Reiman vs Van Den Haag on Capital Punishment

Reiman and Van den Haag’s stance on capital punishment are very different. Reiman believes that capital punishment can never be justified while Van de Haag is an advocate of capital punishment. Although their conclusions are opposing, their responses on the issues or arguments surrounding capital punishment have some similarities. The similarities lie on their way of thinking or in the method with which they arrived with their opposing conclusions on capital punishment. Both Jeffrey Reiman and Ernest van den Haag agree that capital punishment may not a very effective form of deterrence.

Criminals will still continue to do heinous crimes with or without capital punishment legalized in the government. Too little punishment on a heinous crime eventually communicates to the wrongdoers that what they’ve done are not that serious. Another similarity, but less trivial, in Reiman’s and van den Haag’s responses is they tend to first contradict the opposing view. Reiman first discussed why capital punishment should not be implemented or justified. Similarly, van den Haag, started off with the arguments against capital punishment and then contradicts each one.

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Both have been very good in getting their points across. One may wonder how come these two individuals who somehow have similarities with which they give their arguments, could arrive at such very conflicting solutions. Reiman doesn’t believe capital punishment is justifiable while van den Haag is pushing for capital punishment as the only means of a justifiable retribution for heinous crimes. The difference in their arguments lie with which they tend to focus on. Reiman focused largely on finding a justification for capital punishment.

When he found none, he concluded that capital punishment is not humane, and thus, should not be implemented. Since capital punishment is not really a good deterrent to crimes, then it should be abolished. Reiman associates civility to pursuing the most human punishment there is. He argues that as civilized people, execution is not an option for punishment. Execution is a form of a barbaric punishment. Van den Haag on the other hand focused his argument more on why not to abolish capital punishment.

Even if capital punishment may not be that effective deterrence, there is no other retribution serious enough to compensate for the heinous crimes committed by these wrongdoers. It may not be very humane, but it its legality could not be questioned. The moment somebody commits a heinous crime, he has also somehow subscribed himself to be punished in accordance with the law. Capital punishment is no different to other forms of punishment. Like other forms of punishment, it may be unfairly distributed among criminals.

The innocent may wrongly be executed. Maldistribution has got nothing to do if capital punishment is justifiable or not. These things are also applicable to other punishments implemented by the government, but we do not argue on them. Considering the arguments of Reiman and van den Haag, I believe van den Haag’s opinions sound more reasonable. It’s true that capital punishment may not be very effective in deterring heinous crimes, but so does a lifetime of imprisonment, thus we should not dwell on that argument alone.

There are a lot of other factors to be considered aside from deterrence. I believe that heinous crimes also deserve a serious punishment to make these guilty persons aware that they have done something seriously wrong. Locking them up is simply not sufficient to convey the message. I don’t see any argument strong enough to be able to justify why heinous criminals do not deserve to be executed. Humanity is a very subjective word. Thinking from the victim’s point of view, anything less than execution is definitely not a humane punishment for a heinous crime.