January 31st 2015

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Articles from this issue:

CANBERRA OBSERVED Is time running out for Tony Abbott?

QUEENSLAND STATE ELECTION Choice facing Queensland voters on January 31

NATIONAL AFFAIRS Will Australia strengthen country-of-origin labelling laws?

GREAT THINKERS What Edmund Burke has to say to the modern world

SOCIETY Fatherlessness linked to increased risk of child abuse

LIFE ISSUES Assassinations should be 'safe, legal and rare'

LIFE ISSUES Shocking figures on Holland's euthanasia-fest

EDITORIAL Greek elections new threat to eurozone

Economic crisis polarises European politics

EUROPE Paris attack underscores a deeper malaise

UNITED STATES Dismay and outrage at Obama's Cuba policy

CHINA Flood of Chinese 'black money' distorts property market

FOREIGN AFFAIRS Behind Sri Lanka's vote for change

CULTURE What is the point of criticism?

BOOK REVIEW French sanctuary for endangered Jews

BOOK REVIEW Quaker forger who poisoned his mistress

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Assassinations should be 'safe, legal and rare'

by 'Squizzy Taylor' (also known as John Young)

News Weekly, January 31, 2015

If Jason Bourne of the Bourne movie trilogy had to write a thesis before graduating from the CIA’s training camp for assassins, then the following could imaginably have been his. 

Melbourne underworld identity,

the late Carl Williams

It is high time assassinations were legalised. Week after week we learn of shootings, knifings, bashings, many of them being botched attempts by backyard hitmen to achieve their object. Not infrequently, innocent people are killed or hurt through the inept efforts of untrained practitioners. 

Yet it is socially necessary to have assassins available to offer their services in those hard and tragic cases where, regrettably, a termination is the only solution. Take, for instance, the case of an abused woman whose freedom to live her life as she wishes is curtailed by an unwanted person who claims a right over her body. This is an intolerable situation that no modern society should allow. 

Or think of the people who are forced to forgo the luxuries so necessary today because they are hindered from obtaining an inheritance through the selfishness of an aged relative who refuses to die. Clearly, some lives are more valuable than others: all right-minded individuals can see that the very old and the very young don’t deserve the same consideration as the rest of us. The same applies to chronically ill patients who commandeer the scarce resources of society, not giving a thought to the healthy people who could use those resources for overseas holidays or the many other necessities of civilised life. 

Any kind-hearted person should see intuitively that unfortunate individuals whose lives are plagued by incurable illness would be better off dead. This is already obvious to the more compassionate and intelligent members of society who recognise the merit of terminating embryos with Downs Syndrome and other conditions that make life intolerable. 

Again, think of the disputes between neighbours which lead to so much strife. Or the destruction of a business through unfair competition. In these instances, obviously, great unhappiness is generated. But the best philosophers have shown that life is all about feeling happy. So the means should be readily available to terminate those who unreasonably disrupt our happiness. 

The London underworld’s

Kray twins, Reggie (left)

and Ronnie, in the 1960s

I am not suggesting that terminations are a good thing. They’re not. They are a tragedy. But we are living in an imperfect world and we must face the reality that numerous killings occur and that this can’t be stopped. So it is important that they be regulated. The principles to be applied have been explained brilliantly by the experts who have helped make our world the kind of place it is today. 

Think of Professor Peter Singer, a vegetarian who deplores cruelty to animals. He is a professor of bioethics at Princeton University and a professor at the University of Melbourne, which surely is an indication of his degree of competence in ethics. Not only that. In 2012 he was named a Companion of the Order of Australia for his service to philosophy and ethics, which indicates the standard of judgment to be expected from those who confer such honours. 

Professor Singer has shown, to the satisfaction of many at the cutting edge of the evaluation of moral standards, that all animals are equal – with non-human animals being somewhat more equal than human animals. Also, pain and pleasure are the criteria for evaluating the morality of actions. From this it follows that life has no unconditional value and it may often be rightly terminated. 

All the enlightened members of our society see this in the case of embryos; but my argument is that the same apples to the profession of the assassin. (Let’s be honest: the embryo is a human baby, so killing it is the killing of a baby.) 

Of course, the Religious Right will protest. They will cite a so-called right to life for those individuals that the more enlightened among us see as being better dead. They will refuse to face the consequences of letting these individuals live. For instance, in the case of someone who is threatening a woman’s life, the Religious Right don’t care if women die. 

I maintain, therefore, that hitmen should be legalised, granted that stringent conditions are fulfilled. They must be of good character (people of bad character should definitely not be entrusted with the profession of hired terminator, as this will tend to give the profession a bad name). They must be properly trained in the use of the various surgical instruments, such as knives and guns and poison. 

Legalising the hitmen will remove the stigma currently attaching to this age-old profession, and it will remove the anxiety felt at present by its practitioners, who know they are in danger of prison. Similarly, those unfortunate women and others who require this service need no longer feel guilty. 

However I am well aware of the potential for abusing the law, should such legislation be enacted. But this danger can be largely overcome by having two referees authorise the terminations. I propose that these should be medical doctors, because these are especially dedicated to the saving of lives, so they will not authorise the removal of unwanted people unless they judge this to be necessary. 

No doubt some doctors will have scruples about participating, and their scruples should be respected. It is only reasonable, however, that they be required by law to refer clients to medical practitioners who are willing to provide this service. 

To avoid any misunderstanding: I am most definitely not suggesting that assassinations are a good thing, or that they should become common. I am simply saying that they should be made safe, legal and rare. 

As for the religious fundamentalists who want to impose their morality on the rest of us: it is useless arguing with these people (for a reason I don’t wish to pursue). The best tactic is simply to keep repeating to them that they should keep their rosaries off our revolvers. 

John Young writes on theological, philosophical and economic topics. Several of his publications are available from Freedom Publishing Books.

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