Jan 232012

On Sunday’s episode of Philosophy in Action Radio, Greg Perkins and I answered questions on acquittals of the guilty versus convictions of the innocent, the morality of the death penalty, alternatives to America, choosing a place to live, and more. The podcast of that episode is now available for streaming or downloading.

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Whole Podcast: 22 January 2012

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Podcast Segments: 22 January 2012

You can download or listen to my answers to individual questions from this episode below.


My News of the Week: Lately, I’ve been working on the Philosophy in Action Website. Also… Save the dates! SnowCon 2012 will be held from March 15 to 18th, likely based in Frisco, Colorado. We’ll play in the snow during the day, then enjoy informal lectures and discussions in the evening.

Question 1: Acquittals of the Guilty Versus Convictions of the Innocent

Question: Why is punishing an innocent man worse than failing to punish a guilty man? English jurist William Blackstone said that “better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer.” What does this mean, and is it true? Is some higher ratio of wrongly-punished to wrongly-released acceptable?

My Answer, In Brief: Tto convict an innocent person involves the same wrongs as acquitting guilty person, plus more. That’s why proper justice system presumes innocence, as well as limits and corrects errors of by scrupulous objectivity.

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To comment on this question or my answer, visit its comment thread.

Question 2: The Morality of the Death Penalty

Question: Is the death penalty moral? I understand why people are opposed to the death penalty when there might be genuine doubt as to whether the accused person really committed the crime. Certainly, we’ve seen cases where DNA evidence has exonerated someone who was convicted several years ago for a crime they didn’t actually commit. But if someone confesses to first degree murder and if there’s incontrovertible physical evidence to confirm their guilt, is the death penalty then appropriate?

My Answer, In Brief: To impose the death penalty for murder (and perhaps other heinous crimes) is morally proper, if the possibility of error in the criminal conviction can be eliminated. To eliminate not just “reasonable doubt” but also any “residual doubt” can be used to distinguish cases in which such errors have been excluded.

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To comment on this question or my answer, visit its comment thread.

Question 3: Alternatives to America

Question: What other countries besides America have a relatively healthy sense of life? Suppose America takes a bad turn politically and I need to relocate to another country. What other countries still have a relatively healthy “sense of life” and decent culture – in that they respect reason, accomplishment, and productiveness – even if their politics are left-leaning? Over the past few months, I’ve heard various people discuss Canada, New Zealand, Costa Rica, China, and India as possible places to relocate to. What do you think of the cultures of those countries?

My Answer, In Brief: I’m not the right person to answer that question. However, I’m committed to staying in the United States, absent some disaster, because I regard America as the best hope for reason and freedom. Fight for it!

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To comment on this question or my answer, visit its comment thread.

Question 4: Choosing a Place to Live

Question: Is it rational to value good weather over good politics when choosing a place to live? I currently live in a state with fairly good politics, with respect to taxes, gun rights, and so on. However, I have friends who live in California who say that the weather there is so good, that it’s worth it to them even if the taxes are high, the gun laws are terrible, and the overall political climate is abysmal. Is it rational to value something like good weather over good politics in choosing a place to live?

My Answer, In Brief: A person should judge where to live in the United States based on his whole range of values, not solely on the differences of degree between state governments.

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To comment on this question or my answer, visit its comment thread.

Rapid Fire Questions


  • What is the mistaken assumption in the question, “What is the purpose of life?” Is, “Does life have a purpose?” or “Can life have a purpose?” better?
  • Where should a person interested in learning about Objectivism start?
  • What do you think of what happened when the Costa Concordia ran aground?
  • What do you think of Chris Christie?
  • What does it mean to “assume positive intent”?

Listen or Download:

  • Start Time: 58:32
  • Duration: 11:56
  • Download: MP3 Segment

To comment on these questions or my answers, visit its comment thread.


Be sure to check out the topics scheduled for upcoming episodes! Don’t forget to submit and vote on questions for future episodes too!

  • Start Time: 1:10:28

About Philosophy in Action Radio

Philosophy in Action Radio focuses on the application of rational principles to the challenges of real life. It broadcasts live on most Sunday mornings and many Thursday evenings over the internet. For information on upcoming shows, visit the Episodes on Tap. For podcasts of past shows, visit the Show Archives.

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