Mankind's Most Brutal Institution

Generically, what's the most brutal institution on the face of the earth? If you said governments, go to the head of the class. If anyone is in doubt of that fact, they only need to read Death by Government recently published by Professor R.J. Rummel of the University of Hawaii's political science department.

This century, so far, international wars and civil wars have taken about 39 million lives. But that's small in comparison to deliberate government murder. Since the beginning of this century, and keep in mind there are four years left, governments have murdered 170 million people, mostly their own citizens.

The top government murderers are those most adored by America's campus leftists and their counterparts in the media and the political arena: the former Soviet Union and the People's Republic of China. Between 1917 and 1987, the Soviet Union, where even our President traveled to protest against our involvement in Vietnam, murdered 62 million of their own citizens. Between 1949 and 1987, mostly under that leftist favorite Mao Tse-tung's rule, 35 million Chinese citizens were murdered by their own government.

Hitler's Nazis were pikers by comparison to the communists. They managed to exterminate about 21 million Jews, Slavs, Serbs, Czechs, Poles, Ukrainians and people they deemed misfits such as homosexuals and the mentally ill. Trailing badly behind the USSR, China and the Nazis, Japan murdered 6 million unarmed citizens in Asian countries they conquered during WWII. Many of the deaths included unspeakable barbarities like soldiers tossing an infant in the air so a comrade could catch it on his bayonet.

Lesser known murdering governments include Turkey who between 1909 and 1918 murdered close to 2 million Armenians; 2 million Cambodians lost their lives under the Khmer Rouge; Pakistan's government murdered 1.5 million people and Tito's Yugoslavian government murdered a million citizens. It might surprise us to know that our southern neighbor, Mexico, had a hand in these barbarities murdering about 1.5 million of its citizens between 1900 and 1920.

Professor Rummel estimates that pre-20th century government murder, from the Christian Crusades, slavery of Africans, to witch hunts and other episodes, totals about 133 million. Therefore, our century is clearly mankind's most brutal and we might ask why.

Rummel gives the answer in his book's very first sentence, "Power kills; absolute Power kills absolutely. . . . The more power a government has, the more it can act arbitrarily according to the whims and desires of the elite, and the more it will make war on others and murder its foreign and domestic subjects." That's the long, tragic, ugly story of government: the elite's use of government to forcibly impose their will on the masses.

You say, "Williams, you're not suggesting that the United States government has anything in common with these murderous regimes, are you?" The answer is a clear no. Nothing in our history is even remotely similar to these murderous governments. But the note of caution surfaces if you asked: which way are we headed tiny steps at a time: toward more liberty or towards more government restrictions on our liberty. The unambiguous answer is more government restrictions of our liberties.

Our government has massive power to do evil. Murderers like Stalin, Hitler, Mao Tse-tung and Pol Pot would have loved to have the kind of information about its citizens that agencies like the IRS and the BATF has. We should view our government the way we would a friendly, cuddly lion. Just because he's friendly and cuddly shouldn't blind us to the fact that he's still got teeth and claws.

Walter E. Williams
August 3, 1995
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