20A050 Collectivism Kills by Jim Davies, 12/15/2020
The story of Aktion T4 is well told here, and is one of the darkest chapters of the 20th Century. Yet as government actions go, it was not irrational; if, that is, the collectivist premise is valid. That premise is that a society is best run by a government, or the State, for the greatest benefit of all. Its opposite is the premise that only individuals have the natural, inalienable right to choose how to live our lives.
So if the State's wellbeing is the supreme value, factions which hurt it can, rationally, be excised. The German government observed in the 1930s that people who were incurably ill - particularly, mentally ill - laid a permanent burden on the welfare of society as a whole, so society would gain by killing them all. Perfectly true, on the collectivist premise above - of which morality is not a component.
Here is its Leader's authorization for the program to be carried out, from an office in Tiergartenstrasse 4, Berlin; hence the name. Google tells me the text in English says:
Reichsleiter Bouhler and Dr. med. Brandt are responsible for expanding the powers of doctors to be appointed by name so that, according to human judgment, incurable patients can be granted death by grace if their condition is critically assessed.
"Critically" probably carries the meaning of "thoroughly"; that is, Hitler wanted to kill only those for whom there was no doubt that a cure was impossible. Notice too that as Head of State he used the verb "grant"; he believed, or at least said he believed, that he was doing the victims a favor, making them a gift. And "Gnadentod" does mean a "merciful" death, not a punishment. How kind!
The collectivist ideal was the driver, though; 300,000 were mercifully killed in the following 6 years and all would have needed continuous, rather intensive care had they gone on living, at the expense of the rest of society. In today's terms that might have been $100,000 a year each - or perhaps a lot more - so the greater good of the State amounted to at least $30 billion a year; a saving by no means trivial.
Here are some other actions that could be taken today, on the basis of the same, collectivist premise:
- all who have retired but who depend on Social Security could for the greater good of society be allowed to live for 5 or 10 years, then "granted" Gnadentod. Heck, because of increasing need of medical care we oldsters get more expensive every year, to keep alive. Huge savings!
- all who exhibit dangerously anti-social conduct, in the opinion of the wise and benevolent rulers of the State; for example, those who spread disease by refusing to wear masks or to be vaccinated, when so ordered. These... Deplorables could be liquidated, for the good of the Collective.
- all who dissent from the collectivist premise, by spreading the heresy that it is false, that only individuals have rights; and thereby challenge the validity of the State - aiming a stake, thereby, at its very heart. These are very obviously enemies of society so deserve liquidation. In the USSR such dissidents were routinely sent to lunatic asylums, in the merciful hope of curing them instead.
This is where collectivism, or government, ultimately and rationally leads. What's wrong is not the reasoning from the premise, but the premise itself. Why is it false? - because of the self ownership axiom, our old friend the SOA: each individual human being has the absolute, natural right to own and operate his or her own life and that is undeniable (hence, an axiom) so "society" has no rights at all. Government is a fundamentally irrational construct.
There's another huge benefit of dumping collectivism and embracing the rational alternative of the SOA: from it follows a systematic basis for morality, a value wholly missing from the former. Prior to around 1900 moral standards were set by Christianity; but when the foundations of that fell apart, morals tumbled too, leaving collectivism unimpeded. But the SOA means that everyone owns himself, and therefore that nobody's life may morally be touched except one's own.
Thus, Hitler had a perfect right in 1945 to end his own life, and that of anyone who requested his help including Eva his wife; but none to end those of anyone else. And nor does any other government (or anyone else) have a right to end or modify the lives or property of anyone at all. At long last, morality rests on reason.
This month the freedom movement has lost two of its most distinguished champions.
Walter Williams was a prolific writer, an economist who reduced complex subjects to their simple elements that any reader could grasp, perhaps especially when exposing nonsense about race. His columns appeared in newspapers nationwide and a selection of his articles is archived here on Lew Rockwell. He died of COPD and hypertension.
Carl Watner was a founder of the "Voluntaryist" movement and newsletter; a meticulous scholar and writer whose consistent life accurately reflected his principles. His book I Must Speak Out can be read free and is a collection of some of the newsletters, arranged to form an invaluable reference work for libertarian thought. I often emailed to congratulate him on some insight, and he always replied promptly and patiently. He died of cancer, and will be sadly missed.