Killing Offense meme

Benjamin at reasonablenut asked this last month and I’m just now getting caught up with things enough to respond:

It’s a simple question, really: What constitutes the offense where you would not rely on the authorities?

-Rape/killing of your wife/girlfriend?

-Fucking with your kid in any way?

-Untowards aggressive action against your person?

-Targeting your specific property?

At what point do you say “fuck it”, and find and kill the motherfucker?

It’s only a little more than a hint in his post so I will explicitly spell it out.  This is not about stopping an attack in progress.  This is about truly “taking the law into your own hands”.  You are judge, jury, and executioner for someone you believe to be worthy of nothing more than pushing up daises.  What is the criteria that would cause you to disobey the law and take another human life because you thought it was the right thing to do?

Good question.  Timothy McVeigh had an answer.  I think his threshold and his execution were severely flawed however.  As he said while in prison awaiting “the needle” he should have read Unintended Consequences before, rather than after, destroying the Murrah Federal Building.

Mahatma Gandhi was faced with similar problems and used alternatives that Ben didn’t really want us to consider.  It’s not entirely fair to limit someone else in the solution a to particular problem but that is the way Ben has phrased it.  This is actually kind of a pet peeve of mine and Raymond has commented on this recently as well.  You really need to isolate what the problem is rather than focusing on the implementation of your solution.

If, in the cases above, the problem might be described as one of eliminating “a threat to society” it’s possible this can be accomplished in ways other than to directly murder them.  For example you might be creative enough to trick him into a gun battle with the police.  Long term those always go poorly for the individuals.  The last minutes of Bonnie and Clyde are particularly illustrative.  You might be clever enough to frame the scumbag with a crime the police are particularly interested in solving or the attack on a powerful drug dealer who have their own system of “justice” that achieves the desired results.

If the problem might be described as punishment rather than elimination of the threat then you might be able to eliminate their ability to be employed.  For example child porn on the computer of a grade school teacher pretty much means the end of that career.  When they get a new job exploit another vulnerability and eliminate that line of work.  Continue as needed until MacDonald’s won’t hire them because they are always vomiting on the job (syrup of Ipecac does remarkable things).

I guess what I’m really going to saying here is that similar to some of the other people Ben asked this same question I’m going to wimp out.  Not because I haven’t put a lot of thought into it but because I have put a lot of thought into it.  Basically we have a social contract that says we don’t take the law into our own hands.  If things reach the point where that social contract isn’t being fulfilled by the authorities then we have a different problem and the individual that really should be pushing up daises is probably much lower in the queue of people you need to be dealing with.  So with that in mind I would like to refer Ben to a different page of mine.  What is the threshold that you decide the social contract has been broken and needs to be “forcefully renegotiated”?

1 thought on “Killing Offense meme

  1. Been there – asked myself the question – and decided not to – with the aid of trusted friends who talked me out of it.

    Best to calm down when your first response is “Kill the MF”!!

    The threat was a “real and present” danger by a thieving, lowlife, two-faced, blackmailing scumbag who threatened the life of one of my sons.

    It’s hard – the anger is so great when your children are threatened – that NOT to resort to violence and retribution of some kind seems like a betrayal.

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