Professor Rudolph Rummel of the University of Hawaii has spent decades researching democide. The number he came up with is staggering: 262 million people murdered by governments during the 20th century. As unfathomable as that number is, it’s an understatement.
First, it doesn’t include soldiers killed during war, but most of those people would not have died without state aggression. Many were conscripted. The rest were propagandized. Second, the list only covers direct murder, through guns, bombs and starvation, but coercion always has bad consequences and everything the government does is coercive.
When the government people aren’t drone-bombing wedding parties and throwing peaceful people in cages by the millions, the result of their coercion is still death and suffering. I wanted to look at some of the less obvious, but still lethal, ways government kills. This list is nowhere near complete, and I plan on updating it in the going forward, so if you have any information you’d like to add, feel free to send it to me.
The FDA’s drug approval process kills in three different ways. The first reason is straightforward and quantifiable: FDA approval takes years, and people die waiting for life-saving medications to be approved. To cite one example, beta blockers for heart attacks were delayed by six years in the United States. Walter Williams sums up the death toll here:
Beta-blockers reduce the risks of secondary heart attacks and were widely used in Europe during the mid-’70s. The FDA imposed a moratorium on beta-blocker approvals in the U.S. because of the drug’s carcinogenicity in animals. Finally, in 1981, FDA approved the first such drug, boasting that it might save up to 17,000 lives per year. That meant as many as 100,000 people might have died from secondary heart attacks waiting for FDA approval.
The other two ways the FDA kills are indirect. Getting a new drug approved can cost up to $400 million. All else being equal, this means there will be less drug research, and the research that takes place will be directed towards projects that have the highest probability of recouping that massive investment. That means research is mainly focused on finding ongoing treatments for common, chronic conditions, rather than cures for rare diseases. Finally, the FDA kills by lulling people into a false sense of security. People believe they are being protected, but the FDA has been captured by the industries it regulates. Their deputy director is Monsanto’s former lawyer.
The people at the TSA have a lot to answer for: from destroying what was left of the Fourth Amendment, to humiliating grandparents, fondling kids, and making you throw away your water. On top of all that, they have blood on their hands.
Statistically speaking, driving is a lot more dangerous than flying. Air traffic is still below pre-9/11 levels, and the TSA is the biggest reason why. More people driving instead of flying means more traffic fatalities, and the death toll already exceeds 9/11, by far:
According to data compiled by Cornell University researchers, the ugsomeness of dealing with the TSA has pushed a goodly number of former air travelers into their cars – and back onto the roads. This, in turn has led to a measurable increase in monthly traffic fatalities – about 242 per month that would otherwise not have occurred. [Emphasis added]
The War on Drugs
I’m not going to spend much time on this point, since anyone reading this blog probably gets this issue. Prohibition has never worked and never will work; they can’t even keep drugs out of prisons. Furthermore, making voluntary exchange illegal drives up profit margins while removing any path to peaceful dispute resolution, leading to violence.
Drug-related violence in the United States has decreased since the days of the crack epidemic, but it’s shifted to Mexico. According to the Mexican government, 47,515 people have died in drug-related violence since 2006. This is what happens when people with good intentions use coercion to mold society.
I put this section at the bottom because it’s the hardest to quantify – there are a lot of factors that go into heart disease, diabetes, etc. – but this issue might be the deadliest. The federal government spends about $20 billion per year on farm subsidies, and virtually all of that goes to five crops: corn, cotton, soy, wheat and tobacco.
Fruit and vegetable farmers receive less than 1%. This is why a salad costs more than a Big Mac. People respond to incentives. If you lower the price of grains and meat relative to fruits and vegetables, people are going to consume more grains and meat, and probably be less healthy in the long run.
Sugar tariffs also play a role. In addition to stealing $3.86 billion per year from the American people, sugar tariffs combined with corn subsidies make high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) cheaper to produce than real sugar. Beverages containing HFCS have high levels of reactive carbonyls which are associated with cell and tissue damage that leads to diabetes. There may also be a direct link between HFCS and obesity, via the hormone leptin:
Leptin tells your body to stop eating when it’s full by signaling the brain to stop sending hunger signals. Since fructose doesn’t stimulate glucose levels and insulin release, there’s no increase in leptin levels or feeling of satiety. This can leave you ripe for unhealthy weight gain.
Finally, there’s the corn itself. You could argue that the question of the health effects of GMO corn isn’t fully settled yet. I would tend to agree, but I’d prefer not to be part of a society-wide experiment. The problem is, it’s very difficult to opt-out. GMO corn is showing up at Whole Foods, and California voters recently shot down a law requiring GMO labeling.
Government kills, both directly and indirectly. This is the inevitable result of using violence and coercion to achieve a goal, even if that goal is positive. Once again, this is just a partial list, so if you have any suggestions for expanding or clarifying it, send them along.
Liberty on the Rocks Huntsville has already had some interesting speakers in our short history, and we’ve just landed another liberty rockstar. Stephanie Murphy will be speaking, via video, at the January 17th meet-up. Stephanie is a nationally syndicated radio host, narrator/voice artist, writer, and graduate student.
Stephanie co-hosts Free Talk Live Sunday nights with Mark Edge, which, in my opinion, is usually the best show of the week. FTL airs on over 110 radio stations, as well as XM satellite radio. She also hosts the show Porc Therapy on the Liberty Radio Network. Porc Therapy is about ways that we can all free our minds and attain more liberty in our lives. And that’s not all, Stephanie occasionally co-hosts Flaming Freedom.
Stephanie does voice work. Actually, that’s an understatement. If someone is selling a liberty-oriented product or service, and they have a radio ad, there’s about a 50/50 chance that Stephanie narrated it. She recently completed work on the free audiobook version of Markets Not Capitalism: Individualist Anarchism Against Bosses, Inequality, Corporate Power, and Structural Poverty. This collection of essays is a great resource to use when talking to people coming from the political left about the ideas of liberty.
On top of all that, Stephanie is Chief Operations Officer, volunteer, and organizer at the mutual aid organization Fr33 Aid:
Fr33 Aid was created to help liberty activists organize projects that educate people about the value of mutual aid and lessen the burdens of government. Our main activity involves providing voluntary medical and educational services at liberty-related events.
Fr33 Aid is a major reason why I asked Stephanie to speak to us. Prior to the welfare state, mutual aid organizations served as both a safety net and a way to leverage bargaining power for services like health-care. Getting rid of the welfare state is a much easier sell if you can show people a viable model to take its place. The Mises Institute had a great article on this topic a while back, I managed to dig it up. Here’s a quote:
Mutual aid, also known as fraternalism, refers to social organizations that gathered dues and paid benefits to members facing hardship. According to David Beito in From Mutual Aid to the Welfare State, there was a “great stigma” attached to accepting government aid or private charity during the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Mutual aid, on the other hand, did not carry the same stigma. It was based on reciprocity: today’s mutual-aid recipient could be tomorrow’s donor, and vice versa.
As I mentioned above, mutual aid organizations were especially important in providing healthcare. Fraternal organizations would typically hire a lodge doctor, and charge members a small annual fee to access basic medical care. Stefan Molyneux put out a great video on this topic recently, titled “How Government Solved the Health Care Crisis!”. It’s under ten minutes long and packed full of information. Check it out if you have the chance.
I’m going to have another post or two about mutual aid over the next few days. I believe that it’s both a viable model to replace the welfare state, and it’s a wonderful propaganda tool: mutual aid can show the world how effective voluntary organization can be, especially when compared to a bloated hierarchical bureaucracy.
As long as there have been people, there has been war, but total war is something new, or maybe it’s a barbarous relic that has returned from the past, but either way, WWI marked a change in the way wars are fought, and WWII accelerated that change. What made that change possible?
War has always been expensive, and total war is even more so, since it involves mobilizing an entire population for war. Total war means transferring labor and capital from the production of necessary goods and services, to the production of death and destruction.
By 1913, America and every major European power had instituted a central bank. The largest war in world history, up to that point, started in 1914.
Without a central bank or other means to debase the currency, wars have to be funded through taxation or borrowing, both of which have limits. Through money printing, a central bank can hide some of the cost of war in the form of increases in the general price level. This also has the effect of deferring these costs, it takes time for an increase in the money supply to work its way through into the price level. Milton Friedman described this as the “long and variable lags” of monetary policy.
It’s no coincidence that the century of total war coincided with the century of central banking… If every American taxpayer had to submit an extra five or ten thousand dollars to the IRS this April to pay for the war, I’m quite certain it would end very quickly. The problem is that government finances war by borrowing and printing money, rather than presenting a bill directly in the form of higher taxes. When the costs are obscured, the question of whether any war is worth it becomes distorted. – Ron Paul
Dr. Paul is referring to the concept of war fatigue. Propaganda might be effective in getting people fired up for war at the outset, but as the death toll and costs mount, people begin to question why we are fighting in the first place. The state hides the human toll several ways, including not allowing the filming of caskets and embedding reporters with military units, so that the reporter sees what the powers that be want them to see. Central banking is a tool to hide the true financial costs of war. Everyone notices a tax increase, but less people make the connection from rising prices to increases in the money supply to the wars that money funds, and even fewer care.
Governments can raise revenue in three ways. Taxation is the most visible means of doing so, and it eventually meets with popular resistance. They can borrow the money they need, but this borrowing is likewise visible to the public in the form of higher interest rates – as the federal government competes for a limited amount of available credit, credit becomes scarcer for other borrowers.
Creating money out of thin air, the third option, is preferable for governments, since the process by which the political class siphons resources from society via inflation is far less direct and obvious than in the cases of taxation and borrowing. – Lew Rockwell
To end war, humanity has to change. I believe it’s possible, but it won’t happen until there are a generation of people who accept the non-aggression principle as axiomatic, and that won’t happen in our lifetimes. In the mean time, the best we can do is to try to reduce the violence, the surest way to do that is to reduce the funding sources for those directing and committing that violence. That is why, if you’re against war, you have to be against central banking.
Egypt’s Morsi missteps, says Eric Margolis.
Eric Peters on how it will be done.
His charts depict the Keynesian catastrophe.
If your kids go to public school, don’t let them eat the government food. Article by Brad Jordan.
It can kill, says Walter Williams.
Don’t, says Mark Nestmann.
James Tracy on the lost prospects for peace.