Blogs > Liberty and Power > The Atrocity of Hope

Jan 25, 2009 6:28 pm


The Atrocity of Hope



[cross-posted at Austro-Athenian Empire]

Congratulations, Pakistani children!  You too can sacrificeOne reason power corrupts is that it puts people in a position to choose options with which they would ordinarily never be faced. Our new President has just passed a significant milestone on the road to hell, one that he would be unlikely to have passed in ordinary life: he is now a murderer. (Conical hat tip to Manuel Lora and Lew Rockwell.)

I recall a line from that terrific late-80s tv series Wiseguy: “What good is a man who loves his own children but murders someone else’s?”

And while I’m on the subject of great lines from Wiseguy here’s another, from when Sonny (the mobster) finds out that Vinnie (his erstwhile right-hand man) is a federal agent:

Sonny: What do you get out of this, Vinnie, huh? I want to know. What do you get out of this – another pin on your lapel? an upgrade on your pension? Why are you trying to destroy me, man?

Vinnie: It comes with your territory, Sonny. You want a recitation? How about drugs killing kids, and fraud destroying pensions?

Sonny: Oh my god, oh my god. Who do you think you’re working for, man? You want to talk drugs? Let’s talk Agent Orange. Let’s talk LSD. Those are just two of the progressive efforts made on behalf of your friendly employer, Uncle Sam. Want to talk fraud? Let’s talk fraud. Why don’t you try explaining to a farmer why the federal guarantee loans are being recalled? Yeah, you’re the mob – you’re the mob in this room, Vinnie. I’m just your average entrepreneur.


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josh - 1/29/2009

Evidently, so is ignoring refutations of your points.


Jeff Riggenbach - 1/28/2009

"Off topic: I assume you're the same Jeff Riggenbach whose text narrations appear on Mises.org?"

I am.

"I'm about halfway through your narration of 'The Ethics of Liberty' and it's my pleasure to be able to commend you on the truly outstanding job you've done! The delivery is flawless and the text's meaning comes through so very clearly."

Thanks. We aim to please.

"I hope to see more in the future, especially of the narrated daily articles."

More is in the works.

Best,

JR


Ralph Luker - 1/28/2009

Screaming is o.k.


josh - 1/28/2009

Off topic: I assume you're the same Jeff Riggenbach whose text narrations appear on Mises.org? I'm about halfway through your narration of "The Ethics of Liberty" and it's my pleasure to be able to commend you on the truly outstanding job you've done! The delivery is flawless and the text's meaning comes through so very clearly. I hope to see more in the future, especially of the narrated daily articles.


josh - 1/28/2009

Analogy n.

• Similarity in some respects between things that are otherwise dissimilar.
• A comparison based on such similarity

You’re confused. Considering the CONTEXT in which you employed the analogy (your word choice), your attempt was to refute the accusation that Obama’s action constitutes an act of murder--whether or not you acknowledge it.

But since you keep insisting this was not your intent, I will simply ask you point blank: did Obama’s ordering of air strikes in Pakistan that resulted in the killing of innocents constitute an act of murder? (And if you bring up 9/11 or hijacked airplanes, so help me, I think I’ll scream).


Ralph Luker - 1/28/2009

Nonsense.


Ralph Luker - 1/28/2009

I've already explained to you that I pointed to the 9/11 analogy as an example of why the definition of "murder" is so broad it is meaningless. You insist I used it otherwise and call me wrong for it. Aeon understood me correctly. Take his word for it.


josh - 1/28/2009

Let's try this again--

"Quite revealing that the moon-eyed Obama admirers now have nothing to say regarding this murderous act, one of his first as President."--Eric

"And had American air forces been able to take out one of the several airplanes responsible for the deaths of 3000 people on 9/11, you would have called GWB a murderer at that point."--Ralph E. Luker

You are implying that as would have the taking out one of the 9/11 planes been justified, so too were Obama's air strikes justified--both on the grounds that "preventive action" is justified "in times of war"--are you not?

I REFUTED your analogy arguing it is not valid per inconsistent circumstances. You have NOT addressed this.




Jeff Riggenbach - 1/27/2009

Gee, I guess that means that since the majority of those then living in the area we now call the United States, female and enslaved, were not consulted about the Declaration of Independence, it would have been entirely appropriate and unobjectionable for George III to have utterly destroyed all the property, infrastructure, and wealth in the colonies he could gain access to. I guess it also means George would have been beyond reasonable criticism if he had sent some unconscionable butcher like Sherman on a march from, say, Boston to New York, destroying everything and everyone in his path.

If only I had known!

Or . . . have I made a mistake here? Could it be that the U.S. government is the only one that is beyond criticism? Could it be that it is only the U.S. government and its canonized presidents that need protection from ideologues unaccountably determined to judge them by the same standard we would all use in judging the actions of "private" individuals in society? Could it be that the reason this conversation will never go anywhere is the Learned Luker's fervent devotion to Patriotism: the American State Religion?

JR


Ralph Luker - 1/27/2009

I've answered you above.


Ralph Luker - 1/27/2009

I dare say that I've read a great deal more American history than you have. For a libertarian, you are awfully indifferent to the fact that the majority of Southerners, female and enslaved, were not consulted about the withdrawal from the Union and you just ignore the fact that the Confederate forces were the first to fire at Charleston. The conversation's going nowhere because your ideological illusions aren't subject to empirical correction.


Jeff Riggenbach - 1/27/2009

Ralph:

If one party wants to leave a union, and the other party prevents such an outcome by force of arms, killing hundreds of thousands in the process and reducing the party who wanted to leave to a state of abject poverty and hopelessness, is this properly described as "preserving the union"?

Lincoln's grandstanding "Emancipation Proclamation" freed nobody. All those enslaved in Union territory during the war remained enslaved at the time of Lincoln's death, with his full complicity. Lincoln had nothing whatever to do with the constitutional amendment that actually did free the slaves.

You might find it enlightening to read some American history sometime. Or do you prefer mythology and pleasant fantasies?

JR

JR


josh - 1/27/2009

Ralph Luker: I’m sorry, , but you’re the one not paying attention. I ACKNOWLEDGED that the 9/11 scenario you described constitutes an immediate and overt threat—but it is NOT an analog to Obama’s airstrikes in Pakistan as YOU YOURSELF PREVIOUSLY argued because in the case of the Pakistan situation there is NO clearly defined or immediate threat-- thus the killing of innocents would be MURDER.

As for Lincoln, he waged a war of aggression and is responsible for sending over 620,000 to their deaths. You dismiss that on a whim and follow that up with a vacuous statement that libertarians are somehow the ones making the idiotic claims.


Ralph Luker - 1/27/2009

Jeff: Did Union forces under Lincoln's command, preserve the Union? Did the combined actions of the slaves, the Union forces, Abraham Lincoln's proclamation, and a Constitutional amendment end slavery in the United States?
Eric: What we know is that, on the airplane over Pennsylvania, a group of passengers seized their own deaths to prevent the terrorists from using the airplane as a weapon of mass destruction.


Eric - 1/27/2009

Ralph,

If you had the means to do so, would you have destroyed the airliners before they could reach their targets? What if your child, one of your parents, your spouse, or one of your friends were aboard? I wonder whether you would then be so flippant about taking the lives of others into your own hands.


Jeff Riggenbach - 1/27/2009

Ralph:

Libertarian insights seldom lead to idiotic claims; more commonly, as in the present instance, they lead to true claims. Libertarians are a tiny minority, because most people have no interest whatever in the truth. They prefer pleasant fantasies, however far-fetched, such as "Abraham Lincoln, preserver of the Union and freer of the slaves."

Mundus vult decipi.

JR


Ralph Luker - 1/27/2009

Josh: Try to pay attention. As to "B", I'm not assuming any such thing. As to "A", the flight attendant on the airplane over Pennsylvania had notified authorities that it had been taken by armed terrorists; and others on the plane acted on the assumption that the terrorists had murderous intent. In your personal security, you piously call American authorities "murderers" for acting on a similar assumption. Get a grip.
Jeff: No wonder libertarianism remains a hopeless minority in the United States. It leads to such idiotic claims.


Jeff Riggenbach - 1/27/2009

"Undoubtedly, Union forces in the Civil War at some point killed innocent bystanders. Even so, I doubt that "Abraham Lincoln, Murderer" is likely to persuade much of anyone of its truthfulness."

I'm persuaded - though I'd like the formulation better if it read, "Abraham Lincoln, Mass Murderer."

JR


josh - 1/27/2009

The purpose of my response was A) to respond to your counter-example demonstrating its INVALIDITY--which you haven't yet challenged.

And, B)to demonstrate that 'preventive action' which kills innocents is MURDER especially in the absence of a CLEAR and IMMEDIATE THREAT.

Furthermore, you're begging the question, since you're assuming "all presidents could not possibly be guilty of a crime by taking such action in time of war" therefore, such action cannot be a crime.

Nice ad populum fallacy, by the way.


Ralph Luker - 1/27/2009

Josh, If you'd bothered to read through the exchange, you'd understand that my point was that Eric defined "murder" so broadly that it included preventive action and held guilty all presidents of the United States in times of war. Undoubtedly, Union forces in the Civil War at some point killed innocent bystanders. Even so, I doubt that "Abraham Lincoln, Murderer" is likely to persuade much of anyone of its truthfulness.


josh - 1/27/2009

Ralph's analogy ( the shooting down of a plane that has innocents aboard that will be used to murder others ) does NOT even apply since the air strikes the anointed one ordered in Pakistan were not in response to an IMMEDIATE and PALPABLE threat as in the case of the airplane he cited.

In the case of the airstrikes, the threat (or rather, "threat") is extremely VAGUE--if at all definable. So in this instance, the killing of an innocent person in the dealing of such a (possibly even non-existent) "threat" is CLEARLY MURDER.


Eric - 1/27/2009

Aeon,

"The people on the plane are dead either way, no matter what Tom does"

We only know this after the fact.

I'll concede that the answer isn't obvious; my affected confidence was only in reaction to (what I perceived to be) Mr. Luker's defense of Obama's actions.


Aeon J. Skoble - 1/27/2009

The people on the plane are dead either way, no matter what Tom does, and Bob is the killer. Tom can save 3000 other people though. Or, he can not save them. BTW: I'm not saying I have the answer to this dilemma, nor that (what seems to be) yours is wrong, I'm just saying that it's not as obvious as you're making it out to be.


Eric - 1/27/2009

"it's not obvious that Tom is a murderer"

It would seem obvious to the people on the plane.
Why should the killer's reason for killing play into the question of his guilt?
If Tom were to rob a bank, killing the teller in the process, should his excuse that he "needed the money" be accepted?


Aeon J. Skoble - 1/27/2009

You don't have to produce a whole system of ethics, but Ralph has a point: perhaps your definition of "murderer" is too simple, and he offers a perfectly useful counterexample - if Tom knows that Bob is going to fly a jet into a skyscraper, killing 3000 people there plus the 200 on the plane, but Tom shoots the plane down first, it's not obvious that Tom is a murderer.


Eric - 1/27/2009

"Your certitudes apparently don't require empirical evidence"

You're right. Someone who kills innocents is, BY DEFINITION, a murderer.

"your ethics don't apparently acknowledge degrees of guilt"

I didn't realize I was called upon to expound a complete system of ethics in a few blog-post comments.


Ralph Luker - 1/26/2009

Your certitudes apparently don't require empirical evidence and your ethics don't apparently acknowledge degrees of guilt.


Eric - 1/26/2009

Yes, though I am fairly certain GWB would have qualified for that title far earlier than 9/11/2001.
Do you assign a lesser value to the lives of the airline passengers than to the WTC victims? If a person kills an innocent other, I will call the former a murderer.


Ralph E. Luker - 1/26/2009

And had American air forces been able to take out one of the several airplanes responsible for the deaths of 3000 people on 9/11, you would have called GWB a murderer at that point.


Eric - 1/26/2009

Your assumption is correct.


Roderick T. Long - 1/26/2009

That seems extremely likely, though I don't know for certain.


Ralph Luker - 1/26/2009

I have to assume that you also regard every President of the United States during periods of war have been murderers.


Eric - 1/26/2009

Quite revealing that the moon-eyed Obama admirers now have nothing to say regarding this murderous act, one of his first as President.