Friday, December 23, 2005

Death Penalty

France's Le Figaro published an article which points out that, "In reality, the South, which hands down the greatest number of death sentences, also suffers the highest murder rate (6.6 for every 100,000 inhabitants). Inversely, as the crime rate decreases, so too does popular support for capital punishment."

If there is one thing that I learned in all my psychology classes, it was that correlation does not equal causation. What if the death penalty is higher in high crime areas, not because of the death penalty, but because the people in those areas see a greater necessity for it? It reminds me of an apocryphals story about a tsar, who, upon being informed that the plague was strongest where there were the most doctors, promptly ordered all the doctors executed. In short, a correlation is enough to make you study something, not to prove it.

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