If I suggested to you that to euthanize the mentally handicapped would be a boon to the tax payer your first question, after many understandable expletives, would perhaps be: who was I to decide who should live and die? And you would be right to ask, but a far larger and important question is never asked. When our government makes similar choices every day, when our ongoing wars have killed tens of thousands and at the state level we take the lives of inmates at regular intervals (and drones kill citizens without trial), why do we not ask the same of the state: what gives it the right?
The primary, and too obvious response, to this question is that ours is a democracy. We elect individuals who we believe represent us and our interest's in the government. But, whether we decide for ourselves or someone we elect decides for us, when is it ever right to kill? It is as though by deferring to a representative we have absolved ourselves of guilt like Pilate washing his hand's. But, more to the point, if it is only God to whom we grant the right of life and death (as is the assertion of so many Evangelicals) why do we invest such a God-like authority in the state?
It perhaps helps more than a little to examine the history behind the nation-state. We are living with a ghost, a holdover from the Middle Ages when church and state were the same and kings ruled by divine right. The state, so embodied in the ruler, was not to be questioned only obeyed. Like the Heavenly Father whom he represented, we were to have faith his law's were just and in our own best interest's like good and trusting children. And so we have remained, with a child's faith we no longer perceive that the adult affairs of government are any of our concern, and go back to watching what passes for journalism. For this same reason the bulk of the population feel themselves so disenfranchised that it is far simpler to defer to black and white partisan politics and vote mechanically if they vote at all. It is always someone else to blame for the state of the world, never themselves. After all, it is someone else who makes the decisions.
No matter how bad things become, it is never the forms but the individuals who fill them that deserve our wrath. The economy can crash, people may starve in the street, but to suggest that democracy is an illusion is blasphemy. As with the worship of the military, the worship of the state is an open secret. For as much as conservative groups may cry out against things like socialism and statism, they continue to venerate the state while simultaneously speaking it down. Obviously they're as much for statism as the liberals they decry. What really matters to them is who is in control, not that there is control.
I began by asking when is it ever right to kill, and I answered that this is a question we would put to the state in which we have granted God-like powers. Yet, if the state, which is little more than men and women like ourselves after all, is granted the power's of divinity how can mere mortals be trusted to wield the lightning?
Kings were once gods on earth who owned the land in theory if not in fact. God granted them such trust because God, they said, had conveniently granted it to them at birth. Those elected by men still own the land, that is property, but I see no reason to trust the prudence of presidents any more than the mercy of monarchs. And so we might conclude, who ever we grant the right to kill need not take away one's rights for they were never there to begin with. Thus we go on just whistling in the dark while we keep our head's down.