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It Takes a Government to Do an Auschwitz

Summary:
The title of this post is a sentence from Matt Ridley's recent speech at the Association for Private Enterprise Education in Maui, Hawaii. His speech was excellent, by the way. The statement is a good reminder that the most destructive and murderous actions in history were carried out by governments. I wrote something along the same lines in my book The Joy of Freedom: An Economist's Odyssey. In Chapter 7, "Free Markets versus Discrimination," I wrote:Government use of force against ethnic groups is far more effective than private use of force against these same groups. I remember that when I first heard about Hitler at about age eight, and asked my mother who he was, I was told that 15 years earlier he had used tanks and other weapons to try to take over the world. I pictured a nut

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The title of this post is a sentence from Matt Ridley's recent speech at the Association for Private Enterprise Education in Maui, Hawaii. His speech was excellent, by the way.

The statement is a good reminder that the most destructive and murderous actions in history were carried out by governments.

I wrote something along the same lines in my book The Joy of Freedom: An Economist's Odyssey. In Chapter 7, "Free Markets versus Discrimination," I wrote:

Government use of force against ethnic groups is far more effective than private use of force against these same groups. I remember that when I first heard about Hitler at about age eight, and asked my mother who he was, I was told that 15 years earlier he had used tanks and other weapons to try to take over the world. I pictured a nut with some tanks he had bought coming down our highway and invading our small town in rural Canada. I didn't understand at the time why Hitler was such a threat; I had been raised to believe that the police would protect us. Imagine the shock and sudden surge of overwhelming fear I had when, years later, I learned that Hitler employed the police and, indeed, ran a whole government. That was scary. Even as a child I knew that the government, any government, had more power than anyone who was not in the government, and that when the government passed and enforced a law, you couldn't legally fight back. That's when the true terror of Hitler dawned on me.

Addendum: Here's a review of Ridley's The Rational Optimist that I wrote in 2010.
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David Henderson
David Henderson is a British economist. He was the Head of the Economics and Statistics Department at the OECD in 1984–1992. Before that he worked as an academic economist in Britain, first at Oxford (Fellow of Lincoln College) and later at University College London (Professor of Economics, 1975–1983); as a British civil servant (first as an Economic Advisor in HM Treasury, and later as Chief Economist in the Ministry of Aviation); and as a staff member of the World Bank (1969–1975). In 1985 he gave the BBC Reith Lectures, which were published in the book Innocence and Design: The Influence of Economic Ideas on Policy (Blackwell, 1986).

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