Capital Punishment and Compensatory Justice

For those who hold capital punishment is just based on retribution, it seems to suggest that logically speaking, you should also be for reparations for black people.  Let me show how:

Retribution is basically stating that there is some sort of injustice that happened with a murder and to “balance the scales of justice” we must kill the murderer in order to make things fair.  It’s the principle that matters: an injustice happened, thus there needs to be some sort of compensation for that injustice.

Ok, but if we follow this logic, wouldn’t this entail that reparations for black people should happen?  After all, there was some sort of injustice, and in order to “balance the scales of justice” we must give reparations to blacks in order to make things fair.  We did this with the Japanese in the 1980s for accidentally imprisoning them during WWII.  But imprisoning them for a decade seems small compared to the centuries of slavery toward the blacks.  Indeed, they were constitutionally non-persons.

So let’s follow reason on this: if one believes that capital punishment is ok because of some injustice, wouldn’t that same logic apply to any sort of injustice?  This would also include reparations.

About shaunmiller

I have just completed a visiting position as an assistant professor at Dalhousie University. My ideas are not associated with my employer; they are expressions of my own thoughts and ideas. Some of them are just musings while others could be serious discussions that could turn into a bigger project. Besides philosophy, I enjoy martial arts (Kuk Sool Won), playing my violin, enjoying coffee around town, and experimenting with new food.
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3 Responses to Capital Punishment and Compensatory Justice

  1. Nancy says:

    well, the difference is an individual one. capital punishment, at least ideally, is retribution against one person for their own action. similarly with the japanese internment camp victims- we gave money to the persons in the camps or their immediate descendants. the problem with reparations is that there is absolutely no one alive who were slaves, or even children of slaves. there may be grandchildren of slaves still alive, but how do you prove it? and how do you divide 40 acres and a mule, or the monetary equivalent thereof, between all the potential descendants of a person who might have been a slave? it just doesn’t logistically work, nor does it logically follow.
    i could agree that if you support capital punishment, you should support the idea that reparations should have been made immediately, but i don’t think it necessarily follows for today.

  2. shaunmiller says:

    Hmm. . . so justice only works if it’s immediate. That makes sense. After all, we don’t give capital punishment to the descendants of slave owners. I’m wondering if it can still be a group thing. For example, the Native Americans get a lot of benefits because of past wrongdoings (i.e., casinos). And they’re a group. At the same time, the time line to give compensation to the Native Americans goes farther into the past. I could see compensatory justice not working practically or logistically, but I think it still logically holds: if one believes there’s an injustice, there must be some sort of way to bring the justice back. If one applies this, it works for capital punishment and retributions. Of course, actually applying this is a different story.

  3. thekillerj says:

    What Nancy said…

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