Not So Different After All

Josh Marshall recalls an article he wrote about how Europeans support capital punishment:

So many people assume that differing attitudes toward capital punishment are one of the defining differences between the US and Europe. But when you look at public opinion data you see a different picture. Yes, there are some differences. But by and large levels of support for capital punishment in most European countries don't differ greatly from those in the US. And in every case I could find, when these countries abolished capital punishment -- usually early in the second half of the twentieth century -- they did so notwithstanding continued public support for the practice.

The review I did of the survey data seem to leave little doubt that the difference between the US and Europe in this regard could not be explained simply by public attitudes.

The difference in Britain is that parliament routinely defies the popular will, as Burke urged them to at times. And because they treat this question - and others, like abortion and gay rights - as matters of personal conscience which political parties should not interfere with. You can call this anti-democratic, but you can also call it civilized.