An Open Letter: On Extraordinary Evil and the State
December 1, 2007
Dr. Fred Emil Katz
2105 Avenue Road
Toronto, Ontario M5M
Dear Dr. Katz:
A number of years ago (in 1998),
SUNY Press gave me permission to reprint pages 40-43 of your book, ORDINARY
PEOPLE, EXTRAORDINARY EVIL (1993) in my newsletter, THE VOLUNTARYIST.
This was your section dealing with the cunning of governments. (See
Issue No. 91)
I just recently re-read your
book and briefly wanted to comment on the connection between the modern-nation
state and the extraordinary evil of genocide and world war. You
define evil at
page 5 of your text by writing:
evil means "deliberately depriv[ing] innocent people of their humanity,
from small scale assaults on a person's dignity to outright murder."
At page 10 you write that extraordinary evil "is defined as this
kind of behavior on a huge scale, ... ."
Every law of every government
is backed by it ability to command the use of physical force and violence.
If you do not obey a judge's order (to send your children to government
school, for example), a court marshal will come to seize you or
your children, or if you choose to resist turning them over to him,
he will arrest you for resisting an officer of the court; and if you
resist at this point, he will try to subdue you in order to carry you
off to jail. If you continue to resist forcefully (in order to defend
yourself from the violence of the marshal), the marshal will escalate
his use of force until such point that he must kill you or you kill
him (if you choose to resist violently to the point of death). The moral
of my example is that the state and agents of the state must use violence
to enforce their edicts if the peaceful citizen chooses not to obey.
[Query: Has the parent initiated violence against anyone by not sending
his child to school?]
In a similar manner, I have
often tried to explain that taxation is theft because taxes are not
paid voluntarily. They are paid under threat of confiscation of your
property and/or imprisonment of your person if you choose to resist.
It is only because most people believe in the necessity of the state
and because most people have been taught to accept the teachings of
the state (that taxes are a necessary component of social living, etc.)
that more outright violence is not required on the part of the state
to collect its revenues. This is part of the cunning of government,
of which you wrote. Government cunning is focused on legitimizing
and sanctifying its own existence and activities, so as to blind its
citizens to its inherently violent nature and into turning them into
obedient subjects (upon which it is not necessary to inflict overt violence).
It largely accomplishes this by relying on generic religious beliefs
which justify its existence, and by requiring compulsory schooling of
all subjects, and then using the public schools as a means of inculcating
beliefs in the necessity of the state.
The point is, as a friend has
pointed out to me, that "technology (advances in chemistry and
physics, computers, cars, guns) makes extraordinary evil possible, but
it doesn't follow that technology [itself] is inherently evil."
Rather government is evil because it inflicts violence upon innocent,
peaceful people. It matters not whether one citizen is murdered or has
his property confiscated, or whether millions are murdered: both actions
are evil actions of the state and its agents. The major difference is
in the scale of the attack on the innocents.
At page 119 of your book, you
wrote "The lesson ... is that extricating oneself from participating
in evil actions is most feasible if one acts right away upon recognizing
the situation. After that, ..., it become increasingly difficult to
My position (which I believe
you, and most other people, share) is that evil actions are wrong and
that I (and others who share my belief) should not participate
in evil actions. In my view, governments are evil because their authority
rests on violence and/or the threat of violence to impose their laws
over peaceful people who have caused no one any harm. Hence, to be an
agent of government and receive a salary from the government (for example,
an office holder at any level, a bureaucrat, a policeman, a judge, a
government health worker, etc.) is inherently an evil act. As soon as
one realizes the evil of such employment, one should resign (or as you
describe it, extricate oneself from participating in evil actions).
It is my conclusion that the
participation of ordinary people in an evil institution (the modern
nation state) is what makes extraordinary evil possible. If people resisted
at the beginning (the demands of the government for their money and
the minds of their children), governments could not command the tremendous
resources or territory over which they dominate. National leaders, who
then take control of their respective countries, would then not be able
to direct the resources or people which they require to engage in war
against ethnic groups within their own countries or against leaders
of other similar nations. Without participants to enforce its will (and
conversely without citizens who choose to obey), the state is nothing:
it is powerless.
You may think this analysis
is both simplistic and anarchistic; both of which may be true. However,
neither of these designations necessarily invalidates the logic on which
the analysis rests.
I hope this letter finds you
well and still interested in the theme of extraordinary evil, and that
you may choose to comment on my ideas. I have great difficulty in convincing
people of my argument (that the state is an evil institution) and would
like to find out if you agree or disagree with me that the state is
the major component of social life which makes possible the
existence of extraordinary evil. Evil may reside in the heart of every
person, as Solzhenitsyn, points out in your front piece. However it
is my belief and argument that whatever evil may reside in each of us
cannot turn into extraordinary evil, without the existence of the state.