Libertarianism 101: What's the libertarian position on capital punishment?

Garry Reed's picture

In 300 words or less...

It's been said by libertarians themselves that trying to get libertarians to agree on anything is like herding cats.

That pretty much sums up their position on capital punishment.

Opinions from the libertarian left, which includes anarchists or anarcho-capitalists, reject capital punishment on the basis that capital punishment is murder by government and that governments shouldn't exist in the first place.

Conservative small limited government advocates on the right usually accept a death penalty under certain conditions for certain crimes on the premise that their small limited government is acting in defense of the wronged.

There are no shortages of opinions, heavily garnished with caveats, exceptions, restrictions, and special conditions all along that scale from one end to the other.

Virtually all libertarians, however, agree that otherwise peaceable people may administer their own ad hoc Termination With Extreme Prejudice in situations of imminent danger where self-defense is justified, such as a would-be victim pumping a plethora of revolver rounds into the torso of a knife-wielding rapist, homeowners gunning down midnight marauders in their master bedrooms, or a carjacking target jacking jacketed hollow points through the jacket of a jacked-up juicer.

But here's something for Lone Star libertarians to linger on. Not only does Texas rank numero uno in the country for executions year after year, but according to the Innocence Project of Texas, "The State of Texas is home to more verified wrongful convictions than any other state in the Nation."

So at the very least the libertarian position must be this: if there is even a smidgen of a morsel of a hint of a doubt about the possibility of innocence, the death penalty must not be administered.

But how can the state ever be trusted with legalized murder?

After all, it does little good to exonerate a corpse.

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