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March 29, 2011

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Guano

The young rich like big cars as well!

Even in London, if you go out on your bike and take photos of motorists committing traffic offences, you get some interesting reactions.

ejh

It combines three defining features of the young rich - callousness, carelessness, and a love of big cars.

And a fourth, which is the expectation of impunity.

Myles

(There does seem to be some online furore about the probability he'll avoid the death penalty - you might also get the "suspended" death penalty, which is almost never implemented)

The Chinese (and more broadly, East Asian) enthusiasm for the death penalty is something I'll never be able to understand. I think it's important to note that this isn't just a reaction to callous and cruel rich people: out of the four first-world industrialized democracies that still retain the death penalty, three are in East Asia (South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, USA).

(Singapore is very enthusiastic about executions too, but it's not really a liberal democracy.)

JamesP

Apart from China, none of those actually execute that many people though, do they? And there's majority support for the death penalty in most countries (though on a weak, kneejerk basis), and was quite strong majority support in for instance the UK when it was abolished - I wonder if it isn't more a quirk of "Western" development that our politicians developed good conscience about it at the right time.

Confucius, incidentally, was against the death penalty, and Confucian scholars worked quite hard at various periods (late Song, f'instance) to get its scope and use reduced

Myles

Apart from China, none of those actually execute that many people though, do they?

The Taiwanese justice ministers from 2006 to 2009 were conscientiously opposed to the death penalty, so none took place during that time, but eventually public pressure forced the replacement with a pro-execution one, at which point the they resumed. As recently as 1997 Taiwan executed 38 people in a year.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capital_punishment_in_the_Republic_of_China#Execution_statistics

Japan: "As of late January 2009, there were 95 people awaiting execution in Japan." Given Japan's relatively low crime rate, it is actually a bit more actively retentionist than it seems. Also, IIRC the Japanese minister of justice, who objected to capital punishment, was forced to sign the death warrants despite her own moral objections.

Singapore needs no mentioning.

Confucius, incidentally, was against the death penalty, and Confucian scholars worked quite hard at various periods (late Song, f'instance) to get its scope and use reduced

You're more familiar with Confucius than I, but my general impression from watching Chinese costume drama is that the popular culture generally (and perhaps mistakenly) presumes death penalty to be providentially endorsed. Whereas in the West the Catholic Church is very outspoken in its opposition to capital punishment.

hellblazer

Whereas in the West the Catholic Church is very outspoken in its opposition to capital punishment.

This seems to be a non-sequitur. I thought we (well, you) were talking about a supposed East Asian enthusiasm for the death penalty. And without discussing other countries (not "first-world industrialized") that do still have the death penalty, it's not clear how much can be gleaned from your sample size of four.

Myles

And without discussing other countries (not "first-world industrialized") that do still have the death penalty, it's not clear how much can be gleaned from your sample size of four.

First-world, rich countries (with the well-known exception of the U.S.) tend to be abolitionist. It's more or less a function of overall wealth, and the poorer the society, the more likely it will find the death penalty an useful and important part of its justice system.

The thing is, of course, the death penalty is not really necessary in a a rich, first-world country today. Thus, rich countries that do retain it stand out, because they are essentially committing themselves to an anachronistic practice for moral or philosophical reasons. That East Asia seem to have uniformly retained the death penalty despite this is, I would argue, indicative of something inherent in regional culture.

I think the "our politicians were more abolitionist earlier" argument isn't really persuasive; the Japanese minister of justice objected to capital punishment, and yet she (IIRC) nonetheless felt compelled to sign the execution orders. Having lived in China, I am not certain that the philosophical argument for abolition (that we a society have no right to deprive individuals of life) is actually comprehensible to most Chinese.

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