I dislike capital punishment (for both moral and practical reasons) and I dislike its proponents almost as much. I’m normally keen on going down the “You’re willing to let a few innocent people be executed, even if you’re one of them? You would be willing to die for that?” route when discussing it, but that can be a bit high-concept and hypothetical for your trigger-happy counterpart’s liking. So hat off to this more practically-grounded solution that Paul heard on the radio and posted to The Sharpener:
Re-instating capital punishment, the plucky contestant suggested, should be put to a referendum. All those voting in favour should then have their names stored on a file somewhere. When the first incidence of proven post-execution innocence occurs, as it undoubtedly would, so our man claimed, all the names of the supporters of state-sponsored killing should be put in a hat, with one lucky person being plucked out and put to death as a way of saying sorry.
Whoever was chosen wouldn’t mind, of course, as they cast their vote for the reinstatement of capital punishment in the knowledge that eventually something would go tragically awry. They’d merely be a happy martyr for their particular political belief.
I think it’s the fact it’s the combination of a lottery and a national identity register that makes it all the more compelling – taking fusty, old, medieval capital punishment and giving it a 21st century twist. It’s just so much more believable than a simple hypothetical situation.