Kant and Capital Punishment (Take 2)

In a previous post, I responded to commenter Dudley Sharp‘s citation of a quote purporting to be from Immanuel Kant in support of the death penalty:

“If an offender has committed murder, he must die. In this case, no possible substitute can satisfy justice. For there is no parallel between death and even the most miserable life, so that there is no equality of crime and retribution unless the perpetrator is judicially put to death….A society that is not willing to demand a life of somebody who has taken somebody else’s life is simply immoral.”

Not being a philosopher but having read and thought a bit about Kant on my own, I doubted the provenance of the quote. In fact, it turns out it is from Kant’s Metaphysics of Morals. Kant did indeed believe in and argue for the morality of capital punishment.

This in itself, of course, does not solve the matter. Just because Kant thought the death penalty was moral doesn’t mean it is, in fact, so.  But I want to take the argument seriously and consider it in terms of Kant’s ethics as a whole as I understand them. Again, I’m not trained as a philosopher, as is probably apparent to anyone who wondered why I doubted the original quote was from Kant. But bear with me. This is an important and useful line of thought with respect to justice generally. And by all means, if you think my reasoning is wrong, please explain why in the comments section of this post. Continue reading

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Republicans on Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission Leaked Documents to Lobbyists

FCIC Chairman Phil Angelides (D) and VIce-Chairman Bill Thomas (R)

I wonder if ethics for some Republicans is so markedly different from everyone else’s such that, when charged with investigating the actions of Wall Street banks that might have led to that little catastrophe of 2008, they feel absolutely no moral qualms about sharing information about their inquiries with a lobbyist for those banks. Do they view that “heads up” to their supposed quarry as an act of heroism, even?  Or do they just not have a nose for what most people would probably view as corruption in the halls of power?

After the jump, a portion of a report to Ranking Member Elijah E. Cummings of the House Committee on  Oversight and Government Reform, An Examination of Attacks on the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission. This document concerns several charges against Republicans on this Commission, which was established in 2009 to investigate the causes of the financial crisis. Some of the charges concern the Republican Commissioners’ partisanship while on the panel,  i.e., using their position to try to aid House Republicans’ efforts to kill the Dodd-Frank Act, or “parroting” an American Enterprise Institute “theory” about the role Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae played in causing the crisis, which became a major right-wing talking point in Congress and the media. But perhaps the most damning charges concern Vice-Chairman Bill Thomas, who the report alleges, shared information about the ongoing investigation with a friend and colleague who happened to be chief lobbyist for Citibank among other financial players: Continue reading