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Morailty of the Death Penalty and Country Differences

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Philosophy
Wordcount: 1916 words Published: 18th May 2020

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Is the death penalty morally wrong for foreigners if it is the standard punishment in that country?

In this paper I will discuss the thesis that it is morally right for the death penalty to be used as punishment for a valid crime, if the crime is committed in a country where capital punishment is the standard for that country. I will be supporting this thesis by using the moral theory of utilitarianism. Utilitarianism is a moral theory that states that the rightness and wrongness of actions depends entirely on how much happiness, pleasure and wellbeing of the population involved is caused (Eggleston, 2012). It has five characteristics including consequentialism, welfarism, individualism, aggregation and maximization (Eggleston, 2012). The two arguments that I will be applying in this essay are consequentialism which is the viewpoint that the rightness and wrongness of an action relies on the consequences it produces (Eggleston, 2012), and welfarism which is the viewpoint that the rightness and wrongness of an action relies on the welfare or wellbeing (Eggleston, 2012). I will use examples to help prove my viewpoint on this issue.

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Consequentialism is one of the characteristics of utilitarianism. Consequences need to be as good if not better than the substitute options, and they need to be measured for their goodness (Frey and Wellman, 2005). How this is achieved, is based on either the total or average happiness of people involved. To demonstrate this characteristic, I will contract Indonesia and Australian policy around the death penalty.

The Country’s decision makers justify punishment by looking forward or looking at the potential outcomes. The death penalty is considered a suitable punishment as it is the most efficient way to achieve the policy goals (Frey and Wellman, 2005). Any other consequence would have a worse outcome, in that the decision makers would use other methods of punishment if they had superior consequences and would deem capital punishment morally unjustifiable. This may include torture or persecution that could last weeks or even months (Simandjuntak, 2015).

By publicising in advance, the punishment or penalties for breaking the law, the Country’s decision makers recognise and respect the potential criminal’s status as they freely chose to obey or risk the price of disobedience (Frey and Wellman, 2005). Consequentialists respect all individuals and allow the goals, desires and interests of every individual to be considered equivalent influence in determining what policies maximise the good.

Action’s that would wrong a person becomes morally valid if it is part of a practice with sufficiently beneficial consequences overall. For example, in 2015, Indonesia instigated a “war against drugs” as stated by President Joko Widjodo (Simandjuntak, 2015). A total of 14 executions for drug connected criminals took place in 2015, and majority of these were foreign nationals. Currently, 86% of Indonesian people are in support of capital punishment. Their beliefs are based on the preventive effect of the death penalty in relation to drug related cases, as well as the portrayal and coverage the media has on the Indonesian population. Due to these two factors, 60.8% of Indonesians believe that drugs “destroy the young generation”; 23.7% consider the death penalty is a deterrent and 86.3% of people who support the death penalty say it needs to be applied to foreign nationals despite threats from other countries (Simandjuntak, 2015).

The Indonesian President constantly detailed that Indonesia has sovereignty to implement its law and that he will not grant mercy to death row drug convicts. This is a clear message to foreign nationals. There is no ambiguity.  If people, after knowing this message continue to smuggle drugs into this country, they run the risk of being caught and sentenced to death.

In past times, the death penalty was conducted in public places. This occurred to two of the Bali 9 (Simandjuntak, 2015). This was confronting to many nations, and in particular Australia, where the convicted criminals were from. Although the offenders may seem like the target, the real target is the public. Today, the death penalty is conducted behind closed doors, but with all the media coverage, especially if a foreign national is involved, it has the same effect on the public (Simandjuntak, 2015). 

The government can use the death penalty as a show of power to the public to reinforce that drug offences are “the most serious crime” as they effect the economic, cultural and political foundations of society and carry a lot of danger (Simandjuntak, 2015). Indonesia’s government also has to consider showing coherence to their law and not allow foreigners to think they can get away with and breaking the law without paying the consequences and respecting local laws and cultures.

The prevalence of drug trafficking in many countries is high and causes many issues including health, economic and social issues. In Indonesia, society perceives that illegal drug trafficking is “corrupting/destroying the youth” (Simandjuntak, 2015). There is 4.5 million Indonesian’s that are affected by their drug use and need rehabilitation (Barns, 2015). This means that not only are 4.5 million people directly impacted by drug use, but there are also millions of families and friends also affected. These families go through the strain and heartbreak of watching, supporting and helping their loved ones try to break the viscous drug cycle. In addition, there are 40 young Indonesian people who die due to drug related deaths each day (Stoicescu, 2015). Again, this is 40 families who have a significantly reduced way of life or wellbeing.

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As there is only a small number of drug related criminals who are punished with the death penalty, this results in only a small amount of families and friends who are put through the trauma of losing a loved one. In fact, given the money generated through illegal drug running, these families may actually be benefiting from additional income (Barns, 2015). When comparing these two scenarios of families dealing with the death of a loved one through drugs, and the forced death of a drug dealer, the issue of wellbeing is integral.  The wellbeing of the community as a whole, will potentially increase as they believe that with the death of convicted drug dealer, the community will be a safer place for themselves, their children and other community members (Simandjuntak, 2015). With the death penalty, the community should feel safer knowing they cannot re-offend, but also that it acts as a deterrent to others who may be contemplating or committing the same type of crimes.

In countries with the death penalty, communities are protected by this punishment, showing that the consequences are beneficial for the majority. My argument also proves that the death penalty should be used as its consequences are forward looking and increase the wellbeing of majority of the people involved (Frey and Wellman, 2005).

Although I have shown the viewpoint that drug convicts should be punished under the laws of the country, they offend in no matter the severity of the punishment, others may argue that these criminals should be given the chance to reform and apologise for their actions (Howard, 2015). They believe that the wrongdoer should undergo different rehabilitative and educational programs so they can fully realise and understand the consequences of their actions, and furthermore have remorse for their actions. People who believe in rehabilitating and educating these drug offenders of their actions question the death penalty as there is no reason for a wrongdoer to reform themselves if they know they will be faced with the death penalty (Howard, 2015).

This is simply not true as if these criminals are allowed to come into a foreign country or even their own country and commit crimes that have a clear punishment that has been publicised they should not be given the chance to go back into community. If this were to occur it would decrease the wellbeing and happiness of the community for multiple reasons such as the need to worry about criminals re-entering society and committing the same and if not worse crimes now that they know they can be let off easy just because they are foreigners (Simandjuntak, 2015). If reforming criminals was the morally right choice it could majorly decrease the welfare of countries and it could end up as foreign nationals turning the country into a drug trafficking hot spot as there are no consequences severe enough to deter them, this would affect millions of individuals and communities if it were to happen. Therefore, the by enforcing the death penalty on these criminals it allows for the country to feel safer as a whole and have the most amount of happiness and pleasure in the community possible, compared to reforming criminals (Frey and Wellman, 2005).

In conclusion I have used a utilitarianism viewpoint to show that when a foreign national commits a drug related offence in a country that is not their home country that uses the death penalty it is morally right for them to be punished according to the countries law in which they are in. In this essay I have explored the ideas that by these criminals undergoing the death penalty it is not only increasing the total wellbeing of societies and countries involved but it also has favorable outcomes compared to other options available (Frey and Wellman, 2005). The death penalty in some countries creates a safer environment by deterring further offences as well as creating a sense of relief and justice for those who have had loved ones effected by drugs bought into their country illegally (Simandjuntak, 2015). I have concluded it is morally just for the death penalty to occur to these individuals as it is a known risk and maximises the total pleasure.


  • Barns, G. (2015). Don’t appease Indonesia on death penalty. Retrieved 15 October 2019, from https://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-01-26/barns-dont-appease-indonesia-on-death-penalty/6045798
  • Eggleston, B. (2012). Utilitarianism. Encyclopedia Of Applied Ethics4, 452-458. doi: 10.1016/b978-0-12-373932-2.00220-9
  • Frey, R., & Wellman, C. (2005). A Companion to Applied Ethics (1st ed., pp. 75-88). John Wiley & Sons, Incorporated.
  • Howard, J. (2015). Death penalty: is capital punishment morally justified?. Retrieved 16 October 2019, from https://theconversation.com/death-penalty-is-capital-punishment-morally-justified-42970
  • Simandjuntak, D. (2015). Spectacle of the Scaffold? The Politics of Death Penalty in Indonesia. ISEAS Perspective46(2015), 1-8. Retrieved from https://www.iseas.edu.sg/images/pdf/ISEAS_Perspective_2015_46.pdf
  • Stoicescu, C. (2015). Indonesia uses faulty stats on ‘drug crisis’ to justify death penalty. Retrieved 16 October 2019, from https://theconversation.com/indonesia-uses-faulty-stats-on-drug-crisis-to-justify-death-penalty-36512


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