Modern political scientists weave their utopian schemes of world peace from the safe, comfy environments of university faculty lounges, stocked with amenities and luxuries only dreamed of in the centralized, state-planned economies of their imaginations. The two primary agendas of today’s intellectual elites, world peace and a world without want, are interrelated in ways seldom contemplated by the intelligentsia, since they are blinded to deeper introspection by the unquestioned group think regarding their “good intentions.”
The motivation to build a world of peace and harmony is the foundation of the study of political science in the United States. Such a drive is expressed well in Stephen van Evera’s Causes of War, on the very first page:
Devising schemes to prevent war gas been a philosopher’s industry for centuries. Dante Alighieri, William Penn, the Abbé de Saint Pierre, Immanuel Kant, Jeremy Bentham, and James Mill all gave it a try. Later, the goal of war prevention helped inspire the founder of the first modern school of political science, a U.S. Civil War veteran who sought to prevent war and hoped the study of politics would offer answers. Still later, the international politics subfield embraced war prevention as a prime focus during its rapid growth after World War I.
Who could question such noble aspirations for a field of scholarly endeavor? Peace and harmony are among the most desired conditions of humanity. But in order to create the conditions for peace, according to today’s political experts, centralized power to mold the world as they see fit is required. But therein lay the deadly paradox: the lesson of The Enlightenment springing out of internecine religious and civil war was that a handful of men’s arbitrary power over others is never to be trusted. Contrary to any Hobbesian solution, the power to do good is the power to do evil; and if men are by nature fallible, then it is best to mitigate the damage a few evil men can do to countless others through centralized power. Indeed, a powerful hypothesis of the twentieth century contained in F.A. Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom is that concentrated power attracts the worst men.
And the lessons of the twentieth century bear out that the Enlightenment philosophers were right. In contrast to spurious theories such as Lenin’s “Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism,” the greatest wars were initiated by illiberal regimes: including Austro-Hungary, Prussia, and Russia in World War I; Nazi Germany in World War II; The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in the Korean War; and The Socialist Republic of Vietnam in the Vietnam War. In fact, the latter two cases can best be thought of not as international conflicts, but as civil wars provoking external intervention.
With this in mind, the bloodiest conflict, the most human misery, the greatest want, was not caused by capitalist aggression or lack of state power, but by the abuse of centralized state power. Especially if we consider The Holocaust as a predominately internal police measure within Nazi Germany, there can be no doubt that man’s inhumanity to man is a facet of accumulated power that can be arbitrary abused without immediate consequence. The Russian Civil War following the Bolshevik putsch, the Great Leap Forward of Maoist China, the Khmer Rouge, and the continuing catastrophe of North Korea, all testify to the horrors that can result from accumulated power, even when wielded with the best of intentions.
Counter-intuitively for those who crave to create a better world, the best way to ensure peace and harmony is to decentralize power and safeguard individual rights. An economy based on the voluntary exchange of goods and labor and a political system based on limited government and electoral accountability are the surest ways to preserve domestic tranquility.
And not unilateral nuclear and military disarmament, which can provoke conflict between great powers, but nuclear deterrence based on mutually assured destruction, is the surest way to preserve the long peace and benefit humanity.
Intellectuals must make peace with their utopian dreams to wield unopposed power in order to create a perfect world. The result of accumulating power in an unrivaled world body would not be perpetual peace, but rather perpetual repression; regardless of any contemporary good intentions.
Note: Image at right is from RJ Rummel’s study of Democide, which is defined as the murder of individuals by the state. For more information, read “Statistics of Democide.”