no third solution

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The Greatest Threat

June 28th, 2007

Think back over the history of civilization… Pick pretty much any major tragedy – any event that caused human suffering on an unfathomable scale. I’ll bet you dollars to donuts that said tragedy was either caused directly by government, or indirectly, by a government which failed to protect its citizens. Usually it’s a combination of the two.

For example, the Second World War is just such a tragedy. It would only be partially accurate to describe the conflict as one caused by a totalitarian regime in Germany, bent on world domination and Aryan supremacy. The allied governments share the blame, for permitting such a man to take power across the table from them (Mein Kampf had been around for 14 years), and then merely appeasing him once he was in office. And also for failing to heed J.M. Keynes’ warnings at the end of the first great war (which itself was caused by the Failure of the State Elites), 20 years earlier, in The Economic Consequences of the Peace.

Cholera epidemics in London in the mid 19th century, the Black Plague that swept Europe in the 14th (?) century, I’m sure I could make those arguments, too.

Furthermore, many (but not all) natural disasters, although not caused by states, are undoubtedly exacerbated by complacent states. Think Hurricane Katrina.

The Soviet reclamation? Government at its finest: “From each according to his…”
The Great Depression? Reckless fiscal policy.
Osama Bin-Laden and Al-Qaeda? Funded and trained by your American tax dollars.
The American Civil War? Government impotence.

The list is endless. Nothing on these orders of magnitude could be perpetrated privately.

Throughout 10,000 years of human history, the biggest threat to any man – a threat from which States have proven utterly powerless to protect him – has been one State or another, whether it be his own, or his neighbor’s.

This is not an exception to the rule, this is the rule.



  • Doug Ragan says on: June 29, 2007 at 4:54 am


    Hitler was permitted to run rampant by an unwillingness to deal with him at an earlier stage. I have no argument with you there at all. And maybe if we had done more to help them rebuild after WW1, he would have never even taken power at all.

    I believe that the Black Plague was due in part to the Little Ice Age that destroyed a large amount of to be destroyed. This helped spread the disease and I don’t think science was good enough to see it coming at that time.

    The Great Depression is another example of the government refusing to tackle an issue until after it causes a train wreck. Reckless fiscal policy is putting it mildly. Interestingly enough, when the government decided to enact laws to help prevent a market crash of that magnitude, they hired one of the people who was most responsible and told him to create and enforce those laws. They figured that he knew how to cause it, he should know how to prevent it from happening again.

    Governments have a habit of not dealing with an issue until it is too late. Once they finally get around to dealing with the problems, they have a habit of creating additional problems, ie Bin Laden and the spread of Communism after WW2. But part of it is due to an unwillingness of the people to deal with the problems also. Can you imagine what the reaction would be still today if the US had assassinated Hitler before he killed 6 million Jews?

  • david says on: June 30, 2007 at 12:36 pm


    Though I know little about libertarianism, I can’t understand your argument.

    What, if the world was full of libertarians, would have happened with Hitler? What would have cleaned up after Hurricane Katrina? As it looks in my mind, without government intervention NOTHING would have been done. There must be some piece I’m missing.

  • David Z says on: July 1, 2007 at 9:33 pm


    I’ve blogged extensively about FEMA’s mismanagement of the Katrina aftermath. So have many others, it’s practically self-evident. I believe (although I’m not certain) that I also blogged about the moral hazard created by federally subsidized flood insurance.

    [edited 9:25am 7-2-2007: Here is a nice story from today’s NYT about how “helpful” the government has been in rebuilding N.O.

    As for Hitler, it is very, very safe to say that he wouldn’t have been able to do 1/100th of what he did, if it weren’t for the ability to control an institutionalized monopoly on the use of force: the very existence of States creates the opportunity for madmen to murder people on unimaginable scale.

    Also, David, you didn’t answer the question.

no third solution

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