Why is Murder Illegal in the US?

Why is murder illegal in the US?

I mean, if someone has the gall to murder someone, surely a few paragraphs of text won’t stop that someone from harming another person, right? :dubious:

What’s a law going to do to someone who’s probably crazy in the first place?

Murder is illegal because the vast majority of people do not want to be murdered, and making it illegal is one of the first steps in making sure it doesn’t happen much. Similar reasoning applies to most things that are illegal. Other things are illegal because a small majority, or even an active and vocal minority, wants to assure that they don’t happen much. A few are illegal because, while no one much cares whether they happen, they’re popular with unpopular people and can serve as a pretext for harassing or persecuting them.

Wrong. Those few paragraphs have kept a great many people alive who would otherwise be dead at the hands of those who are unempathetic and provoked.

You don’t have to be crazy to kill someone. Most killings throughout history have been done by rational people acting in their own best interests.

Lots of problems here.

Unless things are explicitly forbidden, you can do a lot of things. Making some types of killing illegal gives us one a guideline for how we want our society to function. I suppose you can build society the other way - nothing is allowed unless expressly stated - but we don’t function that way.

Another implicit assumption is that we assume all life is equally sacred. Not so.

We don’t have to go too far back to find cases when somebody is killed for having the wrong skin color or religion or sexual orientation or whatever. And the perpetrators aren’t even insane by any traditional standard.

What if killing one man (say a business rival or union leader or politician) would make it easier for your company to do business? What stops them? You can certainly sanely argue that the financial benefits could be construed to outweigh the negatives by hiring a hitman.

Further, “murder” itself is simply a legal term. What separates a “murder” from a random accident or a defensible killing? By defining it legally, we define the parameters of a “murder” vs “manslaughter” vs something else. Also, defining certain types of killing to be illegal acts as a deterrent to such actions, and it gives us, as a society, a method to determine how to deal with such cases.

What separates murder from manslaughter? What if you run a red light and accidentally kill somebody. That’s not “murder” in most US jurisdictions though it certainly IS vehicular manslaughter. The distinction is important, as there was almost certainly no intention to do harm to another human being. We recognize this distinction, recognize its importance, and codify it by encoding it in our legal system.

As a corollary, we define what is a defensible killing in contrast to an illegal killing. For example, killing one person to prevent them from doing harm to another human being.

Is there anyplace where it is legal?

Places without laws or functioning governments? I’ve not sure if that counts or not.

Even in a place such as Somalia, I’d figure there was some sort of law on the books.

There’s various tribes that haven’t developed laws, including laws against murder.

In such cases, isn’t there at least some sort of societal sanction against it? And whether there is or isn’t, are there any primitive peoples left living someplace that’s not at least nominally under some government’s jurisdiction?

In some cases no (and yes the result is an extremely violent society).

No idea.

There have been times and places where dueling, if that counts, was legal, or at least generally ignored by the law.

Sometimes I wish it still was. Would’ve liked to see Zell Miller duel Chris Matthews for real. Hell, I would’ve liked to duel Zell Miller. If he challenged me, my choice-of-weapons would have been Bowie knives. Do it up close. :smiley:

But in places where dueling was allowed, it wasn’t considered “murder” per se, and there were still laws on the books against murder.

All land on earth is claimed by some government other than Antarctica and a few islands too small for anyone to bother with. There are a few primitive tribes still existing within a nation that have minimal contact with the outside world, and for which national government is irrelevant. However, those situations are rapidly fading out of existence and will soon be all gone.

I read once in National Geographic about a people on a small island off the coast of India who are legally part of India, but are not really aware that India (or anyplace else) exists, and are generally left alone by its government. And there are some tribes in western Brazil, in the Amazon rainforest, whose existence was only recently discovered by outsiders, and with whom no actual contact has yet been made. But, you’re right, all that is fading fast, in 20 years they’ll all have iPods, or the 20-years-from-now equivalent of iPods.

Maybe they are, but still, technically “murder” would be illegal there, wouldn’t it, if it’s on the books in India? Enforcement of the law, now that’s another issue.

I don’t know how we’d count up most killings throughout history, but I’d dispute that characterization today. The most common type of murder, if I recall correctly, is domestic violence. That usually occurs when someone emotions overrun their rational thinking ability and they act without considering consequences.

Because even if you can’t stop them the first time, making it illegal means you have the means to stop them doing it the second time. It’s a bit hard to murder someone if you’re locked up or dead, after all.

I said killings, not murders. If you count wars, more people have been killed rationally than irrationally - and if murder is not a crime, then everything is war.

Most human-on-human killings throughout human history were not such as would have been defined as “murder” by any society, tribe, state or legal system involved or interested.

Maybe we need to define “rational”. Are wars and all the associated killing by definition rational? Was WWII rational? It probably was for the countries that were attacked, but what about Germany and Japan? Was killing the European Jews rational? Or how about the German euthanasia programs for people with visible mental or physical defects?

As far as individual soldiers are concerned, the rationale is to kill people wearing a certain uniform different than your own. While it’s true that they might be attempting to kill you at the same time, it would also be perfectly ok to shoot an enemy soldier dead if you happened to notice him sleeping under a tree.

Or maybe I’m the one confused. I tend to think of rationality as somehow, vaguely, connected with morality. If there is no link, then one might say that to perform any act whatsoever is rational so long as one can state any arbitrary purpose for it. Perhaps “killing all readheads” is a rational explanation for killing a group of people, but that leaves me feeling… dissatisfied.