Nope, the answer isn’t smoking. Or fatty food. Or 16 oz. sodas.
And it’s not alcohol, driving too fast, or standing between politicians and a TV camera.
In the past 100 years or so, the biggest cause of premature death has been government.
Back in 2011, while criticizing the Baltimore Symphony for using the Soviet hammer and sickle in a promotion, I linked to a website showing how many millions of people were murdered by the dictators who ruled the Soviet Union.
You’ll find similar data in this video, as well as some equally shocking numbers for other examples of democide (death by government).
I don’t know if all the numbers in the video are right. I don’t even know if the government bought 1.6 billion hollow point bullets. And I certainly hope our tax dollars didn’t help finance Pol Pot’s democide in Cambodia.
But I fully agree that government is the greatest killer of all time.
This doesn’t mean, by the way, that I think all governments are equally evil. I wouldn’t even make the claim that there’s a link between big government and democide (though that’s probably true given the track record of National Socialists in Germany and Soviet Socialists in China and the Soviet Union).
Instead, I’ll simply regurgitate some of what I wrote back in August.
…be thankful that there are some libertarians willing to raise a stink about government even if the rest of the world thinks we’re a bit odd. As we’ve seen dozens of times, most recently with the IRS and NSA, bureaucrats and politicians have a compulsive tendency to grab more power and make government more intrusive. …I’ll end today’s post by mentioning the fable of the frog that gets put in a pot of water and doesn’t jump out because the temperature feels comfortable. But then the heat is slowly raised and the frog no longer has the energy to escape when he finally figures out he’s being cooked. Well, libertarians are the ones who loudly complain when the government puts us into pots.
In other words, governments are less likely to do really awful things if there are some of us fighting when they do mildly bad things.
And those are the conditions that sometimes lead to takeovers by the types of governments that do really awful things.
Let’s close with two bits of satire. First, here’s something I saw on Twitter. It’s for the statists who claim that communism is a good theory, but that it hasn’t been properly implemented.
Needless to say, I can’t see the appeal of a theory that says we are slaves to each other. But the point of this poster is that real-world communism is always about murder and oppression.
Second, this is a good opportunity to emphasize one of the messages from the end of the video.
A common trait of dictators is that they want the citizenry disarmed.
This poster is the fourth-most viewed post I’ve ever produced. But not because I said anything clever.
Instead, people like this poster and share it with their friends because it makes a very important point about the dangers of unlimited state power.
So what’s the moral of the story? I guess the message is that small government is tolerable. Medium-sized government is bad. And unlimited government is horrible.
Actually, George Washington said the same thing with much greater clarity: “Government is not reason; it is not eloquent; it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.”
P.S. I suppose this shouldn’t be a joking matter, but here’s an amusing look at communist efficiency from the Beijing Olympics.
P.P.S. And the fourth video at this link has some great examples of Reagan’s use of humor against communism.