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Is There "something admirable" About Murdering People for the "greater good"?

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Killing in the name of

Former political prisoner Aung San Suu Kyi's historic victory in Myanmar elections (mentioned in this morning's A.M. Links) is a reminder that man's dogged determination to be free can and eventually will overcome all totalitarians. But this Darragh McManus column, in Ireland's Independent, is a reminder of the opposite sort–that some people in the free world will continue providing intellectual cover for political mass murderers. Writing about Che Guevara, McManus ends his column like this:

Yes, Che was ruthless and fanatical and sometimes murderous. But was he a murderer? No, not in the sense of a serial killer or gangland assassin. He was one of those rare people who are prepared to push past ethical constraints, even their own conscience, and bring about a greater good by doing terrible things.

Whether morally justifiable or not, there is something admirable in that—pure principle in a world of shabby compromise. Maybe this is why Che remains such an icon, both in image and idea.

Link via the Twitter feed of Reason Contributing Editor Michael C. Moynihan.

Reason.tv on Che's "Killer Chic":

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  1. Che was about the greater good if by greater good you mean killing people and installing tyranny.

    1. You can’t spell douche without Che.

    2. Can’t make an omelet…

      1. Waiter! Is that omelet about ready? I’ve been sitting here for about 94 years…

  2. Black is beautiful

  3. Black is beautiful

  4. The whole problem with the “greater good” argument is that it is completely subjective. I’m sure everyone who has done despicable things had themselves convinced it was for the “greater good.”

    1. “Even Hitler didn’t wake up going, ‘let me do the most evil thing I can do today.’ I think he woke up in the morning and using a twisted, backwards logic, he set out to do what he thought was ‘good.'”
      -Will Smith

      1. The Fresh Prince is wise indeed.

    2. I had the idea of Godwinning this thread, but you’ve done it much more effectively.

      1. We can never mention Hitler again.
        He never existed.

        1. You’d be thrown in jail for saying that in certain european countries, since holocaust denial is a crime.

          1. Soon to be followed by global warming denial.

      2. I personally find the people rushing to point out godwin’s law more tiresome than the hitler references themselves. At least the hitler one has a relevant argument in it to add some novelty.

      3. I was going to try some Polpotting on this thread as an alternative to Godwinning. But both are relevant.

    3. Yes. You don’t know what the “good” is for yourself, much less everyone else. The rule is, the more noble and universal the ideal, the more evil it will spawn.

      1. I disagree. And so do you. Believing that one can’t know what’s good for everyone else is, itself, an ethical position on what’s good for everyone else.

  5. The world would be a better place without Darragh McManus, and he’s in no position to object.

    Sorry guy, but it’s pure principle. Admirable in it’s way, don’t you think?

    1. It would be a collapsing Black Hole of Irony if someone murdered McManus because of what he advocates here.

      1. And it would certainly be for the greater good – just like when they killed Che.

      2. Yeah, you wonder what his last thoughts might be as he was about to be killed by someone who was willing to:

        “push past ethical constraints, even their own conscience”

      3. +20 did read again.

  6. He was one of those rare people who are prepared to push past ethical constraints, even their own conscience, and bring about a greater good by doing terrible things.

    This is hardly rare.

    1. It’s also not “pure principle.” If anything, it’s actually “pure compromise.”

    2. I believe it’s called rationalization.

      Further, McManus is a moron. Murderous=murderer. Used is his context, Che must have been a murderer. Otherwise he’s not murderous, he’s fanatical.

    3. Much like this guy.

  7. Lets be honest about this, the vast majority of people have no clue who Che was and what he did, they wear shirts with his face because its cool.

    The media and university professors have given the green light to Che, and thus deem is acceptable for people to wear Che shirts.

  8. The writer says, “Yes, Che was ruthless and fanatical and sometimes murderous. But was he a murderer? No, not in the sense of a serial killer or gangland assassin. He was one of those rare people who are prepared to push past ethical constraints, even their own conscience, and bring about a greater good by doing terrible things.”

    I don’t know about gangland killers of the “The Godfather” variety, but the real gangster killings are mostly done by kids and young adults who seem to be pretty much acting out of some sense of justification, and of course serial killers do their murders because they feel the murders must be done for what must be (to put it politely) highly personal and private reasons.

    So I’d say that Che Guevara’s murders (and murders they are, not merely killings) are quite consistent with gangland murders or serial murders.

    1. Che went across Cuba bribing generals to “surrender” and killing people who did not take bribes. Sounds very gangland to me.

      1. What’s the difference between government an organized crime?

        1. A seat on the UN Human Rights Commission? No wait . . .

        2. What’s the difference between government an organized crime?

          Government enjoys the consent of the governed, and this makes anarcho-libertarians insane?

          1. Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

          2. “consent of the governed”

            I don’t think that means what you think it means.

            1. I didn’t consent but I’m still governed.

              1. I didn’t consent

                Oh but you did. You see, when you didn’t decide to move somewhere else you gave implied consent.

                Inaction is action you know.

                1. Just like not leaving your apartment meant that you consented to being raped in your living room.

                  1. Not doing things = doing things.

                    1. Tony Logic:

                      war is peace
                      freedom is slavery
                      ignorance is strength

                2. COMMERCE CLAUSE!

                  1. 😉

                  2. Wait, I thought “Kommerce Claus” was related to Santa Claus?

          3. So now I’m consenting because I get to vote for guys who never win? So if a mugger asks me if I want to get beaten with a board or an iron rod, and I vote for the board, and he hits me with the iron rod, I’ve consented?

            1. Only if there’s another mugger there who breaks the tie.

        3. What’s the difference between government and organized crime?

          Stationery.

          1. and the flags outside the offices

        4. Scale.

        5. Nothing.

      2. *Sounds very gangland to me too.
        FTFM

  9. OK. I’m going to have to make a tshirt with Che’s passport photo… The one he used to get into Bolivia before the end…. You can google it. It’s the best!

    1. Put it on Cafe Press and I’ll buy one!

      1. Do you mean this one?

        I can put it on Cafe Press, but want to make sure it’s the right picture, and need to find a higher resolution version.

  10. Is There “something admirable” About Murdering People for the “greater good”?

    Yes.

  11. Whether morally justifiable or not, there is something admirable in that — pure principle in a world of shabby compromise.

    What we need is more people who can come up with a final solution to the problems that vex them without succumbing to shabby compromise. Right?

    1. According to Rothbard there were Libertarians mourning the death of Che then? I guess it makes some sense, coming from the man who refused to clap for Ike and applauded Khrushchev. Even Libertarians evolve.

    2. Gad, what horrible dreck from Rothbard. How did he get suckered into worshipping such totalitarianism? I’ve actually never been into Rothbard, but this is a low for him.

    3. Rothbard had this way of modifying his principles depending on which political faction he thought he could ally himself.

      1. But…but…

        He’s not Ayn Rand!

        1. I’m diggin’ this commenter here.

    4. Re: HeroicMulatto,

      The genious of Rothbard manifested itself in many ways, least of which the way he could show the lack of intellectual perceptiveness of those with a very loose sense of outrage by writing tongue-in-cheek pieces meant as mockery and then waiting for the results…

      1. Unless you describe exactly how “tongue-in-cheek” this is, this reeks of apologia.

        1. … and the results were not lacking, indeed.

          1. It is a neat trick to say “he is just joking!” every time Our Heroes fuck-up.

            But it also is not honest.

      2. This wasn’t part of his flirtation with the left in the 60s?

        1. The Genius had a real soft spot for all types of left-wing dictatorships long past the 60s.

          “Since their victory over German military aggression in World War II, the Soviets have continued to be conservative in their military policy. Their only use of troops has been to defend their territory in the Communist bloc, rather than to extend it further. Thus, when Hungary threatened to leave the Soviet block in 1956, or Czechoslovakia in 1968, the Soviets intervened with troops ? reprehensibly, to be sure, but still acting in a conservative and defensive, rather than expansionist, manner.”

          http://mises.org/daily/4470

          1. It looks like he was just stating facts there, except for his one value judgement of it being “reprehensible, to be sure”.

            It’s funny that you think someone not having an irrational bias against the enemy is the same thing as supporting them. Funny and sad. And stupid.

            1. Soviet expansionism across Europe being merely “defensive” is the value judgment there.

              Or, do you really think all those non-Russians under Moscow’s thumb for decades didn’t think the Soviets were being the aggressor? Any less than the Cubans still think of Che, Fidel and Raul?

              That essay is Murray rationalizing one of the biggest violations of the NAP by any statist entity anywhere ever as “defensive”. Now that’s what’s really sad, stupid, and not at all funny here.

              1. If you take this “Their only use of troops has been to defend their territory in the Communist bloc, rather than to extend it further.”, then the rest of that paragraph follows logically, and the only value judgement is as I said.

                He established the conditions under which he considered their activities ‘defensive’ so it was not, in any way, a value judgement. The only value judgement was calling it reprehensible, so to claim that he was being dishonest or sympathetic to Soviets simply does not follow.

                1. And if you find his rationality to be offensive, that’s your problem.

                  I can say the Nazis were effective Jew-killers and there’s nothing wrong with that. It may offend people, but is it untrue? Nope.

                  Your suggestion that he was rationalizing Soviet aggression is completely contrary to the paragraph under discussion.

                2. If you take that *opinion* as fact, yes, you are going to come to the conclusion that the Soviets weren’t being aggressive as they killed and enslaved half of Europe “defensively”. I suppose their meddling in Latin American affairs was also “defensive”, if you take that to its logical conclusion.

                  It’s still a value judgment. “Established” is just another way to say “rationalized” here. It doesn’t turn opinions into facts.

                  Putting Murray on some pedestal where everything he ever said was gold does not help the cause of Liberty. He clearly and repeatedly made some errors in judgment that should be viewed as such. We can learn just as much from these mistakes, if we allow ourselves to view them for what they were.

                  1. Actually, this would be more like saying the Nazis were defending themselves from Jews, which *was* one of their claims. Or that Charles Manson (hat tip to Indict Corzine) was defending himself from Terry Melcher, so his murder of Sharon Tate was simply collateral damage. We can come to lots of ridiculous conclusions using the Rothbard system.

                    Have you ever read Rothbard beyond the few sentences I posted? He frequently “established” parameters that would allow him to support aggressive states. I guess I’m “establishing” the “fact” that he was a statist. Sorry if you find that offensive.

    5. But in his mighty heart Che could not refrain
      from leaping a whole raft of stages, from plunging ro-
      mantically but recklessly into the premature adventure
      of armed struggle in Latin America. And so, with tragic
      irony, Che Guevara, in his daring and courage, was be-
      trayed by the very Bolivian peasantry whom he was try-
      ing to liberate, and who barely understood the meaning
      of the conflict. Che died from violating his own prin-
      ciples of revolutionary war.

      Gag. It is painful to see that in the instance of a commie, Rothbard would accept the most fallacious and damaging myth of our species, that the warrior is the moral superior to the plowman. He would have never have so distinguished a US Ranger with that honor.

      1. And I say that as a huge fan of his works like America’s Great Depression and the Ethics of Liberty.

      2. But hasn’t WI taught you that plowmen are pure evil?

      3. plowmen are just tools of the city-statist. Or something.

        1. Mr Plow, that’s my name.

          That name again, is Mr Plow!

  12. He was one of those rare people who are prepared to push past ethical constraints, even their own conscience, and bring about a greater good by doing terrible things.

    Murder in the interest of Utopia is glorious.

    1. Anyone opposed to Utopia deserves to die.

    2. Meh. Libertarians would be happy to have thousands of poor people starve in the name of their Utopia. Just a different Utopia where they get to not pay taxes, that’s all. Some sense of self-awareness is required here.

      1. Not “happy”. I would hate to have people starve. But I am willing to admit that if the choice is between shoving a gun in someone’s face to make him pay for the “starving” and people starving, then yes, that’s what liberty means.

        Of course, who had more starving: 1950s United States or 1950s USSR? The answer is pretty obvious.

        1. Cool. So you don’t have a problem with people dying for the greater good, as long as the greater good is how you define it (“liberty”). Why not extend the same courtesy to Che?

          1. Again, there is a difference between actively sacrificing people (which is what Che did) and restraining from forcing people to save others.

            And, as I said, I do have a problem that people die. However, as Charlotte said, the cure is worse than the disease.

            1. What’s the difference? Apart from less (literal) blood on one’s hands – the words “what is seen and what is not seen” come to mind.

              1. Because the moral standard that individuals must be forced to “do something” when others are “starving” is only subject to arbitrary limitations. Limitations that are, usually, odious in nature i.e. race, geographical limitations, gender, age, etc.

                1. They are just trolling, and won’t stop regardless of what you say. Ignore it.

              2. What’s the difference?

                The difference is 500 poeple starving to death vs 5 million starving to death and another 5 million outright killed.

                If you cannot see the difference between 500 and 10 million then I do not see why you are worth having a conversation with.

          2. There’s a difference between allowing for some potential risk to life (all life ends eventually, by some means or another, after all), and just straight up murdering people. In libertarian utopia, charity would still exist, and society would be wealthy enough to afford quite a bit of it. Of course, poor people might still have limited and dreary lives, but they would probably not die from lack of food, water, heat, or basic medical care.

      2. Those would be the libertarians who live in your head. Actual libertarians would hate to see that happen and would do lots to stop it. They just wouldn’t administer cures that were worse than the disease.

      3. That assumes that nobody would help the poor if it weren’t for government.

        While it is true that socially minded liberals wouldn’t do a damn thing for the poor unless they were forced to by government, others would help of their own free will.

        1. Blah blah raising-status-of-conservatives.

          Poor people got a lot less help back in the 1800s, when libertarian economic policies were more prevalent. Why do you have to claim that your system is better at everything – insecurity?

          1. Why aren’t you going by your regular handle MNG?

            Insecurity?

            1. Why aren’t you going by your regular handle MNG?

              I was starting to think the same thing.

          2. Poor people got a lot less help back in the 1800s

            [citation needed]

            when libertarian economic policies were more prevalent.

            [citation needed]

            Of course, you assume that it is an unalloyed good if more “poor people” receive more government “help”, which means all you’re doing is assuming the argument.

            1. Yes, I am making the terribly controversial assumption that poor people prefer to get basic literacy and numeracy and not die in their prime.

              Or do you think that life expectancy started to rocket when all the charitable hospitals and schools closed down and were replaced by (lower) government spending? Help me out here.

              1. No, your assumption is that “government help” is, by definition, more preferable than a lack thereof. Which, again, is begging the question. You have to demonstrate why people should be forced to pay for the assistance of others, and that is a pretty high standard of evidence around here.

                1. You have to demonstrate why people should be forced to pay for the assistance of others

                  Because if government doesn’t do it, no one will.
                  Since you don’t want something done by government, you do not want it done at all.
                  Isn’t that the socialist credo?

                  Just as we evil libertarians do not want anyone to eat as evidenced by the fact that we do not want the farms to be nationalized.
                  After all, if government doesn’t grow the food, no one will.

                2. I didn’t make that assumption. I made the assumption that poor people get more help when rich people are forced to pay more taxes. The welfare of those poor people is a strong argument against libertarianism, and resorting to “they should be free not to pay taxes because they should be free not to pay taxes” is not good enough.

                  1. “they should be free not to pay taxes because they should be free not to pay taxes”

                    Straw men are made of straw.

                3. How can you argue the facts? We didn’t have Big Government back in the mid-1800’s and poor people couldn’t even afford such basics as televisions, cell phones, microwave ovens, air conditioning or even so much as a Big Mac.

                  Now we have Big Government and all those things are affordable even to the poor.

                  Of course there is that tiny little problem that there are currently somewhere between 40 and 310 million poor people in the US (depending on how much faith you have in OWS numbers) and since the mid-1800’s population of the US was far less than 40 million, there are certainly more poor people today than there were 160 years ago.

              2. Capital per worker
                Marginal productivity of labor

                I.E. you might want to look into these two terms.

                1. Patronising idiot. The most prosperous societies in the world today do very well on those measures – they range from Hong Kong to Sweden – all practice a form of statecraft far from the libertarian philosophy. This suggests that libertarianism is either poor at generating those two, or societies with plenty of those two don’t like libertarianism. Your call.

                  1. This suggests that libertarianism is either poor at generating those two, or societies with plenty of those two don’t like libertarianism.

                    False dichotomies are false.

                    1. OK. So we’ve discovered this philosophy called libertarianism, but no country follows it, even though lots of countries are full of intelligent and well-educated people; moreover, the countries which come closest to following it are countries where the rule of law is incredibly weak.

                      Is that a bit clearer for you?

                    2. Ah yes. The old “Show me a textbook example! Show me a textbook example! You can’t! I win!” argument.

                      Definitely MNG.

                      Pussy.

                      Go back to using your regular handle so we can ignore your inanity.

                    3. Shit, I thought it was Tony with a bigger scrotum/smaller brain.

                    4. meanwhile, in ancient Greece…

                      All countries own slaves! Can anyone name a successful city, province, or country that does not allow the ownership of slaves? If slaves didn’t exist, who would do the work of a slave? Since no one can point to a single counterexample that means that slavery is a foundation of modern society and any country who seeks to abolish it is doomed to ruin!

                  2. The most prosperous societies in the world today do very well on those measures – they range from Hong Kong to Sweden – all practice a form of statecraft far from the libertarian philosophy.

                    Citing two countries that are largely culturally homogenous, and with societies that are far less-scaled in terms of bureaucracy and population, is hardly a valid comparison.

                    Perhaps the reason Scandanavian socialism works is because it’s run by Scandanavian socialists, for Scandanavian socialists.

                    The compounding cost of government-financed healthcare in this country is one and the same in terms of scale with the escalating costs of defense and bureaucratic dross like the TSA.

                    1. Hong Kong and Singapore are the two most librtarian economies in the world.

                    2. Hong Kong and Singapore are the two most librtarian economies in the world.

                      They’re not textbook libertarian, and their criminal system is not at all libertarian.

                      The bar can always be raised, and if MNG is involved you know it will.

                  3. The least prosperous societies in the world today don’t do very well on those measures – they range from the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea – all practice a form of statecraft far from the libertarian philosophy. This suggests that libertarianism is either good at generating those two, or societies with plenty of those two don’t like statecraft far from libertarianism. Your call.

              3. Yes, I am making the terribly controversial assumption that poor people prefer to get basic literacy and numeracy and not die in their prime.

                If you can read and do arithmetic are you in fact poor?

                What was the literacy rate of the US in the 1800s?

                Now exclude immigrants (lots of illiterate Europeans coming to the US in the 1800s) now what is the literacy rate of the US?

                1. What was the literacy rate of the US in the 1800s?

                  Ever read letters from the Civil War?

                  1. Ever read letters from the Civil War?

                    I’m reading a book about the Little Bighorn that revealed Custer used to write his wife letters every week that went on forever–we’re talking 20-40 page missives here. And she loved every word.

          3. Why do left wingers project their selfishness and lack of faith in people onto others? Modern liberalism reeks of pessimism and lack of vision.

            1. I’m guessing projection may be generally caused by a number of things.

              1) It might be an attempt to understand the world, by applying personalities to the huge populace of humans, despite not really knowing anything about most of them.

              2) In circumstances where the projector is acquainted with the person/people, projecting may be used to fill in a lack of understanding, where it exists.

              Either of those might be caused by being insecure about ignorance, and therefore attempting to take shortcuts to understand, which in reality just don’t work very well.

      4. So your assertion Tony is that if welfare didn’t exist, people wouldn’t help other people?

        How very distopian and pessimistic of you.

        1. Tony has yet to explain how the US had such a high literacy rate before there ever was a department of education.

    3. Yesterday, when I was out golfing, I had to pee, but there was no bathroom around. I went into the woods and, like a rare diamond, broke ethical constraints against public urination. It was tough, but I’m a tough cookie.

      I am Che.

      1. We need more people like you!

      2. Welcome to the Sex Offender List!

  13. He was one of those rare people who are prepared to push past ethical constraints, even their own conscience, and bring about a greater good by doing terrible things.

    And men like that are the worst monsters of them all.

  14. I’m a monster. What I do is evil. I have no illusions about it, but it must be done.

  15. “He was one of those rare people who are prepared to push past ethical constraints, even their own conscience, and bring about a greater good by doing terrible things.”

    Aren’t those “rare people” called psychopaths?

  16. Che wasn’t a murderer. He just killed lots of innocent people.

    1. Greater good! Greater good!
      Gooble gobble! Gooble gobble!
      Greater good! Greater good!

  17. STEVE MEITH PUSH PAST ETHICAL CONTRATINTS/OWN CONSCIENCE/ELASTIC WAISTBANDS TO RAISE AWARENESS OF SASQUATCH HABITAT DESTRUCTION. BUT PEOPLE NOT THINK STEVE SMITH ADMIRABLE. PEOPLE THINK STEVE SMITH RAPE-MAD ‘QUATCH.

  18. He was one of those rare people who are prepared to push past ethical constraints, even their own conscience, and bring about a greater good by doing terrible things.

    That’s one of the most disgusting things I’ve ever read.

    1. Read Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment for an incisive critique of this type of rationalization.

  19. I wonder what McManus has to say about the Inquisition, or the Salvation by Force of the inhabitants of the Western Hemisphere.

    1. Let it be known that there shall be no religion other than statism, and that government is the one true god.

    2. Or Augusto Pinochet? He only killed a few people who really needed killing.

  20. Why do you hate Che Guevara?????? You might as well just hate children!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    1. We only hate HIS children. That is, all those romantic nincompoops who graduated from Latin American universities doning Che shirts just to enter the public sector to impose their grand experiments with our money and our lives.

      HIS children.

  21. Hot girls wearing clingy Che shirts should be informed that were they magically teleported into the midst of his regime they would immediately be doped up and pressed into service as comfort women for him, his fat generals, and assorted arms suppliers. And once the syphilis kicks in it would two in the back of the head.

    1. Maybe they are into that.

  22. We’re making better worlds, doctor. All of them, better worlds.

    1. “Capt. Malcolm Reynolds: So me and mine gotta lay down and die… so you can live in your better world?

      I’m not going to live there. There’s no place for me there… any more than there is for you. Malcolm… I’m a monster.What I do is evil. I have no illusions about it, but it must be done.

      1. You’re about 2 hours too late.

  23. He was one of those rare people who are prepared to push past ethical constraints, even their own conscience, and bring about a greater good by doing terrible things.

    This isn’t that extraordinary.

    MNG says he’d do this to doctors all the time.

    1. This isn’t that extraordinary.

      MNG says he’d do this to doctors all the time.

      Winner winner chicken dinner.

      1. I see I was in rare form that day.

        And thanks for the cite. This just proves my rants from yesterday that MNG’s Philosophy 101 Trolling never changes.

        1. Hence the reason I finally incifed him. I got sick of bad analogies.

      2. One funny thing about that thread is that John is much more radicalized on this issue now than he was then.

        He was still trying to be a Rockefeller Republican back then.

        1. I sense John reads a hole lot of history. And the more history you read, the more you have to realize that these things just do not work. And worse still, they are never contained. So what starts as a nice, small program that does some good inevitably turns into a monster.

    2. See, I tried to take the high road and not bring that up, but I figured someone would.

  24. When you explicitly just wave off morality, everything that follows can pretty safely be disregarded.

    Whether morally justifiable or not, there is something admirable in that — pure principle in a world of shabby compromise.

    Isn’t this really saying that you’d have to be amoral to admire a fanatic like Che?

  25. How many smaller goods wouod have to be sacrificed to maintain the “greater” good? And who gets to decide what the “greater” good should be?

    Democracy worshippers will tell you that people get to decide the greater of all goods through voting. This would be the same people that voted a low-class comedian for senator and a community activist for president of the USA.

    1. Democracy worshippers will tell you that people get to decide the greater of all goods through voting.

      Except when the vote doesn’t go their way.

      Then they take it to court.

      1. I worship freedom, not vote counting.

        1. Be careful. To some “freedom” means being free to impose yourself onto others.

          I believe you mean “liberty”.

    2. Damn you, democracy! You keep getting in the way of great ideas, just because only a tiny bunch of mad rich people believe in them.

      1. Re: I.E.

        You keep getting in the way of great ideas, just because only a tiny bunch of mad rich people believe in them.

        You have it exactly backwards – all these “great ideas” are the result of people’s voting not their preferences but their opinions: They hear the lovely words and the grandiose speeches and pretty much involve themselves in a popularity contest, but it is NOT a decision on preferences.

        Most of these great ideas from mad rich men have been immplemented, e.g. The Federal Reserve Act.

        1. Yes, but all the other great libertarian ideas, like not taxing rich people, and not forcing employers to maintain basic safety standards.

          I wonder why people don’t vote for those.

          1. I see you are going to continue to argue that “not doing something = doing something”. Until you realize that this is a very crucial distinction (and probably the only one that matters), there is no sense in continuing this conversation.

          2. Re: I.E.,

            Yes, but all the other great libertarian ideas, like not taxing rich people, and not forcing employers to maintain basic safety standards. I wonder why people don’t vote for those.

            Why would the fact that people do not vote for those have any bearing on the morality of stealing money from rich people or making manufacturers impose standards on something they may want to do anyway, even above standards?

    3. And who gets to decide what the “greater” good should be?

      The one with the ability to kill anyone who disagrees.

      1. No. Obviously it is I.E. that gets to decide. Because he is sooo much smarter than us stoopid libertardians.

  26. Of course, this is where utilitarianism gets you. Human lives are dispensable if you jigger the calculus this way or that.

    1. The happiness I would obtain from silencing you is greater than the unhappiness it would cause.

      Therefore, to the gas chambers! GO!

      1. Man, Whittaker Chambers was such an asshole.

    2. Utilitarianism fails because you don’t know what the “greater good” is. It really is a Hayak knowledge problem applied to ethics.

      1. I think it fails because there is no such thing as the “greater good”. The “greater good” is merely code for “I want to see you live your life differently, and I will force you to do it”.

        1. Effectively yes. Since we can’t know the greater good, it really doesn’t matter from our perspective if it exists or not. We are all blind. So the best you can do is try to do as least damage as possible and hope maybe you do a little bit of good.

          The struggle between good and evil is never a battle between great good and great evil. It is always a battle between monstrous unspeakable evil and a tiny and almost irrational good.

    3. Um, name a philosophical system which doesn’t conclude that “Human lives are dispensable” at some point.

      Libertarians don’t believe that we have to pay very high tax levels to keep every old person alive for as long as possible, for example. Neither do 99.5% of people who have thought about the question.

      1. This is just more “failing to do something = doing something” nonsense.

        In other words, you are saying that because libertarians advocate against the initiation of force, and the IOF would (*possibly*) “save old people’s lives”, therefore libertarians are actively “dispensing” with old people.

        That’s a logic failure. I assume you are just going to keep repeating it, however.

        1. The “active/passive” distinction is highly appealling to Common Sense, but it matters less to philosophers than you seem to think.

          1. I know it matters less to you, as a matter of convenience. But it matters a lot to most people.

            1. Not as a matter of convenience, but as a matter of philosophical truth.

              What do you think of the trolley problem?

              1. That it’s not a question best answered by government.

      2. The old “government = society” argument. If society wants to prolong the lives of oldsters, society can do without the force of government through family, insurance, and charity.

      3. Libertarians don’t believe that we have to pay very high tax levels to keep every old person alive for as long as possible, for example. Neither do 99.5% of people who have thought about the question.

        Federal spending on healthcare, 1980: $55 billion

        Federal spending on healthcare, 2011: $800 billion

        At a 9% compounded increase reflected in those numbers, the cost of healthcare will grow to $1.6 trillion in eight years, and $3.2 trillion in 16 years.

        Short of massive inflation in that time period, how exactly will the government pay for healthcare that is nearly equivalent to it’s current budget in less than two decades, and given the 7-10 year recession cycle?

        1. But, but, but those programs are popular.

          They’re popular!

          What other measure is there?

      4. I.E.
        In addition to your many demonstrations of poor reasoning (I’m being very kind with this description), you reveal a very poor understanding of libertarian philosophy.

  27. “man’s dogged determination to be free can and eventually will overcome all totalitarians”

    Unless you’re a believer in some form of religion, what possible warrant could you have for such a claim?

    1. You do not have to be religious to talk about which way the Arc of Morality bends:

      “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice”

      MLK, Jr.

      1. Well, what’s the warrant for the universe being “moral” and having an “arc”?

        1. “Nature, to be commanded, must be obeyed” is not a religious doctrine that personifies the universe. It’s an observation about what succeeds and what does not.

          1. What evidence do we have from nature that “man’s dogged determination to be free can and eventually will overcome all totalitarians”?

      2. Ironic for someone who goes by reverend in his handle to state one need not be religious to believe in the moral arc.

        Further irony added by the quotation of evidence being from a protestant minister.

  28. I have watched a few episodes of that show about whackjob Doomsday Cultists who are busily laying in stockpiles of food and other supplies with which to survive whatever imminent apocalypse infests their fevered imaginations.

    Che’s idiot son MNG would undoubtedly advocate the forcible confiscation and redistribution of those supplies to the wider population, because independently providing for oneself and one’s family at the “expense” of Society is morally abhorrent.

    1. Uh, dude, I think MNG’s said before he’s voting for Gary Johnson. Or are you just being sarcastic?

    2. I love that show!

  29. C.S. Lewis:

    I can imagine no man who will look with more horror on the End than a conscientious revolutionary who has, in a sense sincerely, been justifying cruelties and injustices inflicted on millions of his contemporaries by the benefits which he hopes to confer on future generations: generations who, as one terrible moment now reveals to him, were never going to exist. Then he will see the massacres, the faked trials, the deportations, to be all ineffaceably real, an essential part, his part, in the drama that has just ended: while the future Utopia had never been anything but a fantasy.

    http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/C._S._Lewis

    1. Power is not a means, it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship. The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power.

  30. Everytime I see a person wearing a Che shirt, I always make sure to ask them if they hate gays (as Che put them in concentration camps) and like nuclear war (as Che wanted to start one with the US and sacrifice all the poor Cubans for his cause, if necessary). They usually give me a baffled look, because they don’t really know much about Che, just that he was a dashing revolutionary.

    1. I once asked a t-shirt proprietor, who had Che shirts hanging up, if he had
      one of Hitler too. He wasn’t amused.

  31. “It was like this: I asked myself one day this question ? what if Napoleon, for instance, had happened to be in my place, and if he had not had Toulon nor Egypt nor the passage of Mont Blanc to begin his career with, but instead of all those picturesque and monumental things, there had simply been some ridiculous old hag, a pawnbroker, who had to be murdered too to get money from her trunk (for his career, you understand).

    Well, would he have brought himself to that if there had been no other means? Wouldn’t he have felt a pang at its being so far from monumental and?and sinful, too? […] I guessed at last (all of a sudden, somehow) that it would not have given him the least pang […] that he would not have seen that there was anything in it to pause over, and that, if he had had no other way, he would have strangled her in a minute without thinking about it!”

  32. And never forget that Che was an utter moron. He was the keystone cops of revolutionaries. He showed up in Bolvia not realized the Indians there spoke a different language.

    1. Well, now we see what happens to a country without a thriving movie industry. Vicious, ideologically fanatical morons with dashing good looks become revolutionaries, instead of just sucking up to dictators in their off time.

  33. Somebody apparently isn’t familiar with the totality of Mister ThrowTheStick!’s body of work.

  34. Welcome to The Greater Good!

    Proudly presented to you by Top Men.

  35. We left the camp after we had inoculated the children for polio, and this old man came running after us and he was crying. He couldn’t see. We went back there, and they had come and hacked off every inoculated arm. There they were in a pile. A pile of little arms. And I remember… I… I… I cried, I wept like some grandmother. I wanted to tear my teeth out; I didn’t know what I wanted to do! And I want to remember it. I never want to forget it… I never want to forget. And then I realized… like I was shot… like I was shot with a diamond… a diamond bullet right through my forehead. And

  36. I thought, my God… the genius of that! The genius! The will to do that! Perfect, genuine, complete, crystalline, pure. And then I realized they were stronger than we, because they could stand that these were not monsters, these were men… trained cadres. These men who fought with their hearts, who had families, who had children, who were filled with love… but they had the strength… the strength… to do that. If I had ten divisions of those men, our troubles here would be over very quickly. You have to have men who are moral… and at the same time who are able to utilize their primordial instincts to kill without feeling… without passion… without judgment… without judgment! Because it’s judgment that defeats us.

    1. Glad to see you made it out of that B-52 raid and landed on your feet writing for The Independent.

  37. Cool. So you don’t have a problem with people dying for the greater good, as long as the greater good is how you define it (“liberty”). Why not extend the same courtesy to Che?

    Actually, I don’t think you understand the terms here.

    If we say that we are “acting for the greater good”, we are acknowledging that we are committing some small injustice, or treating some individual or some small number of persons unjustly, but that this is outweighed by the future benefit all will receive.

    That’s not what libertarians are doing when they advocate not making forced transfer payments to the poor.

    In that case, we explicitly believe that we are acting justly in both the small and the greater matter. It is (to us) just as an individual matter to not make a forced transfer payment to the poor.

  38. (contd)

    “Liberty” here is not a “greater good”, which has value above and beyond the individual good. It’s merely the state of affairs we achieve when we treat each individual justly.

    You may dispute with us whether we know what individual justice is; but we’re pretty indisputably seeking it, and not something “greater”.

    1. Yes. And that is why liberals and libertarians talk past each other. Liberals see everything in results. They see the failure to act and say “but you are allowing (insert harm here) to persist”. What liberals do not understand and probably will never understand is that Libertarians are not judging government action in terms of doing to most good or preventing the most harm.

      Implicit in Libertarianism is the understanding that you don’t know what the greater good is. And therefore cannot act based upon it. So government action and policy has to be guided by something else. And that something else is liberty. And that concept, that liberty is an end not a means, is beyond the grasp of most liberals and most people in general.

      1. “government action and policy has to be guided by something else. And that something else is liberty.”

        Something must be done. This is something. Therefore, we must do this.

        1. That makes no sense. Saying that “liberty” should guide policy is not saying that something must be done. It is only acknowledging the fact that like it or not government does exist. And if it does, something must drive its actions.

        2. That’s an odd snark, because the Politician’s Syllogism is the fallback position of every know-nothing Statist on the planet.

    2. “It is (to us) just as an individual matter to not make a forced transfer payment to the poor.” – Your calculus of justice excludes any consideration of the well-being of the poor. Of course if we only consider the welfare of the rich, libertarianism is a near-perfect philosophy. However, we can’t do that.

      1. Your calculus assumes

        1. that forced transfer is the only way to help the poor.

        2. Forced transfer actually helps the poor at all.

        The first proposition is obviously untrue. And the second has been proven untrue by fifty years and several trillion dollars of the welfare state.

      2. As I said, you can certainly argue with us about what constitutes treating each individual justly.

        But we’re definitely not in the position of saying, “Well, we might not have been just to each individual Kulak when we liquidated the Kulaks as a class, but we had to do that for the Revolution of the People to move forward.” Which is the variety of moral calculus McManus is endorsing.

        We’re saying, “It is just to allow Person A to retain the property he has labored for, and it would be unjust to take that property and hand it to Person B.”

        1. Throughout history, the attachment of even the humblest people to their freedom, above all their freedom to earn their livings how and where they please, has come as an unpleasant shock to condescending ideologues. We need not suppose that the exercise of freedom is bought at the expense of any deserving class or interest – only of those with the itch to tyrannize.

          Nov. 14, 1986 – from a column in The Spectator, quoted in The Quotable Paul Johnson, Marlin, Rabatin, Higgins, eds.

      3. Your calculus of justice excludes any consideration of the well-being of the poor.

        No calculus involved. The algebra of justice says theft is wrong.

      4. The person who is in the weakest moral position to attack the state is he who has largely ignored its potential for evil while strongly backing its expansion on humanitarian grounds and is only stirred to protest when he falls foul of it through his own negligence.

      5. Early socialists] were uplifted by tremendous hopes of ideal societies just round the corner. They delighted in thoughts of communes and Owenite towns; and later of model co-operatives, kibbutzim, public ownership, national investment boards, ideal council housing, ‘waving cornfields and ballet in the evening’. All that has now vanished, with the discrediting alike of Soviet and Chinese communism on the one hand and of social democratic nationalisation on the other. No one now believes in these utopias, and communal experiments are at best a minority taste. So all that remains is the discontent with existing society, which has filled the vacuum left by the collapse of idealistic solutions and now dominates the minds of the middle-class Left almost to the exclusion of anything else. They have developed a positive taste for misery-mongering and expect the rest of us to share it.

      6. Re: I.E.,

        Your calculus of justice excludes any consideration of the well-being of the poor.

        Are you saying the poor are incapable of takling care of themselves, as if they were mentally disabled?

        Of course if we only consider the welfare of the rich, libertarianism is a near-perfect philosophy.

        The problem is not with the philosophy but with your definition of libertarianism. You’re thinking that libertarianism is a collectivist philosophy when in fact it is the contrary. Obviously, you cannot attack it if you do not miscontrue it as a collectivist philosophy (i.e. welfare for the rich) to make a moral comparison against your own prefered collectivist philosophy (i.e. socialism.) This is called creating a strawman in rhetoric, that is, a logical fallacy.

      7. Your calculus of justice excludes any consideration of the well-being of the poor.

        Look, just because you can’t stand the fact your neighbor has a nicer teevee than you is no reason to project your FUCK YOU DAD philosophy all over society.

  39. Che was… murderous. But was he a murderer? No.

    Testify, brother!

    In the same sense, I get rape-y sometimes, but I’m not a rapist.

    1. It wasn’t murder murder.

  40. You know how to tell if a movement is evil?

    If their core principles dont include not murdering.

    1. Yeah, that’s a pretty good metric. I can only think of one general ideology whose core principles include not murdering people. Something about non-aggression or something or other. But, of course, those people are crackpots.

      1. And we may argue over exactly what qualifies as aggression under the NAP, but the core principle is still there.

      2. Not to mention they obviously hate the poor.

  41. People who want us to act in the interest of the Greater (Communitarian) Good are the same people who cannot grok the simple truth that the “Market” is the cumulative aggregation of billions of independent individual decisions, and not some ethereal Deus ex Machina omnipotence.

    “You know; morons.”

    1. the simple truth that the “Market” is the cumulative aggregation of billions of independent individual decisions

      And that is what gave us the world we have today – including the parts we bitch about. We collectively have exactly what we collectively decided what we wanted. Pretty much anybody who bitches about the way things are is saying, in effect, “my desires should outweigh the desires of others”.

      That’s why we need to limit the power of one individual over another – when we collectively decide what to have for lunch, we always wind up getting an egg salad pizza with chocolate sauce and ketchup served on a hamburger bun.

  42. Good Jesus Christ in Heaven!!! I had to rub my eyes and read that twice. There’s something “admirable” about ruthless sociopaths who butcher innocents so long as they are uncompromising in their devotion to their ideology??? McManus is a fucking ass wipe.

  43. Why not extend the same courtesy to Che?

    The Bolivians handled it.

    1. Threadwinner.

  44. Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice!

    1. You misspelled Cicero.

      Moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue!

  45. To give you a concrete example of “greater good” analysis vs. “individual justice” analysis, and why I think the latter lines up with the libertarian approach, let’s consider occupational licensing.

    A liberal, using “greater good” analysis, might look at the public health statistics in a given city and say, “Wow, lots of people in this city are getting food poisoning. We should pass a law requiring all food vendors to be licensed. Henceforth, if you sell a sandwich in our city without a license, we will put you in jail for 30 days. This will professionalize the food vendor trade and lead to fewer people getting food poisoning.”

    1. Now, I as a libertarian look at that proposed scheme, and I say to myself, “This means that if I sell someone a perfectly good sandwich, one that won’t give them food poisoning, I can go to jail for 30 days.” To me, the act of selling someone a sandwich that doesn’t make them sick is not a harmful act, and so criminalizing my action in doing so is treating me unjustly. Regardless of what greater good you are trying to achieve.

      Whatever you think of the underlying policy or my position on it, can’t you at least see that I’m using an entirely different approach than a “greater good” approach?

      1. But the harm fluffy, the harm. What about the person who buys that bad sandwich or has the faulty wiring installed?

        You will never get liberals past that thought no matter how hard you try.

      2. You mean you would allow someone to do something without taking orders or asking permission?

        How do you know they’ll get it right if authority is not involved?

  46. Almost all intellectuals profess to love humanity and to be working for its improvement and happiness. But it is the idea of humanity they love, rather than the actual individuals who compose it. They love humanity in general rather than men and women in particular. Loving humanity as an idea, they can then produce solutions as ideas. Therein lies the danger, for when people conflict with the solution as idea, they are first ignored or dismissed as unrepresentative; and then, when they continue to obstruct the idea, they are treated with growing hostility and categorized as enemies of humanity in general.

    1. “Humanity” means “everyone but you” when dealing with intellectuals.

      Just as “the public” means “everyone but you” when dealing with a public servant.

      1. “Humanity” means “everyone but you” when dealing with intellectuals.

        ‘Intellectual’ doesn’t have to denote a pretentious dickwad.

        a common definition of the adjective is:

        rational rather than emotional

        and all the noun means is

        an intellectual person

        Which means that an ‘intellectual’ is someone who is rational rather than emotional.

        Which I thought would be kosher here at reason.com

  47. Hard to believe this was published on Slate (in 2004).

  48. This suggests that libertarianism is either poor at generating those two, or societies with plenty of those two don’t like libertarianism.

    Or productive people in very wealthy societies live well enough that they do not turn to violent revolution when the parasitism foisted upon them stays at tolerable levels.

    I think game theory would tell you that you would stand to lose more by demanding perfect freedom and justice in, say, Sweden, than you reasonably stand to gain by making the demand and backing it up.

    This is true anywhere. Let’s say we stipulate that the drug laws in the US are unjust. If I oppose those unjust laws by violence, the odds are that even if my revolution is successful, I will lose more than I gain in the end. Being free to smoke pot in a country I just devastated by nuclear-armed revolution is not a “win”.

    1. And by its very nature freedom does not appeal to elites. Who suffers most in a unfree society? The poor and the politically weak.

      One of the great falsities ever foisted on the world is the idea that elites want freedom to oppress the poor. It is quite the opposite. Elites don’t suffer when freedom suffers. They can always use their influence to make sure the rules don’t apply to them. It is freedom that threatens elites because it constantly upsets the status quo and prevents elites from using their power to maintain it.

  49. if you sell a sandwich in our city without a license, we will put you in jail for 30 days.

    Exactly. Actual outcomes are irrelevant. It makes no difference if the sammich is poisonous or not.

    What happens when a licensed vendor sells a poisonous sammich?

    Oh, wait- that’s unpossible, right?

  50. Yes, Pinochet was ruthless and fanatical and sometimes murderous. But was he a murderer? No, not in the sense of a serial killer or gangland assassin. He was one of those rare people who are prepared to push past ethical constraints, even their own conscience, and bring about a greater good by doing terrible things.

    1. Maybe we should start making Pinochet shirts. Or maybe Hollywood can make hagiographies of his life.

      Until that happens, I don’t think you can compare the Right’s treatment of Pinochet with the Left’s reverence for Guevara.

      1. The left wing is explicitly stupid in regard.

        It is their opponents who have all the guns and know how to use them…hell the US army is filled with small town conservative boys.

        Aside from the fact that it is a bad idea regardless of political ideology the left seem particularly vulnerable within the confines of the US proper. If they unhinge the link between greater good and not killing your opponents they will be the first to be put up against the wall.

      2. The difference in their embrace is the most noteworthy.

        The right tends to hold their nose and accept people like Pinochet, while the left has what can be best describes as a slobbering love affair with their ideological equivalents.

  51. I have a question for Darragh Mcmanus. How does one go about getting their brain replaced with a dog turd?

    1. And the question answers itself…I googled the guy and see he writes for the gaurdian.

  52. The Che love is just trolling by the left, right? Kind of like how I’ll pretend to like Ann Coulter around some liberal friends?

    1. It depends. Not all lefty really love Che just like not all righties love Coulter. But a small minority do. And the rest tolerate it.

  53. Drunken Irish journalists – how do they work? Wonder if he has the same admiration for the works of the IRA?

  54. Whether morally justifiable or not, there is something admirable in that — pure principle in a world of shabby compromise. Maybe this is why Che remains such an icon, both in image and idea.

    Soooo…

    Timothy Mcveigh?

    Or is it only left wing murderous thugs who work for the “greater good”?

    1. I didn’t know I had so many fans abroad.

    2. Winners write the history books.

      1. Che died miserably in Africa.

        How is he a winner more then Mcveigh?

        1. Who writes the history books?

          1. The books they make you buy in college would be written by Marxists.

            The books that people actually read…those would be written by every political persuasion imaginable.

        2. Che died miserably in Bolivia not Africa. He went to Bolivia and tried to spread the Revolution only to find out the Indians there didn’t have much use for a White Elite Argentine.

  55. But was he a murderer? No, not in the sense of a serial killer or gangland assassin. He was one of those rare people who are prepared to push past ethical constraints, even their own conscience, and bring about a greater good by doing terrible things.

    Che, or Osama Bin Laden? You decide.

  56. MAY CHE AND MCMANUS MEET SOON.FORNICATE BOTH.

  57. Darragh McManus = moral degenerate

  58. Alternate title:
    Is There “something admirable” About Murdering Unborn Babies for the “greater good”?

  59. About the only thing missing from McManus’s article was that quote from Farrakhan that, yes, Hitler was great, although he was evil to the Jews, but he was a great German.

  60. I’m confused. Do lefties like W now for having pushed past “ethical constraints” for a “greater good”?

  61. Was Che the John Brown of Latin America?

    Iconography of John Brown feels like it is acceptable to me.

    Although, slavery wasn’t what Che was killing people for, was it?

  62. The writer is from Ireland and no doubt a life-long supporter of the IRA. Thus, he is part of the world-wide brotherhood of terrorist swine, and of course, would be a big Che lover.

  63. I always thought that Ernie Lynch, or “Che” as we are calling him here, must have felt some deep inner self-loathing for being a rich, white kid in a time when being a poor, brown peasant was the in thing. He really seemed to have gone off the deep end in trying to compensate for being born bourgeoisie.

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