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Cruel and Unusual: Should Capital Punishment Hurt?
Policy making in the United States is and should be, first and foremost, made based on the popular will, not based on considerations about how these policies might affect the state's reputation abroad.
A society's reputation and moral standing concern more than just its own citizenry. We often compare the moral decisions of one legal system to another with respect to both time (critiquing past legal systems) and place (critiquing other moral systems).
Outside constraints, such as the threat of war, can force policy makers to make decisions that run counter to the popular will and still be beneficial.