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Quotation of the Day…

… is from page 14 of Olivier Bernier’s 2000 volume, The World in 1800:

The officially proclaimed Terror was, however, no random savagery.  The approximately ten thousand men and women who were killed were selected quite carefully: if the new national assembly, the Convention, demanded such blood-thirsty policies, if its all-powerful committees sent cartfuls of aristocrats, priests, and assorted opponents to the guillotine, it was, they considered, for a good reason, and no one was more coldly logical, or more blood-chillingly threatening, that Robespierre.  The Republic, he explained, was the hope of mankind; if it disappeared, tyranny would prevail forever; thus, in order to preserve liberty, it was necessary to suppress it temporarily.  That line of reasoning, for all its self-evident fallacy, has continued to have enormous appeal.

Of course, no one in the throes of a passion to remake society (always, of course, a remaking that is believed to be ‘for the better’) thinks of himself or herself as evil – as prone to commit sanguinary atrocities that history will properly judge to be utterly inexcusable.  ‘Our goal is so great and good,’ the social engineer with power assures himself or herself, ‘that the executions and tortures of today are justified to create the far more just and fair and equal and truly free (and [fill-in-the-blank]) society that we are now using our power to construct.  And anyway, those people being executed and tortured deserve their fates.’

Also of course, no one today who advocates ‘redistribution’ of income or wealth supposes himself or herself to be a potential petit Robespierre.  Each such person, in fact, fancies himself or herself to be unusually humane, sweet, peaceful, and “progressive.”  Yet such advocates of ‘redistribution’ do explicitly propose that the force of the state be unleashed to take from some to give to others.  And such proposals almost always are justified in part by demonizing those from whom income or wealth is to be seized.

While I certainly do not believe that a regression from soak-the-rich tax advocate to blood-thirsty executioner is inevitable, I do believe it is appropriate to point out that, once the use of force is championed as an allegedly just means of taking from ‘the haves’ (usually, but not always, in order to give to the ‘have-lesses’), there is no obvious stopping point for increasing the use of force.  All taxation is enforced ultimately with threats of execution; the potential for those threats to become terrorizing expands with an intensification of the conviction that the taxers are noble leaders intent on recreating society for the betterment of ‘the People’ and that the taxees are anti-social, evil predators who have not earned and who do not deserve that which the taxers take for ‘the public welfare.’