The Ultimate Punishment: a Defense by Ernest Van Den Haag

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The Ultimate Punishment: A Defense by Ernest Van Den Haag

In The Ultimate Punishment, Van Den Haag talks about the death penalty in the United States and takes the stance that it is morally justifiable and sometimes needs to be a punishment that is used to gain retribution. He states, “It ends the existence of those punished, instead of temporarily imprisoning them.” A murderer has taken away the lives of other people, as well as punishing the family members indirectly causing them pain. Therefore not only is this retribution to the person who was killed, but also to the people that the victim was survived by.

The first section of this article is about distribution of equality. Van Den Haag states, “The ideal of justice demands that justice be equally distributed, not that it be replaced by equality. Justice requires that as many of the guilty as possible be punished, regardless of whether others have avoided punishment.” In other words justice to him is the idea that everyone will ‘get what they deserve’ or ‘an eye for an eye’ type of treatment. And even if somehow others have slipped through the cracks that doesn’t mean we should let more people do it too. Also that just because a few people have been wrongfully murdered it is part of the better good because of the number of people that have been rightfully convicted.

Deterrence is also a big part of his views on the death penalty. “I believe the death penalty, because of its finality, is more feared than imprisonment, and deters some prospective murders not deterred by the threat of imprisonment.” Therefore if one person’s life is saved by the deterrence factor of a potential murderer not killing due to being afraid of the death penalty it is well worth it. Justice is also brought up in the last section of his article. Ernest believes that if you decide to commit the crime and still knowingly commit it when you know your consequences then why would you not be forced to suffer them?...
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