In the upcoming elections this year — the June primary and the November general — California citizens will have the chance to exercise their rather unique (and, in my opinion, rather silly) ability to exercise direct democracy and vote on a series of propositions. Among those propositions, yet to be numbered but certain to be on the November ballot, will be California’s “End the Death Penalty” initiative, which seeks to replace the death penalty as the maximum criminal sentence with life in prison without possibility of parole. Though there are some parts of the law that everyone should agree with, the main provision eliminating the death penalty is utterly inane and patently unjust.
Before I elaborate on why eliminating the death penalty is a fundamentally unjust action, it is worth noting that the minor provisions of this proposition are sound. For example, if the law passed, former death row inmates would be required to work in the prison system and have all of their wages garnished to repay the relatives of their victims. Frankly, I don’t know why we don’t require the convicted perpetrators of any violent actions such as rape or robbery to do the same. The establishment of a $100 million fund to help law enforcement solve homicide cases would be a refreshing instance of the state actually spending money on a vital service rather than our exorbitant welfare structure.
However, as much as these provisions make sense, eliminating the death penalty as punishment for murder is fundamentally unjust, not just according to any moral code, but the foundational documents of our republic. John Locke’s Second Treatise on Civil Government, the philosophical document on which our Declaration of Independence and our Constitution are based, lays out very clearly that no person may rob another human being of his life, liberty or property. Such an action is not one of someone who is in civil society, but one who has rejected the social contract and re-entered the state of nature. While Locke has those who enter civil society give up the right to personally kill a murderer, he also explicitly states that we give up this right with the understanding that the government will exact justice for us! Without such an assurance that the government will repay in kind, how then can we consider our government to be a just one?
Lastly — as a Christian, in addition to being conservative — I feel I must dissuade you, dear reader, from the blatant misconceptions surrounding what the Christian faith has to say on this issue. Contrary to liberal opinion and the teachings of the Catholic Church (whose California affiliates have endorsed the proposition), the death penalty is not — as they claim — morally wrong according to either the Old or New Testaments of the Bible. The Ten Commandments, as given to the prophet Moses, prohibit murder, not killing. In fact, the Bible states repeatedly that the death penalty is not only a just punishment for murder, but that the relatives of those who have been murdered should accept nothing less than for the perpetrator to be put to death.
While several provisions of this proposition make sense, the main argument made by proponents — that the death penalty is morally unjust — is false. Indeed, a civil society must have some provision for death as punishment for murder or it is not a just society at all.
Jeffrey Robin is the Daily Nexus conservative columnist and a third-year poltical science and history major.