Mark is right to deplore Haley Barbour’s savage idea that Mississippi (of all states) would benefit from cutting social services to its poorest people, and the deaths of innocents traceable to the policy are fairly charged to it. But it isn’t murder, and I differ from his rhetoric.
Many policy choices entail a gross cost in shortened lives, even shortened right at the start. We make them all the time, and we’re right to do so; otherwise we would treat a year of life as having an infinite cost, and live in some sort of padded pods with a TV, never go anywhere, and eat Purina complete nutrient kibbles . Lots of things are worth paying some number of statistical lives for, even lives of identifiable groups like drivers, firefighters, and even poor babies. Lots of things are not, like enriching the beneficiaries of Republican tax cuts, or electing Republicans, which is why Barbour got it wrong. But it’s not murder, nor even ipso facto wrong, however callous or cruel a particular decision may be, to knowingly implement a program merely because it causes more people to die before they otherwise would.