Sunday, December 9, 2007

The Value of Property vs. The Value of a Human Life

Last night, while listening to Neal Boortz in the car, I heard him talking about a recent news story with callers to the show. It was about a man who saw burglars robbing his neighbor's house, who then got his shotgun, went next door, and killed the burglars.

Neal Boortz was praising the man for killing the robbers, defending himself against a caller who'd pointed out that it was wrong for him to kill them over property. The caller went on to say that he'd crossed the line of reasonable self defense when he left the safety of his own home to confront the burglars on his neighbor's property. He finished by saying that the man should have limited his actions to the 911 call he made before getting his shotgun.

Boortz countered by asking what if it had been the neighbor being raped or otherwise assaulted. The caller rightly said that this wouldn't have been the same at all; that protecting a human life was a totally different thing from killing someone over household items.

Still not willing to concede the point, Boortz said that items of property represent a "chunk of one's life", based on how much time was required to earn the money that paid for the item in question. He agreed with the caller that it would be wrong to kill someone over "BIC lighter", for example. However, he thought it was perfectly justified to kill someone for stealing an expensive piece of electronic equipment that might have cost "four thousand dollars", considering how much time it took to earn the four grand; that it represented a chunk of the earner's life. But I wonder if he distinguishes between a poor person who took far longer to earn the four grand than a rich person who would have taken far less time to earn it?

And even if his notion that a piece of property represents a portion of someone's life was valid, it still doesn't follow that taking a person's ENTIRE life away is a justified response to having a representation of a "piece of one's life" taken away. The justified response is to take away a "piece" of the offender's life -- by sending them to prison, not the graveyard!

In making this ridiculous statement, Boortz neglected to acknowledge that property -- things -- can be replaced, where a human life cannot. And, as a former lawyer, he has to know that his reasoning would not fly in court.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not denigrating the courage of the man whose desire it was to look out for his neighbor, nor am I excusing the burglars. But, unless this man's life or that of another person had been in danger that night; if the burglars had also been armed, I think he overstepped his legal bounds by killing them. I'd not have had a real problem with him holding them at gunpoint until the police arrived -- which they did less than a minute after he killed them -- but to kill them if he or someone else was not in physical danger was not justified.



Melissa said...

First of all, the neighbor should have just let the police do their job, or like you said held them at gunpoint until the police arrived. I don't think killing them because they broke into someone's home is justice. Is this man going to be accused of a homicide because he stepped off of his own property and killed someone?

D.K. said...

Neal Boortz often raises good points but I have found that he often lacks common sense as well.

A piece of property that does not belong to you does not justify killing someone.

He could have simply injured them.