November 9, 2006

Killing in War and Peace

Russell Roberts at Cafe Hayek¹, when asked by a woman where he thought the government did better than the private sector, replied, "Killing people." Elaborating, he notes that the number of innocents killed by Hitler and Stalin dwarfed private killings, even if 9/11 were considered as a private act of murder. Russell is right on the blood. Kings and governments have been most effective in wars and mass murders, from Hannibal to Hiroshima, and beyond.

Now, the Blair government has come swinging in defense of its right to use cluster bombs. Along with China, Russia, and the U.S., the U.K. seems to be sparing no efforts to block a ban on these weapons, that have the notoriety of claiming 98% civilians among their victims of more than 100,000 in recent battles. In a scathing article published in Guardian, George Monbiot writes that "the central mystery of the modern state is this. The necessary resources, both economic and political, will always be found for the purpose of terminating life." I don't believe, and I think that Russell Roberts will concur, that it's any mystery at all, considering that the state has a comparative advantage in killing people.

What I find puzzling is how some of these states can profess with a straight face that they are morally bound to save "the life of the innocents", and curb the woman's right to choose to terminate unwanted pregnancies. Christopher Wanjek, writing in Live Science, reports that the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has barred its scientists from participating in the Lancet special series on sexual and reproductive health. Among other things, the Lancet reports that worldwide estimates for 1995 indicated about 26 million legal and 20 million unsafe and illegal abortions, almost equal. Almost all unsafe abortions (97%) are in developing countries, and over half (55%) are in Asia,mostly in south-central Asia. An estimated 68000 women die every year from unsafe abortion, and millions more are injured, many permanently. Legal abortion in developed countries, however, is one of the safest procedures in contemporary practice, with case-fatality rates less than one death per 100000 procedures. The Lancet researchers conclude that, "The underlying causes of this global pandemic are apathy and disdain for women; they suffer and die because they are not valued." Yet, the CDC insists on "censoring sex topics that run counter to the Bush administration's emphasis on abstinence".

The hypocrisy is mind-boggling, but I guess that it goes to prove that the state excels in killing in war and peace.


¹Link to the post at Cafe Hayek via Amit Varma's India Uncut. Thanks, Amit.
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