Is Capital Punishment Justified?
The question of the death penalty was topical to a varying degree throughout the existence of the United States. There are continuous debates on the subject of admissibility of the death penalty application as a means of punishment inflicted by the state for committing serious crimes. During these discussions, a great number of experts oppose the application of capital punishment. Thus, all contradictions connected with the death penalty have to be studied in more detail in order to estimate legitimacy of its application in the modern world.
Today, there are 68 countries in the world that retain and continue to apply this measure of punishment, including the US, China, India, Saudi Arabia, and Japan. A unanimous answer to the question whether society needs the death penalty is still not represented. Arguments of supporters are clear: limiting factor, impossibility of recurrence, softness of life imprisonment, etc. However, there is a variety of reasons why the society should refuse the death penalty, including the possibility of a miscarriage of justice, the lack of punishment, generation of cruelty in the society, etc. (Norgaard, 2010).
The professionalism of investigators pursuing a claim of the criminal, persuasion of the offender's guilt evidence, and the fairness of the court may be insufficient. Therefore, there is always a probability of a mistake in judicial system of any country. Until the sentence is put in action, the convicted still has a hope and opportunity to collect necessary proofs of his/her innocence and to convince of it the investigator and a trial. After the execution of the sentence, neither evidence nor rehabilitation will be able to return the accused to life (Woolfe, 2013).
Besides, there is an opinion that the death penalty is not a deterrent. According to researchers of this question, a person committing a crime expects to avoid punishment, whatever it was, so there is no difference between whether a criminal will be condemned to life imprisonment or the death penalty. In turn, knowing that they will be punished with the death penalty for their deeds, criminals often commit new crimes as they know that there is no more terrible type of punishment, therefore, there is nothing for them to lose. For example, the death penalty does not matter for a terrorist since he or she constantly risks his/her own life (Norgaard, 2010).
Many opponents claim that the death penalty generates cruelty in the society. Since the ancient times, crowds of people gathered on the central squares to look at hanging, burning or beheading of criminals. However, there were times when the death penalty was even more brutal and sophisticated. For example, offenders were poured with boiling tar or burned in a stake. Nevertheless, methods did not frighten off the audience; on the contrary, people wished more and more bloody shows. In the atmosphere of cruelty and nonchalance new crimes were committed with an enviable regularity. However, it was several centuries ago, and it can be said that the society has changed and improved since then. Notwithstanding, the report of the UN of 2006 has showed that in the countries where the death penalty is permitted, crimes "worthy" this punishment happen more often (Woolfe, 2013).
In turn, the existence of the death penalty institute dehumanizes the society. Besides, many people oppose the death penalty because this measure of punishment provides the existence of the constant device of performers, i.e. the institute of the death penalty. In the countries where the death penalty is permitted, the executioners are, in fact, legitimate murderers. The difference between executioners and those whom they punish is only in the fact that the former act for the good of the state, the constitution of which, in turn, states that the murder of a man is a criminal offense. As a result, the state justifies murder in public consciousness and undermines the fundamental principle of public morals and ethics as a full inviolability of human life. Thus, one fact contradicts another, creating a vicious circle (Carmical, 2010).
The major factors provoking crime are poverty, ignorance, inequality, and mental deviations of some criminals. Thus, the penalty has no effect on these reasons and does not eliminate the causes of the crime. Besides, the penalty does not give a chance of correction since a serial murderer characterized by particular cruelty in his/her crimes does not deserve justification from the society and relatives of the victims, but has definitely no possibility to reconsider his behavior and bring some benefit to the society. Moreover, expectation of death often does not motivate, but discourages the sentenced from reflections. In the report, the UN notes that life imprisonment and isolation from the society frighten criminals much more than the death penalty (Weatherford, n.d.).
One of the most indisputable arguments in support of a ban of the death penalty is that capital punishment does not punish. Punishment is a measure of the state coercion applied to a person who is guilty of committing a crime, which consists in a certain limitation of his or her legal status and conferring him or her with special rights and duties. Execution, however, assumes deprivation of the right to life of the convicted person (Carmical, 2010).
Taking into account all abovementioned information, it should be noted that capital punishment should not be justified. In the modern society, murder is considered as morally unacceptable, except the cases when it is committed by a state for the sake of morality. Despite the fact that capital punishment does not contribute to public safety and deter from crimes, it is characterized with vicious advantages irrelevant to other punishments. The only benefits from the death penalty for the society include its simplicity and cheapness. However, life is the highest value, a natural and inalienable right of a person, and thus, it should not be applied in the state justice.
Should Abortion be Restricted?
One of the major questions facing the mankind is the question of its own reproduction. People rather sharply and actively react to the questions connected with the subject of sex. Therefore, the problem of abortions gets a strong response in the society. Thus, it is necessary to examine various aspects of the problem of abortions from the scientific point of view and find out whether it is necessary to restrict abortions or not.
Today, the problem of artificial interruption of pregnancy is topical in the sense that a question about moral ways of its solution is unresolved. The problem is not simply about the violation of the standard moral canons, but about the lack of such canons. Instead of the last, the mankind faces only the problem, which is caused by the confrontation between the two opposing points of view. The first one claims that abortion is a purely personal, intimate problem, which concerns nobody except a woman, and in which nobody has to interfere. Advocates of this point of view consider abortion as one of medical operations, where all problems are solved by a doctor and a patient, as in case of any other surgery. Speaking in other words, abortion is a medical problem (Ojeda, 2003).
The second point of view represents an opposite pole. Opponents consider that abortion offends moral sense; therefore, it results in the most difficult ethical problem. Before coming to the doctor, a woman solves a moral problem: to give life or to kill a fetus. Besides, after she comes to a doctor, the ethical sense of the question does not disappear, but becomes even more complicated. If the third person gets involved in the solution of this question and does his/her job as a doctor, he/she becomes complicit in the murder. Abortion is considered as murder because, unlike any other surgery, it has a specific purpose to destroy life, to kill a human being, which is completely defenseless and deprived of civil rights (Boonstra & Nash, 2014).
However, abortions should not be restricted in the modern society since historically, any bans on this kind of operation did not have positive effects, but led to negative consequences. First of all, the birth rate within the current ban on abortions does not increase, contrary to expectations. Nevertheless, the number of abortions outside hospital settings and thus maternal mortality increases. It is nonsense to demand an abortion ban in the conditions of socially caused need of each family for a certain number of children. It is clear that it is impossible to forbid such a demand. Such prohibitions are equivalent to full imprisonment, transformation of society into the "demographic prison" forcing to child-bearing. The ban or restriction of abortions is also powerless in the birth rate increase as well as forcing to give birth to three or more children by means of penalties (Resnick, 2012).
The obvious result that is inevitably manifested along with the imposition of restrictions on the abortion is the increased number of illegal abortions along with tragic consequences for women's reproductive health and thus the nation as a whole. However, when abortions are legally permitted, pregnant women have no reason to seek the assistance of ignorant people if they want to terminate the pregnancy, and they should not resort to abortion outside the medical institution. Besides, there are other negative consequences of the legislative restriction of abortions (Crary & Ross, 2011).
Besides, at current realities of life, disappearance of the legalized abortion from medical practice will undoubtedly introduce some share of chaos in the semantic structure of reproductive behavior of women. The matter is that, judging from the irrational and irresponsible emergence of pregnancies, it is possible to assume that one of the essential features of women’s reproductive behavior is their uncertainty. In some situations, only abortion, as a factor of opportunity or a lawful alternative to pregnancy, is capable of relieving a woman of the defect of uncertainty and awakening consciousness in her. In these conditions, abortion brings a certain sense in the reproductive behavior since it offers a choice of either giving birth to a child or refusing from it. Abortion gives a woman the chance to assess all pros and cons and make the most reasonable choice. From this perspective, even the most insignificant restrictions of the right to abortion threaten to turn pregnancy into a burden for millions of women (Ojeda, 2003).
The decision to have a child should be conscious; the baby has to be desired, but not to be born because of the abortion prohibitions or restrictions. Otherwise, such prohibition will only increase the number of homeless children and children in orphanages. The state could achieve a better effect by developing and promoting contraceptives. At the first sight, it sounds paradoxically. However, if a woman does not want a child, she will make abortion at any cost. Up to 8 percent of cases of infertility are connected with abortions. Therefore, if a woman uses contraceptives, she has more chances to give birth to a healthy and desired child in the future. Besides, pregnant mothers should be supported by the state by means of various programs and financial support, increasing the role of motherhood in the society (Resnick, 2012).
Taking the abovementioned into account, it should be noted that abortion is definitely a crime, and it should be restricted due to moral, ethical and religious principles. However, the state will hardly achieve reduction of the number of abortions by means of restrictions. In order to decrease the number of abortions and increase the birth rate, first of all, the state should raise the status of motherhood and offer young mothers benefits and bonuses. At all accounts, every future mother has to have a possibility of a personal choice and personal responsibility for such a critical step.
Do We Need Tougher Gun Control Laws?
The problem of storage and carrying the weapons in the USA has always caused disputes both among ordinary people and political groups representing these citizens. The modern statistical data show that the dramatic number of murders is caused by the free weapons-bearing. Additional anxiety of the society about gun control is also caused by the fact that Americans are the most armed nation in the world, which is facing many troubles connected with the uncontrolled or poorly controlled gun storage. In this regard, all the benefits and shortcomings of weapon ownership should be studied in more detail in order to clear out whether gun control laws should be tougher or not and find more efficient ways of solving this issue.
Proponents of restrictions on gun ownership believe that for the solution of this problem it is necessary to toughen control measures of acquisition and possession of the weapon up to its total ban. Proving their position, they claim that the more people have the weapon, the higher the crime rate is. In addition, possession of a weapon increases the risk of being killed while the removal of firearms from the hands of criminals may prevent serious crimes (Austin, 2014). In turn, opponents consider that the weapon in hands of law-abiding citizens constrains criminals from attacks (Swanson, 2014).
Conservatives support preservation of the right to purchase, possess and carry firearms. They refer to the Second amendment of the Constitution of the USA guaranteeing this right. Advocates of the right to hold weapon say that a weapon kills nobody, but people do. Therefore, it is necessary to toughen punishments for the use of weapons in criminal intents and control those who committed a crime more rigidly. However, long-term experience of the fight against crime in the USA and other countries shows that toughening punishments for crimes rarely deters people from committing crimes (Tate, 2013).
Removing weapons from the hands of criminals is a tempting target and attractive propaganda slogan. However, experts still do not know how to achieve this goal. Severe restrictions or even a ban on gun ownership does not affect the possibility of illegal access to weapon. The past American experience shows that the ban on the sale of the goods having public demand leads to the emergence of the black market offering the forbidden goods. For example, similar situation arose during the "dry law," and today, such situation is observed concerning the ban on the sale of drugs. Currently, the black market of the weapon prospers in the USA. Toughening of laws referring to the acquisition of the weapon will not concern those who buy the weapon in the black market. Therefore, taking away guns from criminals is almost impossible (Swanson, 2014).
According to the opponents of the free armament, the Second Amendment is the declaration that does not concern a certain individual. In fact, the Second Amendment states that well organized law enforcement is necessary for the safety of the state, and the right of people to store and carry arms should not be limited. Nevertheless, the Second Amendment is not the main argument in the discussion between advocates and opponents concerning the methods of fight against crime. Eventually, if possession and carrying the weapon by citizens prevents crimes and keeps life of people, it is possible to adopt the relevant law that is not present in the Constitution of the country (Tate, 2013).
The basic distinction between two points of view is reduced to one question: the impact of law-abiding citizens with weapons in the hands on the crime rate. The answer to this question can be received by analyzing the previous experience of the USA. For example, in his article, Jon Lott shows the evolution of the number of murders before and after the adoption of strict rules limiting firearms owning. These data clearly show that everywhere in the United States, tightened restrictions led to an increase in crime (Pratt, 2012).
Mark Gius conducted extensive researches on the influence of anti-weapon laws on crime rate change. Results of the researches showed that in the states having more strict restrictions on acquisition of the weapon and on their hidden carrying, crime rate is higher. Besides, it is established that a ban on possession of assault rifles practically does not influence crime rates (Ekins, 2013).
Obligatory registration of arms is an absolutely senseless law. After all, purchasing a weapon, the buyer and the weapon are registered. Authors of these laws believe that people who illegally own a weapon will start registering it in the next police department, which is a utopia. It is quite possible that the permission of hidden carrying the weapon outdoors for those who has the right for its possession is an effective measure to reduce the level of crimes (Ekins, 2013).
Obviously, permission of the hidden carrying the weapon has a strong psychological effect. It constrains criminals from commission of attacks. The researches conducted by request of the US Department of Justice showed that 40 percent of criminals at least once refused the intention to commit an assault, being afraid that the potential victim is armed. The matter is that criminals, as well as other people, are afraid to be wounded or killed (Pratt, 2012).
Taking into account all aforementioned information, it should be stated that anti-weapon laws create a safe and quiet environment to criminals and allow them to attack law-abiding citizens, being sure that they are defenseless. Thus, the right of people to self-defense with the application of firearms renders stronger constraining effect on criminals than the threat of severe punishments. Possession of firearms imposes a great responsibility on their owners. Therefore, it is also necessary to punish strictly those who thoughtlessly use the weapon, owing to what innocent people perish. However, the gun ownership rights should not be toughened for the US citizens.
May Marriage be Denied to Same-Sex Couples?
The relation to the same-sex marriages in the USA has considerably improved for the last decade when they were legalized in Massachusetts for the first time. Recently, the American legislators and courts even more often grant permissions for same-sex marriages. However, in the society, disputes concerning same-sex marriages are still humming. Opponents and defenders of this social phenomenon adduce arguments referring to moral, human rights, and the religious principles. In turn, the decision on whether to allow or reject same-sex marriage requires a comprehensive analysis of all the ethical, social and religious factors.
Speaking about the abnormality of same-sex marriages, people forget that the norm in this case is largely defined by culture rather than innate human nature. Throughout the history of mankind, the institute of a family in different societies repeatedly accepted features, which would seem terrifying and immoral to the modern society. For example, many modern people of Oceania and Africa have a family unit at which a father is not engaged in education of a child, but a child's uncle together with the mother. Incestuous marriages were rather frequent in ancient times. For instance, Homer in his "Odyssey" gives an example of the tsar marrying his seven sons to his seven daughters, making an ideal family. Many ancient people had a custom according to which the man was obliged to marry the wife of his died brother, even if he already had another wife. This custom, by the way, appears in the well-known evangelical parable where the Pharisees tried to shame Christ with a question about whose wife in paradise a woman is, who had been married for seven brothers (Ball, 2014).
Thus, marriage is a cultural rather than a biological concept. However, critics can object that whatever marriages were accepted at the different times, there is no nation in the world that would authorize the union between two people of the same sex. Nevertheless, a number of Siberian peoples practiced the custom of "gender change": a man who voluntary passed it was considered as a woman and could be engaged in female work and even could marry another man. Therefore, traditions of non-standard same-sex marriages are a quite habitual practice (Ball, 2014).
The psychologist Gregory Herek (2006), having analyzed examples of both homo- and heterosexual couples, came to a conclusion that they are quite similar in the main psychological characteristics. The scientist noticed that in both cases, partners experience the same set of emotions to each other. Besides, sexual orientation of partners does not affect their ability to create a harmonious emotional environment. As for the institution of marriage, it is beneficial to both heterosexual and homosexual couples because, for example, it prolongs life and improves health. Moreover, Herek (2006) claims that a measure of happiness that people experience in marriage is not related to the sexual sphere. Other studies have shown that partners in same-sex couples relate to each other much warmer than heterosexual pairs (Herek, 2006).
The research conducted by the American psychologists showed that 53 percent of girls whose mothers are lesbians would like to receive "intelligent" professions in the future, such as a doctor, lawyer, or engineer. At the same time, among daughters of heterosexual mothers, these professions were chosen by only 21 percent of respondents, the others preferred occupations such as a shop assistant or waitress in the bar. The decisive factor is that same-sex marriages are mostly adopted in the environment where intellectual work is quite ordinary. Therefore, lesbians give better prospects for the future to their children (Titshaw, 2012).
Advocates also state that the institute of marriage is undermined not by same-sex unions, but by the ban on them. In 2009, the economist Mircea Trandafir conducted a research on how the first legalization of same-sex marriages, which was held in the Netherlands in 1998, was reflected in the institution of a family. The scientist tried to verify the opponents’ argument that such unions destroy the institution of marriage, negatively influencing the frequency of marriages between men and women. As a result, it became clear that same-sex marriages do negatively influence the desire of women and men to enter into an official marriage. However, it is true about the registered marriages, but they are not reflected in the frequency of civil marriages in any way. In other words, the institution of marriage does not collapse; it has simply transformed from a legally adopted union to the status of daily co-host, where partners decide themselves when their union loses any force (Trandafir, 2009).
Besides, in 2012, the professor Scott Titshaw found out that in the USA, the civil marriage gains bigger attractiveness because there are many examples of homosexual unions, which are not allowed to be legalized by the state. Forbidding homosexuals to enter into an official marriage, conservative forces in the society squeeze them into the shadow sphere and thus destroy the institution of marriage. Therefore, the institution of marriage does not collapse by same-sex marriages, but a ban on them (Titshaw, 2012).
Summing up, it should be noted that advocates of same-sex marriage hold an opinion that marriage and its benefits have to be recognized in relation to same-sex couples. The prohibition of same-sex marriages encroaches one or more their rights as American citizens. Thus, the legislation should not forbid same-sex marriages. However, the right of homosexuals to live a way of life peculiar to them is accompanied by social responsibility not to harm the community they live in.
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