Violence Begets Violence and War

Violence Begets Violence and War
In this June 28, 1914, photo the Archduke of Austria Franz Ferdinand (C-R) and his wife Sophie walk to their a car in Sarajevo, Bosnia. This photo was taken minutes before the assassination of the Archduke and his wife, an event which set off a chain reaction of events which would eventually lead to World War I.
Jeffrey A. Tucker

On June 28, 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary was shot and killed in Sarajevo, Bosnia. The killer was motivated by politics: a Serbian nationalist done with the empires of old. In some ways, the ambition to disrupt achieved its aim. The murder set off a chain reaction of diplomatic failures, retaliations, military alliances, and the eventual full explosion of the Great War, the first total war in world history.

By total, we mean involving the whole of civilian society in most nations at once, not just soldiers but everything and everyone, which meant, of course, conscription of civilians and resulting mass death. The human toll is beyond comprehension: 9 million to 15 million dead and 21 million wounded. Looking back more than 100 years later, it is apparent that this event ended the progress of civilization from hundreds of years earlier, shattering economic and political systems profoundly and turning back the clock on human rights.

What ended up worse than the war was the peace. The Versailles Treaty left so much unresolved in terms of territory and debts that events in Europe gradually unfolded into a second great war, and both ended up being referred to as World War I and II, with awesome death and destruction all over the world from which we have yet to fully recover.

Those two calamities closed a chapter in the history of civilization. It’s so obvious when we look back now at the old world, with its magnificent architecture, music, explosive prosperity, and innovations. The palpable and near-universal optimism of the late 19th century turned into grave darkness and sadness over the state of the world, and this came to be reflected in the art and philosophies of the 20th century, with the emergence of nihilism, pessimism, and overall aesthetic grimness as the dominant forms.

We’ve yet to recover fully from those two calamities, as well as the war and terrorism that followed.

This entire history has been resurrected into new relevance this past week. There was an attempt on the life of Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico. It appears that he will recover. Just a few days earlier, he was in the news for having issued a decisive no on signing the World Health Organization treaty (or “agreement”) that attempts to codify the lockdown-until-vaccination plan for dealing with new pathogens.
Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico walks during the European Council summit at the EU headquarters in Brussels on April 18, 2024. (Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP via Getty Images)
Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico walks during the European Council summit at the EU headquarters in Brussels on April 18, 2024. (Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP via Getty Images)

Mr. Fico called the treaty a pharma-backed racket and had previously denounced the major pharmaceutical companies for manufacturing dangerous products and imposing them on the world population. He said he values his nation’s democracy and wants his own country to be in control of its health decisions.

At first, the claim went out that there was no connection at all between Mr. Fico’s decision and the attempted murder. But then it turned out that the assassination attempt was indeed politically motivated. The gunman is a political activist with the Progressive Slovakia party who loathed Mr. Fico’s nationalist politics. Ironically, he had been making videos for years decrying violence, and then, presumably, turned to violence to prevent more. He was quickly labeled a “lone wolf” by the international press. Maybe, but in these times of mass population distrust, that’s a hard sell.

The pandemic response that swept the whole world into lockdown, following a single model that strangely dominated all governments, media, science, and technology, with dissenters silenced and disenfranchised, really amounted to martial law conditions across all nations. That was followed by an experiment in mass injection that knew no precedent: an untested technology forced on the whole world as media and the expert class cheered.

As it unfolded, many of us had this profound concern. What precisely is the violent approach to dealing with infectious disease teaching the world’s population? That might makes right? That the path to health is through violent intervention in voluntary choices? My own feeling was that this is precisely the message the whole disaster would send, provided there was not some wholesale repudiation of the scheme.

There have been scant apologies since those days, and plenty of attempts to try to codify the violent method as standard. A new academic paper from the Brookings Institution claims that forced human separation saved 800,000 lives. To arrive at this conclusion, the authors use “back-of-the-envelope” modeling techniques that presume that most people had never been exposed to COVID-19 before the vaccine appeared—a completely unrealistic assumption with no basis in fact. The paper has zero credibility, but the message is clear: The establishment is sticking with its story no matter what.

This is a major problem. It sends a message to the whole world: You can get your way with the lives of others through violent means. This is the theory of governing and social action that is being valorized all over the world today. It is resulting in terrible things in all lands, from Ukraine to the United States to Israel and Gaza and now to Eastern Europe with actual political assassinations. People can argue forever about which party is the perpetrator and the victim, but the bigger picture here is the exaltation of violence in general as a path for getting one’s way.

This was the major message of the pandemic response in nearly all countries. It utterly contradicted all Western traditions of liberty and law and sent a message that we no longer believe in such things.

What has followed has looked ever more like a dystopian movie or show. Take your pick: “V for Vendetta,” “The Hunger Games,” “Game of Thrones,” “Enemy of the State,” “Brazil,” “Equilibrium,” “Idiocracy,” “Logan’s Run,” you name it. Our new reality has elements of all of them.

For four years, my mind has traveled back to one of the most profound essays in the history of political economy. It was written by 19th-century French essayist Frédéric Bastiat, penned in his last days as he lay dying and written in the hopes of inspiring humanity to turn against using the law and violence for purposes it was not intended. He called his essay “The Law.”

Bastiat wrote:

“But, unfortunately, law by no means confines itself to its proper functions. And when it has exceeded its proper functions, it has not done so merely in some inconsequential and debatable matters. The law has gone further than this; it has acted in direct opposition to its own purpose. The law has been used to destroy its own objective: It has been applied to annihilating the justice that it was supposed to maintain; to limiting and destroying rights which its real purpose was to respect. The law has placed the collective force at the disposal of the unscrupulous who wish, without risk, to exploit the person, liberty, and property of others. It has converted plunder into a right, in order to protect plunder. And it has converted lawful defense into a crime, in order to punish lawful defense.”

He also wrote:

“As long as it is admitted that the law may be diverted from its true purpose—that it may violate property instead of protecting it—then everyone will want to participate in making the law, either to protect himself against plunder or to use it for plunder. Political questions will always be prejudicial, dominant, and all-absorbing. There will be fighting at the door of the Legislative Palace, and the struggle within will be no less furious. To know this, it is hardly necessary to examine what transpires in the French and English legislatures; merely to understand the issue is to know the answer.”

Bastiat explained the real function of law:

“It is not true that the function of law is to regulate our consciences, our ideas, our wills, our education, our opinions, our work, our trade, our talents, or our pleasures. The function of law is to protect the free exercise of these rights, and to prevent any person from interfering with the free exercise of these same rights by any other person. Since law necessarily requires the support of force, its lawful domain is only in the areas where the use of force is necessary. This is justice.”

And he mapped out the basic template of civilized life:

“Which countries contain the most peaceful, the most moral, and the happiest people? Those people are found in the countries where the law least interferes with private affairs; where government is least felt; where the individual has the greatest scope, and free opinion the greatest influence; where administrative powers are fewest and simplest; where taxes are lightest and most nearly equal, and popular discontent the least excited and the least justifiable; where individuals and groups most actively assume their responsibilities, and, consequently, where the morals of admittedly imperfect human beings are constantly improving; where trade, assemblies, and associations are the least restricted; where labor, capital, and populations suffer the fewest forced displacements; where mankind most nearly follows its own natural inclinations; where the inventions of men are most nearly in harmony with the laws of God; in short, the happiest, most moral, and most peaceful people are those who most nearly follow this principle: Although mankind is not perfect, still, all hope rests upon the free and voluntary actions of persons within the limits of right; law or force is to be used for nothing except the administration of universal justice.”

Every government in the world has turned its back on this vision, through war, inflation, administrative expansion, and now even pathogenic and climate control. It’s pure madness and should not surprise anyone learned in the history of politics that this approach will lead to widening circles and uses of violence in service of the aims. All of this use of state power is fire, and now, the world is starting to burn.

The assassination attempt on Mr. Fico’s life could be a terrible harbinger of the future. Violence begets violence. Every nation and every political movement in the world needs to back away from such means before it is too late.

Views expressed in this article are opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.
Jeffrey A. Tucker is the founder and president of the Brownstone Institute and the author of many thousands of articles in the scholarly and popular press, as well as 10 books in five languages, most recently “Liberty or Lockdown.” He is also the editor of “The Best of Ludwig von Mises.” He writes a daily column on economics for The Epoch Times and speaks widely on the topics of economics, technology, social philosophy, and culture.