Disposal Economics

When Public Executions
Were the Crowd’s Delight

Immortality is one of those dreams that would turn into a nightmare if it’d ever become reality. Even without the proverbial zombies roaming the earth, we still need desperately to die on a regular basis.
Not pretty, for sure, but a vow of support to all blessed forms of natural death, the economics of crime and punishment, and the ecology of making sure we dispose properly of the bodies of those who passed on.
According to the Annals of Improbable Research, modern forms of execution went through considerable changes until reaching the efficiency and swiftness of contemporary death rows. Or so that was the plan. Such evolution also reflects changes in our footprint on the planet.
Thus, if ancient Hebrews, living in barren lands, executed people by stoning, Arabs in nearby deserts used a sword to decapitate them. Impaling was an ancient and popular method, and the Romanian Prince Vlad III, likely to have inspired the myth of the Dracula, was an avid adopter. Turks preferred metal spears, but in most of Asia and the Tropics, bamboo was the preferred method to exact justice. To each its own horror theater.

Arguably, few could beat crucifixion as a public spectacle, though. It was the Roman way, and Jesus, its cèlebre poster boy. It even had an opening act where the condemned had to drag his own wooden crossbar to the site of the execution to the crowds’ delight. Romans could be cruel but not free of ecological concerns, though.
They saw how wasteful the method was – not of blood and guts, which there were plenty to go around – but of trees. And soon, an alternative was devised. They’d bend and tie with ropes two trees, and have the arms and legs of the doomed attached on each of them. Then the ropes would be cut, for a clean, quick end, with no waste of timber.
In Medieval Europe, the auto-de-fé, i.e., to burn alive at the stake, was the sanctioned method of execution. It killed Joana D’Arca and countless others, accused of heresy, witchcraft, and other peccadillos.

In the 18th century, a new method made people literally lose their heads over it, and became forever associated with the French Revolution: the guillotine. It replaced the sword executioner and it killed thousands but it could not slay two popular beliefs: it was not invented by Joseph Guillotin and it did not kill him either.
It never caught on in North America, where hanging was the preferred way. Still, forest depletion was a constant concern, so with the Civil War, death by firing squad was a more economical alternative.
With the added convenience of serving to execute more than one person at a time. As we mentioned before, (more)
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Natural Law

The Written Word
of a Shared Dream

The Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen, one of the most beautiful and profound documents ever composed about individual freedom, was adopted on Aug, 26, 1789, by France’s constituent assembly. Closely associated with the U.S. Bill of Rights signed just a few days before, it was to become the French Revolution’s definitive statement.
Along with the U.S. Constitution, it committed to words the main ideals of the Enlightenment Age, including its utopian view that a document would be enough to counter the bloodshed already in progress in France. Curiously, its principles somehow wound up working better on the other side of the ocean than in its place of birth, even if at least for a while.
In fact, it may have been pure luck that the U.S., then at war with one of the world’s biggest powers, had the right brand of leadership to be ushered to its independence relatively free of the carnage associated with the French Revolution. And that for over two hundred years, it succeed in not producing a single dictator or openly authoritarian regime.
In the meantime, within a decade, one of history’s bloodiest tyrant, Napoleon Bonaparte, had made his way to power in France, and from day one, made sure that all hope for a time of peace and prosperity would have to be put on hold once again. It’s hard to conceive how the French may have felt when their dreams were so spectacularly dashed.
But for a brief moment, almost as if coordinated, France and the U.S. dared to imagine that nations and politics could and should be driven by the well being of the people. And even if it didn’t quite work that Continue reading