What makes the discussion about the Death Penalty so penetrating, so significant?
It is the most intense intersection, example of the conflict of man versus the State, individual versus society.
The reason why intellectuals or “second hand dealers in ideas” cannot foment an argument against the Death Penalty is that their reasoning still supports a penultimate state ruling over mankind, a central authority, or a group of elitists telling the masses what to do.
If you want to challenge the Death Penalty with finality, one must appeal to tradition, to non-rational arguments (if such an approach is possible in terms of writing). Otherwise, the immediacy of a human soul becomes loss in the inscrutable abstract logic of statecraft, rendering any discussions of mercy versus order moot.
A human being is not an idea, therefore he or she cannot be discussed and dealt with merely as a cog in a machine. Yet many intellectual a la Bentham, Foucault, Derrida, insist on the perfectibility of man, which in fact diminishes human beings, making, into mere abstractions. Such thoughts are the seeds of totalitarianism, which has no qualms justifying the death penalty for any assault against “the State”, further justified because the State imposes itself as the people = “Collectivism is slavery” – Hayek.
Is it right for a man to be put to death for the truth? Is it right for a man to let himself be put to death for the truth? Kierkegaard considered this question. He decided in the negative.