There is no such thing as public opinion, because the public is made up of many people who hold many different opinions, and who are confused about th eir opinions and change them often, or are paralysed into inactivity or other manifestations of distress.

So I’m wondering how this became an accepted and acceptable concept in the first place?  It is a handy concept to impose, for some people and organisations.  Is it about making money and controlling people, or what?  I can’t think of anything else at the moment.

If you can invoke the concept of public opinion, you can use it not only to say ‘this is good and this is bad’, but also ‘this person is good, and this person is bad’.  In some societies the ‘good’ people can kill the ‘bad’ people for lesser crimes than murder.  That is not to say that killing people for murder is good (though for them it might be preferable to a lifetime of interment). 

I was going to say why should we be punitive by making the punishment last a lifetime, but then I thought about the possibility of change and rehabilitation which wouldn’t be available to them, or us, if we killed them.  Maybe, if we want to be really kind, we should give people an option of the death sentence or a lifetime’s imprisonment or stuck on a psychiatric ward on drugs.  If we are going to argue for voluntary euthanasia and the right to assisted suicide I can’t see why not.  And it might sort out the prison space problem and problems in the economy too, because we wouldn’t be having to pay for them.

You could argue that a life in prison or on psychiatric drugs is not the kinder option, if the person would prefer to get the whole thing out of the way immediately and just die.  Why should we want to deprive a criminal of that option, unless we ourselves are sadistically and viciously punitive?  But then there are others who are sadistically and viciously punitive in the other direction who would say, ‘and a good thing too, taking our space and costing us money’, but they might have a harder time maintaining that if the option of the death penalty was seen as a kindness rather than the ultimate punishment.