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The Party’s Over

Here’s a letter to a Facebook friend:

Mr. Feeney:

You criticize my applause, on Facebook, of Rep. Justin Amash’s resignation from the Republican party. Your argument boils down to this: The GOP is not as bad as are the Democrats; therefore, one must support the GOP.

I’m sorry, but I reject your argument.

Even if I grant the assumption that the current GOP is a lesser evil than is any likely Democratic alternative, it doesn’t follow that Mr. Amash, I, or anyone else who seeks as little as possible evil in the world must join forces with the GOP.

Perhaps the Crips are indeed a smidge less thieving and murderous than are the Bloods. And perhaps also some specific acts of predation and thuggery by the Crips, carried out in some particular time and place, might well prevent, through displacement, even worse savagery by the Bloods. No matter. This reality – even if reality it unquestionably be – doesn’t remotely come close to rendering ethical, or even acceptable, participation in the Crips’ violence.

The truly ethical person joins forces with the lesser of two evils only if doing so is the only practical alternative to joining forces with the greater of two evils. Fortunately, GOP party politics isn’t the only practical alternative to Democratic party politics. Removing oneself from both hotbeds of evil – speaking out against the evil itself, regardless of who unleashes it – is an available alternative. Indeed, it’s the only alternative that is ethically acceptable.

You’ll reply that this third alternative is impractical. I disagree. It might not – indeed, it likely will not – bear fruit today. But this third alternative stands at least a chance of bearing fruit tomorrow. In contrast, those who continue to be active members of even the less-violent of two indisputably violent gangs have no prospects of persuading anyone, today or tomorrow, to reject gang violence.

Finally, I recognize that it’s not impossible that by remaining with, or by joining, the Crips a decent and idealistic person can persuade them to change their ways. Not impossible, but highly unlikely. In reality, such a person will either soon abandon the Crips in justified disgust, or sell his or her soul to those devils.

Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
Martha and Nelson Getchell Chair for the Study of Free Market Capitalism at the Mercatus Center
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA 22030