Disasters and the Enemies of Freedom - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
Disasters and the Enemies of Freedom

So, as usual, I spent a large part of the day in my office reading and writing and then lying in bed thinking with my poor old brain.

Often I make lists of who were the most beautiful dogs I ever owned or the men and women of the highest character, but tonight, after reading about the foreign and domestic policy catastrophes of the last several decades, I tried a different approach:

I asked the search engine in my brain this question: What have been the greatest triumphs of mankind in the last century and what have been the worst calamities? Such were my grim searches in the recesses of my mind.

In America, surely by far the greatest triumph has been the liberation of the colored men and women of this country. An entire ethnic group that had dwelt in cruel oppression in a large part of the nation has been set free. A people in bondage within a free country, the African-American people, have been given every single right that white people have under law and then some.

This is a triumph of civil rights and human dignity unlike anything that any other nation has ever witnessed. Tens of millions of people who could not vote or travel freely or own property or rent freely have been given rights under the Constitution. Millions of students who could not attend the schools nearest to them have been given that right.

Again, this has been a gigantic triumph.

There has also been a revolution in the rights of women such as has never been seen in the history of the human race. Women, in some ways subjugated, are now at least the equals of men under law and have a breathtaking amount of power in government and business and law. This would have been unimaginable even a few decades ago.

So, this is another triumph.

There have also been great strides in the spread of mass prosperity since the end of World War II. Real income per capita has more than tripled since sixty years ago. That is a very large increase by almost any historical measurement.

And we have the greatest of all inventions now in widespread use — air conditioning.

There are have also been giant strides in medicine, adding years to men’s and women’s lives in the period since 1945 so that average life expectancy has risen by roughly one decade.

We have made immense strides towards defeating that worst of all curses, loneliness, through great progress in transportation and communication, including the Internet, although I personally would not exchange the miracle of air conditioning for the Internet.

So, progress has been made and this is only a small part of it.

What have been the great disasters of mankind?

Mass murder has been by far the worst. The incredible slaughter of World War I, where sometimes 50,000 or more lives would be lost in one brief battle. This was a blood letting on a scale that left the whole world gasping.

Then, there was the horror show of the Bolshevik Communist Revolution in Russia in the period from 1917 to the end of World War II. The exact number of innocent civilians murdered by Lenin and Stalin may be about 10 million or by other accounts, if one includes forced famines and deaths from deportations, might have been as many as 40 million.

This was done in the name of creating a perfect, classless society in which all social problems would have been solved. This was imposed by the government in the name of justice and equality.

This was, until the postwar era, the worst killings in history.

Then there were the mass racial killings of the Nazi era, in which six million of my fellow Jews were killed by Hitler and his henchmen. This was all done in the name of protecting the Aryan “super race” from the parasitic attacks of the lesser, subhuman breeds, especially Jews. It was done in the name of creating a perfect society, in which people with perfect genetic makeup would slaughter the lesser breeds — as the Nazis called them, to make more room for the ubermenschen.

These killings included the mass murders and enforced starvation many Russians, Poles, Ukrainians and even Dutch, whom you might have thought would be considered the right genetic mix, but apparently were not.

That horror, those atrocities, again, were state run, for the purpose of creating a perfect society and literally for saving mankind from its parasites.

But all of those paled before the mass murders of Mao Tse-tung and his Chinese Communists. They killed something on the order of 45 million in the late 1950s and early 1960s alone during the so-called “Great Leap Forward.” This was on top of tens of millions killed when the Chinese triumphed over the Nationalists and when they conquered Tibet. And then a further perhaps 20 million were killed in the name of purifying the revolutionary spirit of Mao during the so-called Cultural Revolution.

The killings of the Communist Chinese were on an entirely different, larger, and more monstrous scale than any other killings in history.

Again, they were state ordered and run with the stated goal of perfecting society and protecting China and mankind itself from impurities.

These were perhaps sixty times more vicious and bloody than even the Pol Pot genocide in Cambodia, in which roughly one in three Cambodians perished. Many were parents whose children were forced at gunpoint to beat them to death.

And, again, this was in the name of a state-sponsored effort to make society pure and perfect and totally equal.

Now, here is something to pay attention to:

None of these completely evil campaigns against individual humans and against societies was done for profit.

None was done by businesses at their own behest in order to make a profit — although to be sure there were German companies vying for contracts to make gas chambers and poison gas to kill the Jews of Europe.

All of the major campaigns against human life were done by governments and they were all done in the name of building a perfect society, of advancing mankind, of creating something beautiful like a blond, blue-eyed super race.

All were done in the name of a goal so immense, so transcendent, that — of course — individual human rights had to be tossed overboard. They could not possibly be important compared with making an Aryan master race or a workers’ and peasants’ nirvana.

This is what terrifies me about Barack Obama and his friends. They campaign endlessly against corporations. But corporations are not historically a problem for human life. Historically, agglomerations of people and machinery and money, which is what corporations are, have been good for mankind. Barack Obama and his friends campaign against Wall Street and the banks. To be sure, Wall Street and banks make terrible mistakes and they cost people money and jobs.

But Wall Street and Exxon-Mobil do not put families out onto a frozen Siberian steppe to freeze to death. They do not line up naked women to be gassed. They do not throw people into pools of excrement to die of drowning.

The top brass of Goldman Sachs and of Citi and of Chase make a ton of money and, like everyone else, I am envious. But they do not kill people or capture prisoners and leave them to starve to death. They make money. That is, as more than one observer has noted, the most harmless activity on earth in most cases.

As to mass murder and genocide, only governments do that — and they do it in the name of great egalitarian and uplifting goals. Now, of course we know they do it also in the service of severe mental illness and paranoid egomania. But they say they do it and they justify doing it in the name of great goals, goals so immense that no sane person could question the necessity of serving those goals — especially when questioning them means death by the firing squad.

“Power grows from the barrel of a gun,” said Mao Tse-tung. Mass murder grows from grand schemes to perfect. 

Back to Barack Obama. As far as I can tell, he has two immense stated goals: saving the earth from “global warming” or “climate change” or whatever they are calling it this week. And greatly reducing or eliminating “income inequality,” the measure of difference in income and wealth among different strata in the society.

The first one is the goal of saving mankind. If it really is true that the activities of individual men and women are killing the earth rapidly and surely, then anything is justified to stop those acts. Or so it would seem. But there are plenty of scientists (and a scientist is like a judge — he decides on the basis of his prejudices and then makes up data and reasons ) who say that climate change is a catastrophic problem and plenty who say it isn’t.

So far, the measured climate change in the past century has been extremely small, to put it mildly. The “hockey stick” effect predicted by scientists who make money and fame predicting it has not yet happened.

If there is major climate change, it isn’t clear that it’s caused by man. If it is caused at least in part by man, it’s not clear that it’s caused primarily by men and women in the United States of America. If it is to be rectified, the most effective means to do so may be self-enforcing, as by higher prices for certain fuels, or they may require government intervention.

The “science” of all of this is vague, at best. Just a few years ago, scientists or some scientists said that the use of biofuels would help the ‘climate change’ situation greatly. Now, it has been found that changing what is planted in the earth can cut down on the amount of oxygen in the air. It is also being found that burning biofuels creates far more pollution than burning gasoline and especially far more than burning natural gas.

I claim no expertise in biofuels. I merely point out this truth: The story on this particular science, like the story on every kind of science, is still a work in progress.

With this much uncertainty, do we really want to create a climate change where the dominant climatic condition is fear? Do we want to create an America where we are so afraid of warmer weather that we sacrifice individual liberties to avoid it?

Saving the earth can easily justify genocide. That is a neighborhood we never want to be near.

Then there is income inequality as an issue. Again, we all want the poor to be cared for. We want no homeless or starving. But people are unequal in strength, intelligence, discipline, and creativity. They are unequal from birth and they make themselves more or less unequal by what they put in or fail to put into their life story.

Inequality is the human condition. It, like climate, is nature itself. In every society, there will be unequal outcomes based on a multitude of factors, including birth. It is only decent that those born with so little or those who have been handicapped by circumstances such that they have little are cared for and have a decent minimum wage.

But to try to take away from those with superior skills and discipline — or even superior luck — to try to make a genuinely level society is to undertake a social molding on the scale of Bolshevist Russia or Mao’s China or Pol Pot’s Cambodia. To try to remake a society to make it different from how nature encouraged it to evolve is to require mass murder, torture, deportations, and famine.

This is what real serious measures towards income equality would mean. It would also mean an economy in permanent depression and a people in poverty. That has been the result of all compulsory leveling in societies in the past century and there is no reason to suspect that it would be any different under Barack Obama.

Now, please don’t misunderstand. I don’t think Obama is Pol Pot or Lenin. But I think he is using scare tactics to whip up envy and class hatred in his wars against the haves and his struggles against the working out of human nature.

He has unleashed genuine fear through his talk about climate change.

Fear and envy have won elections for Mr. Obama, but they are the enemies of freedom everywhere they are tried.

It is up to those of us who consider individual liberty and the dignity of each human to be the ultimate goal to fight it out with him and his kind for all eternity. Freedom and basic human dignity for all are frail new hybrids. They are new on the human scene within the past 250 years, not before that. Can we keep them? Not if they are pitted against “saving the earth” and “equality for all.”

Not unless we are committed to fight.


One more short note. As I write this, it is April 21, 2014. My mother died seventeen years ago today. She was a harsh taskmistress and a challenging mother, to put it mildly. But she taught my sister and me gratitude for what we have in this country. She was never afraid to stand up to the Marxists and Stalinists in the neighborhoods where we grew up outside D.C. and speak up for freedom instead of The Party Line. She admired George Wallace’s attacks on the “pointy-headed intellectuals” even though we Steins surely were. ( She disliked his racism. She hated any kind of oppression because of race.) She loved Richard Nixon and Peter Flanigan and the Reynolds brothers and Herbert Stein. She was not easily hoodwinked. She and my Pop went on an early trip to China with Nixon White House people. She wrote to me that the women spokespersons for Mao reminded her of the leftist parents at the Montgomery County PTA meetings. Like me, she could tell a person’s character and politics by one glance at her face. She wrote to me every single day that I was at Columbia. Every single day. I miss her every single day and say the Mourner’s Kaddish for her and my Pop every single night.

You who still have your mothers, be grateful.

Ben Stein
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Ben Stein is a writer, actor, economist, and lawyer living in Beverly Hills and Malibu. He writes “Ben Stein’s Diary” for every issue of The American Spectator.
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