Hurting the few for the benefit of the many

by | Mar 17, 2010 | Stress Blog | 7 comments

Like Scott, I quit writing, too.

On facebook, Scott posted this link

Civilians Among 17 Killed in Latest US Drone Strikes

About yet another drone strike in Pakistan killing civilians in Pakistan.

I posted a comment thumb nailing my current opinion about politics. Someone posted back “Urrr?”

I will elaborate here.

Some kid in a control room in Nevada X-Boxed those people to death. Why? Well, the same reason Howard Zinn pressed the button to drop iron bombs on Germany, or other guys dropped napalm on Korea and Viet Nam.

They were told –

“We have to kill the enemy. We don’t want to kill civilians but this is an unavoidable consequence. Remember that the enemy started it. If they didn’t want us killing their mothers, sisters and girl friends, they shouldn’t have started up with us. This is a harsh, evil choice to have to make, but remember, the choice is our bombs on their civilians or their bombs on our civilians. You have to kill [German, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Latino, Iraqi, Afghan Pakistan and Somalian] Civilians so Americans stay safe.”

Howard Zinn described, in his anti-war Radio interview, how he figured out that this was bullshit. After the war.

Lots of veterans figure this out. Too late. Some spend the rest of their lives fleeing from this realization.

It’s one way veterans are used up, and then thrown away.

Zinn found a way to fight back. Some veterans do.

Winter Soldiers Hit the Streets


The rationalization is “Them” or “Us”. It’s a false dilemma that has been used since bands of cavemen smashed each other in the head with clubs. “It’s us or them”.

Stefan Molyneaux takes that fallacy apart neatly here –

(This article used to be up at Lew Rockwell, too… I wonder what happened?)

If there are no real “groups” just individuals in fan-clubs then we fall back to the basic rules about the use of violence – It’s never okay to start it. It’s never okay to hurt someone unless they are specifically trying to hurt you.

That is the Non-Aggression Principle. I subscribe to it myself.

Exodus 20:13 “You Shall not Murder” (If you’re into that sort of thing.)


My best friend is moderate. Right now he is a moderate democrat.

He believes that there is a “Them” and unless we have big planes, big bombs and big violence at hand, “They” will come to get us.

He can’t really name who “They” are, or any reasonable method by which “They” will come to get us that requires a nuclear aircraft carrier to defeat – but he is uncomfortable with my assertions that the American Pentagon needs to go.


The rationalization goes deeper than that.

Who bought the drone and it’s hellfire missile? Who Bought the B-17s and Iron Bombs that rained down in WWII?

We did.

Not paying taxes is against the law.
If you don’t pay taxes, you’ll be fined.
If you don’t pay the fine, you’ll be jailed.
If you try to escape from jail, you’ll be shot.

Thus I — in my role as citizen and voter — am going to shoot you — in your role as taxpayer and ripe suck — if you don’t pay your fair share of the national tab.

Therefore, every time the government spends money on anything, you have to ask yourself, “Would I kill my kindly, gray-haired mother for this?”

P.J. O’Rourke – Parliament of Whores

O’Rourke’s formulation makes it pretty clear – Taxation is aggression.

My Best friend hates this. His main argument, and a telling one it is, is to shout “NO!” at the top of his lungs.

You cannot argue it is not aggression.

You might argue that it’s Justified aggression – (O’Rourke does)

The idea is that there are “public goods” – and that the free market won’t provide these public goods – so for the benefit of everyone, everyone has to be forced into paying taxes.

That idea assumes that sometimes it’s okay to aggress. It’s okay to coerce – because the benefit is large.

It’s okay to coerce the contrarians and cranky who are few – Because the benefit is large to us, who are many.

Us – the beneficiaries and them – the people in jail or in their graves because they didn’t pay taxes and resisted the authorities when push came to shove,

It’s just more “Us and Them” thinking.

My thesis is this – A little “Us and them” is a slippery slope to all of it.

Once you allow the thesis that it’s okay to murder or coerce a few folks, or an individual, you’re on the slope.

There will always be someone who argues to push the coercion just a little farther. After all, their cause is good, too, right?

It doesn’t matter if 100 people argue to add their pet cause to the “Coerce everyone to pay” bandwagon – and only one succeeds

Due to Robert Higgs Ratchet effect –

The end result is a slow evolution away from liberty and towards tyranny.

If you allow good consequences for the many to outweigh the rights of the minority or even the individual – you’ve set up a mechanism that moves towards tyranny. Be it like a kid on a skate board wiping out on Youtube or like the crawl of a tectonic plate, it’s all heading in the same direction.

Putting down Shay’s Rebellion and the Whiskey rebellion led to the atom bombing of Hiroshima – because both are rooted in the same rationalization.


Did you see it? The reason I stopped writing is in there.

None of these ideas are mine. I just hopped like a frog from lily-pad to lily-pad of someone else’s good thinking.

If you’ve been riding along with me, Listening to Scott Horton and Anti-War Radio, and reading some of the places I mentioned above then you already know all this.

I was smashing my head on my keyboard one day, thinking, “What do I have to say about liberty being good, and coercion being bad?” when I saw a new guy storm across the landscape of libertarian writing.

Anthony Gregory.

He came out of nowhere, it seemed to me, and in about two weeks, he totally kicked my ass. His writing is better. His sources are better.  His research is better.

I threw up my hands. A better pitcher was on the mound. Time to warm the bench.

In the last couple of months I have heard Scott show signs of fatigue and frustration.

Not to put too fine a point on it, we libertarians and hard core peaceniks are a minority. A lot of people are afraid to follow the logic all the way to the bottom. the idea of being without a State to protect them is scary. They fear their neighbors and they fear big corporations (with good reason) and they fear a lot of things.

My best friend wants to believe. He wants to believe with all of his heart that the red-white-and-blue monster we are all unwilling passengers in can be turned around and turned into a force for good. I sympathize. I used to want to believe that too.

I paid attention and I was educated out of that idea through the 1990s. As the internet occured,  I read some history and discovered that it has always been a lie.

The state is a gang of thieves writ large. – Murray Rothbard

The more history I read, the closer the resemblance between Government and La Cosa Nostra. You pay the “vig” or you get your legs broken. You might wind up sleepin’ wit’ da fishes. Nothin’ personal, Indians. Just business. You’re on our dirt.

The radical idea is that coercion is such a poison, such a transgression – that it is the seed that becomes the cancer that winds up being Stalin, Hitler and Mao. It’s too radical for most folks.

Even here, my ideas are crap compared to a real thinker –

“A scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.” – Max Planck

I think social truths may be the same way. It may be that our job is to keep the ideas alive and keep pushing. Maybe someday, we’ll be out on the porch yelling “You kids! Quit Aggressing against MY LAWN!” and most of the kids will know what we’re talking about.

So we need to encourage each other. We need to support each other. We need to welcome new folks.

So thank you Scott. Please keep it up and don’t quit. We’re making progress. It’s just slooooowww.