Thomas Sowell

The never-ending battle of the left to keep people from being held responsible for the consequences of their own actions is now in the Supreme Court of the United States, where the justices are being urged to exempt murderers from the death penalty if they score below some number on the IQ scale.

Many of the same people who have been telling us for years that IQ and other mental test scores are not really valid, when it comes to determining people's "real" ability to do academic work, have now turned around 180 degrees and made a low IQ score an exemption from paying the price for killing a fellow human being.

First of all, you don't need to know that E equals MC squared to know that killing somebody is wrong. If these murderers don't know that it is wrong to kill, why do they usually do it where no one can see them? Why don't they do it at high noon in Times Square or during half-time at the Super Bowl? Why do they try to cover their tracks or try to escape when the cops arrive?

Should anyone be surprised if some murderers have low IQs? Killing is not an academic or intellectual activity. Thanks in part to the kinds of indulgent liberals who are constantly trying to get more leniency for people who are doing the wrong thing, we have people who have been doing the wrong thing all their lives. The kind of kid who was more interested in being the schoolyard bully than in learning anything is unlikely to have honed enough intellectual skills over the years to register very high on IQ tests.

Guys who have had more experience with drugs than with books are not likely to score well on mental tests, any more than people with high IQs are likely to have as much expertise as he does with drugs, crime and violence. Now that a low IQ is supposed to become a passport out of death row, do not expect him to try his best if his IQ is being tested when he is down the hall from the execution chamber.

There have already been cases of welfare mothers who have told their kids to misbehave in school and do badly on tests, because that can get them more money from government programs. Are the incentives any less when the death penalty is hanging over some murderer's head and when he has a lawyer to tell him what to do?

Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute and author of The Housing Boom and Bust.

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