Most people who commit murder, rape, or other heinous crimes are of low intellect. They have often been misled, by exposure to other criminals, movies, or violent video games, into believing there is nothing particularly wrong with heinous crime—in fact, some Hollywood movies portray heinous crimes as glamorous. To counteract these influences and keep the weak-minded grounded in reality, the state should do all it can to stigmatize heinous crimes. For example:

  • The birth certificate of a murderer ought to be marked ‘murderer’.
  • When murderers die, it should be forbidden for them to be buried in a graveyard; instead their ashes should be poured down a drain like the Nazis.
  • It should be forbidden to bring a convicted murderer within two kilometers of a school or maternity ward; instead the murderer should be conveyed to and from court by circuitous routes.
  • When a person has been convicted of murder or rape, the table and chair at which they sat during their trial ought to be burned.

Such rituals, by stigmatizing heinous crime, will bring home to those of low intellect, or poor upbringing, the gravity of heinous crime and the horror in which it is held by society. Instead of gang members strutting about threatening to ‘bust a cap’ into a rival or shooting up houses with children inside, they will instead recognize murder as a repugnant, horrific act. It will be removed from their realm of possibilities, just as it is outside the realm of possibilities for normal, decent, intelligent people.

By contrast, the worst thing a society can do is to de-stigmatize murder, for example, by saying a murderer has ‘paid his debt to society’ and releasing him from prison. Germans today go even further down this path; not only do they treat murder as a misdemeanor through lenient sentencing, but they then prohibit the public identification of a murderer after his brief stay behind bars. In 1990 Wolfgang Werlé and Manfred Lauber murdered Walter Sedlmayr by tying him up, stabbing him in the stomach, and beating his head with a hammer. After spending fifteen years in jail, they were released. They promptly attempted to prevent the English language version of Wikipedia from publishing their names, citing a German Appeal Court ruling that guaranteed a right to privacy for released murderers. Their lawyer told the New York Times, “They should be able to go on and be resocialized, and lead a life without being publicly stigmatized, a criminal has a right to privacy, too, and a right to be left alone.” (“Two German Killers Demanding Anonymity Sue Wikipedia’s Parent,” New York Times, November 12, 2009.)

A murderer should be stigmatized; of all the taboos in a healthy society, that which condemns murder should be the strongest. If anyone deserves to be shunned, ostracized and stigmatized it is a murderer. Instead the German law allows convicted murderers to insinuate themselves into innocent peoples’ lives, passing themselves off as normal people. A woman marrying a murderer unawares, or parents entrusting their children to the care of a murderer—it is hard to conceive of a more insidious evil and more complete failure of good government.

This article is an extract from the book ‘Principles of Good Government’ by Matthew Bransgrove