The problem, declares the Z Man, is that we’re just not hanging enough people:
There’s pretty good evidence to suggest the prolific use of capital punishment raised western intelligence and provided the spark for what we think of us as the birth of modernity. By reducing the population of stupid people, the smart fraction increased. This led to a larger smart leisure class, who could then work on technological advances to overcome scarcity and the problems of human organization. More smart people made it possible for more smart people, so a cascading effect gave us modernity.
We know we are getting dumber now, and that may be due to the elimination of capital punishment, or possibly the fact we have eliminated the lethal consequences of stupidity, so the stupid are proliferating. Just as social media makes it possible for the proliferation of grifters, it’s possible that the end of capital punishment has allowed for the proliferation of sociopaths. In another age, these people either would have been killed in their youth or killed soon after reaching adulthood. Their reproduction would have been limited.
In short, what we may be experiencing is the result of western society evolving down a cul-de-sac, like the Panda. The proliferation of smart people resulted in a new social morality that permitted the flowering of a class of sociopaths and also a growing stock of stupid people on whom they can feed. It’s as if the Enlightenment unleashed a pathogen that made the left-handed into status-seeking sociopaths and the right-handed into high-trust altruistic suckers. In time, the former has come to dominate the latter in the West.
I’m not sure we need a whole new cadre of fresh hangmen, but it seems likely that the reduced penalties for stupidity have allowed it to flourish. At the Dawn of Man, if you messed up, you almost certainly wound up dead. Nowadays, we have a plethora of fixers to rescue the foolish from their folly. Maybe if we just hanged them.