Before the popularity of moral relativism and other post-modern fashions in thinking, reasoning about right and wrong was less complicated. For example, tens of thousands of people dying unnecessarily every year for decades was considered worse than tens of people dying over the same time span.

Scholars have since identified the fundamental flaws in this utitilitarian approach and it is frowned upon by sophisticated political theorists.

Now the formula is this: if someone I disapprove of kills a few people unintentionally, this is far, far worse than anyone else killing a lot of people intentionally, especially if the latter kills in the name of struggling against the former.

This is why, to paraphrase an American stand-up comedian, Tony Blair and George Bush are Hitler and the man with the moustache feeding people to the wood-chipper is the rightful leader of a sovereign state.

Lacking a formal education in the humanities, I have to resort to blunt scientific instruments when making choices about big issues: statistics, falsifiability, logical consistency. I blush to admit I don't even have an ideological stance or a body of doctrine against which to test my beliefs. Oh, for faith in the Invisible Hand of the Market or the reassurance of Historical Inevitability!

So, when it comes to choosing between spontaneous petty crime and organized state terror, articles like this by Johann Hari in The Independent, with the politically radical title "Looting is ugly, but it’s better than torture" are immensely helpful.