The right to kill

I hope you will forgive me if I don’t bother trying to fake any sense of outrage over the Schiavo affair. Although there are those who will attempt to deny the “slippery slope” argument, it is easily demonstrable in both historical and current terms, which is why I have long expected this. The process of legitimizing murder by defining humanity in such a way to exclude the unborn, the disabled, the sick, the elderly and the undesired is a well-known one and since parts of Europe – Holland, particularly – have already moved well along this process, it is no surprise to see the usual suspects following suit in America.

But conservatives bear their own share of blame in this. They can rationalize their support for the death penalty in a wide variety of ways, but the fact remains that a government which possesses the power to kill its citizens has only to redefine its target list in order to provide legal cover for state-sanctioned murder. A state that has the power to kill a criminal necessarily holds the power to kill a non-criminal.

This is why libertarian philosophy is essential for a society dedicated to human freedom in the long run. (And no, I have no plans to respond to that silly query about past libertarian societies; considering that the philosophy dates back to around 1927, one would hardly expect to find one in the 1700s.) Libertarianism seeks to hamstring the government, simply because it is human nature to seek to use government power to further personal, political and ideological goals. Conservatives want the government to be able to kill criminals, liberals want the government to be able to kill the weak and undesired. A government that can do one necessarily has the power to do the other, only by removing that power is it possible to prevent either.

As laudable is their motivation, it is a terrible mistake for conservatives to seek to use the power of the federal government in what is likely to be a futile attempt to stop the state-sanctioned starvation of Mrs. Schiavo. They would do far better to use civil disobedience, as that is less likely to come back to haunt them in the future. But that would require personal sacrifice, instead of the much easier sacrifice of principle, to which, unfortunately, conservatives have become all too accustomed in their enthusiastic embrace of the decidedly anti-conservative Bush administration.