Sunday, April 7, 2013

Never Again! The Holocaust Could Not Have Happened in A Localist Nation

Monday April the 8th is Holocaust Remembrance Day.  The slogan "Never Again!" is a reminder to Jewish people, and all people, that Government Genocide is a real possibility.   It can happen, and it has happened.  In fact the holocaust was not the only occurrence of government sponsored genocide, even in the modern world.    Governments have decided to eradicate whole populations of disfavored ethnic minorities on various occasions.     The Turks did much the same thing to the Armenians, in fact Hitler used that Genocide as evidence to his reluctant toadies that they could get away with wiping out the Jews.

Though we get caught up in Normalcy Bias, we need to be able to escape such bias and remember what big government is capable of.  History shows us that big, centrally controlled governments are a threat to whole segments of their population.   By saying "Never Again" we remind ourselves that it happened before, and that we need to take measures to prevent it from happening again.

It is my contention that the Holocaust could not have happened in a Localist nation.   For a government to carry out a genocide, several factors must be present.   The other way of looking at it is to say that it would be almost impossible for a government to perpetrate a genocide if that government has certain restraints in place.

After all, perpetrating the Holocaust was no easy matter.   There were just under 70 million people in the German nation prior to the start of World War II, and of course they lost millions during that war.   Of that 70 million, many were Jews or of other disfavored groups who were also interned.   Six million Jews were killed, but there were many more who were not killed.   They hid, they fled, or they survived the camps until the end of the war.  What I am getting at here is that there were maybe 60 million Germans who had to round up and eradicate six million Jews, and persecute millions more.   That took a substantial amount of their manpower and resources at a time when they had a lot of other issues.   Maybe you can pick-on, persecute, and send to the ovens a population one-tenth of your own, but its not easy.  It takes a lot of state intervention.

So what sort of government makes genocide easy, and what sort makes it hard?   Before I answer that, let me hasten to say that there is no substitute for personal virtue in a population.   There is no "system" of government which will prevent a population of wicked people from turning on one another, casting aside any Rule of Law they might have, and ending in bloodshed.  At its best, it can limit the harm which come from private threats to individual rights while refraining from becoming a Public Threat itself.   Government can only help people within the limits of their own virtue, or hurt them to those limits.

That said, Genocide is much easier to pull off under some forms of government than others. A dictatorship makes it easy, and a republic makes it hard.   And when I say "dictatorship" I include a pure democracy, because "the will of the people" can become mob rule.   The people become the dictator.  On the other hand a Republic is a society organized around an agreement that government power will be limited, that certain things will not be subject to majority vote.   These normally take the form of recognized rights, which are claims against the government/the majority by individuals.   A list of rights, such as our Bill of Rights, were an agreed-on list of things that the central government was prohibited from imposing on citizens, even if the majority wished it.

The list does not have to be inclusive.   For example, the last amendment to the Bill of Rights basically said that "we can also have rights not on this list, just because we can't think of anything else right now does not mean that we can't think of some more we will want to claim in the future, and we reserve the power to do so."       Libertarian thought, of the minarchist variety at least, takes the idea of a Republic to its limit.  Instead of providing a list, even an open-ended list, of recognized individual rights wherein government may not legislate, it produces a short list of areas where government is permitted to legislate, declaring all the rest of life off-limits to government intervention.

Regardless of where you fall on the spectrum of the concept, it is a Republican form of government which is most likely to protect individual rights from government abuse.   Genocide is hard for a government to pull off when people have the right to life, and the right to keep and bear arms.  And make no mistake about it, the right to life, or any other right, is of no consequence unless there are deterrents to the government for violating those rights.  The right to bear arms is an essential protection for both public and private threats.  A government may ignore people's right to life and attempt a genocide anyway, but though they may wish to violate that right, doing so to an armed population would be problematic.    If they faced armed resistance every time they tried to round up a family to ship to the camps, the government might have trouble filling their job-openings for rounder-uppers!

So a Republic which recognizes the right to keep and bear arms is less likely to perpetrate a genocide than a government which lacks these features.  But in this day and age, when the firepower possessed by the military is so much greater than that held by civilians, even that deterrent may not be enough.  What are some other features of a government that would make it hard for it to carry through with such heinous acts?

A decentralized government will have a much harder time committing genocide than a centralized one, especially if this de-centralization includes military ground forces, as it would under localism.   Even if a central government wanted to go on a rampage against its own citizens, it would have no ground forces of its own with which to do so.    Not all states would join in such a crime, and those who did not would be safe-havens, with their own means of defending themselves, from such an encroachment.

A central government without its own money could not hide the costs of their efforts through debt or inflation.   The vast resources that would be required for such an undertaking would not be available, again unless obtained through the states, and again one could count on some states to push against the central government to defend the rights of the would-be victims.  

The central government in a localist nation lacks its own army to bully the states, and lacks its own money with which to hook into dependency and blackmail the states into getting with their program.    Nor would there be a centralized political party running the states who could be leveraged into going along with such a plan.  Political, military, and financial power would all be too de-centralized for any such campaign to be organized.

Governments that are centralized and hierarchical are prone to becoming Public Threats to the liberty of their citizens, the most grotesque example of which is genocide.   Localism organizes a nation not as a hierarchy, but as a network of cooperating states.   They cooperate for economic and military benefits, but they compete with each other for citizens, unleashing the free market to this area of human life.

Never again!  Never again should national governments, whose just function is to safeguard the rights of their citizens, be used to round up and violate the rights of some dis-favored group within their borders.   The closer a nation is to the Localist ideas, the easier it will be to make sure that genocide never happens again.

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