March 19, 2005
EUGENE VOLOKH has changed his mind on the advisability of painful punishments -- or at least on the ability of the legal system to mete them out fairly as opposed to their abstract fairness.
I think that's right. I feel somewhat that way about capital punishment. I'm utterly unpersuaded by the argument that there is something uniquely immoral about state-sanctioned killing. (At its core, the nation-state is all about killing; everything else is window-dressing). But I'm quite persuaded, as I've written before, by what Charles Black called "the inevitability of caprice and mistake" in the application of the death penalty.
UPDATE: Some readers wonder what I meant about the nation-state being all about killing. That seemed pretty obvious to me: We have nation-states because they're more effective at focusing violence against those who threaten their authority than other human organizations. That's why nation-states have pretty much taken over the game of doing things via violence. They don't have a monopoly, of course, but they owe their preeminence to their success in this regard, not to their other characteristics. As I say, this seems quite obvious to me.