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“Useless and necessary”: thoughts on Reflections on the Guillotine | I like koalas.
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“Useless and necessary”: thoughts on Reflections on the Guillotine

Posted by on March 21, 2018

I’m reading Reflections on the Guillotine by Camus. It’s phenomenal and disturbing, as I should have expected. This part really got to me:

The State cannot
escape the dilemma Beccaria described when he
wrote: “If it is important to give the people proofs of
power often, then executions must be frequent; but
crimes will have to be frequent too, and this will prove
that the death penalty does not make the complete impression
that it should, whence it results that it is both
useless and necessary.” What can the State do with a
penalty that is useless and necessary, except to hide it
without abolishing it? The State will keep it then, a little
out of the way, not without embarrassment, in the
blind hope that one man at least, one day at least, will
be stopped from his murderous gesture by thought of
the punishment and, without anyone’s ever knowing it,
will justify a law that has neither reason nor experience
in its favor.

There are other things that the US government does today besides the death penalty that are useless and necessary (for proving power). Here’s a short list of some examples:
1. excessive police force
2. TSA
3. guantanamo and related detention for enemies of the state
4. drone strikes
5. other military adventurism

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