Category Archives: Democide

Democide is when someone is murdered by a government.

Should Christians Support Capital Punishment?

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A while back, I was given a pamphlet entitled, “Capital Punishment: The Case for Justice” by J. Budziszewski, Professor of Government and Philosophy at the University of Texas at Austin. Professor Budziszewski argues that capital punishment is just, and that the Bible demands it, citing Romans 13:3-5:

For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of him who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain; he is a servant of God to execute His wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be subject, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience.

However, Budziszewski’s argument is devastated if he is wrong in his interpretation of Romans 13, which he believes is talking about the State. But why should he think such a thing? Though this is a common interpretation, it makes no sense. Here we have St. Paul, a man who was beaten by the State, imprisoned by the State, and eventually killed by the State, and somehow he can write that the State is “not a terror to good conduct”? I figure that Paul must be talking about some other entity. (Gerard Casey offers an interesting and plausible alternative.)

But let us grant Budziszewski this premise and see how the rest of his argument fairs.

He defends retribution as the justification for punishment, particularly in terms of the benefits it has for society: “Society is justly ordered when each person receives what is due to him…In retribution the spur is the virtue of indignation, which answers injury with injury for public good.” Furthermore, “Retribution is the primary purpose of just punishment as such.” This is for three reasons:

  • Just punishment is not something which might or might not requite evil; requital is simply what it is.
  • Without just punishment evil cannot be requited.
  • Just punishment requires no warrant beyond requiting evil, for the restoration of justice is good in itself.

Any other purpose of punishment, such as deterrence or incapacitation, is secondary and cannot override considerations of retribution. In fact, Budziszewski argues, all of these purposes are better (or at least not worse served) by capital punishment.

Next, he addresses some objections to the death penalty by Cardinal Dulles:

  1. Sometimes innocent people are sentenced to death.
  2. Capital punishment whets the lust for revenge rather than satisfying the zeal for true justice.
  3. It cheapens the value of life.
  4. And it contradicts Christ’s teaching to forgive.

Budziszewski’s argument against point (1) seems rather like a strawman. Most of it is a hypothetical where a suspect’s factual guilt is unquestionable, but he is acquitted by a juror who read Descartes and is unsure if he can trust his senses. Yeah, I’m pretty sure what people have in mind when they think of innocent people being convicted is when actually innocent people are convicted. The National Registry of Exonerations has cataloged over 1,500 of them, and who knows how many factually innocent people are still in prison or took a plea deal in order to avoid jail time? Budziszewski utterly fails to address this issue.

His argument against the idea that capital punishment feeds the lust for revenge is better, yet the fact remains that in terms of its criminal justice system, the US is an extremely vengeful society, considering that it has the highest incarceration rate in the world by far. Even if every non-violent drug offender were released from prison, it would still be the highest. And why is this? There are many reasons, but not the least of them is that there are special interests who benefit from this state of affairs, particularly the prison-industrial complex. If there is one thing the prison-industrial complex is not in pursuit of, it is justice. As well, American police forces can hardly be referred to as “peace officers,” as their increasing militarization attests. Not only that, but the US government horrendously tortures people to death with no accountability. The idea that this is what Budziszewski argues throughout his essay is the servant of God is downright disturbing and terrifying. Apparently there is no atrocity so egregious that would lead those who believe the State is God’s march upon earth to think that perhaps they are interpreting Romans 13 incorrectly.

Lastly, and this is not intended as a cheapshot (though it may look like one), why have I never observed Christians who argue for the death penalty address the fact that Jesus Christ was brutally executed by the State (as have many martyrs throughout history)? Clearly, execution has been a tool of despotic governments against those who they dislike or want to silence, and it is still used today. It seems that Christians who enjoy the relative freedoms in Western democracies take it for granted that their governments usually don’t round up dissenters and imprison (or execute) them. But it is entirely irresponsible for them to forget the fact that, worldwide, governments aren’t always friendly to Christianity.

Does the UN Hate Children?

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It’s not as if I intentionally look for bad things regarding the UN, but I came across a couple of stories, one in a local newspaper and the other in a free market magazine, about it making the lives of children worse. The first, which can be read here, is about “baby boxes,” which are incubators where a parent can leave an unwanted infant anonymously. An alarm goes off a couple of minutes later so that the parent has time to leave. Apparently,

There are nearly 100 baby boxes in Germany. Poland and the Czech Republic each have more than 40 while Italy, Lithuania, Russia and Slovakia have about 10 each. There are two in Switzerland, one in Belgium and one being planned in the Netherlands.

In the last decade, hundreds of babies have been abandoned this way; it’s estimated one or two infants are typically left at each location every year, though exact figures aren’t available.

But,

…they have drawn the attention of human rights advocates who think they are bad for the children and merely avoid dealing with the problems that lead to child abandonment. At a meeting last month, the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child said baby boxes should be banned and is pushing that agenda to the European Parliament.

“They are a bad message for society,” said Maria Herczog, a Hungarian child psychologist on the U.N. committee. “These boxes violate children’s rights and also the rights of parents to get help from the state to raise their families,” she said.

“Instead of providing help and addressing some of the social problems and poverty behind these situations, we’re telling people they can just leave their baby and run away.”

This is quite baffling to me, on several grounds. The first is that these “human rights advocates” think that it’s better for a child to be with a parent who has to be forced under penalty of law to keep him or her rather than someone else who is able and willing to care for them. I don’t want to sound like the morality police here, but I think it is fair to say that it takes more attention and personal responsibility to adequately raise and care for a child than to avoid having an unwanted conception. What leads these people to think that the mother and father who have a child they do not want are somehow then capable of caring for him or her when they themselves are dependent on the state? If it is a case of rape, like that which led Pastor Gabriele Stangl to create the concept of baby boxes in the first place, or any other situation that doesn’t have to do with the material resources of the parent(s), why wouldn’t you want this option to be available?

Secondly, I have no idea what Maria Herczog’s conception of “rights” are, but somehow simply offering parents with unwanted children a choice “violates” them. As well, positive rights (that is, the right to force others to do something as opposed to negative rights, such as the right to be left alone) can only lead to logical contradiction and very bad incentives.

Thirdly, it is strange that the UN’s justification for banning this peaceful interaction is couched in terms of personal responsibility (you can’t let people leave their baby and run away) even while absolving the same people of other responsibilities (you don’t have to make sure you can care for the child; we’ll force someone else to pay for it).

Fourth, banning a peaceful way of addressing the problem of parents with unwanted children and increasing the size of the welfare state does NOT address “some of the social problems and poverty behind these situations.” Government’s taxes, rules, and fiat money make it ever harder for poor and working class people to produce for themselves. Making them dependent on the state hardly seems like helping them and ignores the causes of their predicament.

The second example of how the UN hates children is found here. Madre Inés Ayau is a Russian Orthodox nun who runs an orphanage in Guatemala. This orphanage

had been founded by her great-great-grandfather, a philanthropist, in 1856 and had done much good work before being nationalized in the mid-1950s. But by 1996 every window was broken and the orphaned teenagers were running wild, working as prostitutes while hooked on drink and drugs. They were nominally being looked after by 36 workers, and there was a padded payroll of 105 people in total. In spite of this, the vulnerable youngsters were receiving no real care or education.

When the president asked her to run it, she did so only on the condition that there be no government involvement at all.

…when the president challenged her to turn around Hogar Rafael Ayau, Madre Inés found time to throw herself into the orphanage, and in the following decade it prospered. Some 240 children whose parents were unknown or dead were adopted locally or internationally, and some 900 graduated out of Madre’s high school program and into the local job market.

Meanwhile, all the children capable of working in the orphanage’s micro-enterprises receive 50 percent of the profit on every item they make. The woodworking shop is a particular favorite with customers. “The older girls even have debit and credit cards,” Madre Ivonne told me. From time to time she drives the white orphanage minibus out to a safe mall and sends groups of girls out shopping for the afternoon with their own hard-earned money.

 

Seems like a success, right? Well then the UN comes in and screws it up:

 

The hogar’s future was put in jeopardy in late 2007 when outgoing President Óscar Berger bowed to UNICEF pressure to renationalize the orphan business and make private adoptions illegal.

UFM Chair Carroll Rodríguez explained what this means in practice: “It is not illegal to adopt in Guatemala; now, however, you have to go through the State-run Consejo Nacional de Adopciones. It is also not illegal to run an hogar, but it is illegal to charge or receive any money for providing the services of caring for adoptable babies and other children. So many of the law-abiding hogares had to shut down, and that is why Mother Inés now only accepts children whose parents are known.”

As a result Madre’s numbers have fallen from a high of around 160 children down to a mere 60. As she herself now puts it, “I am running a boarding school for the poor.”The State alone cares for parentless kids. Any baby left at the gates of Hogar Rafael Ayau has to be turned in to the State first thing the next day.

Up until prohibition, Guatemala, China, and Russia were the last three remaining countries with a well-developed legal market in international adoptions. All other nations that had once allowed children to be sent to new families abroad had already succumbed to UNICEF pressure to put an end to the practice.

But UNICEF had in effect restricted supply without doing anything about demand. Its campaign caused a worldwide shortage of babies for inter-country adoption and made it an expensive business in Guatemala, where at least 3,000 infants a year were adopted. On average, fees and expenses alone came to $25,000.

…But the result of outright prohibition was predictable and downright disastrous. The cost of adopting soared to a black-market price of $60,000, according to Guatemala’s leading family law attorney Dina Castro, and Madre told me of baby kidnappings, of pregnant women being held hostage until they gave birth, and of a cross-border baby trade with El Salvador, in which newborn babies were brought in and passed off as Guatemalan.

I highly recommend reading  the article in its entirety.

One has to question whether UNICEF has the best of intentions here. If I can pick out a trend, it seems that the UN pursues and pressures countries to create policies that make as many people dependent on the state as possible. I have  serious doubts that the people making these decisions actually believe they are doing what is best for children.

 

Why the World Is Ignoring Congo War

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http://edition.cnn.com/2012/11/27/opinion/congo-war-ignored-vava-tampa/?hpt=hp_c1

Though I disagree with some of the author’s conclusions in the above link (after seeing what has happened in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, the Philippines, Iran, Pakistan, etc., etc., etc., do you really want US policymakers to intervene in the Congo?), I think it is important to consider the question of “Why the World Is Ignoring Congo War”. Vava Tampa, the author and Congo native, offers the following possibilities:

Is it due to the geographical or cultural distance between London or Washington and Congo? Or are Western media just reluctant, if not uninterested, to cover it because no Western interests or ally is endangered by it?

Would the coverage the situation in Congo receives be the same if it was happening in Europe or if Congo spoke English rather than French?

What if Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe or his disciples were implicated in funding murderous militia gangs in Congo? Or if the killing was between black Africans and Arabs? Or if minerals funding Congo’s killing and raping industries benefited the East more than the West?

Taking them in order: 1) No, it is not due to geographical or cultural distance. We need only look at all the other places that US and British powers have invaded and attempted to colonize to know that that can’t be the answer. 2) This is the most likely explanation. Western media’s reporting is highly in-line with what Western governments are doing and what their interests are. I’m sure the reader can think of numerous examples off the top of his or her head of places where the outright disregard of individual rights is rampant but only spoken of when Western governments have some kind of interaction with them (such as Myanmar when Hilary Clinton was negotiating with their military junta about trade barriers, North Korea whenever the US government decides to send sanctions or aid, or sub-Saharan Africa whenever the US government decides to respond to a video fad about a military dictator using child soldiers). 3) Obviously not! to the former part of the question. Why is this the case? Inevitably, some will point to the answer of racism but this is overly simplistic and not helpful, in addition to being wrong. If this were the situation in Europe, the US government would have a far greater interest. Poor people in sub-Saharan Africa can pose little challenge to US-led hegemony. The language spoken is irrelevant except to the extent that if it were English then it would be likely that English or American powers had colonized the Congo and would therefore have more of an interest. 4) Not sure that it would matter, in terms of media coverage, if Mugabe were involved. The US is currently funding rebels in Syria, some of them known to be al-Qaeada. It is also beyond dispute that third-world dictators receive funding from the US, hence the question. Should we really be surprised that it is used to abuse human rights? This should be obvious. It seems that major media outlets could really take the US government to task for this; I’m not entirely sure why they do not. (Though it is possibly the case that since most news reporting involves what government officials say that major outlets don’t want to jeopardize their access to them by embarrassing them.) 5) Again, I don’t think it’s about race but about the interests of the US government and its cronies. 6) We are getting somewhat closer to the answer with this question. I imagine if it were oil then this would be much bigger news (notice how the “humanitarian” war in Libya could have easily taken place in a number of other countries if the goal were really about “liberating” people? Is it just a coincidence that Libya has massive oil resources?).

Regardless to the answer of why the world is ignoring what is going on in the Congo, it is an absolute and utter tragedy. I want to thank the reader in joining me in refusing to ignore it. I would ask the faithful among us to pray that situation may take a turn for the better. I would also ask that those of us who do not profess such a faith would excuse us who do. Let us demonstrate to any and all who may notice that adherents of the non-aggression principle, whether they be theists or atheists, can live at peace among one another. This should be one of our great legacies to the world.

Democide

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Published in 1997, R.J. Rummel wrote a book called Death by Government. He helped popularize the term, “democide,” which refers to the murder of any person or people by government. I think it relates to the following story. I was watching the news last night and it was reported that 58 people drowned after the boat that they were sailing on sank near the coast of Turkey. The boat belonged to a smuggler and most of the passengers were illegal immigrants who were fleeing Assad and war-torn Syria. I think their deaths can be directly related to the actions of governments and I’ll explain why. The obvious reason of how this tragedy can be chalked up to the State is that these people were trying to escape tyrants and wars, both creatures of the State. Without the ability to conscript or tax, raising an army for anything but defense would be very counterproductive and a losing proposition in terms of wealth and lives. Violence is expensive and one can become much more wealthy from trade than by theft. Secondly, without a state claiming a monopoly of force over a given geographical area, there wouldn’t be any political borders. Borders would simply be where one individual’s real estate ends and another individual’s begins. If this were the case, it is very likely that there will be a property owner along the coast who would most willingly accept refugees (perhaps either at a price or through a mutual aid service). There wouldn’t be any “smuggling” and so those travelling wouldn’t have to do so covertly, but could move about as any legitimate traveller, as this is what they would be if not for the State declaring them to be “illegals.” Hence, their travel would be much safer since they could openly use the services of professional transporters with ships or planes designed to carry a large amount of passengers, rather than a fishing boat as in this case. In this way, I would claim that the government of Turkey partially carries the blame in this case, as they took the choice away from those who would willingly exchange with and take in these refugees. The government of Turkey has committed democide by actively disallowing the free exchange between refugees and the residents of Turkey.