A few responses to reviewer arguments follow, in order from first to last with one exception: first I'd like to respond to my most recent reviewer, SomeGhol.

I think SomeGhol did indeed misunderstand my intent. I wasn't arguing which of the premises I offered were true or not, I was simply deducing the logical ramifications of one in particular. It's not my desire to get bogged down here arguing whether or not abortion is, in fact, murder, and whether or not violence is justified in response to murder, though I have offered my views on those matters many times in the past.

However, SomeGhol did offer a couple points I'm interested in responding to:

"I may have misread the intent of your essay, and if so I am sorry for bringing this up; however, if execution is proper for any murder, than it must hold true to those who kill an abortion worker.
You would probably respond that killing in self defence is alright (you said so in another essay) and thus would not need to be punished. This is true, but to take the life of an abortion worker who was not directly threatening your life cannot be classified as self defence, and thus shouldn't be justified on the same grounds."

I'm curious whether SomeGhol thinks it justifiable to use violence in defense of someone else's life; clearly if abortion is murder then killing abortion workers could be viewed as taking violent action to save other people's lives. Granted, it's a weaker case than if killing murderers is justified anytime, anywhere, regardless of whether they're a current threat to someone, but the case can still be made. But as I mentioned, I have no intention of arguing here which of these premises is true.

SomeGhol continues:

"This doesn't take into account human nature to avange damage to self and family, which would surely be the case if some bomber blew up a clinic where any of my kin worked. No matter what moral cause the murderer espoused, I would hunt them down and murder them right back; and so on and so forth."

I don't think this is a moral argument, it's a pragmatic argument, and not a very useful one. You could just as easily argue against using violence (which is always potentially lethal) in direct self-defense, because if you kill someone whose trying to kill you then their kin's coming for you, and there at the very best you've got kin of your own and it's a good old hillbilly-fashioned feud.

JaffaCake—Thanks for the argumentative review. I enjoy those.
I wrote:
[The argument goes that] it is not proper or justifiable to kill abortion-clinic workers etc. because abortion is currently legal. The assumption here is that the law, whether the result of legislative action or of judicial activism, can change whether a thing is moral (acceptable) or not. If the conservative accepts that "the law" can change the moral status of an action, then he must also accept that it renders abortion justifiable, and that it therefore cannot be considered murder. If violence is a justifiable reaction to murder, but not to abortion, then abortion is not murder.

To which, JaffaCake responded:

"Er, not quite. All because people follow a law they do not feel is just does not mean they automatically change their moral opinions about it. Some people will follow an unjust law, because to flagrantly oppose the law using destructive means would be committing a greater sin than that of the unjust law. There is a reason why vigilantism is a crime. Even if a vigilante kills a criminal who deserves to die, his action in itself is reprehensible. People cannot try and effect their own form of justice when they have agreed to abide by a society and its rules. Chaos would ensure and the law would be meaningless if people refused to obey it when it did not suit them.

"I may be rambling in my tired state, but what I'm trying to say is that one is not compelled to resort to criminal means when confronted with an unjust law. The permission of segregation in public institutions was an unjust law, but should ethnic minorities bomb schools? No, the best answer lay in trying to effect a peaceful change through peaceful procedures such as legislative lobbying."

There are a number of premises offered above, only one relevant to me here. I would argue that if one holds, on moral grounds, that humans ought obey all laws, then one very much holds that there is no such thing as an unjust law. It is illogical to hold as a moral requirement that others do, or defer to, what is immoral. One might hold that it is prudent to do so, and advocate such deference or obedience on pragmatic grounds. For instance, if stealing is immoral, then obviously one is not obligated to hand his wallet to every mugger who shoves a gun in his stomach. It might nevertheless be wise to do so in some instances, if one is caught off-guard or the mugger is really big or has a ten-year-old girl as a hostage. My point stands, that if one holds that violence against murderers is moral, but violence against abortionists is not, then one does not hold abortion to be murder. One might believe this solely because the law says that it is not, and might consider abortion "icky" enough that one wishes to change the law so that abortion becomes murder. But that one nevertheless holds that "the law" is capable of changing moral reality. I have no interest debating the merits and demerits of such a view here, that's not my purpose.

Secondly, I feel it necessary to point out that pushing for legislative change is hardly a peaceable tactic. Legislation is merely words on paper without men with guns to enforce it. It is only as peaceful as any other form of coercion—to the extent its targets prefer compliance to the terms set forth to risking death in resistance. (Note: If you're someone acquainted with my political views, I'm not arguing here that legislation is immoral per se, only that it is coercive per se; I seem to have the problem of people seeing my arguments as moral statements even where they are not).

I'd like to clarify my use of language: I tend to use the term "criminal" and "crime" for people or acts I consider immoral, regardless of the legal status of those people or acts. I think it's useful to draw a distinction between outlawry and criminality. Surely it is not criminal to disobey an unjust law—else that law is in fact just. Unless morality is a matter to be decided by lawmakers' opinions, one can surely be an outlaw without being a criminal and a criminal without being an outlaw. Also, I use the terms moral and immoral to mean, respectively, "that which one ought to be permitted to do" and "that which one ought not be permitted to do"; this usage is primarily responsible for the confusion that follows:

JaffaCake writes in response to my Joe Shmoe allusion:

"Whoever said that owning $10 million is a moral end? Why if something is not unjust, it is automatically just? Is it unjust for me to eat toast? Is it just? Or is it actually morally irrelevant?"

Given the definitions I've offered, it should be clear that there are no actions that one both ought and oughtn't be allowed to do. Eating toast is moral, as is not eating toast; it logically follows from this that it would be immoral to force you to eat toast if you did not want to, as it would be immoral to forcibly prevent you from eating toast if you did want to.

Finally, JaffaCake questions my argument regarding collateral damage. I wrote:

[S]ince the very outlook is inherently relativistic, it prevents ends themselves from being defined as 'good' or 'bad', and, more importantly for practical purposes, an individual's intentions can never be reliably discerned, while actions are plainly observable. Therefore to say that it can be moral to intentionally harm innocents in the pursuit of a just end is to eliminate morality from one's worldview altogether, and reduce all ethical analysis to consequentialist equations. That may be all well and good, but it's not relevant to my purpose here.

JaffaCake responds:

"How does one get to the above conclusion from the premise that "it is moral to harm innocent bystanders if your ends are just"? A further clarification would be greatly appreciated."

The conclusion admittedly follows from my definition of moral. Leaving aside the complexities of dividing "ends" from "means", the ends most killers seek—money, thrills, etc.—most people (including myself) would classify as permissible (moral) in and of themselves. This renders almost all killings justified, if "the ends justifies the means". If attaining money and thrills aren't moral, however, then most killings are still justified because everyone deserves to die anyway. Regardless, I think it's clear that labeling innocent individuals and groups thereof to be expendable means to some end renders one at the very least a mild jungle-lawyer or moral skeptic.

James Jago"Now those, my friend, are very large 'ifs' indeed! Something to think about, anyway. This is one of your better essays in that regard."

You only say that because it's the first one you ever got through.

Giygas666—I agree with you whole-heartedly there, but that really wasn't my point in the passage you quoted… and what's the Earth Liberation Front? Is that your name for the US?

Mbwun—"there is a third problem with the argument that bombing an abortion clinic is equivalent to execution: prior to execution, the executee (I don't know if this is a word, but I won't call him or her "victim") has been put through a legal process to prove his or her guilt, whereas the abortion clinic worker has not."

That's sounds like a pragmatic argument, not a moral one. It's well known what abortionists do, the question isn't whether they do the things in question but whether the things in question justify violent action (which need not be a bomb).

"I know that doesn't meen shite to anti-statist you, but you completely overlooked this apsect in your essay."

Bad assumption. I fully recognize the practical and social benefits of due process.

"Then again, I suppose this essay really wasn't about legality, but morality, so maybe I should just shut me hole."

No, you shouldn't, I like arguing with you.