Saturday, June 2, 2012

The Death Penalty and the Limits of Government

Tampa Bay Times columnist Robyn Blumner highlighted two cases where it appears that innocent men were put to death for crimes they didn't commit:

DeLuna was put to death by a fallible system. Whatever you might think of capital punishment, at least everyone should be on the side of never executing the innocent. DeLuna is but one example of justice gone wrong. The case of Cameron Todd Willingham is another. Willingham was executed in Texas in 2004 for an arson that killed his three young children. An independent review indicated that the state relied on faulty fire science to convict.

Her column was outstanding, heartfelt and important. However, I feel that Blumner (like most liberals) seems to arbitrarily choose when to trust government and when not to. She regularly implores Tallahassee and Washington D.C. to right all manners of social, environmental and economic ills. In response, I wrote the following letter to the editor appearing in Sunday's Times:

Robyn Blumner's column highlighting the wrongful executions of Carlos DeLuna and Cameron Todd Willingham was a very compelling argument against the death penalty. I am a Republican who rarely agrees with Blumner, but in this case she was spot on. While I believe that there are individuals who certainly deserve to lose their lives for the crimes they commit (John Couey comes to mind), I simply do not trust the government to administer such a process fairly or accurately. This is because the government is run by human beings, who like the rest of us are motivated by narrow self-interest and restrained by limited knowledge. Because those in government rarely face the consequences of their decisions, they often make the wrong ones, even if their intent is pure.

What I find puzzling is how Blumner can so effectively articulate these failings of government when it comes to civil liberties in one column, and in the next champion its abilities and competence in economic matters. A criminal trial is a grueling and exacting process that seeks to administer justice in a very narrow, specific instance. If government doesn't deserve our faith in doing that correctly, how can we trust it to control and coordinate the countless decisions that hundreds of millions of Americans make each day in our economic lives?

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