Minimal Invasion Argument
In his paper, “The Minimal Invasion Argument Against the Death Penalty”, Hugo Adam Bedau argues against the death penalty. Bedau’s purpose is to convince people to favor the lifetime imprisonment over the death penalty with an argument that had been previously used by other authors called “The minimal Invasion Argument”, which he considers to be “the best argument against the death penalty”(Bedau, 4). In this paper I will describe Bedau’s argument and show how he has some weaknesses addressing the concept of the minimal invasion argument by ignoring what in my opinion is the main reason why the death penalty has not been abolished; this reason being our incapacity as humans to “define” our environment. When we call one thing by a name we believe this thing is the name by which we have called it. For example when we call somebody a criminal we take away many of the characteristics that make us equal to the criminal and then just call him or her a criminal. With this essay I want to prove that in some cases as human beings we need to believe in re-definition, in change; all this in order to build a better society. To do this I will first explain Bedau’s argument as best as possible and then conclude with the issues I found on it that are based on our language as the interpreter of our world. The Minimal invasion Principle as is described by Bedau goes as follows: (1) The Principle: Governmental invasions of an individual's privacy, liberty, and autonomy (or other fundamental values) are justified only if no less invasive practice is sufficient to achieve an important social goal. (2) Therefore, punishment is justified only if it is necessary as a means to some socially valid end. (3) The death penalty is more severe--more invasive--than long-term imprisonment. (4) To achieve valid social goals, long-term imprisonment is sufficient as an invasion of individual liberty, privacy, and autonomy (and other fundamental values). (5) Therefore, society ought to abolish any lawful practice that imposes greater violation of individual liberty, privacy, or autonomy (or other fundamental value) in cases in which a less invasive practice is available. (6) Conclusion: Society ought to abolish the death penalty. The principle in Bedau’s argument comes from an argument used previously to oppose the death penalty in the Furman v. Georgia case (Bedau, 4). The argument used by the judges, Brennan and Marshall, during the case states that, “by the fundamental normative principle: given a compelling state interest as the goal or purpose, the government must use the least restrictive means sufficient to achieve that goal or purpose” (Bedau, 4). In Bedau’s words, the first premise of the argument would be, “governmental invasions of an individual’s privacy, liberty, and autonomy (or other fundamental values) are justified only if no less invasive practice is sufficient to achieve an important social goal” (Bedau, 5). In his opinion, the first premise alone would be enough to convince more liberal and democratic governments but the purpose of the argument is not to convince the ones that could easily believe it so more evidence will be needed to convince governments with a more totalitarian and fascist point of view (Bedau, 5). Premise two, serves to affirm that the role of government to prevent future crimes to occur is undeniable because if done by citizens they can be considered crimes, and punishment to such crimes need to be implemented and both supporters and the ones that oppose the death penalty would most likely agree with this (Bedau, 5). The supporters of the death penalty see in this premise yet another way in which the offender should pay with his life for the crime committed in order to prevent further crimes to occur. In this case it would not only be justified to punish the criminal but executions seems to be the only way in which the offender...
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