More Deaths by Government
by Joe Abbate, Rick Banks, Walter Block, Bernie Robinett, C.M. Ross, Mark Thomas Seiler
by Joe Abbate, Rick Banks, Walter Block, C.M. Ross, Mark Thomas Seiler
During the heyday of the Mises Seminar in New York City in the middle of the last century, Ludwig von Mises would each session toss off numerous suggestions for research, for Ph.D. dissertation topics. Murray N. Rothbard was known to engage in this sort of thing as well. Many is the time he would wistfully say something like, "Someone ought to do research on…. Someone ought to write about…"
Unhappily, we no longer have these two giants of liberty and Austrian economics around to guide us. So, we chickens will just have to do these sorts of things for ourselves. It is in this vein that we urge that research improving on that of Rummel, Courtois, and others, be undertaken.
R.J. Rummel and Stephane Courtois, et. al have done yeoman libertarian work in terms of exposing governments as the murderous thuggish entities that they are. Each of them has documented the numbers (in the many millions) of citizens of their own countries killed by the state. This is crucially important in the case against the government. For all the philosophical treatises in the world attesting to the evil of this institution can go only so far. An important supplement to this type of analysis is the actual facts and figures regarding statist depredations. And this Rummel and Courtois have dramatically publicized. We libertarians owe them a great debt of gratitude.
But they have not gone far enough. They have only covered explicit murders, and, not even all of those. This is the third in a series of articles that are critical of Rummel and Courtois for touching, only, the tip of the iceberg in this regard. It is the hope of the present authors that Rummel and Courtois and others like them, perhaps, even, some of the scholars who are regular readers of LRC, will extend this type of research.
The first in the series was written by DiLorenzo. It showed that the U.S. War of Northern Aggression (1861-1865, in case anyone was wondering as to, precisely, which war we are referring) was a case in point, not contemplated in the statistics supplied by Rummel and Courtois. These were uncounted but direct murders, brought to us courtesy of St. Abraham.
The second in this series was Block's demonstration that highway fatalities, too, are properly to be laid at the door of unbridled statism. As there are some 40,000 people who die every year in the U.S. on its socialist traffic arteries, and many, many more around the world who suffer in this way, this too is a significant example of deaths due to government. (This present op-ed is fashioned from letters in response to that one. There are multiple co authors of it since there were many such readers of LRC who added their entries to the list of government killings in replies to Block. Hey, the system works.)
The present article is dedicated to further expanding this critique of Rummel and Courtois. Here, we go beyond the War to Prevent Southern Secession (1861-1865), and roadway fatalities, to consider a whole host of other governmental causes of death of innocent people. They are as follows:
Government intervention in the health care market has been particularly pernicious. For example, Dr. Mary Ruwart believes the Kefauver-Harris Drug Amendments of 1962 "may very well be the deadliest law that Congress ever passed."
The FDA touts these amendments as ensuring "drug efficacy and greater drug safety" since they required drug manufacturers to "prove to FDA the effectiveness of their products before marketing them," but they have caused the approval process to more than double since 1964 from 6.5 years to 14.8 years [see this]. Thus, Dr. Ruwart estimates 4.7 million people have died in the last 40 years, while waiting for FDA approval. Chapter 6 of her book Healing Our World, entitled "Protecting Ourselves to Death" provides further examples of how regulation causes needless deaths while saving only a few. Then, minor detail, if addictive drugs, all of them, were legalized, this would save tens of thousands of lives in one fell swoop. Alcohol, nowadays, is still a social problem. But no one gets shot in the street in fights over turf, nor killed from the products of back wood stills, or from bathtub gin.
The FDA is active both in terms of preventing access as well as on the approval side. Then, too, there are other such miscellaneous causes of death by government. For example, asbestos, vaccines, etc. Also, natural health solutions are available for many diseases today but are not accepted by the FDA and in many cases prohibited by them. And this is not to mention the fact that under FDA supervision, an estimated one million Americans were never told they were given Hepatitis C-infected blood.
A recent report, "Death by Medicine" by Gary Null, et al. estimates that between 800,000 and 1 million people die annually as a result of conventional medical treatment or diagnostic procedures. Not all of these iatrogenic deaths can be ascribed directly or indirectly to state intervention. However, the study authors, being themselves part of the medical profession, fail to see that physicians and other individuals and companies in the health care market have actively sought state "protection" in the form of licensing laws, regulatory agencies and other state-imposed controls. Consequently, the authors' implied solution (reviving the Office of Technology Assessment) is yet one more intervention. See also Milton Friedman's splendid chapter 9 of his book Capitalism and Freedom, dealing with restricted entry into medical practice. Ron Hamowy covers this deleterious governmental regulation (a redundancy) from a Canadian perspective.
But this by no means exhausts the depredations. There is also subsidized tobacco, responsible for an estimated 435,000 deaths per year. There is state-funded (Medicaid) abortion; libertarians need take no position on this contentious issue to oppose government subsidization of this practice. According to one report about state influence on doctors/health-care, physicians are the 3rd leading cause of death in US, responsible for 225,000 deaths per year. Then there are the infamous illegal and or covert medical experiments, such as those perpetrated on black people. Nor should we ignore fumigation, USDA/DHSS dietary guidelines (the "food pyramid") and accidents, i.e. Chernobyl (ok, it is not our government here, but it is a government). Nor would it do to leave out the statist banning of DDT, which greatly increased malaria deaths.
Of course, there is a silver lining in this cloud, as there is in every such case: this is one way to save Socialist Security (no one lives long enough to collect)! Ahhh! It hurts when we laugh.
Government housing policies can kill you too. In Toronto, Canada, for example, but everywhere else this pernicious legislation has ever been tried, rent control means that the rent is out of control. Modest apartments are typically in disrepair because the landlord can not charge what he needs to maintain it.
In one case, an apartment almost exploded when the natural gas lines leaked and the furnace exuded enough carbon monoxide to kill an entire building's worth of people, even according to the government's own Fire Department. Why, then, don't people move elsewhere? Where would they go? Thanks to the government, there is hardly any place to stay if you are not a homeowner, since this regulation has taken much of the incentive away from landlords to provide housing.
In several cases, landlords have purposefully attacked tenants because provisions of these enactments typically provide for rent increases when tenants vacate their premises. The "worst get on top" applies not only in government bureaus, but also in the field of rental housing, when control legislation pays a premium to landlords not for satisfying customers, as in the free market, but for evicting them.
Then, there is public housing. True, an awful lot of killings in these death traps are drug related, see above, but socialist housing makes an independent contribution to this end as well. Public housing is for the poor. So, there have to be income cut off points, lest the rich find their way into these vertical slums. If you are middle class you don't qualify. If you are poverty stricken, but work hard, get a raise, prosper, they kick you out because you are now above the income cut off level.
This is like continually skimming the cream off the top. What is left as this process continues? Well, the non cream. Families that are intact, with fathers present, are likely the first to go. This leaves a disproportionate number of female headed households. These women are simply unable to cope with the hordes of teenaged boys, with no adult males around to help enforce civilized behavior. Just as the Lord of the Flies depicted a society run by 12 year old boys, public housing indicates a 16 year old boy's idea of nirvana: rape, drugs, defecating in the hallways, etc. Then, there is the almost palpable hatred of commerce on the part of the architects of public housing. Never a store shall be suffered on its premises. Jane Jacobs has demonstrated that this too contributes to crime, as there are fewer "eyes on the street." Without people coming and going into groceries, to get a bottle of milk or a newspaper, there is less incentive for people to look at of their windows at the doings of their society, such as it is. Not much is doing out there, at least publicly.
Ah socialism! It does so much for the national character, doesn't it?
3. Arbitrary abuse of power
Under this rubric we include BATF, FBI (Waco, Ruby Ridge, etc., etc.,) the alphabet regulatory agencies such as the EPA, FTC, INS, IRS, OSHA, and the SEC. Each of them has contributed their mite to our cause, and sometimes has gone over and above the call of duty in this regard.
There are also the CIA death squads, engaged in regime change, countering drug smuggling and creating general mayhem. According to some reports, they are responsible for some "6-million deaths." Interesting number, that.
Nor can any account that wishes to be exhaustive and inclusive ignore the people murdered while waiting for a gun permit to clear. First, the government taxes people so as to finance police. Then, the latter do not protect them, but rather shoot them down like rabid dogs in the street. When the people attempt to defend themselves, as the second amendment to the constitution provides, they are balked in this manner as well.
This constitutes a terrible public policy in effect in most states of providing violent criminals with a governmental guarantee that law-abiding, honest people are unarmed when away from their home or business. We need more studies comparing victims of violent crimes (homicides) in states with strict "gun control" vs. those with no restrictions (i.e., Vermont) that issue concealed carry permits. The scholar who has done important work in this field is John Lott.
4. Money and finance
Then, too, there are financial policies. The Great Depression led to many undocumented starvation deaths. The World Bank and the IMF have slowed down the rate of economic development of poor backward countries. Tariffs, quotas and other interferences with trade can actually kill people, too.
Foreign aid undercuts those farmers in the recipient country who are trying to sell their goods. Foreign aid to poorer countries often maintains a dictator who in turn kills his people. Both the donors who make these massacres possible, and the recipients who do the "blue collar" work in these cases are, wait for it, governments. Similarly, the U.S. gave Stalin aid, and we all know the result of that sorry episode.
5. Motor Vehicle Bureau
First, who teaches people how to drive? Government, via public schools, that's who. They pick a crony and give him a "contract" to provide Driver's Training courses in their schools. These are nothing but hours wasted "driving" while doing little more than riding in a car. As an example, North Carolina requires "X" number of hours of behind the wheel experience for a student to pass this course. However, in essence, what happens is that a carload of students take turns driving each other home after school. For kids to have actually driven the prescribed number of hours they would have had to do all the driving in every "class" every day for them to achieve this goal.
Second, who certifies that these kids can drive? Government, once again, via its Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). You pull out of the DMV office with a "tester" next to you and pretty much if you manage to get back in one piece, you pass. Many people have been at the DMV for renewal of their "driving privilege" (that is another peeve; if driving is a privilege then you are effectively under house arrest since the state has designed cities to be virtually un-navigable without a car) and seen the "tester" actually give answers to octogenarians so they could "pass" their vision test. Here is some must see television: the South Park episode dedicated to older drivers.
High up on the list in this regard are the levees in New Orleans which collapsed in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in August 2005. These were planned, built and managed by the Army Corp of Engineers, a government entity. Almost 2,000 people lost their lives due to this bit of statist negligence. Then there is FEMA (a local bumper sticker: FEMA Happens!) which aided and abetted in this needless loss of life by refusing to rescue the denizens of New Orleans, and placing barriers against the efforts of private individuals and groups who were valiantly struggled to come to the aid of waterlogged citizens of the Big Uneasy.
This article would have more credibility if all the data were further divided into objective, verifiable deaths and then the more subjective/conjecture oriented. In that way the reader could be presented with hard, undeniable statistics as well as the less definite, which the more pessimistic (or dare we say statists, if there are any who will read it) could dismiss as fantasy. Unhappily, this will have to be left for future researchers. The present essay is but an op-ed piece, meant not to give definitive answers, but, mainly, to spur on further efforts in the direction of gathering and analyzing them.
This article, even all three essays of which this is the third part, should not be taken as a definitive list, or final word, of the way in which government is bad for our health. Rather, it should be seen as barely a first step in the direction of a very worthwhile research program.
December 13, 2006
Joe Abbate [send him mail] is a computer programmer in Florida and webmaster of FreedomCircle.com; Rick Banks [send him mail] is a graduate of the University of Virginia (1996); Walter Block [send him mail] is Harold E. Wirth Eminent Scholar Endowed Chair and Professor of Economics at the College of Business Administration, Loyola University New Orleans, and a member of the Senior Faculty at the Mises Institute; Bernie Robinett [send him mail] is associated with the Atlantis Project; CM Ross [send her mail] is an avid reader of, and now contributor to, LewRockwell.com; Mark Thomas Seiler [send him mail] is a radio producer and amateur road racer.
Copyright © 2006 LewRockwell.com