Exclusive to STR
April 6, 2009
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Will Misperceiving Evil be the End of Humanity?
Some of the worst mass-murderers in history -- many of them, in fact -- are idols and folk heroes to millions of people, not for what the mass-murderers actually did, but for what those murderers and their supporters said about and wanted to believe about the mass-murderers. In many cases, the people idolizing the mass-murderers are strongly in favor of a more compassionate world, yet they are unable to see the truth about the particular tyrants they admire. This leads millions of otherwise compassionate people to support both tyrants and policies that cause harm, either directly or in the long term.
That is a huge problem for the world; an even more terrible and dangerous problem than it might first appear. In the next few decades, mankind will either resolve this problem (an unlikely but not impossible outcome) or quite possibly put an end to civilization or even to human life.
And yes: the problem really is that serious.
Most people have heard that power corrupts, but nearly everyone refuses to see the extent to which power destroys and kills. Spend a moment on the topic:
Cold-blooded murder: In the recently-ended 2oth Century, governments murdered roughly 262 million human beings ; an average of more than two million, six hundred thousand murders per year -- for the entire century. Those figures do not include war dead. As R. J. Rummel  has extensively documented, far more people are simply murdered by governments than die in war -- astonishing considering the many millions of war dead.
War: 15 million dead in WWI , 50 to 70 million dead (including "around 47 million" civilians per the linked article) in WWII , and many millions more in the dozens of other wars  fought by governments in the 2oth Century.
Vast fields of death are not the only evil wrought by the coercive power of government. Many millions of people suffered in horrifying ways in the previous century (and millions more already have in this century), both directly and indirectly, from government action. Among other horrors, people were victimized by:
- Injury, maiming, or permanent disabling in war or other ways
- Torture, which is often systematic and widespread
- Rape, which is also often systematic and widespread
- Severe and needless poverty
- Malnutrition or near-starvation
- Unjust imprisonment
- Loss of one or both parents or other loved ones
In addition, reflect on the constant, daily restraint and bullying that defines "coercive government" even in the best of times, from drug prohibition laws  to regulatory "protection"  (see also here , not to mention threatening cherry and cranberry growers  and other farmers  with fines and worse for providing truthful information about the health benefits of their products, including data from publicly-funded research!), from confiscatory levels of taxation to eminent domain  (abusive even when used "as intended"), from censorship to "gun control " (a.k.a. "victim disarmament"), from coercive schooling  to corporatism  and the general siphoning of money and power from the people to corporations, special interest groups, and government itself. Today's multi-trillion dollar "bailouts" and "stimulus plans" are only the most obvious and breathtaking recent examples of this legalized theft.
Large, powerful government is the biggest danger to human life on this Earth; it is also the biggest danger to prosperity and to healthy society generally. After spending decades researching the topic and writing Death by Government , Power Kills , and other works, professor R. J. Rummel has this to say about the importance of restraining government power:
"In light of all this [in particular, mass murder and war], the peaceful, nonviolent, pursuit and fostering of civil liberties and political rights must be made mankind's highest humanitarian goal. Not simply to give the greatest number the greatest happiness, not simply to obey the moral imperative of individual rights, not simply to further the efficiency and productivity of a free society, but also and mainly because freedom preserves peace and life."
Despite decades of work on the topic by Rummel and others, even academics in related fields seem unaware of the serious danger represented by coercive government -- which is to say, these academics, along with almost everyone else, are misperceiving the true nature of government power. Rummel sums up his view of this state of affairs in typically direct fashion:
"I think the ignorance of the incredible murder by government is a moral, intellectual, and academic scandal. It is the biggest and most significant black hole in our educational system and literature."*
In addition to Dr. Rummel's work, I recommend both The Black Book of Communism  (written by leftists, not Rush Limbaugh) and Humberto Fontova 's ongoing attempts to educate the public about Che, Castro, and Communist Cuba in general, including his recent Hollywood Movie and Bestselling Book Parrot Castroite Propaganda . Please note that Rummel's work includes plenty of information on right-wing dictatorships and other non-leftist nightmares; I am not simply picking on Communism. It is Power itself, not a particular flavor of Power, that is the problem.
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Imagine that a particular type of organization was both omnipresent around the world and the single worst danger to life, limb, prosperity, and physical and emotional health for all mankind. Imagine that this violent, Frankenstein-like organization was based on the use of force and thus -- not surprisingly -- had a horrifying track record stretching back thousands of years to the edge of recorded history and beyond. Then imagine that nearly everyone thought this deadly organization was somehow a "necessary evil" or, even more bizarrely, "beneficial" or "compassionate."
There is no need to imagine such a thing; we are actually living in that situation. What a nightmare!
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Confusing Twigs and Branches for Roots
A related problem is the misperception of secondary (and even further-removed) phenomena as primary causes.
Prohibition is a perfect example. During the Prohibition  years -- by which I mean alcohol prohibition in the United States, 1920 to 1933 -- violence quickly blossomed and then grew out of control when the alcohol business was handed to criminal gangs. Instead of honest and peaceful competition between breweries and distillers, we had gang warfare between Al Capone, Dion O'Banion, Bugsy Moran, and other outright psychopaths. Alcohol-related violence (that is, violence between those who sold alcohol) was so common that the machine-gun came to symbolize the era. Corruption  grew to staggering levels because paying off police, judges, and politicians was simply a business expense. During the 1920s, when 20 dollars equaled -- by law -- roughly an ounce of gold, Al Capone's operation was bringing in $100 million per year. As I write this paragraph, 321gold.com  reports (via Kitco.com ) that it takes over 900 dollars to buy an ounce of gold, so Capone's $100 million/year was a staggering income. No wonder bootleggers found it so easy to bribe low-paid public servants.
Pop quiz: the corruption, violence, and other related problems (including death or blinding from bad booze) of the Prohibition years were caused by:
Demon rum (i.e., alcohol itself)
Scumbag criminal alcohol addicts
Scumbag criminal alcohol pushers
"Going too easy" on alcohol criminals
If you answered "none of the above", go to the head of the class. The correct answer to "what caused the problems of the Prohibition years" is E): "Prohibition itself, as enabled by the violence and coercion of the State."
Proof (although for the life of me I can't see why further proof would be necessary) is that ALL of the problems associated with Prohibition vanished practically overnight when Prohibition was repealed in 1933.
So we have the following situation: Almost immediately after making alcohol illegal, violence, corruption, and other problems (including a truly dangerous lack of consumer protection) emerged, then intensified, and then continued -- year after year and despite ever-harsher penalties, including the infamous life for a pint  laws. Thirteen years later, we ended Prohibition and the problems vanished overnight.
Was there any connection between using government laws to prohibit sale and use of alcohol, and all that "alcohol-related" violence and corruption?
Nah. Of course not.
That, apparently, was the actual conclusion most people (both the public and, of course, government "experts" ) came to during the Prohibition years, and it remains the conclusion of most people today -- about not only the Prohibition years of the early 1900s but also about the modern version: the carefully misnamed War on Drugs. "War on people who prefer certain types of mostly-quite-safe drugs and herbs to the far-more dangerous legal drugs, such as tobacco and alcohol and prescription chemicals" just doesn't have the same catchy sound.
Let's diagram the problem:
Government power --> Prohibition --> "Alcohol violence" and other symptoms
Today's version would be:
Government power --> War on Drugs --> "Drug violence" and other symptoms
Without government power, there is no Prohibition -- not the coercive, throw-you-in-jail version, anyway, although social sanctions, religious edicts, and other forms of prohibition could still be in effect -- and thus no widespread violence, corruption, and lack of consumer protection. Government power is the root of the problem; everything else is a leaf, a twig, or at most a branch. But many people here in the 21st Century can apparently watch The Untouchables  (1987; Kevin Costner, Sean Connery, Robert De Niro) without any more understanding of this point than shown by the characters in the film.
Did I mention that we are actually living in a nightmare?