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.