Quote Of The Day

“As a Jew, it never ceases to amaze me that people think the most important lesson of the Holocaust is that anyone, even civilized Germans who love Bach and Beethoven, can become murderers. Or that the most important lesson is that hatred is wrong. Hatred is immortal. People say, “never again” as if saying it is sufficient to prevent future holocausts. But saying it is not sufficient without limiting the power of government to imprison and kill people. To me, the most important lesson of the Holocaust is that only governments can kill millions of people. Murdering millions requires absolute power. So I want governments to be weaker rather than stronger”. —Russell Roberts, economics professor blogging at Cafe Hayek

9 Responses to “Quote Of The Day”


  • Roberts either oversimplifies or lacks the knowledge of the history of Germany in the 1930’s.

    For an excellent and brief encapsulation of how Hitler rose to power and became the dictator of Germany see the attached

    http://www.fff.org/freedom/fd0403a.asp

    Basically, the problem was not government per se, but the fact that all three branches of government fell into the hands of 1 party and the legislative and judicial branches were eviscerated and emasculated by the executive branch.

    Hitler never won a majority election for president howeverc due to the incompetence and public riotioing the elected president appointed hitler chancellor after the Reichastag fire in the early ’30’s Hitler convinced the Reichstag to suspend the constitution and give him all powers. The democratically elected parliament members basically gave away all of their powers of congressional oversight because Hitler basically convinced them that the Communists were declaring war on Germany with the Reichstag fire and that the chancellor required absolute control to fight this war.

    After the fire Hitler convinced the president to issue his decree “For the people and protection of the state” which suspended most civil liberties written in the constituion it weakened thr freedom of speech and the press, alllowed eavesdropping of telephonic, telegrapic and mail communication, suspended the need for warrants and allowed the government vast rights to confiscate personal property.

    The next step was to evicerate the independent courts of Germany. After two suspects in the Reichstag fire case were acquitted the Nazis disbanded the existing Supreme court and replaced it with a “peoples court” whose majority was chosen by the SS and Army officials. There were no appeals and sentences could last indefinitely. Plus all court members had to be members of the party.

    The existing president died in 1934 Hitler abolished the Presidential position and continued to return every 4 yrs for reconfirmation by his puppet congress.. Unless you were Jewish a gypsy a homosexual or a communist (all Hitlers most hated minorities throught his reign) at the time most Germans were not knowingly so affected by the consolidation of power until WWII so they did not speak up as horrible things were happening in their own country and the existing constitutional controls were eviscerated in the name of their safety.

    So in fact it was the failure of the existing government to do its job that was complicit in the holocaust.

  • I think you two are addressing different things…you seem to be addressing how Hitler rose to power, and the failures of government therein.

    Professor Roberts is addressing what government itself, in bad hands or good hands, can accomplish…and his point is valid, it is only through government that mass deaths at such a large scale can be accomplished.

  • It is only through government that mass deaths at such a large scale ARE and WILL BE accomplished, you mean. Don’t discount the ability of a sufficiently brain-washed and agitated sector of a society to use violence against any group they feel threatened by. Especially when their leaders and their media encourage this fear. Mix this mob mentality with a conveniently sympathetic government chosen by those same people and VOILA- It happens again.
    Stop the Invasion, everyone.

  • Completely agreed El Profe!

  • Genocides also occur during civil wars when there is anarchy and no government is in charge. In regions like Darfur, Somalia, portions of Iraq and Afghanistan in Rwanda 10 years ago, in Liberia, in Haiti. Sure there are governments, but there are no laws, no rules, the existing governments are powerless to stop any murders if they care at all. The local gangs and warlords run their regions and terorize all within their region sometimes killing hundreds of thousands.

    True democracies, with more than one effective party, with checks and balances among independent branches of governemnt will not let this happen. I think I take the opposite lesson from him. Democratic governments need to be stronger, lawmakers need to stick by the principles of the constitution and always know that the constitution does not want any elected official to allow another official to remove the power they have been granted.

    In this case the existing government before Hitler came should have been stronger, not weaker. True, the Nazi government committed these atrocities but the existing government the Weimar could have prevented these atocities if they did their jobs and were not bullied by this madman.

    Also, citizens must demand their freedoms stand throughout. Most important the freedom of speech. Citizens must stand up for their rights and the rigths of others in the community. The old saying about them coming for the blacks and I did not stand up, and the jews and I did not stand up and finally for me and no one was left to stand up for me.

  • Murders happen everywhere, yes, but only through government can murders on such a large scale be accomplished. Which is why the Nazi’s and even more so, the communists were the greatest killers of the twentieth century, both had large governments to accomplish their goals.

    I also agree that there are other checks that can prevent this, like the ones you mentioned, but Roberts point is still valid, IMHO: too much government is too much power, and too much power in the wrong hands is very dangerous.

  • Fear of a Brown Planet.

  • “To me, the most important lesson of the Holocaust is that only governments can kill millions of people. “

    And yet many on the emotional Right are so quick to blame “100 million murders” on a social philosophy- communism. Perhaps, they’ll start to listen now.

  • ::Edit::

    ^Perhaps, they’ll start to listen reason now.^

Leave a Reply