California is going to have a referendum on the ballot this fall to abolish the death penalty in that state and Conor Friedersdorf makes the conservative argument against the death penalty, based on both economics and the inherent contradiction within conservative rhetoric about the government:
Steve Cooley, the District Attorney in Los Angeles County, is against the initiative. “This would essentially eliminate death penalty for the cop killers, the baby killers and the serial killers that are among us,” he said, adding that if its proponents “want to let these people live out their lives gracefully and expensively, with us taking care of their healthcare bill, fine and dandy, but some of these criminals have forfeited their right to be on the face of the earth.” It’s a misleading argument, because administering the death penalty turns out to cost more than locking people up for life. “The measure directs $100 million saved from abolishing the death penalty be spent over three years investigating unsolved murders and rapes,” The Associated Press reports.
Cost aside, conservative support for the death penalty is problematic insofar as the right asks voters to believe both that 1) government is frequently inept and corrupt, and inclined to abuses of power; 2) government is capable of determining guilt with sufficient certainty to irreversibly impose the most extreme penalty there is.
According to conservatives, the government can do almost nothing right — except always convict the right people and always administer the death penalty only in cases of absolute guilt. This is hardly a coherent argument.