People are not Dollars

In one of the chapters in his book Organized Crime: The Unvarnished Truth About Government, Thomas DiLorenzo discusses “the extent to which various governments during the twentieth century committed acts of mass murder against their own citizens.” He makes the point that communistic and socialistic regimes are unopposed to killing their own people when citizens resist the centralized planning and political power required by such totalitarianism. Dissenters are murdered when “the rulers of such regimes find that the continued existence [of such dissenters] is incompatible with [the regime’s] beliefs and goals.” Following Caiaphas’ advice to the Sanhedrin regarding Jesus, socialistic and communistic regimes believe that it is expedient for one man to die for the people, so that the whole nation does not perish (John 11:50 and 18:14). However, murderous regimes seldom stop at one.

In The Black Book of Communism is it estimated that

the Soviets murdered at least 20 million of their own citizens; the Chinese socialists killed 65 million; Vietnamese socialists murdered 1 million; the North Koreans killed 2 million; 1 million perished in Eastern Europe; 150,000 in Latin America; 1.7 million in Africa; and 1.5 million in Afghanistan.

And this doesn’t include the millions upon millions of German citizens murdered by the Nazis. In addition, according to DiLorenzo, it also does not include the nearly half a million American citizens of the Confederacy, which were killed in Lincoln’s war of Union aggression. DiLorenzo argues that Lincoln never viewed Southern secession as valid, which means that he was, in reality, killing his own people.

The ideology that Southerners rejected was the “mystical” and perpetual union, as Lincoln called it, from which there could never be any escape. They believed that the union was voluntary, that the free and independent states were sovereign, and that they had a right to join or not join the union. Lincoln was an Uber-nationalist and disagreed, and was willing to use the powers of the state to murder his own citizens by the hundreds of thousands to “prove” himself right.

While I agree with DiLorenzo that Lincoln’s war was unjust and a great tragedy and loss of life, I do not support what he says next. Treating the deaths like dollars, he tries to correct for inflation to make the number more meaningful. He writes, “Standardizing for today’s population, the number of Southerners who perished as a result of the total war that was waged on them would be the equivalent of 3.5 million deaths.”

While this may be a true statement and an accurate reflection of just how devastated the modern South would be by a comparable slaughter, you cannot account for human lives the same way as you account for inflation. 350,000 (some estimates say closer to 450,000) dead people, no matter how numerous the population was at the time, cannot be “standardized for today’s population” in any way other than in comparison. A human life does not lose value over time like paper currency does. When more paper money is printed and flushed into a country’s economic system it is, by definition, an act of inflation. The dollars in your wallet immediately lose value because there are now more of them in circulation; but this is not the case with more people. People are the greatest resource available; more are always preferred to fewer (see Proverbs 14:28).

DiLorenzo is absolutely correct in his primary argument though. Totalitarian regimes will not think twice about exterminating those groups who present challenges to their top-down, centralizing rule. Rand Paul’s questions about drones were (and still are) right on target. Once a government begins viewing its own citizens as threats rather than as its greatest assets, it ceases to be a government—it has become a tyranny.