Learning from the Insane


"Great men are almost always bad men," wrote Lord Acton. From their badness you can learn much about the flaws inherent in the mass of people. Disease is as instructive as health, since it tells people to flee the former and seek the latter. Unfortunately, when it comes to politics, many people can't tell the difference between the two, and in fact see disease as health, unholiness as holiness, war as peace, ignorance as strength.

One of those great but bad men was Adolf Hitler, who has been described as "half genius, half insane." He clearly had a profound understanding of human nature, and the cesspool known as politics, in order to get to the position he did. Knowing what he said, and how he achieved what he did, warns people to be on guard against other amoral, power-crazed individuals like him.

One thing Hitler said was, "To be a leader means to be able to move masses." This is not a good thing, contrary to those who think it might be. There is nothing good about it at all. It means one charismatic man, or a very small group of calculating but reasonable-sounding people, can move millions of gullible people. ("The worst crimes were dared by a few, willed by more and tolerated by all." ~ Tacitus)

Such naivet'' can lead to catastrophes such as the battle of Stalingrad , in which one million to two million people died. (How in the world can one million dead people be replaced?) How could essentially two men -- Stalin and Hitler -- con so many people into dying for them? They had to have been charismatic and charming on the surface, but underneath they were something out of an Aesop's fable about ruthless wolves and dim-witted sheep.

Thomas Sowell, understanding all of this, wrote, "Most wars are started by well-fed people with time on their hands to dream up half-baked ideologies or grandiose ambitions, and to nurse real or imagined grievances."

Americans are just as gullible and prone to being conned as everyone else in the world. You'd think a country founded on liberty and distrust of the government wouldn't make a cult out of such statists as Lincoln or FDR or Kennedy, or currently, Bush and his flight-suit, but it has happened. Much of the creation of these cults has been done by people who should know better -- historians and the clergy, both of whom should know how foolish the mass of people are, and how one bad man can move them, usually right over a cliff.

"Only force rules. Force is the first law" is something else Hitler wrote. There are only two ways to get what you want: honestly (the Economic Means of the free market) or dishonestly (the Political Means of force and fraud). Hitler is talking strictly about the Political Means -- lying and murder and theft and war. Only a consummate and completely amoral politician could make such a statement, and only somebody completely deluded could think that any society that is based on force and fraud can survive.

Richard Maybury, author of such books as Whatever Happened to Justice? and Whatever Happened to Penny Candy? points out that no society can survive unless it follow what he calls the Two Laws: "Do all that you have agreed to do" and "Do not encroach on other persons or their property." In a nutshell, do not engage in fraud or force. Do not engage in the Political Means.

While most people understand individuals cannot engage in force and fraud, they believe governments can engage in the Political Means with no untoward effects. They lack even the acumen of the pirate in St. Augustine 's City of God : "Because I do it with one small ship, I am called a terrorist. You do it with a whole fleet and are called an emperor."

The end result of the Political Means, when practiced by governments, is war, and as Ludwig von Mises noticed, "Economically considered, war and revolution are always bad business." That's an understatement. A bit more vivid is something else he wrote: "The worst evils which mankind has ever had to endure were inflicted by bad governments."

Everything that Hitler wrote showed an understanding of the gullibility and imperfection of human nature, of peoples' desire to belong to a group (the basis of fascism), their equally strong desire to find a (supposedly hostile and insane) enemy on which to blame their problems, and the belief in force and fraud as the final arbiters: "The victor will never be asked if he told the truth"; "How fortunate for leaders that men do not think"; "Always before God and the world, the stronger has the right to carry through what he wills."

In a sense, these great but bad men are practitioners of Black Magic, who cast spells, through the use of words, to charm the susceptible masses into believing Bad is Good -- into believing it is acceptable, indeed necessary, for governments to eternally engage in force and fraud, otherwise evil will overwhelm them. Their evil, as evil almost always does, especially politically, disguises itself as good; Black Magic masquerades as White Magic. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn understood this when he wrote, "Violence can only be concealed by a lie, and the lie can only be maintained by violence."

The neocon cancers currently infesting the US administration have apparently taken a few pages out of Hitler's writings, and are trying to put them into effect. They are a vanishing small group of amoral and power-mad people, using words as charms, attempting to con the mass of unthinking people into believing they have an insane, evil, and implacable enemy who is out to utterly destroy them. The torrent of words they pour out boils down to basically one thing: might makes right.

"Might makes right." No society has ever survived believing that. It may be the year 2005 AD, but with their belief in magic and their susceptibility to being ensorcelled by charms and spells, people might as well be stuck in 2005 BC.

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Bob Wallace's picture
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