The sixth of the Ten Commandments is “You shall not murder.” However, ancient Hebrew texts clearly make a distinction between murder and killing. Murder involves “bloodguilt,” because it is unlawful. Killing is not murder, when done legally, such as combat or home invasion. My native state of Virginia has just adopted the Sixth Commandment, which eliminates the death penalty. In effect, both murder and killing are now illegal in Virginia.
Taking the life of another person is very serious and not to be considered lightly, but it is not unnatural for us to take lives. After all, we are animals. Besides, killing can be good, as some people just deserve to be killed, such as traitors, murderers, and pedophiles. It is no different than excising a cancer. At least in a utopian world!
However, in our world, the simple act of killing somebody who deserves it has become so wrapped up in legal arguments, racial politics, and religious agendas that the death penalty has become both arbitrary and capricious. Like Gulliver tied down by tiny ropes, the death penalty is now so restricted by legal arguments, racial politics, and religious agendas, that it is no longer practical. Capital punishment may be good in theory but not in practice.
This is particularly annoying to many economists, who see bad people rewarded with the security of food, shelter, and medical care forever, which the working poor are denied. That is the monetary cost of legal arguments, racial politics, and religious agendas.
I do see the moral imperative not to murder. I don’t see the moral imperative not to kill . . . except that it cannot be done fairly and efficiently. In that case, it must be illegal.
Virginia did the right thing!