Today’s Headlines from Libertarian Sites
Al Gore gave an extraordinary
interview to the San Francisco Bay Guardian recently in which he asserted
that it was okay for the state to murder its own citizens provided its
intentions were good.
The topic at hand was capital
punishment. The Guardian reporter pointed out that the Republican governor
of Illinois recently placed a moratorium on all executions in that state
after a string of innocent people had been released from death row (in
fact, Illinois has had to set free one innocent person on death row for
every person it actually executed in recent years).
Rather than take the bait and
come down against capital punishment altogether or at least recent reforms
that make it harder to file appeals, Gore took the opposite route — it
doesn’t matter that capital punishment inevitably kills innocent people.
“. . . I support the death
penalty,” Gore told the Guardian. “. . . I think that any honest and candid
supporter of the death penalty has to acknowledge that that support comes
in spite of the fact that there will inevitably be some mistakes. And
that’s a harsh concession to make, but I think it’s the only honest concession
to make, and it should spur us to have appreciation for habeas corpus,
for the procedural safeguards for the accused, and for the fairness that’s
a part of the American judicial system and to resist efforts to take away
the procedural safeguards.”
Gore then turns around and
agrees with rulings and laws limiting the appeals of death row (and other)
prisoners, saying, “I think that the pendulum swung so far in the direction
of a flood of habeas petitions that the decisions of some courts to weed
out the procedural abuse is justified.”
So as long as you give an innocent
man or woman a few appeals, it’s okay to commit murder afterward.
Normally, this would be the
part of the article where I’d get all high minded about how libertarians
oppose such arbitrary state power and would never go along with such nonsense
as Gore does, but in fact the most prominent libertarian political organization
in America — the Libertarian Party — has a stand which makes even less
sense than Gore’s. The Libertarian Party’s position is that it officially
does not take a stand on the death penalty.
The same folks who think the
U.S. government is violating the constitution when it asks any census
question besides “How many people live in your home?” think the death
penalty is just too controversial an issue to take a stand on.
The same group that regularly
chronicles the massive inefficiencies in government, doesn’t even comment
on the state’s inability to ensure that the people it executes are actually
Give me a break. The issue
is not that complex. A state that engages in extrajudicial
murder itself can hardly be trusted to ensure that the people it executes
for crimes are truly guilty.
As with Gore’s answer, the
Libertarian Party’s position on the death penalty is a clear example of
putting politics ahead of principle. The Libertarian Party’s only hope
for any real electoral victories is to bring economic conservatives who
currently vote Republican into the fold. Unfortunately, a lot of those
conservatives tend to be pro-death penalty and would be turned off by
a party plank against capital punishment.
The Party admits as much on
its web site when it mentions a
survey showing that about 25% of its members supported the death penalty
in an unscientific survey it conducted. Presumably if 25% of its members
decided the drug war was a great idea, the organization would change its
stance on that issue too.
This sort of shameless behavior
is why many libertarians either don’t vote or vote for Republican candidates.
If I want to vote for an unprincipled candidate who will change his views
according to the prevailing political winds, George W. Bush will probably
be there on the ballot already. Why do I need the Libertarian Party’s
second hand version of a Republican waffler?