Thought experiments make my life enjoyable. They also are the only way by which we can test a lot of the philosophical ideas floating around because, if we actually did put a random individual in a room with a button in order to test if he would press it to kill one and save 100, we’d be in a bit of legal trouble. This thought experiment is, obviously, if I had the opportunity to kill Bin Laden, would I?
I have to apologize to you, reader, if you clicked on this piece because of the title and expecting to read a radical position. There are certainly situations in which I would kill Bin Laden. If I was in a position to directly stop an unlawful attack against another party by killing him, I like to think I’d pull the trigger. I wouldn’t invade his house and kill him without direct evidence that I was stopping the removal of Natural Rights [see Save $ by Not Killing People]. That’s because I don’t deal in maybes. It could be the wrong house. It could be a double. The information provided to me may be incorrect and al-Qaeda is really a creation of the American government to give them grounds to attack foreign leaders who were refusing to take IMF funds and get into an endless loop of debt repayment. That’s a legitimate theory backed by quite a bit of evidence. Granted, every situation that can ever be conceived is, at some level, a maybe, the possibility of seeing an action happening in front of and misconstruing it as not a violation of Natural Law is infinitesimally small when compared to trusting third parties to do the moral calculating for me.
The logical extension of that statement is the question of if I accept the rulings made by the court system since American law states that I must agree to rulings made by the courts. If the casual reader has asked that question, he or she may think I do not because the court system is almost exclusively made up of third parties stating their opinion on an event. However, since I have already stated that I believe an individual can make a decision about killing another human that is justified (the individual in the earlier case being myself), why would I be against a group of individuals who have ample time to deliberate and weigh facts deciding the same thing? According to Condorcet’s jury theorem, if every individual on the jury has a greater than 50% of deciding the true verdict, the probability of achieving that true verdict is greater than if I was making the decision alone. (And, by the same logic, if a unanimous decision is needed and, say, 5% of the population didn’t agree with the general opinion, there would only be a 54.04% chance of conviction… .95^12 = .54036)
As always, I don’t expect to have changed your opinion on the subject by stating mine. Just keep in mind that rash decisions may or may not help your cause. There are cases scattered throughout history where undue suffering was created to no benefit to any party. But, if the world was full of people as cautious as I am about making life and death decisions, no war would ever be fought, and all the countries would just act like grumpy kids at negotiations… for a while anyway; I always hope for the evolution of society [see The Magic School Bus] to get us past such fickle nature.