Economic Cost of Evil
atrocity of September 11 should remind us of an economic lesson
that is better taught by the Bible than by any economics treatise.
The greatest threat to prosperity is not inflationary central bank
policy, or high rates of taxation, or overbearing regulation. Those
do much damage, to be sure, but they are symptoms of the disease,
not the disease itself. The greatest threat to prosperity is something
fundamental to human nature: the propensity for evil.
may seem callous to discuss the economic cost of 11 Septemberís
evil. Life is what is precious, not buildings. But the economic
cost is impossible to ignore. Itís staggering. Recent estimates
have property and casualty damages running between $40 and $60 billion.
Businesses have been devastated, financial markets are reeling,
and international trade, already contracting before the atrocity,
is now contracting even more.
longer-term economic consequences will be more subtle but almost
as perverse. Now and well into the future, this country will pour
vast amounts of resources into security and defense. The economic
cost of the shift in resources is enormous. Resources poured into
security and defense cannot be used to produce houses, food, or
comes in many forms and varying degrees. The September 11 evil is
the most destructive type: the desire for power over other people
and the willingness to use violence to attain it.
commands us to love others as we love ourselves. The desire for
coercive power is the antithesis of this commandment.
the desire for coercive power sometimes manifests itself in private
life, it flourishes in the political realm. Indeed, throughout history,
politics, government, and violence have been three heads of the
same monster. Government historically has rarely been a means of
preserving order; even more rarely has it been a means of preserving
freedom. Far more often, government has been the choice instrument
of evil, an instrument of conquest and oppression wielded by those
who lust for power.
economic cost of the lust for power is as vivid as it is tragic.
The poor countries of the world are not poor because they lack natural
resources, or have poorly educated work forces, or have been exploited
by global capitalism. They are poor because they were or still are
ruled by tyrants, torn up in civil wars by would-be tyrants killing
their way to power, or ravaged by imperialist states.
American empire is anything but innocent in the latter respect,
and it is not un-patriotic or un-American to say so. It was none
other than George Washington who, in his farewell address, warned
his fellow Americans that the greatest threat to American freedom
was involvement in foreign political affairs.
government "involvement" now thereís a euphemism
in the Middle East began in earnest in the 1940s. It was
then that the region became a focal point of U.S. foreign policy.
The object was not to advance freedom or democracy but to fuel the
empire literally. Virtually every U.S. government action
in the Middle East, from staging coups to weapons grants to war,
has been taken to secure America continuous access to Middle Eastern
actions also include the propping up of totalitarian regimes. Firmly
entrenched totalitarian regimes, the U.S. government believed, would
provide the region with stability and secure Americaís access to
oil. So the government subsidized oppression, for the sake of empire
the desire for coercive power, this gross transgression against
God, has no geographic bounds. Consider this list of states: Afghanistan,
Burma, Cuba, Iraq, North Korea, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria,
Turkmenistan. Most if not all of these states are known abettors
of terrorism. But this is not the U.S. State Departmentís list of
terrorist-sponsoring states. This is a list compiled by Freedom
House, an international think tank that gauges conditions of freedom
in countries around the world. It is Freedomís Houseís list of the
most oppressive states on the planet.
the Freedom House list reads like a list of terrorist-sponsoring
states is hardly surprising, for these states donít just sponsor
terrorism, they practice it on their own populations. "The
struggle to magnify itself is Powerís essence," wrote Bertrand
de Jouvenel, and in these states violence is used to magnify state
power into grotesque dimensions. The result is not civilization,
but a sure glimpse of hell.
life is not so much about prosperity and poverty as it is the choices
that lead to prosperity and poverty, including the choice of doing
evil. Man is a fallen being and is thus prone to evil, but there
is no more destructive evil than the desire for coercive power.
The cost of such evil is incalculable.
Mathews [send him
mail] is a columnist for the Brunswick (Ga.) News.