Fool Me Two Hundred Million Times

Is it better to believe soothing falsehoods or truths that make you uncomfortable?

The answer to this simple question lies at the heart of much of the human struggle. I choose the latter; many people do not. I would rather know what I am dealing with even if it puts me at unease. Even if it breaks my heart, shatters my faith, keeps me up at night, or ends my hopes and dreams. Better to know and move on to try to find a solution, look for other ways of doing things, a different answer. Reality is my stark preference.

One of the truths that makes me uncomfortable is that although mankind had accumulated more knowledge than ever before, the 20th century was the bloodiest on record. And the fact that initially made me very uneasy, even depressed, was that governments killed their own people in astronomical numbers. Most of the landmass of the world fell victim at one point or another. The only people that made it out relatively unscathed were the Anglospheric nations, although wars certainly ended up killing many of their populations, even if their own governments did not.

I was taught in school that our government's mission is to take care of us and provide for us. I want to believe that governments try to find solutions to problems, have as their goals to provide security and peace, and desire to be unbiased arbitors. Life would be simpler and my outlook would be more pleasing if that was the case. Yet, looking at modern history of genocide, mass murder, holocausts, political starvation, torture, and killing fields, I cannot escape the distressing conclusion that governments are predators. There is simply no way around this fact. Even if it obliterates my preconceptions and makes me view the world through a skeptical lens.

I don't think it's any surprise that most of the nations that made it through the 20th century without being victims of mass murders by their own governments are the same ones that have a tradition of political thought that originated in liberalism - the philosophy which traced its roots to the Enlightenment. The original classical liberals wanted to empower the individual and strictly limit the powers of governments to essentially the defense of individual rights of life, liberty, and property. In recent years, some of the heirs to this tradition, with the knowledge of malignant modern history on their side, have attempted to carry the principles of classical liberalism even further and posited systems that do away with all monopolies, including those in security, adjudication, and law enforcement. And for this, they get accused of being 'utopian'.

Are they utopians? Given the fact during the 20th century governments killed their own people in record numbers, and given that the places where this occurred less were those places which tried to place strict limits on government power, I say no. There are underlying principles of morality and of economics that hold sway over human interactions as fully and as consistently as the laws of thermodynamics do over matter and energy. Evidence written in large letters of blood even in this advanced age has borne this out. Is it wrong to study economics and philosophy to try to find a different solution? Does that make one a 'fruitcake'?

There's a saying - "Fool me once - shame on you. Fool me twice - shame on me." It encourages us to learn from the past and beseeches us not to repeat our mistakes. What if you were fooled not just once, not just twice, but 200 million times? What if those delegated to protect your life were actually efficient experts in taking it? What if after that, you still had faith in the ones fooling you? Certainly, you would be imprudent to place your convictions for the security of your life in their hands without looking for a different answer. Some might even say... utopian.

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Eloquent, Jonathon. Thanks.

Eloquent, Jonathon. Thanks.

Very powerful, even if the

Very powerful, even if the numbers are lowballed. The casualties in the Soviet Union, combined civilian and military run nearer to 40-50 million alone, the GULAG state consumed an inconcievably large number as well.

It is the individual that

It is the individual that seeks to repress. It is the Individual (or the minority) that seeks to benefit at the expense (by harm) of others.

But the Society (the Majority) is always more pure in its motives.

For while the Individual can gain at the expense of others, the Society cannot.

The Society (the Majority/the many) has but one goal ? one Purpose ? to avoid oppression by the Individual (the Minority/the few).

I certainly do not disagree

I certainly do not disagree with your basic premise, that governments have been, are, and will be the deadliest enemies of human freedom. The recognition of that danger is everywhere in the writings leading up to the formation of the American republic, and enshrined in the carefully constructed division of powers written into the Constitution.

But it is a sad fact that the very fallibility that makes government so dangerous also makes it necessary. A coherent system of laws and courts, as well as a strong defensive capability against foreign threats, is vital in a world where the rights of the individual are still a fragile and very novel concept for most of humanity.

It is not government per se that poses the threat, but the philosophy behind it. If the rights of the individual citizen are held as the fundamental value against which every policy and law are judged, either suitable or unacceptable, then the danger is lessened, even if it can never be eliminated. Such was the genius of the Enlightenment that its response to the problem was an open ended, unfinished political symphony that could, and has, evolved over time.

Utopians seek a perfect, unchanging, idyllic environment in which everything works flawlessly to achieve the ends of the proposed system, whatever they may be. This static society does not reflect anything we know about human development, human nature, or human social organizations. It presupposes a finished product in a finished, completed, fully designed system.

Whatever attractions a utopian solution to the difficulties and complexities of human life may offer, it does not permit the possibility of the further development and evolution of a truly human race. Whatever those creatures in that closed bottle, utopian structure would be, they would not be human beings.

The price of liberty is eternal vigilence, and implacable philosophical committment to individual rights. It is not the mechanism that matters, but the ideas that motivate it. If the touch stone is the rights of the individual, then even base metal can become gold.

But the Society (the

But the Society (the Majority) is always more pure in its motives.

"Society" does not have motives, nor does it have will. Individuals do, period.

THe philosophy of government

THe philosophy of government in general is to impose one group's opinions on others using force. That's the whole point of government. If government didn't do that, it'd just be an ethics or debating society on the sidelines.

Hence, one cannot say that "government isn't the problem, but the philosophy behind it", because inherently government is about control and coercion. That it is better or worse depending on the particular ends of the people in charge is true, but irrelevant to whether the intrinsic nature of government will lead to injustice.

"Society" does not have

"Society" does not have motives, nor does it have will. Individuals do, period.

Come on. He's called 'The Serpent'. He's just being gnostic with us.

Good laugh there, Serp. Keep them coming.

Noah Yetter: "Society" does

Noah Yetter: "Society" does not have motives, nor does it have will. Individuals do, period.

If Society does not have a motive/purpose/goal/or will (call it what you want) then ?Society? does not exist. At least not by any meaningful, coherent definition.

Brian Doss: THe philosophy of government in general is to impose one group's opinions on others using force.

I?d say that the philosophy of ?government? is to ensure the survival of the ?Society?.

The concept of one Individual or a small Minority of Individuals imposing their will on Society against the wishes of that Society is called Socialism (i.e. the imposition of the will of the individual on the will of Society).

Brian Doss: That's the whole point of government. If government didn't do that, it'd just be an ethics or debating society on the sidelines. Hence, one cannot say that "government isn't the problem, but the philosophy behind it", because inherently government is about control and coercion. That it is better or worse depending on the particular ends of the people in charge is true, but irrelevant to whether the intrinsic nature of government will lead to injustice

By the same logic all ?Hand Guns? are also inherently evil.

That is the whole point of Hand Guns ? to kill people. If Hand Guns didn?t do that, they would just be another tool or device on the sidelines. Hence, one cannot say that "Hand Guns aren't the problem, but the philosophy behind it", because inherently Hand Guns are about control and coercion. That it is better or worse depending on the particular ends of the people in charge is true, but irrelevant to whether the intrinsic nature of Hand Guns will lead to injustice.

Only consciousness has the intrinsic property of Good or Evil. Inanimate objects or concepts (such as ?Hand Guns? or ?Government?) cannot be good or evil in and of themselves. They are merely tools in the hands of the consciousness that wields them.

If Society does not have a

If Society does not have a motive/purpose/goal/or will (call it what you want) then ?Society? does not exist. At least not by any meaningful, coherent definition.

Uh, can you unpack that a bit for us? Why would this entity "Society" need its own motive to have a meaningful existence, if it's serving a purpose as a tool for enabling the motives/desires of its constituents?

Utopians seek a perfect,

Utopians seek a perfect, unchanging, idyllic environment in which everything works flawlessly to achieve the ends of the proposed system, whatever they may be. This static society does not reflect anything we know about human development, human nature, or human social organizations. It presupposes a finished product in a finished, completed, fully designed system.

This description is exactly the opposite of anarcho-capitalism, a dynamic and ever-changing system. Ancap is not in the least utopian, it is simply a great candidate for a less imperfect form of government.

Utopia is impossible. That does not mean we shouldn't strive for improvement. And those striving for improvement are not utopians just because they thing a significant change might have significantly positive results.