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Ethics and Drug Testing Welfare Recipients

Warning: Please do not use my work and submit it as your own. Students have been caught plagiarizing from this site, and at least one university knows about this site due to that issue. This blog is not peer-reviewed, and thus is also not acceptable for scholarly research. Feel free to read the articles and papers here, but do your own research for your own schoolwork. Thank you!



May 30, 2011, Florida Governor Rick Scott signed a bill mandating drug tests before welfare payments are received (Haughney, 2011).  The law is designed to prevent taxpayer money from funding drug addiction.  A recent poll offered minimal insight into the problem and asked if people supported it.  On the support side, the poll said the law would get abusers off drugs and onto more stable financial footing to assist TANF recipients in reentering the workforce, and gained sixty-eight percent of the vote (People support, n.d.).  On the negative side, detractors say it will cost more money and will not cause any change without even more money spent on treatment and rehabilitation, and only received twenty-seven percent of the vote, with five percent polling as “unsure” (People support, n.d.). There are several different ethical stands one could make on this issue, but the bottom line is that this bill does not address the myriad of problems that accompany it, and thus is unethical as a whole.  This paper will present the arguments from both sides, followed by an analysis from the utilitarian view, a response from the emotivist view, and a conclusion based on the author’s view.


This paper was compiled using secondary sources, including current news articles and sources retrieved from the Ashford University Online Library, using databases such as JSTOR and EBSCOhost.  Specific inquiries have been made into the recent Florida law, passed at the end of May, but other general inquiries have also been made to find information on previous, failed attempts and other states looking into the same process.

Argument for Drug Testing TANF Recipients

The argument for drug testing applicants for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Program, often grouped into other assistance programs under the general descriptor “welfare,” stems from a general dissatisfaction with the current state of the TANF program.  The law aims to fix the program by preventing taxpayer money from funding drug addiction, protecting children in the households of drug abusers, and upholding the goals of the program by promoting better health and financial stability of applicants.

There are many who feel that it is immoral to use taxpayer money to fund illegal activity.  “While there are certainly legitimate needs for public assistance, it is unfair for Florida taxpayers to subsidize drug addiction.  This new law will encourage personal accountability and will help to prevent the misuse of tax dollars,” said a news release from Governor Rick Scott (Haughney, 2011).  TANF provides cash each month for assistance with non-food related costs, like utility bills, and the worry is that some people are buying illicit goods with that cash.  Jimmy Miller of Tampa seems to agree with this line of thought, saying, “It more or less enabled me” (Wright, 2011).  Mr. Miller was an addict who sold his food stamps for half price, spending that money, and his TANF pay, on drugs and alcohol (Wright, 2011).  This idea has popped up in several places around the country, introduced by Mele Carroll in Hawaii, Carl Wimmer in Utah, Craig Blair in West Virginia, and Kasha Kelley in Kansas, just to name a few (Montopoli, 2010; States consider, 2009).  To enforce this law, all adults over 18, and teen parents not living with a guardian, will be tested for drugs upon application for TANF (Bill Analysis, 2011).  The first time a person fails, that individual will be banned from payments for one year, or six months if they prove they have completed an approved treatment program since their positive test (Haughney, 2011; Bill Analysis, 2011).  The second time a person fails, that person’s benefits are removed for three years (Haughney, 2011).

Many of the recipients of TANF are children, and there has been some resistance to this plan because of the belief that the law will cause harm to these children.  However, with the wording in the bill, as well as collateral effects, advocates of the program say children’s welfare will be improved.  The bill itself includes a stipulation that if the parents of minors test positive for drugs, they can designate a person, who must pass a drug test, to receive the payment on behalf of the children, ensuring that the money will go through a responsible adult and still benefit the children (Haughney, 2011; Bill Analysis, 2011).  As Sid Dinerstein, chairman of the Palm Beach County Republican Party says, “If it separates an addict from public assistance, then it’s [sic] a benefit to everybody, including the children of the addict” (Haughney, 2011).  The idea is to get addicts to face their problems and seek treatment, helping the addict, the addict’s family, and society as a whole.

According to the Florida TANF website, the goals of the program are to promote two-parent, married families and assist with job preparation, with the intent of employment within two years (Florida TANF, n.d.; States consider, 2009).  The new law is attempting to assist in meeting these goals by helping addicts on welfare by promoting health and financial stability.  Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah relates this problem:

“Too many Americans are locked into a life of a dangerous dependency not only on drugs, but the federal assistance that serves to enable their addiction.  This amendment is a way to help people get off of drugs to become productive and healthy members of society, while ensuring that valuable taxpayer dollars aren’t [sic] wasted” (Montopoli, 2010).

Many private sector jobs are now requiring drug tests as a condition of starting work, and many government jobs, such as police and the military, require drug testing as well, so by ensuring people requesting TANF are clean, they are taking the first step towards employment (Smith, 2011).

Argument against Drug Testing TANF Recipients

The arguments against drug testing TANF recipients can generally be grouped into legality, cost, both to the participant and to the taxpayer, motivation, government intrusion, and other methods available to reach the same goals.

In 1999, the state of Michigan started a drug testing program, to which the ACLU responded with a lawsuit claiming infringement of Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable search and seizure, or a violation of privacy (Haughney, 2011).  In 2003, a federal appeals court ruled that universal testing was unconstitutional, so Michigan agreed to test only those recipients who were suspected of substance abuse (Haughney, 2011; Couwels, 2011).  With this precedent already set, the ACLU is claiming that the Florida law is also a violation of privacy, but supporters of the bill say that the appeal was determined by a tie vote, which is easily overturned by different judges (Greenblatt, 2010).  As Howard Simon, executive director of ACLU of Florida says, “Searching the bodily fluids of those in need of assistance is a scientifically, fiscally, and constitutionally unsound policy” (Haughney, 2011).

The bill stipulates that those recipients to be tested will pay for the drug test themselves (Bill Analysis, 2011).  This cost is stated to be about ten dollars per test, but can range up to seventy dollars (Haughney, 2011; Couwels, 2011).  Advocates of the bill say that the ten dollar charge will be refunded to the recipient if the test is returned negative, but detractors say that it is an unnecessary burden on people who are already in financial crisis (Haughney, 2011).  Frank Crabtree, the executive director of the West Virginia chapter of the ACLU says, “It’s [sic] an example of where you could cut costs at the expense of a segment of society that’s [sic] least able to defend themselves.” Michael Sheedy of the Florida Catholic Conference says that if the tests are made mandatory to receive assistance, the applicant should not fund them (Wright, 2011).  Combining the first two arguments, Berek Newton of the ACLU complains, “It’s [sic] like the government sending you a bill to violate your rights” (Couwels, 2011).

While the main argument for the bill is due to the misappropriation of taxpayer funds, some argue that the bill will actually end up costing the taxpayers more money in the long run.  The bill stipulates that while the tested person will pay the initial cost of the test, there is a refund to any person who passes the test (Bill Analysis, 2011).  The money to pay for these tests, then, has to come from somewhere.  The Welfare Reform Act of 1996 authorizes states to conduct drug tests on TANF recipients, but also demands that the money to perform the tests cannot come from TANF funding itself (States consider, 2009).  Arizona’s law, proposed by Senator Russell Pearce, specifies that the testing will be paid for by the Department of Economic Security (States consider, 2009).  Some are afraid the funding for Florida’s law will have to come from places like Medicaid, which would take money away from treatment of substance abuse, and thus be counter-productive to their supposed cause of eliminating substance abuse among welfare recipients (States consider, 2009).  Furthermore, since only a small percentage of 10-28% of TANF recipients have substance abuse problems (States consider, 2009), the ACLU says that drug testing itself will cost more money than what would be saved by eliminating addicts (Couwels, 2011).  Once a person fails the first test, a second test would need to be administered to eliminate the chance of false positives, then be admitted to treatment which could cost taxpayers as much as $20,000 or more (Greenblatt, 2010).

The fourth argument against the Florida law is the motivation behind the law.  Some argue that Governor Scott is politically showboating, or acting on some anti-poor bias.  The bill is only targeted towards welfare recipients, not all persons who receive financial aid from taxpayer funds, which may reveal a bias against poor people (Gov Scott’s, 2011).  This argument has also come up in Rhode Island, where Linda Katz, policy director of the Poverty Institute at Rhode Island College said, “The sponsor in our state said it was purely for cost savings [vice good intentions to get people off drugs].  This is really just designed to demean parents on welfare” (Greenblatt, 2010).  Mitch Ceasar, the chairman of the Broward County Democratic Party, said that the law was very “wrong-headed,” and was motivated by political grandstanding because Governor Scott had campaigned using this law as part of his platform (Haughney, 2011).

As a Republican governor with a Republican Senate, it is surprising to see that one of the arguments against the law is government interference and intrusion.  Typically, Republicans desire a smaller government that is relatively “hands-off” about individuals and their rights.  By forcing all recipients of TANF to take a drug test, government intrusion into individuals’ private lives increases (Gov Scott’s, 2011).  It also sets a dangerous precedent to allow the government to search without reasonable suspicion, which is exactly the reason for the 2003 appeal ruling against testing all welfare applicants (Couwels, 2011).  U.S. District Court Judge Victoria Roberts, speaking about the decision to overturn the Michigan case, said it “could be used for testing the parents of all children who received Medicaid, State Emergency Relief, educational grants or loans, public education or any other benefit from that State” (States consider, 2009).

Finally, many people say that this bill is unnecessary, either because it is a superfluous addition to existing measures, there are other options available, or because it does not solve the actual problem at hand.  Most welfare systems already have a step that checks for suspected users, such as past abuse history or current behavior, and refers those individuals to screening or treatment (Greenblatt, 2010).  Some states have rejected wholesale testing, possibly because of the failure of Michigan’s law, in favor of other methods like questionnaires, which the ACLU calls less expensive, less invasive, more effective, and more scientific (States consider, 2009).  In Arizona, each applicant answers three questions, and if any are answered “yes,” the applicant is sent to testing (Greenblatt, 2010).  In Indiana, all applicants sign a legally binding pledge to refrain from drug use while using unemployment benefits, and perjury results in three years imprisonment (Smith, 2011).  Meanwhile, Indiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Wisconsin, and Virginia all tie eligibility to drug testing, but for parolees and felons only, assuming that they are the group most likely to abuse illegal drugs (Associated Press, 2009).  Christine Nelson, the program manager of National Conference of State Legislatures, says that it would be more effective and cheaper to assign case workers for interviews with the intent of discovering which individuals should be tested, as well as other obstacles to employment that could be discovered (Associated Press, 2009).  Malika Saada Sarr, executive director of The Rebecca Project for Human Rights, offered the following:

“The fatal flaw of such a policy is the absence of supports and guidance for mothers to enter into family-centered treatment programs.  Drug testing without supportive referrals to family treatment programs for vulnerable mothers and their children will not achieve family stability and child well-being outcomes” (States consider, 2009)

Ms. Sarr is one example of many who believe drug testing alone will not solve the problem of substance abuse, or even the problem with misappropriation of funding.

Most people will only identify with one or two arguments against this law, but the arguments include the violation of the Fourth Amendment, the cost to the applicant and to the taxpayer, the motivation behind passing the law, the addition of more government intrusion into the lives of individuals, and the availability of other, cheaper, more effective methods to reach the same goals.

Utilitarian View

Utilitarians focus on “the greatest good for the greatest number of people.”  In this case, the greatest number of people would be the taxpayers.  The greatest good for the taxpayers would be that their money would be used appropriately and effectively.  Governor Scott believes the most effective way to use taxpayer funds is to eliminate substance abusers from the system by administering drug tests to all recipients of TANF (Haughney, 2011).  If we assume the average TANF payment is about $200 per month, and the tests cost $10 per person, per month, the test becomes cost effective, assuming no additional funding for treatment, with only five percent failure.  The actual percentage of TANF recipients with substance abuse problems ranges from ten to twenty-eight percent, according to the Legal Action Committee (States consider, 2009), so it would seem the actual savings would be even higher.  Thus, according to this utilitarian view, the bill is ethical.

Emotivist View

Emotivists do not give reason for their judgment, but use their intuition and emotional response to guide their collective moral compass.  While advocates of the bill are angered by the thought of tax-funded substance abuse, the majority of the outrage and emotion comes from the other side.  With accusations of an anti-poor mentality and fear of government violation of privacy, an emotivist position may be against the bill.  Many may also recoil from the reduction of rights to a cost evaluation, or to the very idea of being monitored while urinating in a sample cup.


While initial response to the bill is positive, because nobody really agrees with tax-funded substance abuse, once the facts are all examined, it is difficult to support the bill on its own.  It is the author’s belief that some form of testing, to include people suspected of drug abuse, felons, and parolees, could be beneficial, but the wholesale screening of all persons applying for TANF is unnecessary, costly, and unwarranted.  Rather than forcing all applicants to pay for their test, and refunding the overwhelming number of clean test costs, it would be more efficient to collect the cost from people who fail.  Forcing innocent people, who are already requiring financial aid, to pay for a test they will pass is senseless.  The bill does seem to be cost-effective, bolstering the advocates, but it does not take into account the payment of treatment for those addicts.  In addition, all but the most severe addicts will likely be able to stop using before the test so they will test negative, then go right back to getting high.  It is also unlikely that an addict will knowingly answer “yes” to any question asking if they are abusers.  The Indiana plan, which gives addicts enough rope to hang themselves with, seems to be a good idea, adding prison time for perjury for any drug offense they commit in the future.  Overall, the plan to catch all addicts using a simple drug test does not seem feasible, while simultaneously subjecting a great number of innocent people to a test which can be humiliating.  The benefits do not outweigh the shortcomings, and thus, ethically, the bill is a failure.


Associated Press. (2009, March 26). States consider drug tests for welfare recipients. Retrieved      from http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,510707,00.html

Bill Analysis and Fiscal Impact Sheet. (2011, April 21). Retrieved from http://www.flsenate.gov/      Session/Bill/2011/0556/Analyses/DE82HEF0Z5HPhUw4OQagXLxJSLk=%7C7/Public/Bills/0500-0599/0556/Analysis/2011s0556.bc.PDF

Couwels, J. (2011, June 8). Florida to charge welfare applicants to take drug test. Retrieved from      http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/2011/06/08/florida-to-charge-welfare-applicants-to-take-drug-test/

Florida TANF Program Assistance Overview. (n.d.). Retrieved June 8, 2011, from http://www.tanf.us/florida.html

Gov. Scott’s  drug-testing approach unfair, inconsistent (2011, June 2). South Florida Sun – Sentinel,B.2.  Retrieved June 11, 2011, from Sun Sentinel (Ft. Lauderdale). (Document ID: 2363720151).

Greenblatt, A. (2010, March 31). Should welfare recipients get drug testing? Retrieved from      http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=125387528

Haughney, K. (2011, May 31).  Scott signs law requiring drug testing for welfare recipients.  Sun Sentinel.  Retrieved from http://articles.sun-sentinel.com/2011-05-31/news/fl-florida-drug-test-for-welfare-20110531_1_welfare-recipients-tanf-recipients-new-law

Montopoli, B. (2010, June 16). Orrin Hatch calls for drug testing welfare recipients. Retrieved from http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-503544_162-20007929-503544.html

People support mandatory drug tests for welfare recipients. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.publicagenda.org/charts/people-support-mandatory-drug-tests-welfare-recipients

Smith, P. (2011, January 20). Welfare drug testing bills introduced in four states. Retrieved from      http://stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle/2011/jan/20/welfare_drug_testing_bills_intro

States consider drug testing for welfare recipients. (2009). Alcoholism & Drug Abuse Weekly, 21(8), 4-6. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Wright, K. (2011, April 15). Drug testing for welfare recipients? Retrieved from http://www.myfoxtampabay.com/dpp/news/state/drug-testing-for-welfare-recipients-041411


06/24/2011 Posted by | College Papers, Learning, Thinking | , , | 3 Comments

Relativism Vs. Universal Taboos

Warning: Please do not use my work and submit it as your own. Students have been caught plagiarizing from this site, and at least one university knows about this site due to that issue. This blog is not peer-reviewed, and thus is also not acceptable for scholarly research. Feel free to read the articles and papers here, but do your own research for your own schoolwork. Thank you!

Relativism Versus Universal Taboo

            In America, nobody cares how you cross your legs when speaking to another person, but in the Middle East, it is a sign of great disrespect to point the sole of your shoe towards another.  This is a tame example of relativism, the idea that each culture is different, and what may be “wrong” or unacceptable in one culture is not considered to be so in another. Lenn Goodman believes that despite relativism, there are certain acts that are, in fact, “wrong” no matter which culture looks at them.  He puts his views forward in “Some Moral Minima,” stating that genocide, terrorism, and rape, to name a few, are specific examples of immoral acts.  In this way, what he is talking about are human universals (Goodman, 2010).  Universals are common traits in all humanity, such as kinship systems, myths, wariness or fear of snakes, and incest (Nowak & Laird, 2010).  In this context, relativism still exists, but these are constant through all human cultures.  In regard to Goodman’s specific claims, each of the examples would need to be looked at to determine if they truly are universals, or if relativism and ethnocentrism color his views.  Specifically, are genocide, terrorism, polygamy, and clitoridectomy ever “right” in any culture?  If they can be shown in any culture to be moral, the issue is subject to relativism, whereas if it cannot, it may be said to be a universal taboo.

First to be discussed is genocide, the act of mass murdering people based on a specific trait, whether race, religion, or lifestyle.  Initial emotivist response to genocide is definitely negative for most, but if it was negative for all, it would not exist.  Take, for example, the tiny island of Tikopia.  The Tikopia have continuously inhabited their tiny island for over three thousand years (Diamond, 2011).  During that time, to prevent overpopulation and famine, they have had to resort to methods of population control that, as Americans, we would find distasteful.  In one example, after a particularly strong storm, one tribe of the Tikopia destroyed another tribe and forced the other into the sea, effectively killing everyone on the island that was not part of their tribe (Diamond, 2011).  In this case, the tribes that were destroyed may think their genocide was immoral, but the tribesmen that then had enough food to continue their society would have thought they were acceptable losses to sustain their kingdom for another millennium.

Another example Professor Goodman cites is terrorism.  What culture could possibly think terrorism is a morally acceptable method of warfare?  Depending on how you define terrorism, a surprising number of cultures.  A broad method of definition could include the guerilla tactics the colonists used against the British in the American Revolution.  Those pesky traitors to the crown would not stand up and fight like true gentlemen, instead hiding in bushes to take pot shots.  The underdog frequently has to resort to unconventional methods of warfare to make their point.  After all, the true purpose of war is to break the enemy’s will to fight, whether by causing unsustainable losses to their soldiers, destroying the economy or war production facilities, or through propaganda.  What better way to break the enemy’s will than by making them make decisions to do immoral acts, like shooting human shields to prevent further loss of life?  When a small group, say Al Qaeda, wants to pick a fight with the most powerful country in the world, like America, they do not go toe to toe in a brawl, but choose more unconventional methods.  We may see killing civilians as immoral, but to those who see America itself as immoral, terrorism is the most effective tool they have at their disposal.

Next on this abbreviated list is polygamy.  Goodman argues that polygamy reduces women to a show of wealth, and makes their happiness and lives completely dependent on whether their husband is fair or not.  Many cultures in this world are polygamous, but the one that is most familiar to Americans is that of the Fundamentalist Mormon religion.  The world has recently been introduced further into this lifestyle through TLC’s hit show “Sister Wives.”  It is not hard to see that while their life may have just as much drama and intrigue as the average monogamous marriage, their problems often seem tame compared to the family problems on other TV shows.  People who believe in polygamy are not likely to think it is immoral, so it is also not a universal truth to humanity.

Finally, we have clitoridectomy, female circumcision, or as many in the West call it, female genital mutilation.  Many criticize this procedure, which prevents female sexual pleasure as a method of preventing women from being unfaithful to their husbands, as a tool to oppress women (Nowak & Laird, 2010).  Women are the ones who perform the procedure, not because they agree with it, but because they know that men will not marry a girl who is uncircumcised, because they are considered wild, uninhibited, and dirty (Nowak & Laird, 2010).  However, there are some women who, perhaps finding the silver lining, say that the clitoris is a male organ, and unclean, so removing it enhances their femininity, cleanliness, and beauty, empowering them (Nowak & Laird, 2010).

In conclusion, if a practice can be shown to be a moral decision in any culture, it is not a true human universal, so relativism still has some credibility. In these examples, genocide, terrorism, polygamy, and clitoridectomy, we have seen that there is at least one culture, if not more, that values these practices.  Outsiders often find them repugnant, and for good reason, but what is immoral to one is not necessarily immoral to another.


Diamond, Jared (2011). Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed: Revised Edition (Kindle Locations 5402-5406). Penguin. Kindle Edition.

Goodman, Lenn E.. (2010). Some moral minima. The Good Society 19(1), 87-94. Retrieved January 22, 2011, from Project MUSE database.

Nowak, B., & Laird, P. (2010). Cultural Anthropology (S. Wainwright & D. Moneypenny, Eds.).      Retrieved from https://content.ashford.edu/books/AUANT101.10.2/sections/ch00

06/06/2011 Posted by | College Papers, Thinking | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ethics and the Death Penalty

Warning: Please do not use my work and submit it as your own. Students have been caught plagiarizing from this site, and at least one university knows about this site due to that issue. This blog is not peer-reviewed, and thus is also not acceptable for scholarly research. Feel free to read the articles and papers here, but do your own research for your own schoolwork. Thank you!


The next few blogs will be about Ethics and Society, where the last few have been about Ethics and Individual Rights. Today’s topic is the Death Penalty, and will be discussed from both sides with a deontological perspective. Deontology basically sets forth rules that should always be followed, the main, basic principle being the Golden Rule. As always, the first few sections will be notes from my textbook, with my additions in green, then under “My Thoughts” will be… you guessed it! My thoughts. The text I am using is:

Mosser, K. (2010). Ethics and Social Responsibility. (E. Evans, Ed.) Retrieved from https://content.ashford.edu/books/

The argument against abolishing the death penalty:

All humans have unalienable rights. Thomas Jefferson said they include “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” To murder someone is to deprive them of life, and society must punish the person responsible in a way to show its commitment to that right. If the punishment for murder is not harsh enough, it may seem that the government does not regard murder as a crime serious enough for the harshest penalty. The death penalty is the harshest punishment, and thus fits murder as the harshest crime. The murderer is punished, and the commitment to the right to life is upheld. The death penalty is actually a symbol for society’s respect for life, and of the humanity of both victim and murderer.

How? Because all members of society abide by the rules of that society. A murderer violates those rules, and thus shows he does not belong in that society. Thus, he has forfeited the right to live among others. At one point, the murderer had the same right to life, but by taking another’s, he has given up his right. By acting on the notion that the victim did not deserve to live, society must insist that the murderer forfeits his own right.

The death penalty sends a harsher message to those who may consider murder. It will prevent at least some potential murderers from acting on their desires. It is a deterrent.

-affirms the humanity of the victim and the murderer

-sends a message to the rest of society that by taking one life, you forfeit your own

-what punishment do you give someone who kill another while already in prison?

(I’d like to add that the death penalty, as a whole, is cheaper on tax-payers than keeping convicted killers in prison for life. There would be less over-crowding, less money spent on food, clothing, etc. It may seem harsh to bring the argument down to dollar figures, but let’s face it, once you are convicted of killing another human being, you are no longer afforded the privilege of being treated with dignity.)

The argument for abolishing the death penalty:

The death penalty reflects racial, class, and ethnic bias. It is too expensive. Innocent people have surely been executed. It isn’t effective as a deterrent. It is barbaric, and reflects poorly on the United States. Many religions and religious leaders reject it. But it all comes down to one question: is it morally acceptable to execute a human being?

If Thomas Jefferson is right, the right to life cannot be taken away. A murderer already has, but do two wrongs make a right?

If the state can be justified in taking the murderer’s life, then it is not unalienable. If the right to life is unalienable, then society is violating the murderer’s right. If killing a person is wrong, and the death penalty is intentionally killing a person, isn’t it also wrong? Or is the murderer no longer a human being because he has taken a life? The United States recognizes a murderer cannot be tortured because it violates his constitutional rights. Therefore, he is still a human being.

Instead of the death penalty, the penalty should be life without parole. It removes the murderer from society, protecting its members from threat. Life in prison, without parole, is as effective as the death penalty as a deterrent. It also avoids mistakenly executing an innocent person.

All human life deserves respect and dignity, no matter how evil or horrendous that person’s acts are. Society shows real respect for life by abolishing the death penalty. The death penalty is not required as a tool in the punishment box.

The Theories

Deontologists look at ethics in terms of rules, as opposed to consequences like utilitarians. A utilitarian may argue that the ends justify the means. A deontologist says the means are what matters.

The most famous deontologist was Immanuel Kant. He was a strong advocate of the death penalty. However, using the same logic and ethical view, many deontologists are against the death penalty.

Kant was a believer of retributivism- punishment should fit the crime, eye for an eye, life for a life, etc. By violating another’s right to live, the murderer forfeits his right to live. The act of murder is so fundamentally immoral that the murderer gives up his right to live. Execution, then, is not more murder but the consequence of the crime.

The Golden Rule says I shouldn’t kill someone if I don’t want someone to kill me, so the inverse should also be true. (A utilitarian would say that since the death penalty deters other murderers, it is the greatest good for the greatest number, and thus moral.) Since Kant is a deontologist, the deterrent part of the argument would have no bearing. He is only interested in the rules and means, not the eventual outcomes.

Other deontologists say Kant is correct in saying all humans have dignity that must be respected, but reject retributivism and say that the murderer also has dignity. To treat a person like an object is to treat another human as a means, rather than a person. Capital punishment is a means to an end (justice?), and we do not respect human dignity by killing other humans.

The main difference seems to be determining whether the murderer is still a human being. Kant believes the murderer has forfeited that part of his dignity/humanity by taking another life. The opposition says that murderers are still people.

My Thoughts

So in the last few paragraphs of the text, it mentions my earlier addition about cost-effectiveness. According to the text, it is actually more expensive to execute a person than to imprison them for forty years. I find this hard to believe because of guard salaries, food, over-crowding of the prison system, etc., but if it is true, it takes one of my main arguments away. At this website, the arguments seem to say that the reason the death penalty is so much more expensive is because the court costs are at least doubled, and the method of execution is expensive. If we were to execute by hanging or firing squad, it would be less expensive, but would likely be considered more barbaric.

I’ll admit that when I started reading this section, I was pro-death penalty. Most of that reasoning was because of the “eye for an eye” argument and the fact that (I thought) it is cheaper to take someone out of society permanently via execution than to house them somewhere for the rest of their lives.

It also goes on to compare the United States with other countries. England, France, Germany, and Japan have all abolished the death penalty, and are usually countries we like to associate ourselves with in terms of success. On the other end are states that advocate the death penalty- Iran, Congo, North Korea, and Yemen. Obviously there are many differences among all the countries listed, but it is interesting to point out.

Overall, I find myself newly conflicted. I’d thought about the fact that two wrongs don’t make a right, that we shouldn’t kill because a person has killed, etc. However, I also consider the fact that our prison system is extremely over-crowded. I suppose you could say I am a proponent of retributivism. I think we should find a way to make it less expensive than life imprisonment (and not by raising the cost of imprisonment). I really do find it extremely hard to believe that with all the costs associated, including new prison facilities and guard salaries when prison populations go up, that execution is more expensive.

Also, people who are sentenced to life in prison, without parole, are likely doing nothing for society, whereas society has to take care of them, provide food and shelter, and medical care, for the rest of their lives. They will never be a member of society again. Why delay the inevitable? I suppose I do believe that convicted murderers should no longer be treated with the same dignity of “normal” human beings.

Hello, my name is Jennifer, and I agree with the death penalty.

06/03/2011 Posted by | College Papers, Learning, Thinking | , , , | 2 Comments


So I was so busy with family BBQs and such that I didn’t even realize I’d passed 500 total views yesterday. Thanks to everyone who is checking in. I know it can’t ALL be my Mom. LMAO.

06/01/2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment