We do have, most of us, a sense of right and wrong. Religions put this down to God, while those who do not adhere to any religion have recourse to the scientific view that this sense arises from our evolutionary past.
In the same way that we instinctively recoil from potentially venomous creatures such as spiders and snakes, our societies tend to create taboos around actions like incest and cannibalism. Acts worth avoiding in the interests of the greater good were eventually codified into cultural laws such as the Ten Commandments. An aphorism like, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you," which is not biblical, I was surprised to discover, has the power to remind us, if not compel us, how best to behave.
Universal education (perhaps I mean universal moral socialization) within a society is expensive, but it is not as expensive as it may seem. It is probably our only protection against the creation of a large, barbaric underclass. Unless we envisage a return to God-oriented societies in the West and the physically repressive measures of the past, that is.
Since I wrote this piece the anniversary of the atrocity committed on Utoya has passed. I happened to be in Norway at the time. (I happened to be in the US when the twin towers came down too, but that's another story.) Another atrocity has been committed in Colorado. Both Anders Breivik and James Holmes (assuming the latter is found guilty) are individuals with broken minds. What broke them is immaterial. The fact that they have proved they are dangerous to others and cannot be trusted to move among the rest of us again, coupled with the certainty that we do not know how to fix minds as broken as these, means that they must be either locked up forever or done away with. I will, in future posts, set out my views on both these options.