Who Is Evil?

The word ‘evil’ is thrown around rather carelessly. George Bush is regularly called ‘evil’, as is Hitler of course. There seems to be little or no distinction between those who perform violence and those who counsel violence. This muddies the moral problem of good and evil – and obscures those who are actually evil.

So – what is evil? It’s simpler than you might think. Let’s look at a couple of examples.

If I write up a list of people I wanted killed, and tuck that list away in a filing cabinet in the basement of my house, am I evil? Of course not. What harm have I done?

If I write up that same list, and give it to a friend of mine, who goes out and kills those people – without instigation from me – then am I evil? Of course not. I neither condoned nor encouraged my friend’s actions.

Let us say that I stand in my backyard and say that I am declaring war against Antigua. Am I evil? Of course not. What effect do my words have? None. I can point at people over my fence and say: “I conscript you and you and you to fight my war against Antigua!” Now I have declared war and I have a draft. Am I evil? Of course not. No one is likely to pay me the slightest attention.

So – words and letters and intentions and speeches are never evil, since they can just be ignored. We don’t have to dig much deeper to get to the grist of the matter.

Let’s look at the war in Iraq. Who is evil? George Bush? Good Lord no! What has he done? Made some speeches, signed some papers. So what? You and I can do that too. Morality is not circumstantial to the degree that two men can both do exactly the same thing, and only one be called evil. If it is, then there can be no such thing as principles.

If Congress evil? No – being windy, dull and overly white is not evil.

What about the recruiters who go out and get young men and women to sign up? Well, have you ever been to a job fair? Lots of companies go out and canvas for people to come and work in dangerous positions – logging companies, for example. What’s the innate harm in that?

The soldiers are paid through tax money. Are the tax collectors evil then? If I don’t pay my taxes, they send me letters. So what? I can just throw their correspondence out. If I send a letter to someone telling them that they owe me half of their income from last year, they’ll probably just laugh and crumple it up.

The difference between what you and I do and what George Bush does is really quite simple: George Bush has enforcers. If I declare war on Antigua, who cares? If George Bush declares war on Antigua, he has men in uniform who will go around and shoot anyone who refuses to pay the money he needs to wage his war. These men are not acting in self-defense. They are the enforcers, who will take aim at whoever their leader points at. Don’t blame the leader. Pointing is not evil. Blame the enforcers, who are willing to murder on command.

These vicious parasites – the police and military – are usually portrayed as noble heroes. Perhaps some of them are. But the question to ask these men and women is: what law would you refuse to enforce – and why?

I bet not one in a thousand would be able to answer that question. A few would raise issues about torture – but that’s irrelevant. The State enjoys its power and privilege because we are all afraid of being imprisoned, not of torture.

If you want a clear view of the police, talk to minorities. Talk to illegal immigrants. Talk to drug users. They are under constant threat from the enforcers. They are on the front lines of social terror. They know what makes the cop tick. They know what he’s in it for. Brute power and humiliation.

Another interesting question to ask a cop is: what level of taxation would you refuse to enforce? So far the police force has had no problem enforcing tax rates rising from 10-60%. Would they enforce a tax rate of 70%? 80%? What about pure communism, or 100%? So – what, really is the difference between our police force or the SS or the NKVD? It’s only in degree. Not kind. There are almost no laws that a policeman would refuse to enforce. They are not heroes. They don’t have any real moral opinions about the violence they inflict on society. They are paid thugs, well-paid to wave their guns at the helpless.

So – George Bush is not evil. The war in Iraq involves only two groups of evil people. The first is the soldiers, who will go and gun down Iraqi citizens just because they’re told to. The second is the cops, who will shoot anyone who refuses to pay for the war. Take away those two ingredients, and George Bush is just a guy at a desk – a rather sad little rich boy making rather mediocre speeches and declaring ‘war’ in the privacy of his own imagination.

Stefan Molynuex, is the host of Freedomain Radio (www.freedomainradio.com), the most popular philosophy site on the Internet, and a "Top 10" Finalist in the 2007-2010 Podcast Awards.

Blog Categories

July 2024

Recent Comments

    Join Stefan Molyneux's Freedomain Community on Locals

    Get my new series on the Truth About the French Revolution, access to the audiobook for my new book ‘Peaceful Parenting,’ StefBOT-AI, private livestreams, premium call in shows, the 22 Part History of Philosophers series and more!
    Become A Member on LOCALS
    Already have a Locals account? Log in
    Let me view this content first 

    Support Stefan Molyneux on freedomain.com

    Already have a freedomain.com account? Log in