Justice v. Vengeance - the death penalty

Is Vengeance Just?

Many people confuse justice with vengeance, and this is most apparent in countries where the death penalty is still considered acceptable. Notwithstanding the obvious fact, that a country that kills its own citizens has no moral highground to stand on, the less obvious issue that many people fail to see clearly, is that vengeance is not justice. Or to put it another way, to see someone suffer for the suffering they have caused someone else, is not necessarilly justice. And there are countless examples of people who have seen the execution of a convict (who murdered a close relative), and yet do not receive the holy grail of gratification - and liberation of feeling - that they sought. It just turned out that someone else was killed.

Another aspect to the dilemma regarding capital punishment, is the problem regarding the 'moral highground'. Any country which regards another country as somehow backward or dangerous, and yet kills its own citizens, really occupies no moral highground at all. This really is a problem with regards to foreign policy, as in all seriousness, a country that kills its own citizens really can't say very much about human rights issues in other countries. Of course, other countries might be 'worse', but if it's just a matter of degree, then there is still no clear ground to work from. No-one can take a country seriously if it hasn't got its own back yard in order.

The stupidity of the death penalty is also obvious in economic terms, and very self-defeating to the country in question. Any prisoner is a potential source of productivity, where punishment in the form of hard work meets economic benefit to the country. Paying for a criminal to sit out his days, before being terminated, is plain stupid. Just as letting out a dangerous criminal on parole is insane (as they can often murder again). Neither route takes fully into account what a prisoner could provide economically (through punishment) by the way of forced labour.

The wider concerns are more obvious, as we evolve as a society and ultimately as a planet. That is to say, the basic laws of cause and effect that run through the make-up of what we think of as reality, which is corroborated by modern developments in maths and physics. The idea of killing someone as punishment, will one day be seen as the barbaric act which it truly is.

Today's definition of murder - the unlawful killing of one human by another, especially with premeditated malice - may one day have the word 'unlawful' removed, and read quite differently. The law has always evolved and changed to suit a society's needs, and what humans consider right or wrong today may be seen as different tomorrow. Certainly, Europe, from which the founding fathers of the US came from, decided last century to banish the death penalty.

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Michael Shane profile image

Michael Shane 6 years ago from Gadsden, Alabama

Great topic!

Senior Citizen 6 years ago

The Answer to Ending The Death Penalty

Is, STOP Giving The State The Country A Reason To Put You On Death Row.

Electro-Denizen profile image

Electro-Denizen 6 years ago from Wales, UK Author

Senior Citizen, thanks for visiting.

That's like saying 'be nice to each other', won't ever happen. Not a solution... That kind of reasoning doesn't look at the issues.

For example, unfortunately there are some on death row who have no reason to be there. In the wrong place at the wrong time and wrongly convicted. They never gave a valid reason to the county to be killed off. How would that sit with you if that were you or a relative or friend?

SpanStar profile image

SpanStar 6 years ago

The situation you pointed out already exist today for most of us being wrongly convicted of a crime and wrong you bet that's wrong but the thing that can prevent that from ever occurring is for people to stop murdering, stop raping, stop stealing, stop tailgating, stop cutting people off in traffic and if your answer is "oh well we can't act like mature adults, we have to behave like we've got no sense then what else is left??"

Electro-Denizen profile image

Electro-Denizen 6 years ago from Wales, UK Author

Thanks for comment SpanStar - I know what you mean, it can seem a bit grim, being realistic about human nature. But it's not the whole story, fortunately. We need law. And we need jails, at this point in our evolution. But we don't need to kill people. That certain States are still killing people... That's just, insane.

Spanstar 6 years ago


I full understand that we don't want to take someone life and I'm with that if it were not for how people behave. Years ago there was crime and I guess there will always be crime but the crimes I'm see these days are heartless humans doing whatever to other humans that would make a beast of the jungle sick to their stomach. As much as I don't like it- death is a part of life and when I hear interviews with certain prisoners that say if you let me out today I will kill again I just can find sympathy in my heart for a creature like this. A stray bullet on the city streets hits a five year old child and if they don't die they spend the rest of their life in a chair while 20 years later the adult clown that fired that shot is walking around buying groceries and just living their life-Where Is The Justice in that?

To be concern for human life is a good thing, however I believe we as people have tested the limit of God because we just aren't going to act right and at some point in time he himself said, "I'm Sorry I Made Man."

Electro-Denizen profile image

Electro-Denizen 6 years ago from Wales, UK Author

Spanstar, I've always been of the view that hideous crimes should be punished through hard labour, possibly for life in the case of some deranged people, who wouldn't be safe out on the street again. That's punishment. Killing someone is a cop-out, as it's not even punishment anymore, just termination.

The other facet, is that I think convicts should be forced to provide economic benefit to a society - making stuff all day. That would be a useful use of un-releasable prisoners. Also, it would make sense it terms of incorrect imprisonments. It would give time to sort such cases out.

As to the idea that God might be sorry he made man, wow, what a thought. But actually, we human beings cooperate with each other well on the whole. It's a smaller percentage of people who belong in jail, fortunately!

Spanstar 6 years ago


It is clear we are never going to see eye-to-eye on this issue because the standards you see with saving people that don't give a plug nickle about your life, about my life or anyone's life will never add up with me. We look gangs today and they're solution to most of their problems is giving people the death penalty- someone reports them to law-enforcement they get the death penalty by the gang even if they couldn't get the address right that family got the death penalty. Look at home robberies now people aren't safe in their own home because someone who doesn't belong in your home could easily give you the death penalty. Columbine School the death penalty.

It seems the only people who sees the state as barbaric and not the these cowards that are murdering and torturing innocence people are sadly folks like you.

I wish you well on your quest but I stand firm in the idea that you can't behave like an animal around me and think I'm going to just accept it. It has been said, "If you live by the sword then you die by the sword."

Electro-Denizen profile image

Electro-Denizen 6 years ago from Wales, UK Author


This is what this hub's all about, two opposing opinions.

But it's worth keeping in mind that people who believe 'an eye for an eye', believe in vengeance, notjustice, because that's what tit-for-tat is. I guess it depends what society ultimately you want to live in.

The death penalty doesn't keep people any safer, because as a deterrent it simply doesn't work (obviously, otherwise people wouldn't be on death row!)

To finish off, here's a link to a website that supports Troy Davis, wrongly convicted and that the state wants dead http://troyanthonydavis.org/

A good example as to why the death sentence just isn't worth having.

The death sentence satisfies people's knee-jerk reaction at the horrors some humans commit against others. But I say, put these people to hard, hard labour, and economic benefit to the country, not prison cells with TV rooms and all that kind of stuff.

lxxy profile image

lxxy 6 years ago from Beneath, Between, Beyond

You raise a lot of good points.

While there is no moral ground to stand on, unfortuantely--for a time to come--more nations need to instigate such policies; you have to crack a few eggs to make an omelette.

I do agree with Mr. Sr. Citizen--you don't want to die, don't commit the crime.

Also--there's a large group of people that really don't have any business among anyone. Pedophiles, serial killers, lawyers...oh, wait..maybe not them...

Great article.

Look forward to reading more!

Electro-Denizen profile image

Electro-Denizen 6 years ago from Wales, UK Author

lxxy thanks for visiting

ha, lawyers, indeed... some bankers as well :-)


Jon  6 years ago

There is no moral order. There is only the order that we put to ourselves-law. Unlawful will never be removed bc that is all it is. Justice is necessarily bound to deterrence and punishment, which are arbitrarily decided upon by human beings. There are DIFFERENT 'executions' of these arbitrarily chosen punishments that deter. Barbaric-ha-wake up, rape is barbaric; torture is barbaric. Men are animals. Animals must be deterred.

Electro-Denizen profile image

Electro-Denizen 6 years ago from Wales, UK Author

Thanks for visiting Jon, I like your comment, interesting

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DROTTO 5 years ago






Meane Pete 4 years ago

I don't agree with the notion that a moral law exists. I mean, laws, laws of nature can't be broken. Math, science, logic they are all unbreakable and universal.I looked at the rebel fighters of Liberia (2003) who drank blood of innocent children . I know you all think that was morally wrong, also the way Christopher Columbus killed many native Americans and enslaved the remaining ones. Mayans belived in human sacrifice and actually believed it was just and fought to keep what they perceived as right. I guess what I'm saying is it's not inhumane to kill humans. I know this may upset some readers feelings , for that I'm sorry that's not my intention, but according to human history we killed a lot more for a lot less.

Electro-Denizen profile image

Electro-Denizen 4 years ago from Wales, UK Author

Meane Pete - that's a great comment and slant on things. You're right of course, in fact study of law just shows how subjective our morality is, depending on society etc.

But perhaps the past doesn't really mean anything, doesn't need to dictate the future - just because a tradition of killing exists doesn't mean it has any value. Many things humans value have no real value. Perhaps as we evolve as a nation/society/world, we also understand the effects better, of our actions, that's all.

Thanks for visiting, nice comment

Jim 4 years ago

As I have read these comments I find it interesting that most think their own opinion is the right one, whether dismissing absolutes or embracing moral relativism or even thinking we will somehow evolve our way out of the evil that exists in this world. Evil DOES exist, but in order to believe in evil we must see there is some standard by which to measure it. That is called good (or possibly truth). To cop out on arguments by saying there are no absolutes is obviously foolish for that in itself is an absolute, so where do morals and truth and good come from? It seems such things could only come from one who is good and moral and who is himself truth. That leaves us with God. Sorry if that doesn't fit your model, but think about it!

Electro-Denizen profile image

Electro-Denizen 4 years ago from Wales, UK Author

Jim, interesting comment. That's the basis I think of much philosophical discourse - that the very idea that good, and setting a standard of measure of 'good', must be in place because of something inherently good and bigger than us... God! But the problem of course is human interpreting, what they consider good, and what their God is about.

The vengeful God of punishment from the Old Testament, or the one of forgiveness of the New Testament.

Anthony 4 years ago

Great, so instead of the death penalty, we'll just enslave criminals. Or wait, would it be indentured servitude? What's the politically correct term for it? Oh yes, "by the way of forced labour" as you put it.

You say killing someone as punishment is a barbaric act? How about stripping whatever human dignity they have left and putting them into forced labour camps "as punishment" for your country's economic benefit? That's not barbaric? I'm sure Hitler wouldn't think so.

You are basing the immorality of the death penalty on the false idea that by definition vengeance and justice are never the same thing, but sometimes the two are the same, depending from who's POV you look at it from.

If a man kills someone in cold blood then he deserves to die. That is justice. If I were an unintended victim (say, the son of the murdered) I may want the man dead for personal reasons and not in the interest of justice, true, but that does not change the fact that the man deserves to die.

Electro-Denizen profile image

Electro-Denizen 4 years ago from Wales, UK Author

Anthony great comment, the most lucid to date. You got me thinking....

Thanks for visiting too

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