization of the issue will increase by several times. More drug users will mean more anti-social elements, and as the result the increased crime rate.

Some people might disagree with such pessimistic situation described by Dalrymple. They might say that not all drug users are than anti-social as they are used to be shown in the movies. They are well educated people who just want to relax a little bit and a small doze one time in several weeks is not worse than drinking alcohol. That is not prohibited in the United States.

The problem is that the majority of drug users can not stop on taking “the medicine” once in several weeks. They start searching for the extra doze and do not understand that they exceed the limit. The assumption that such drug abusers will not become anti-social is also strange. The drugs change the perception of the person greatly and one of the key characteristics of sch changes is that they do not pay that much attention to the outer world.

Perhaps, Cussen and Block might assume that such pessimistic approach is not based on the reality, because the important fact that only light and soft drugs will be legal is not specified. Though, it is one of the most naive assumptions about drugs that there are serious drugs like heroin which cause the destruction of the personality, and there are light drugs like marijuana, that are in fact not drugs at all, as it is said. In reality all those so called soft drugs lead to serious addiction and the main distinction between them is that light drugs kill more slowly. That is why all the counter arguments that support the idea that it is not normal to legalize drugs have a serious rational basis, especially if they are compared to the populist ideas about the triumph of liberty and vast opportunities in the United States.

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