On the Other Hand...

by Jim Davies



Not everyone will immediately agree with the title above, even after having read it backwards; but I'll show here anyway some excellent reasons to do so.

Yes, it does depend a bit on what you and I would regard as "evil". Different moral systems have different standards. Wolves were once regarded as evil; animal manifestations of the Devil. Today, while they are recognized as wild and dangerous and unwelcome among farm animals, are also seen as sometimes quite cuddly; animals, like any other.

Not too long ago in these parts they thought witches were evil, and drowned them to make sure. Who were truly evil, the witches or the drowners? - the drowners thought they were doing good, ridding their community of a menace. Those people - the evil do-gooders - are perhaps the worst of all.

Talking of witches, did you hear the one about Arkansas? - the question is, why does that State no longer celebrate Halloween or Thanksgiving? Answer: because the witch has left, and she took the turkey with her.

Thank Thomas Sowell in the "Union Leader" for that one!

Back to the serious question, about figuring what is, and is not, evil. I have a suggestion, that will fit most standards out there. It is that an act is evil if it initiates compulsion. 


Compulsion is okay if it's a response to someone else's; someone hits, there's nothing evil about hitting back. Yes, some people will say that it's better to "turn the other cheek", but I'm looking for the lowest common denominator. It may be better not to hit back, but we must all agree it's evil to hit first.

Each human being is entitled by nature to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness", so anyone who intrudes on that space, who forcefully prevents someone enjoying those absolute rights, can be called "evil". To me, that seems to cover most things: murder, theft, rape, fraud and pollution of property.

When Jefferson wrote those magnificent words in the Declaration of Independence there was some debate about whether to include "property" as one of the basic rights to be recognized and defended. That might have made it more explicit, but for sure the right to acquire and hold private property is included within those three: ownership of property being one source of happiness, we're entitled to pursue it. So anyone who restricts that right (or any of the others) is initiating compulsion against us and can rightly be called "evil."

No Obligations

Now this simple and sufficient definition of what's evil turns upside down today's conventional wisdom. Today, we're told incessantly that we're bad, bad people if we neglect to help those in greater need than we are. The assumption of these do-gooders is that we have an obligation to assist our fellow-man; that is, that he has a right to our help.

Notice, I'm not for a moment demeaning the performance of good works at one's own expense - indeed, that's the only kind of charity that truly exists. My point is that if someone has (as we're told) some "entitlement" to what you and I produce, then he (through his friends in the legislature) is initiating force against us; he is compelling us to do something we might not otherwise choose to do. He is, in truth, partially enslaving us.

A fine example of this wickedness fell from the lips of the President just before Christmas, when he drew attention to the plight of the homeless (fair enough, though he didn't admit to having helped cause their homelessness) and said that as an expression of Christian compassion, he had authorized some hundreds of millions of dollars for their relief.

Sounded great, for winning votes. Trouble is, it wasn't his own money he was donating; it was yours. And you might have chosen to do something else with your property. You might perhaps have given it to a cause you felt even more deserving. He was, therefore, initiating force against you; he was being evil, at the very moment he was sounding most pious! Just like the witch drowners.

Thomas Paine

Disgusting hypocrisy like that is entirely typical of government people. They pretend to want to maintain the "public school" system so as to make sure the disadvantaged get a decent education; yet the facts (that that system is delivering a lousy education, most of all to the least advantaged) are staring them in the face. Likewise, they pretend that more interference in the health care business will make it fairer and cheaper; yet knowing full well about the evidence that such injustices as it contains are there almost entirely caused by the intrusions by government that we already have.

They pretend to be wanting to help society, while their true motives are to exercise as much power as they can grab. Witch drowners, writ large.

Their vast programs for "relieving poverty" have (as has now been shown systematically) actively promoted more of it. Their pretended horror at drug usage has fooled us into letting them wage massive war against a whole range of personal liberties - and whenever we lose freedom, they gain power. And their alleged concern for justice abroad has, again and again, led to needless, non-defensive war - arguably, the ultimate evil. They have created what the Libertarians call a "warfare-welfare State."

Thomas Paine, intellectual founder of this American Republic, said it best: "government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil." I'm not yet convinced that any of it is necessary, but am quite certain all of it is evil.

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