I was struggling to explain to a Bernie supporter why his “compassionate” politics will not stop the risks to Americans from further socializing and therefore growing American government. In military terminology, a force multiplier is a single capability that, when added to an enterprise, dramatically increases the effect.
The problem with government is that, as it grows, no matter the original good intentions behind it, it invariably becomes a force multiplier for evil. Thus, once government power passes a certain point, government becomes the equivalent of a bull in a china shop, with its every motion causing massive damage. Incidentally, the china in that shop is always you — the individual.
I defy any one of you reading this to identify a huge government that has not eventually done great damage to its citizens. This is true whether the government was an imperial monarchy (Rome or China), a theocracy (Iran), a military dictatorship (every tin pot tyrant in Latin America), a socialist government (Greece), a communist government (USSR or China), or a demagogic cult of personality (a la, say, Mugabe in Zimbabwe).
Individuals can be stupid and even unbelievably cruel. Every day the media is filled with stories from around the world of people killing or harming each other, whether through carelessness or deliberate action. Reading these stories, we may long for a strong hand from above to create order. If you’re an environmentalist, you want government to beat down the polluters and the deniers. If you’re devoutly religious, you want leadership that stops blasphemy, premarital sex, abortion, and pornography. If you’re a feminist, you want to bring to heel men who demean women. People with strong ideals believe that they are being good when they seek an equally strong government that will enforce those beliefs.
There’s actually nothing wrong with voters within a small community enacting regulations that allow government to enforce their beliefs. Small governments are close to and responsive to the voters, making them ideal laboratories of democracy. For example, Colorado is a perfect test case for marijuana legalization. Local voters asked for it, it’s being implemented, and an interested America can see whether legalizing pot is a good thing or a bad thing. Because the experiment’s scale is finite, the ensuing damage is limited, those who hate the law’s effects can move elsewhere without leaving their country, and a local law is more easily reversed than something enacted and enforced at a national level.
Likewise, if California voters elect legislators who think that green cars will save the world, and therefore give enormous subsidies to rich people for buying electric cars at a discount . . . well, go for it. Smart, wealthy Californians will buy the subsidized car and then head for a low-tax state. Those who can’t afford the cars and resent the subsidies can also move. Meanwhile, the rest of America can marvel at a state with the highest poverty rate in America that subsidizes rich people’s toys.
When things happen at a national level, where governments are increasingly removed from their representatives (not to mention entirely removed from ideologically-driven Supreme Court justices) they rapidly become anti-democratic. This is most obvious when it comes to money because anything that involves the federal government involves money — incredibly vast sums of money. Where there’s money, there’s corruption. That’s how it came about that, during a painful recession, taxpayers across America find themselves funding Solyndra and related entities — not because doing so was good business, but because the government put its thumb on the scale. When those companies failed, there was nowhere for ripped-off Americans to go, short of emigrating.
Government’s most powerful effect as a force multiplier doesn’t involve money, it involves death. Progressives like to point out that America has a very high murder rate. They believe that government could compassionately end murder if it would confiscate guns, fund more abortions in poverty-stricken regions (eliminating potential criminals), and otherwise attack root causes. Following this line of thinking, Progressives reason that the bigger the government, the more quickly it can bring about murder’s end.
In fact, the opposite is true. Data shows that individuals are surprisingly bad at mass killings, including individuals equipped with the Progressives’ bête noire — the gun. For example, the worst individual mass murderer with a gun was Anders Behring Breivik who, on July 22, 2011, shot and killed 69 people in Norway – mostly teenagers. This rampage came after he’d already set off a bomb, killing 8 people.
Even when individuals band together in armed groups they’re still surprisingly ineffective at killing. The bloody Mumbai terror attack in 2008 is killed 154 people. The 2015 Paris massacre claimed 139 lives.
Even if mass murderers abandon their guns and think really big, they’re still operating in the low four-digits when it comes to mass murder. In 1999, Gameel al-Batouti, a pilot, hollered “Allahu Akbar” as he piloted a plane full of passengers into the Atlantic Ocean, killing 217 people. Even the 19 al Qaeda members who used box cutters to hijack four planes, crashing them into three buildings and a field, couldn’t break 3,000, taking “only” 2,996 innocent lives.
At this point, smart readers have probably noticed the huge flaw in my argument about how inefficient individuals or small bands of people are when it comes to killing. I’ve focused on specific crimes and ignored the aggregate number of people dead in American throughout its history thanks to violent individuals. The clever Progressive would argue that, if we had a really powerful (but compassionate) government, most crime would stop, thereby saving lives.
Sadly, it turns out that’s not true. Instead, the opposite is true. The reality is that, even if individual Americans were super-efficient killing machines for our country’s entire 233 year history, we’d still be rank amateurs compared to Big Government’s force multiplier effect when it comes to murder.
Let me explain by having you join me in playing around with numbers: We’ll begin by adding up America’s annual murder statistics from 1960 through 2012. During those 52 years, Americans murdered 914,191 of their fellow citizens. (This period, which encompasses the implementation of and fall-out from the Democrat’s Great Society experiment, saw the largest number of murders in America’s history.)
Now let’s pretend, solely for the sake of argument, that this high murder rate is not an outlier. Instead, we’ll pretend that it’s the American way of life for 900,000 people to get murdered every 50 years. Thus, we’ll pretend that from 1783-1833 there were 900,000 murders in America, and we’ll also pretend that from 1833 to 1883 another 900,000 people got murdered, and so on for every 50 year block of time through to the present. If we play this game for America’s entire 233 year history, there would have been about 4,000,000 murders in America by 2016.
That imaginary, inflated number — 4,000,000 murders! — sounds scarily high. Couldn’t a compassionate government have saved those lives? Probably not. The reality is that, compared to what governments — the force multipliers of evil — can do, that massively inflated number is nothing! There is no killing power greater than government, which has a concentration of men and weapons that even the most blood thirsty murderer can only dream of. Look at the numbers for just the 20th and 21st centuries:
Turkey: In 1915, the Turkish government ordered and carried out the slaughter of 1.5 million Armenians.
Soviet Union: In the 1920s through mid-1930s, the Soviet government under Stalin declared war on the independent Ukrainian farmers known as Kulaks. Through government engineered starvation, deportation, and execution, the Soviets are estimated to have killed approximately 7 million Kulaks.
The Kulaks were just one group who died off in a specific mass killing. In fact, nobody really knows how many of its citizens the Soviet Union killed, whether using starvation, outright execution, or penal colonies. Estimates range from 7 million to 20 million people dying due to the Soviet government’s policies and purges.
China in the 1960s through 1970s: When it comes to a government killing its own citizens, the Soviets were pikers compared to the Chinese. Current estimates for those who died during the Great Leap Forward due to government engineered famine, executions, and slave labor, range from between 23 million to 46 million Chinese. Some estimates (outliers, admittedly) posit even 50 million or more Chinese dying to appease Chairman Mao’s statist vision.
Nazi Germany, from 1933-1945: You knew I’d get to the Nazis, of course. Not satisfied with purging their own country of Jews, gypsies, homosexuals, and handicapped people, the Nazis conquered Europe from France to Poland to Denmark and embarked upon a purge in those countries too.
With their pick of helpless victims, the Nazis killed 6 million Jews; 250,000 gypsies; 220,000 homosexuals, and, through slave labor, executions, and starvation, as many as 10 million Slavic people. (The number of handicapped people killed is unknown.) To the deliberate murders of unarmed combatants, the Nazis added the deaths of another 19,315,000 Europeans who weren’t targeted because of race, religion, sexual orientation, or disability but who were, instead, just in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Cambodia: Following the Cambodian Civil War, Pol Pot rose to power in Cambodia. Once in power, in the years between 1975 and 1979, his government killed between 1.7 and 2.2 million of its own citizens, out of a population of around 8 million people. Were the U.S. to have a Pol Pot moment today, that would be the equivalent of having the federal government kill 66 million to 85 million people in four years.
North Korea: Nobody knows how many North Koreans have died since the murderous Kim regime came into power. One estimate is that 1,293,000 North Koreans have died at their government’s hands. That number, of course, is entirely separate from the hundreds of thousands of North Koreans residing in concentration camps throughout that hellish little nation.
The above are the government-engineered mass murders that spring most readily to my mind. I’ve obviously left out many murderous regimes that properly belong on the list, everything from Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, to Cuba, to just about every tin-pot dictatorship in Africa and Latin America. If you would like the full body of statistics for government-engineered mass murders in the 20th and 21st centuries, I recommend R. J. Rummel’sStatistics of Democide, which examines 214 regimes. I’ve picked my way through some of this opus and, even though Rummel’s writing is scholarly not scintillating, I was able to catch the depressing gist: governments kill and, given the chance, they kill often, in staggering numbers.
Let me restate my premise once more: Government is a force multiplier of evil. No matter the initial intentions that led to the build-up of a powerful government (compassion, efficiency, “fairness,” economic strength), eventually government is going to start taking sides and, as surely as night follows day, it will bring the full weight of its police and military power against the side it didn’t take.
A compassionate government will talk itself into euthanizing people who, because they are very old or sick, use up more than their fair share of medical care. This has already happened under England’s National Health Service, which kills off old, sick people, and whose “ethicists” advocate even more killings (out of “compassion” of course).
A compassionate government dedicated to efficiency will convince itself that individuals or organizations that stand in the way of efficiency must be controlled and, if they won’t be controlled, must be destroyed. After all, without mandated efficiency, people will suffer.
A compassionate government dedicated to “fairness” (usually thought of in economic terms), will quickly conclude that it’s entirely unfair that one distinct group or another is wealthier or healthier than the rest. That group must be brought to heel and, failing that, destroyed.
A compassionate government dedicated to national purity will naturally have to kill the impure within its borders and, once that’s done, it would be even more compassionate to extend that purity throughout the world.
Even the most murderous theocracies will argue that compassion guides them. Their tortures, executions, and Holy Wars are meant to bring people closer to God, which is the highest form of human existence. Isn’t that a nice, compassionate thing to do?
The only bulwark against the force multiplier of government evil is limited government. That’s why America’s Founding Fathers, who had just rebelled against the most powerful government in the world, did everything they could to bolster individual rights (i.e., what we now call “civil rights”).
As the Declaration of Independence states unambiguously, each person has unalienable rights — the ultimate civil liberties, if you will — that do not come from government. Our individual rights exist independent of government. Government’s job is not to create these rights, but to safeguard them. Government cannot hand them out, nor can it take them away. They just are. And if government fails to provide the proper safeguards or, worse, itself threatens these unalienable rights, it is not the rights that are illegitimate, it is the government.
Very soon after the American Revolution ended, our Founders recognized that the federal government needed some guidance if it was to maintain its legitimacy and provide a stable structure for its citizens without destroying their rights. To that end, in 1791, the Founders enacted the Bill of Rights (i.e., the first ten amendments to the United States Constitution). They are short and sweet, and are notable for the way in which, rather than extending government power, they severely restrict its power over citizens.
It took eight amendments to drive home the explicit rights inherent in individuals, rights that government must keep inviolate. But to reiterate just how severely constrained the United States’ federal governments’ power is vis a vis the citizens within its borders, the Founders made two further points: While the amendments are to be understood to control the federal government, they cannot be read to mean that American citizens have only those rights enumerated in the first eight amendments (9th Amendment). Instead, those ostensibly stated affirmative “rights” are actually limitations on the government. All else remains to a free people.
And if the 9th Amendment isn’t sufficiently clear, the 10th Amendment says that, unless the Constitution explicitly reserves an affirmative right for the federal government, or prohibits it to a state, all other rights — the universe of rights, whether or not articulated — belong to the states or the people within those states.
This is small government writ large. Civil rights mean small government, with the federal government limited primarily (although not entirely) to protecting citizens from itself. The Bill of Rights is meant to put a brake on government’s inevitable end-point as a force multiplier of evil.
In this election, looking at either side of the political divide (Democrat or Republican), there is only one candidate who has repeatedly, throughout his life and career, professed fealty to the Constitution. That candidate is Ted Cruz. Even if you don’t like him, even if you think he’s arrogant, even if his God talk scares you, his loud constitutional fealty means that he has boxed himself into a corner. He cannot utilize the force multiplier effect to bring about whatever nefarious goals you might fear he has. Jonah Goldberg sums it up nicely:
Cruz’s “brand” hinges almost entirely on his fidelity to the Constitution. Mimicking Barack Obama’s disdain for the Constitution simply wouldn’t be an option for Cruz, and that means he’d have to work with Congress to get his conservative agenda passed.
What matters now is that Cruz is a talented and committed conservative. He is also Republicans’ best chance for keeping their presidential nomination from going to someone with low character and worse principles.
There are many candidates this year who promise to use the government to make things better. That is an oxymoronic promise. Except in very limited areas (national security, public health, preserving open trade between states and nations), the bigger the government gets, the worse it becomes.
To those voters contemplating which candidate to support in the upcoming primaries, I bet of you to ignore anger, ignore pretty speeches, ignore alleged compassion, ignore history-making feminism, and ignore any other “trend of the minute” concerns or promises. Instead, vote for the only candidate who has predicated his entire career and candidacy on limiting government power, thereby limiting government’s force multiplier effect of evil.
(And one more thing: Before you vote, please read Garry Kasparov’s illuminating opinion piece about the evils of socialism and the wonders of American-style, free-market capitalism. It’s not just a challenge to Bernie’s promises. It’s an encomium to an America predicated on individual liberty and a free-market economy.)