OIn Defense of Defensive Violence against Government Agents By Jason Brennan
the parity thesis: Whenever it would be morally permissible to kill a civilian in self-defense or in defense of others against that civilian’s unjust acts, it would also be permissible to kill government officials, including police officers,
permissible, even and perhaps especially in reasonably just democratic regimes.
Andrew Altman and Christopher Wellman say, “Surely, it would have been permissible for somebody to assassinate Stalin in the 1930s.”If so, is it also permissible to kill a president, Member of Parliament, bureaucrat, or police officer from a democratic regime, if killing is necessary to stop them from harming the innocent?
Philosophers and laypeople often assume not. They assume that in liberal democracies, only non-violent resistance to state injustice is permissible....The prevailing view is that, when it comes to government agents, the practice of killing in self-defense or defense of others is governed by different moral principles from those that govern defensive killing in other contexts.
A. Shooter in the Park A masked man emerges from a black van holding a rifle. He starts shooting at children in a public park. Ann, a bystander, has a gun. She kills him
B. Health Nut Health guru John sincerely believes caffeine is unhealthy, that it causes laziness, and that it induces people to use hard drugs. John announces that he and his followers will capture coffee drinkers, confiscate their belongings, and imprison them in John’s filthy basement for years. Ann, who is too poor to move away from town, loves coffee. She secretly drinks it in the morning in her kitchen. One day, a henchman breaks into her house and attempts to capture her. She struggles to defend herself, and, in the process, kills him.
C. Terrorist Cobra Commander, leader of the terrorist organization COBRA, has a device that allows him to launch the United States’nuclear arsenal against Russia. Ann, a private civilian, somehow stumbles upon COBRA’s secret control room.
I expect most people believe it’s permissible for Ann to kill the wrongdoers in A-C. Probably only radical pacifists would deny
D. Minivan Shooter Ann witnesses a police officer stop a minivan with a female driver and three children in the back. Ann sees that the woman is unarmed. The police officer emerges from his car and immediately starts shooting at the van’s windows. Ann has a gun.
E. War on Drugs Town leaders decide to make marijuana illegal, even though there is overwhelming evidence that marijuana is in every respect less harmful than alcohol, a drug that is legal for any adult to consume.
F. Hawk Ann, a janitor, happens to be cleaning the Situation Room when the president and his staff enter and lock the door. She hears the president inform the Joint Chiefs and his cabinet that he intends to unload the United States’nuclear arsenal on Russia..
Special Immunity Thesis: Democratic government agents enjoy a special immunity against being killed in self-defense or defense of others....The Moral Parity Thesis implies that if killing is permissible in any of the cases A-C, it is permissible in the analogous case from D-F.
Note that I focus solely on the ethics of defensive killing against immediate threats from democratic government agents. I am not here discussing punishment,
Many philosophers and activists believe that non-violent civil disobedience is both morally superior to and more effective than violent resistance in changing unjust laws. They might be correct, but that is not my concern here.