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Tuesday, February 28, 2006

The Most Important Lesson Of The Holocaust

British historian David Irving was recently sentenced to 3 years in jail under Austrian laws that make Holocaust denial a crime. Russ Roberts* writes about the David Irving affair at http://cafehayek.typepad.com/hayek/2006/02/its_good_to_hav.html:

As a Jew, it never ceases to amaze me that people think the most important lesson of the Holocaust is that anyone, even civilized Germans who love Bach and Beethoven, can become murderers. Or that the most important lesson is that hatred is wrong. Hatred is immortal. People say, "never again" as if saying it is sufficient to prevent future holocausts. But saying it is not sufficient without limiting the power of government to imprison and kill people.

To me, the most important lesson of the Holocaust is that only governments can kill millions of people. Murdering millions requires absolute power. So I want governments to be weaker rather than stronger. That's why I like the First and the Second Amendments. And why I'm glad I don't live in Austria.

"Only governments can kill millions. . . ." Something to remember!

This reminds me of the words of Thoreau (http://eserver.org/Thoreau/civil1.html):

I HEARTILY ACCEPT the motto,—"That government is best which governs least"; and I should like to see it acted up to more rapidly and systematically. Carried out, it finally amounts to this, which also I believe,—"That government is best which governs not at all"; and when men are prepared for it, that will be the kind of government which they will have.

It also reminds me of a 1994 book by R. J. Rummel, "Death By Government". In a 1994 review of this book, the Future of Freedom Foundation's Richard M. Eberling wrote (http://www.fff.org/freedom/1094f.asp),

How many people, in fact, have been killed by government violence in the 20th century? Not deaths in wars and civil wars among military combatants, but mass murder of civilians and innocent victims with either the approval or planning of governments — the intentional killings of their own subjects and citizens or people under their political control? The answer is: 169,198,000. If the deaths of military combatants are added to this figure, governments have killed 203,000,000 in the 20th century.

The numbers boggle the mind! No wonder so many thoughtful people throughout history have come to the conclusion that government must be limited!

* One of my favorite blogs is "Cafe Hayek /Where Orders Emerge" (http://www.cafehayek.com/), run by Russ Roberts and Don Boudreaux of the Economics Department at George Mason University in Virginia.


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