SharksWithLasers -- Seth Cooper

A CUTTING-EDGE BLOG FOR THE WORLD OF THE 21st CENTURY, Currently operated by Seth L. Cooper, a 27 year-old attorney in Seattle (sethlcooper at comcast dot net)

Thursday, March 03, 2005

ROPER V. SIMMONS SUCKS, PART I. Like many others (including The Wall Street Journal, Powerline and David Limbaugh), I was thoroughly dissatisfied with the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling from March 1 that categorically struck down capital punishment for ALL criminals who commit horrible crimes when under the age of 18. My views on the case will be interspersed here in posts over the coming days.

Part of the majority's miserly rationale for striking the death penalty as applied to ALL 16- and 17-year-olds is that society has evolved its sense of decency and now such practices are unacceptable.

Yes, societies do evolve. Duh. And societies can come to discover profound ethical and moral insights that had eluded previous generations and societies. That is not terribly controversial, either.

But wait a minute. Can't societies also devolve? Yes, they can. And have. At the time of our Founding, for instance, many in the South acknowledged that slavery was WRONG and that it would hopefully become extinct in due time. (Jefferson and Washington come to mind here.) However, later generations, leading up to the Civil War came to argue that slavery was morally GOOD (think John C. Calhoun), and that it was better to fight a war to preserve the integrity of a nation founded upon that viewpoint, than risk having that institution eventually limited. I call THAT a devolution of society.

In Roper, the majority's use of the term evolve insinuates that we have reached a better and more advanced understanding on a profound moral issue. But they never really bother to establish that society has evolved for the better on this issue. The majority simply assume that. And they ignore the possibilty that the so-called societal consensus (the subject of a future post) is the result of society devolving.

Rather than making appeals to selected international charters or governments (a subject of a future post), or to selected state statutes and constitutions, the Supreme Court majority COULD HAVE made a serious attempt to argue how our society has taken a morally improved stance upon this issue and why that stance is so clarly morally superior as to warrant a categorial rule on the subject. But they didn't. They never made much attempt to argue how a juvenile who commits a brutal, wicked and vile crime can never be culpable enough to face capital punishment.

It was the mid-90s when I was 16 and 17 years-old, respectively. I called my own shots and knew about the MAJOR do's and don'ts of life. But maybe I am wrong. Maybe Supreme Court justices are more highly evolved in their outlook.

(North Seattle--Green Lake, WA)


  • At 9:09 AM, Blogger Phil Aldridge said…

    Great post about devolution.

    It is very dangerous when society starts thinking the every new idea is a good one because it's new.


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