Monday, March 07, 2016

Libertarians & The Death Penalty

Libertarian: “Death Penalty Essential for Social Justice”
Dudley Sharp

The Libertarian Party has, recently, voted, overwhelmingly, to oppose the death penalty, a decision based upon the inaccuracies and irrationality of the anti death penalty movement.

quotes by Murray N. Rothbard - the Godfather of Libertarianism


Walter E. Block, PhD,  well known libertarian, Austrian Economist and The Harold E. Wirth Eminent Scholar Endowed Chair and Professor of Economics, Joseph A. Butt, S.J. College of Business, Loyola University New Orleans  and Prof. Roy Whitehead


"What the murderer has done, essentially, to his victim is, in effect, steal his life away." " . . . the murderer’s life is forfeit now, for justice is timeless." (1)

" . . . an  individual's most important and primary  property right consists of his ownership over his own person. To interfere with that right is to engage in an illicit taking . . .  in effect murder is the theft of a life . . ." (2).

" . . .the murderer loses precisely the right of which he has deprived another human being: the right to have one's life preserved from the violence of another person. The murderer therefore deserves to be killed in return." (3)

" . . . the instincts of the public are correct on this issue: namely, that the punishment should fit the crime; i.e., that punishment should be proportional to the crime involved. The theoretical justification for this is that an aggressor loses his rights to the extent that he has violated the rights of another human being." (3)

Victim survivors show 95% death penalty support. When the question to the public is "Do you support the death penalty for murder?" and the responses are -  sometimes - always -  or never - death penalty support is 80% or above (8).

"The libertarian takes his stand for individual rights not merely on the basis of social consequences, but more emphatically on the justice that is due to every individual." (3)

" . . . the libertarian theory of punishment is  one of compensation for the victim;  that is, the perpetrator is punished by forcing him to  compensate the injured party to the extent of the rights violation perpetrated upon him." "The reason for this is that libertarianism is predicated on an attempt to attain justice . . . " (4)

" . . . while it is impossible to place the victim back on the plane of life he was following  before the outrage,  justice  consists of at least attempting to do so as far as possible." (5)

"Each libertarian has his own foundation - or none - for private property and non-aggression. What we have in common are just these two axiom." (6) "If (libertarianism) has any one principle, it is that no one should initiate force against non-aggressors." (6)

Murder takes away all your property - your self  - and violates the second of the two primary axioms - the murderer violates non-aggression in the worst form - by committing murder.

Murder is, therefore, the greatest violation of libertarianism, with execution representing  justice for that violation.'

" . . . (killling) is not impermissible in self-defense, nor is it to kill those who no longer have entitlement to their own lives. Let the message go out, loud and clear: If you murder, you give up the right to your own life." (1)

"It is a crime and a disgrace that such criminals now enjoy air conditioning, television, exercise rooms, etc. They owe a debt to their victims’ heirs, who are now, to add insult to injury, forced to pay again, through taxes, to maintain these miscreants in a relatively luxurious life, compared to what they richly deserve." (1)

See "The Death of Punishment", by Robert Blecker, 2014


"Another common liberal complaint is that the death penalty does not deter murder from being committed. While it is impossible to prove the degree of deterrence, it seems indisputable that some murders would be deterred by the death penalty. Sometimes the liberal argument comes perilously close to maintaining that no punishment deters any crime — a manifestly absurd view that could easily be tested by removing all legal penalties for nonpayment of income tax and seeing if there is any reduction in the taxes paid."

(Wanna bet?)" (3)

"If the prospect of even a small probability that the death penalty might be imposed for even relatively minor crimes does not put a severe dent in criminal behavior, then nothing will." (7).

"   . economists who ought to know better have found no statistically significant correlation between reducing the murder rate and being or becoming a death penalty state . . . that is only because murderers, like most of the rest of us, pay attention not to dead letter laws, but to actual penalties." (1)

"It is fallacious to regard murderers as irrational: very few conduct their business in police stations." (1)

" When multiple regressions are run on murder rates, not against death penalty status, but with regard to actual executions, the evidence is consistent with the notion that such punishments reduce these crimes. This is entirely compatible with the economic principle of downward sloping demand: the higher the price, the less people wish to access. This holds for all human endeavors: cars, pizza, and, yes, murder too." (1)

There are now 28 US studies finding for death penalty deterrence, since 1997. The studies finding for deterrence are considerably stronger than the criticisms of them. (9)

"Nor is it possible not to regard murder as a stiffer penalty than life in prison.Were this not so, we would scarcely find the denizens of death row trying desperately to stave off, or better yet overturn, their executions." (1) 


"As for the costliness of executions, this is entirely a function of present judicial functioning, which can be changed with the stroke of a pen." (1)

Responsibly managed death penalty systems should be less expensive or no more than for life without parole, as detailed (10).

Virginia has executed 70% of her death row murderers since 1976, that being 111 murderers executed within 7 years of full appeals, with not even a hint of an innocent executed. Virginia's last execution took place on 10/1/2015, after 5 years of full appeals (10).


1) “Death Penalty Essential for Social Justice”, Block, Walter E., The Maroon, 10/10/03, Loyola University (New Orleans)

2) p, 245,  Whitehead, Roy and Walter E. Block. 2003. “Taking the assets of the criminal to compensate victims of violence: a legal and philosophical approach,” Wayne State University Law School Journal of Law in Society Vol. 5, No. 1, Fall, 2003, pp.229-254;  (death penalty justified)

3) The Libertarian Position on Capital Punishment, Murray N. Rothbard, Libertarian Review, June 1978

This article originally appeared as "The Plumb Line: The Capital Punishment Question" in the Libertarian Review, Vol. 7, No. 5 (June 1978), pp. 13–14.

Rothbard's Profile

4) p 243, ibid footnote 2

5) p 244, ibid, footnote 2

6) "Libertarianism vs Objectivism; A Response to Peter  Schwartz", Walter Block,   pg 41, 42, Reason Papers Vol. 26 39, Loyola University, New Orleans

7)  p  248, ibid footnote 2

8) 86% Death Penalty Support: Highest Ever - April 2013
World Support Remains High
95% of Murder Victim's Family Members Support Death Penalty

9) The Death Penalty: Saving More Innocent Lives