Tyrannicide: Now in a Theater Near You
By Bryan Caplan
Valkyrie, Bryan Singer‘s film about the 1944 officers’ plot against Hitler, is worth seeing. But I’m admittedly a little biased. After all, my first academic publication (in the Humane Studies Review) has a whole section on the philosophy of tyrannicide.
In hindsight, I’m amazed that people who don’t think twice about killing conscripts (or even civilians) are so reluctant to justify violence against serial killer statesmen. What could be less objectionable than trying to stop mass murder by killing the specific individuals most responsible for it?
If the philosophical case for tyrannicide is so strong, why do so many people – including the members of the 1944 plot against Hitler – have such strong moral qualms against it? My best guess is that (a) there is a high correlation between moral virtue and obedience to authority, and (b) political leaders are very reluctant to support tyrannicide because they’re worried about retaliation and/or setting a precedent. But I wonder if that’s a little too conspiratorial. Any thoughts?