Nothing We Create is Good or Evil, Until We Use It


Image courtesy Dr. Dawg’s Blawg.

The rather-far-right-wing blogger Kate McMillan touched off a bit of a storm yesterday, with this post:

The Nazis Didn’t Carry Out The Holocaust

The German state did that. National Socialism just gave the machinery of state censorship and oppression a new brand name and game plan.

Such a post is so obviously provocative, I cannot help but wonder if McMillan was facing a downturn in traffic and Google Adsense revenues of late. Normally, I would not respond, but something about the comment made me want to look a little further.

McMillan’s point seems to be that while the Nazis were evil (although she jokingly refers to them as “my closest friends”), they could not have performed their evil if they weren’t able to co-opt the state apparatus to implement their evil policies. Therefore, she says, the state apparatus is inherently dangerous (or evil). Remove the state apparatus, and oppression like that as seen under the Nazis could never occur again.

Well, I disagree with that statement on a rather fundamental level. In my opinion, you simply can’t ascribe moral values to things, and that’s what the state apparatus is: it’s a thing, a tool. And nothing we create is good or evil until we use it.

But let’s take McMillan’s argument to its logical conclusion:

  1. The Nazis were evil, but they could not implement their evil to the extent that they did without the use of a state apparatus.
  2. Thus the state apparatus is inherently dangerous.
  3. Banning or severely limiting the state apparatus is necessary to prevent future atrocities from taking place.

Fair enough. It all flows logically. But I can use this logic in other realms:

  1. Murderers are evil, but they cannot implement their evil to the extent that they do without the use of guns.
  2. Thus guns are inherently dangerous.
  3. Banning or severely limiting guns is necessary to prevent future murders from taking place.

Therefore, based on her post linking the impacts of all state apparatuses to the atrocities of the Nazis, I welcome Kate McMillen’s newfound support for stricter gun control legislation.

Of course I’m being facetious, but the analogy holds up. I believe in gun control. I also believe in state control. I believe that the state apparatus should be restricted so that the lives of individuals remain as free as possible. That’s why I believe in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. That’s why so many people are upset at the Bush Administration’s tactics of doing end runs around the American constitution and suspending habeas corpus.

But the state is a tool, nothing more, and I’m quite happy to use that tool in order to better my life. And similarly, while I cannot see any reason why I myself would need to own a gun, I have no problem with rational individuals owing guns, so long as they take all the necessary precautions to ensure that their guns aren’t misused. There’s a neighbour where I used to live who has a gun collection. I felt perfectly safe and secure in his presence. I don’t believe I’ve ever called for the banning of guns, just their regulation.

I have no problem with responsible people acting responsibly, and I don’t think it would be wise to deny them the tools they need to do good things because of the possibility that the tools might be misused. And certainly the responsibility for the tools misuse rests with the people who use the tools and not the tools themselves. Only a fool would suggest that we ban nails because they were used in Christ’s crucifixion.

Further Reading

Now Before Anyone Says…

I can already see one comment coming forward based on this article, so let’s get my response out of the way:

“How can you criticize Kate McMillen’s statements and accept the fact that Human Rights Commissions in Canada are investigating such people as Ezra Levant and Mark Steyn for hate speech, and, supposedly, attacking freedom of speech. Isn’t this the state off its leash?”

Well, if you would read this post, you would see that I’m a little bit leery of laws specifically targetting ‘hate’. It seems to me that the solution for bad speech is not imprisonment, but more speech condemning the bad speech. I believe that we have laws already in place to fight back against the physical results of hate speech. We need to arrest people who shout “fire” in a crowded theatre when no fire exists, but we should not be gagging these people before they enter the theatre. I am open to the idea that these commissions’ mandates should be scaled back.

That being said, the actions of the Human Rights Commissions have been misrepresented by some hysterical posters. Dr. Dawg has an excellent post about what’s really going on. You don’t hear these facts being mentioned as often, as that would get in the way of the grandstanding.

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