Anders Breivik was perfectly sane in his ghastly ambition

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Opinion round-up: Anders Breivik trial, taxing philanthropy and the futility of voting for independents

LAST UPDATED AT 12:02 ON Tue 17 Apr 2012

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MADNESS IS NO DEFENCE FOR COLD-BLOODED MURDER
BRIAN MASTERS ON ANDERS BREIVIK
There is no dispute that Anders Breivik killed 77 people last July, says Brian Masters in The Daily Telegraph. He is proud of his actions, and even said he wished he could have slaughtered more. What is now being debated is his state of mind when he pulled the trigger. One psychiatric report declared that he was suffering from paranoid schizophrenia and was therefore not responsible for his actions. Another concluded that he knew perfectly well what he was doing. We can only hope that the court throws the first opinion out. Breivik have lived on the periphery of a society, "determined to gratify his own ideas whatever the cost to others" without conscience. Nevertheless, "anti-social behaviour is not a mental disease". In a philosophical sense his desires may have been "mad", but in legal terms "he was perfectly sane in his ghastly ambition and his deliberations as to how to achieve it".
 
CHARITY SHOULD NOT TRUMP PUBLIC SPENDING
PHILIP JOHNSTON ON TAXING PHILANTHROPISTS
The brouhaha about George Osborne's plan to cap tax relief for charitable giving is a textbook case of how ill-informed emotion can derail intelligent policy-making, says Philip Johnston in The Financial Times. If we are to believe his critics, Osborne is set on shutting down every benevolent institution from Oxfam to the Lancashire Hedgehog Care Trust. Yet Osborne's motives are honourable. Faced with the need for swingeing spending cuts and tax increases to reduce the deficit, he thinks the wealthiest in society should contribute. Lost in all the wailing is the insight that "tax relief is public spending by another name". The case for entirely open-ended relief rests on the curious premise that charitable giving is superior to public spending. Many charitable donations are worthwhile, but they should not be seen by the wealthy as an alternative to paying tax.

THE 'ANTI-POLITICS' VOTE WON'T DO PEOPLE ANY GOOD
STEVE RICHARDS ON INDEPENDENTS
Smaller parties and independent political candidates, from UKIP to Respect, have been flexing their muscles lately, says Steve Richards in The Independent. It's not surprising. Voters blame Labour for the economic crisis, but note that the two Coalition parties have not improved the economy. They are looking elsewhere. Mainstream parties always struggle with trying to win the widest possible support while staying connected with the values their parties are supposed to espouse. Independents and smaller parties are less burdened with the tedious need to win power. "Voting for them is the equivalent of the cathartic scream or moan." They may be people of principle, but they are part of an anti-politics culture and not a solution. "Democratic politics depend on the resolution of differences through political battles." It’s too easy to claim that these can somehow be transcended by independents.

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