Why Thomas More doesn’t like the death penalty (and neither should you).

Thomas More, a barrister, legal scholar, philosopher, patron saint of statesmen and politicians, and advisor to the King, was put to death for High Treason on the 6th of July, 1535.

Perhaps presciently, given his eventual beheading, Thomas More felt rather strongly against the death penalty.

In his opus from 19 years prior to his eventual execution by Henry VIII, More provided a practical account as to why societies should avoid the death penalty. In the first book of his treatise Utopia More states:

‘From a practical point of view, surely it’s obvious that to punish thieves and murderers in precisely the same way [death penalty] is not only absurd but also highly dangerous for the public. If a thief knows that a conviction for murder will get him into no more trouble than a conviction for theft, he’s naturally impelled to kill the person that he’d otherwise merely have robbed. It’s no worse for him if he’s caught, and it gives him a better chance of not being caught, and of concealing the crime altogether by eliminating the only witness. So in our efforts to terrorise thieves we’re actually encouraging them to murder innocent people.’ (p 27)

For Thomas More, the use of the death penalty to deter crimes such as drug smuggling, would only result in more violent criminals rising to the ranks.

In addition to the risk and personal safety of the victim of a theft, recent studies indicate that the use of the death penalty for any crime (such as murder) puts at a serious risk, the wellbeing of any police officer sent to arrest the criminal in question. Following on from Thomas More’s logic, this may indeed be because the criminal, realising that all that awaits them is the hangman’s noose, may attempt to escape apprehension by any means necessary.

In the Uniform Crime Report published by the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation, of the 27 constables who fell in the line of duty in 2013, 15 of the deceased officers were killed in the apprehension of criminals in the Southern States of the US – a region that accounts for 80% of all executions.

In addition, given that only 29 of the 93 Police Chiefs surveyed in the United States believe that the death penalty acts as a deterrence to committing crime, and that only 1% of United States Police Chiefs surveyed believe that the death penalty should be expanded; perhaps there is value in taking More’s approach: that at the end of the day, by our efforts to terrorise thieves, all we’re actually doing is encouraging them to murder innocent people.

– Thomas Green

3 thoughts on “Why Thomas More doesn’t like the death penalty (and neither should you).

  1. More is not making an arguement against the execution of murderers, I note.

    94% of police chiefs support the death penalty for justice.

    Dudley Sharp

    The death penalty saves more innocent lives, in three ways, than does life without parole (LWOP) (1,2).

    No credible case of an innocent executed, in the US, at least since the 1930’s (1,2).

    Since 1973:

    (a) there have been 14,000 – 28,000 actual innocents murdered by those known murderers that we allowed to murder, again – recidivist murderers (two different recidivism studies from different years) (1)

    (b) up to 200,000 have been murdered by those criminals we have released or not incarcerated (1).


    The evidence that the death penalty deters some is overwhelming (1,2).

    The evidence that the death penalty deters none does not exist (1,2).

    Death is feared more than life. Life is preferred over death. What is feared more deters more. What is preferred more deters less.


    The “exonerated” and “innocent” released from death row is an obvious fraud, easily found by fact checking, yet, most often, simply passed onto the public by the media, aiding in that fraud, even though the anti death penalty folks have admitted the deception (3).


    1) The Death Penalty: Do Innocents Matter? A Review of All Innocence Issues

    2) OF COURSE THE DEATH PENALTY DETERS: A review of the debate
    99.7% of murderers tell us “Give me life, not execution”

    3) The Innocence Frauds

    Innocence Project Invents False Confessions
    250% error rate in “confessions”

    70-83% of the anti death penalty folks claims of death row exonerations are false. see 3-13

    The Innocent Frauds: Standard Anti Death Penalty Strategy

    Journalism professor accused of framing innocent man for murder as part of his campaign to abolish death penalty in Illinois, Daily Mail, November 10, 2014,


  2. I’m not sure those statistics from the Uniform Crime Report really prove anything. Were the criminals in question wanted for capital crimes? Does the South have a high absolute number of executions, or just a high percentage of the nationwide total? Is it possible the South just has a more violent culture, accounting for both the higher officer death rate and the higher execution rate?


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