Arnold Kling  

Crime Without Hate, Hate Without Crime

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The topic of hate has come up in disparate places lately.

On the one hand,Mark Thoma points to Daniel Little, who offers an analysis of conservatives as motivated by hate. On the other hand, Matthew J. Franck calls this "playing the hate card," and he protests.

Bryan argues that Mao was a mass murderer. One of Bryan's book recommendations, Bloodlands, was reviewed by Richard Rhodes, who concludes,


By including Soviet with German mass atrocities in his purview, Timothy Snyder begins the necessary but as yet still taboo examination of the full depravity of total war as it was practiced in the 20th century, before the advent of nuclear weapons foreclosed it. The next step, for someone brave enough, will be to examine and explain the mass atrocities of the victors.

Let me propose that the issue of "hate" is what in many people's minds distinguishes the various mass murders that have taken place. At one extreme, it seems reasonable to argue that the German mass murders of Jews were motivated by hate. At the other extreme, it may be reasonable to suppose that Mao's starvation policies were not motivated by any hatred on his part of the people who died. I think that one would have to argue that hatred played some role in the Soviet slaughters, as well as Hiroshima and Dresden, but other motives were arguably more important.

Does any of this matter? Many years ago, I wrote an essay on Type C vs. Type M arguments, in which I took an extreme consequentialist position. I suggested that in economics we learn that the consequences of policies can differ from the motives of the people conducting those policies. Because of this, I argued for focusing on consequences, not on motives.

I probably went too far in that essay. Still, I think that many people go too far in the opposite direction. Mao's crime without hate gets less condemnation than I believe it deserves. The Tea Party's alleged hate without crime gets too much condemnation, in my view.

In my view, the most dangerous phenomenon is not hatred. It is power. Hitler's hatred would have amounted to nothing had he remained a Bohemian painter. Many political leaders have caused great harm in spite of the best of motives. I am no fan of hatred, but I think what is really important is not to condemn hatred but to check power.


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CATEGORIES: Economic Philosophy



COMMENTS (6 to date)
8 writes:

What people do is substitute hate for evil. Then they can separate two forms of evil in their mind, siding with the evil they like against the evil they do not like, or elevating one evil above the other in an appeal to relativism.

As for hate: Cultural Revolution.

Also, until the end, was Hitler not a nationalist motivated by love for the German people? He hated his enemies. The communists split their own society and performed evil "in house" (usually). Maybe that makes it ok? Like when a parent beats their child, it's ok, but if someone else does it, they get angry.

John Fox writes:

I agree 100%. Consider the oft forgotten objective of criminal justice. It is to protect the innocent, not punish the guilty. Notice the emphasis on the consequences of crime, not on the perpetrators.

Mike Rulle writes:

Consequentialism is a pretty good starting point. I recently finished reading Ian Kershaw's biography of Hitler. One perceives Hitler as having an extreme vision of Germany's destiny. Yet, he also was human. While I am sure historians often argue about or disagree on this point, he appeared to be a true believer as well as a narcissist. He clearly hated those who stood in his way. But I never understood the distinction between Hitler, Mao, Stalin, and Pol Pot for example. They clearly hated their opponents enough to kill them. Perhaps we need an "operational definition" of the term "hate". But using the word as if it had the same meaning when discussing liberals versus conservatives versus Tea Partyers ; as when discussing the aforementioned psychotics seems really besides the point. Hate is an emotion, killing is an act. It is much easier to recognize (or define for that matter) one than the other.

MernaMoose writes:

I think what is really important is not to condemn hatred but to check power.

I think, this is the most important point in the whole discussion, and it alludes to one of the major roots of The Problem of Liberty.

Checking government power is a great idea, until the day you find yourself living next to someone like the Germans or Japanese in WWII. After they've over run your country and everyone is living in hell, you may suddenly find a deep desire to concentrate whatever power necessary to repel the invaders.

The problem is that, supposing the invaders are repelled, life afterward will not go back to "normal". The power that was concentrated, will not readily and fully be dispersed again. Call it "Conservation of Momentum for Politics".

If everyone would stop fighting wars, this wouldn't be a problem. But the empircal evidence found in 5,000 years of recorded history tells me, it's never going to work that way.


The next step, for someone brave enough, will be to examine and explain the mass atrocities of the victors.

Here we go again. More Euro-philosophy, more "Gee I don't like war so let's pretend we can do away with it."

Good luck with that little venture.

Brian Clendinen writes:

"The next step, for someone brave enough, will be to examine and explain the mass atrocities of the victors."

I think the problem is there is a fine line in war between hate/evil and valid but disgusting strategies. The fire bombing of Tokyo and other cities, McNar said in the documentary Fog of War. If we lost the war that he and the others would be tried as war Criminals (he was a statistician in the Air Force in charge of the bombing effectiveness and made recommendations based on the findings).

I think considering the Japanese mentality and experience up to the point. We actually saved millions of Japans Civilians and hundred of thousand of U.S. troops through the fire bombing and atomic bombs. We actually were planning on using it for landing zones to soften up the invasion before civilian targets were chosen. However, the argument is counter-factual so it is easy to say how evil everyone was.

My point is what d0 you due to your own citizens or what you due to enemies who hate your guts are two totally different scenarios.

NZ writes:

Interesting. I read the first sentence of this blog post, switched to a chess game in another window, and thought the following tiny soliloquy to myself:

"I don't think I mind hatred. I think most people who feel hatred just seethe privately for a while or even channel it into art or some other nonviolent expression. It's when people get grand visions for the future of the human race that the big atrocities happen."

Then I switched back and read the rest of the post. The last paragraph is striking.

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