In many countries in Europe, people get thrown in jail for claiming that the Nazi holocaust of the Jews didn’t happen, or even that it did happen, but that there were nowhere near as many deaths from it as the mainstream media reports.
Normally, we have rules for the study and reporting of historical events. Normally the rules are that anybody can say anything, and the only punishment for lying is a loss of credibility. There is the exception of libel and slander, but in most countries it is very difficult to press charges for slander and win. And generally, holocaust deniers are not prosecuted on libel or slander charges.
Why should the rules for this one event be any different from all of the rest of history?
Reason 1 for Different Rules
The Nazi party is so profoundly evil that it must be vigorously suppressed. I hate the Nazis and find them loathsome, but I doubt whether this censorship is necessary or constructive. Also, I cannot believe that Nazism has any hope of really catching on.
I’ve read some holocaust denial websites, and what they are usually claiming is that the Nazi holocaust happened, but nobody was gassed, and about 100,000 people were murdered, and about 500,000 people died from inhumane conditions in slave labor camps.
100,000 murders of non-combatants certainly qualifies as quite an atrocity. This hardly lets the Nazis off the hook. And nobody is contesting the dozens of millions who the Nazis killed through completely unprovoked conventional warfare. The Nazis also committed many other crimes, including enslaving millions of people — most societies had outgrown slavery as a terrible crime at least 50 years before that. Another crime the Nazis committed is censoring free speech in their own society, and routinely lying to their people. Most people don’t consider those to be atrocities — communist governments did (and still do) that all the time, but I consider it very serious.
Another thing Hitler did that was absolutely disgraceful was he completely betrayed Germany. As he was losing the war, his orders were to destroy everything in the path of the allies, including everything in Germany. The only reason it didn’t happen was that German soldiers usually disobeyed those orders. As he was in his bunker at the end, he wouldn’t lift a finger to try to influence history for the well-being of the German people, and he said several times that the Germans had proven themselves weak and therefore deserved to be exterminated.
Hitler’s decision that he didn’t care about the welfare of his people, and his decision to just destroy everything in his control for no reason other than that he was a sore loser, is about as clear a demonstration of the catastrophic failure of fascism as can be imagined.
So even without the holocaust (or with a greatly reduced holocaust), Hitler was such a flaming disgrace to everything that he believed in that Nazism is just an utterly discredited philosophy.
Reason 2 for Different Rules
The Nazi holocaust of the Jews was a unique event; nothing like it has ever happened before or since, and it was the worst thing that ever happened to anyone, and so much worse than any other event, that the normal rules of discussing history should not apply to it.
Genocides are common in history, and the further back you go, the more frequent they were (see the book “The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined”, by Steven Pinker). It is probable that we exterminated the Neanderthals. If you read the Old Testament, many genocides were committed by the Jews, and some of them were significantly worse than the Nazi holocaust of European Jews. About 50% of European Jews died in the Nazi holocaust. But if you read about the holocaust by the Jews of the Amalekites in 1 Samuel 15 in the Bible, for example, every last Amalekite, including the king, was eventually exterminated. Your odds of survival would be twice as good as a European Jew being attacked by the Nazis than as an Amalekite being attacked by the Jews or as a Neanderthal being attacked by the humans. Genghis Khan would sometimes kill the entire population of cities that resisted him. Over 90% of the American Indians were wiped out when the whites came. So the Nazi holocaust of the Jews was far from the worst thing that ever happened to anyone. Many groups have suffered genocide, and historians should be free from censorship so they can examine all of these events from all angles.
Reason 3 for Different Rules
The Nazi holocaust of the Jews, as described by Simon Weisenthal, is so central to our interpretation of history, that no one should be allowed to argue any other point of view about it.
I can see how the Nazi holocaust of the Jews is really central to the history of the Jews, but is it central to everybody’s history? An an American WASP, I don’t find it that important. It was an act by a foreign country that my country was at all-out war with (the Nazis started gassing people for their ethnicity about the same month that they declared war on the US). As I have described above, not only the government that did it, but the very style of government that did it, is thoroughly disgraced and discredited for other reasons.
I find other events, like the genocide of the Native Americans and the slavery of the blacks, to be much more relevant to my history. But no one is arguing that we need laws forbidding people from saying that the genocide of the Native Americans or the slavery of the blacks didn’t happen.
I find other things in history much more worthy of our attention, like the many genocides committed by the Jews in the Bible. While the Nazi genocide was ordered by Hitler, a man now revered by almost no one and now despised by nearly everyone, the genocides in the Bible were ordered by, and approved of, by Jehovah, who is still widely revered and still widely described as an infinitely wise and loving entity, the very definition of virtue. I think people need to be told more often about these atrocities, and re-examine whether Jehovah is a deity worth worshiping.
Many believers claim the genocides in the Bible didn’t really happen, that they were just “parables”! (Parables of what???? — Parables of utter depravity?) So we are surrounded by millions of these modern holocaust deniers. Why should we tolerate deniers of these many holocausts but not that one?
Censorship Can be Very Counterproductive
Denial of the Nazi holocaust is a conspiracy theory, and like most conspiracy theories, it’s very far fetched and hard to believe. They believe, for example, that all the witnesses at the Nuremberg trials were tortured into giving completely false confessions, and that a worldwide conspiracy manipulated the world press into believing in at least 4 or 5 million murders that never really happened. I don’t think it’s something anyone is going to believe unless they really, really want to.
But extinguishing a conspiracy theory with censorship is like putting out a fire with gasoline! Once there is censorship, the conspiracy theorists can say “There are a lot of persuasive, intelligent arguments to be made for my point of view that are being censored. If you heard the whole truth, you would agree with me.”. Furthermore, most conspiracy theories claim the government is suppressing the “truth”. Censorship adds credibility to that claim.
If we started locking up UFO witnesses, suddenly a much larger fraction of the population would believe in UFO’s. Similarly, locking up 9/11 “truthers” would enhance their credibility in the eyes of the public.
For myself, a large part of how I know the Nazi holocaust happened stems from the fact that I was able to visit denialist websites, hear them out, and decide that I found their arguments unpersuasive. If there was effective censorship of Nazi holocaust deniers, my position on the topic would be “I don’t know if the Nazi holocaust happened or not. How can I have an opinion? I haven’t heard both sides.”
Censorship of Nazi holocaust denial in Europe is only marginally effective — people in those countries can still access denialist websites on the global internet. If they couldn’t, belief that the Nazi holocaust didn’t happen would probably be much more popular in those countries.
In many third world countries, free speech is desperately needed. Often, there are laws banning the criticism of religion, and many religions are widely believed to be the source of all virtue in the world. In my view, this belief is one of the most destructive beliefs in the world, and criticism of religion is desperately needed in these countries. The developed world should be setting an example by holding free speech high as one of the most exalted ideals of civilization. But when third world countries see Europeans claiming to favor free speech with one hand while throwing people in jail simply for expressing a historical opinion on the other, the whole ideal of free speech is reduced to the appearance of mere hypocrisy.
In the US, there are no laws banning Nazi holocaust denial, and the Nazi party is hardly doing very well. They hold no seats in congress, and the only Nazis to be found are a few scattered convicts and nut cases.
Free speech is very important to the functioning of society. I am very uncomfortable with even having libel and slander laws. It is vital to the functioning of the marketplace of ideas that all points of view be heard. Sure, there are many ideas that I think are idiotic and harmful that I would love to see extinguished — the anti-vaccine movement, climate change denial, and the Abrahamic religions, for example. But censorship is morally wrong, and every time we do it, it sets a precedent for more censorship, and we may wind up censoring an idea that’s true someday.
Here in the US, standardized testing for students has come under attack. In our recent NYC Democratic mayoral primary, the 3 leading contenders all disparaged “teaching to the test”.
I did my last two years of high school in Melbourne, Australia. The government there gave 3 hour exams in each subject at the end of the senior year. Those exams entirely determined which university you got into.
The reputation of each school depended very heavily upon their performance in these exams, and much of all 4 years of high school education was built around preparing us for those tests.
In the US, the NCLB (No Child Left Behind) tests, whose results can cost a teacher their job, are often graded by the teacher whose job is at stake. Not surprisingly, there have been cases of teachers cheating. In Melbourne, the graders were separate people hired by the government, who had no knowledge of which school’s, let alone which teacher’s, tests they were reading, guaranteeing impartial grading.
The Australian exams were never multiple choice. The answers were always to be in prose or working through the problem in algebra/calculus.
Another big difference between the Australian system and the American was that in Australia, 80% was an A, 70% was a B, and so on. The was instrumental – it allowed teachers to make 20% of the questions very difficult, requiring imagination and insight and out-of-the-box thinking, and still have a reasonable number of A’s, while American teachers, where 90% is an A, are constrained to asking only easy questions, which leads to a focus on rote memorization rather than a deep grasp of the concepts.
If it is possible to “teach to the test”, that is, spend time on something other than teaching the material as well as possible, and have that result in a better score, then that means the test is poorly designed and can be gamed. I didn’t feel it was possible to game the Australian tests, I saw my friends try, but it seemed to me that the best approach was to simply pursue mastery of the material. If the NCLB tests can be gamed, the solution is to improve them, not do away with them. It is possible for a government to create great tests – I’ve seen it done.
In the last 15 years or so, American education has widely adopted standardized tests. This allows comparison of performance between teachers, and between schools. This is great progress. Teachers’ unions hate it, but you have to remember that what they want is a return to the bad old days, when they had 100% job security, regardless of performance, with no accountability or meritocracy at all.
No country in the world is spending more per public school student than the US, and our results for all that money are abysmal. How can we possibly hope to improve the system if we aren’t measuring its quality in some way?
Non-Secular Vouchers Could be Unconstitutional
For the state to give money to parents who would spend it on religious education of their children would clearly violate the constitutional separation of church and state. My own religious position (atheism) is reflected here. I also think celibates, who often teach in religious schools, are not sexually healthy people, and we have seen a lot of bad results come from entrusting children to their care. The federal Supreme Court has not clearly spoken on this issue, and I hope they uphold the idea that tax money may not be spent on religious education. Such a ruling, however, would not rule out the possibility of secular vouchers.
Secular Vouchers Would Undermine the Teachers’ Unions, Which Are a Menace to Society
To find an association that is doing more harm to American society than the teachers’ unions, you’d really have to look at the mafia.
Elimination of the teachers unions would NOT result in teachers being paid minimum wage with no benefits. Society is happy to pay teachers good salaries, and the US is tied with Switzerland as spending the most money per pupil on K-12 in public schools, but the results we get are very poor compared to other developed countries.
If all that unions accomplished were to bargain more effectively for higher pay, I would be much less opposed to them. But they don’t stop there. They make an all-out assault on meritocracy. Most people don’t like having their bosses evaluate their performance. Performance in many jobs is hard to assess objectively, so reviews are highly subjective and often unfair. So when employees organize, they try to either get rid of the reviews, or at least make it such that their reviews have no bearing on whether they keep their jobs.
As a software engineer, I feel my reviews are very subjective. Every program is different, difficulties arise, and how well you dealt with them is hard to judge. Do I feel I’ve always been fairly judged? Hell, no! But I accept that it is in society’s interest for a judgement to be passed, and, if I keep getting negative reviews year after year, I should think about another line of work. This whole process has been eliminated for most unionized public school teachers. No matter how bad their results, their job is secure. In American schools, we often have teachers in adjacent classrooms, teaching the same subject, achieving radically different student test scores. Not only does the poorly performing teacher not get fired, but the outstanding teacher goes unrewarded. As Bill Gates put it, “If you know how many years a teacher has been teaching, you know her paycheck.”.
Secular vouchers, by moving education from unionized public schools to non-unionized private ones, would end this status quo. Occasionally, a private school would get unionized, but if the union undermines meritocracy too much, tests scores will slump, customers will flee, and the school will go out of business, which would be a big improvement over the current state of affairs.
When Seeking Good Schools, Parents Shop not Just For Good Teachers, but Good Peers
There appear to be a lot of people in this society who just don’t get it — they don’t understand that they will be screwed in life unless they apply themselves to their studies and acquire marketable skills. So they wind up poor and often unemployed, and lead miserable lives. And they don’t impart a motivation to learn to their kids. Their kids go to school and pose a discipline problem for teachers, and undermine the education of everybody else in the classroom.
The many parents who are currently paying an arm and a leg for private school are often just trying to avoid having their kids educated alongside these difficult students. They know their kids will have a much better life if they go to a school where everybody wants to learn.
The alternative to paying a fortune to send your kid to a private school is to move out to a remote suburb and pay for a house in a good school district that is really more expensive than you would otherwise want, and spend several hours a day commuting. Huge amounts of money, time, and energy are thus squandered by parents just trying to get their kids educated in the proximity of desirable peers.
Private schools funded by secular vouchers would be free to refuse students and kick out discipline problems. The difficult children could wind up in special schools that specialize in somehow being able to deal with them. I have no idea how an educator would deal with these little monsters (corporal punishment comes to mind), but if they could at least be prevented from ruining the education of others, that would be progress.
You may feel that I am being callous with respect to these problem children, but is it fair to a parent who raises a well-disciplined child who is motivated to learn (no easy task) to have their child’s life ruined by the proximity of children whose parents didn’t put in that effort?
Competition Would Improve Performance
Secular vouchers would lead to a school’s survival depending on its reputation. Incompetent schools and incompetent teachers would be weeded out by the system, resulting in a generally higher level of performance.
Most proposed school vouchers are for much less money than the government spends per student in public school. The amount should be the same — the full amount, and it should come from the budget of the public school system, which should eventually be dismantled — goodbye and good-riddance.
One good thing that has been achieved in our educational system over the last couple of decades is that standardized testing of all students in K-12 is administered by the government. This should continue. Students in private schools should be required to take these tests. There are problems with this testing; I have heard that the tests are poorly designed, and they are often graded by the same teachers whose jobs depend upon the results. The tests should be improved, and they should be graded by remote bureaucrats who are totally unaffiliated with the schools affected, in fact who don’t even know which school the students being tested went to.
I’d like to write a video game called “Josef Stalin”.
It’s 1935. You’re the Soviet head of state, a position that faces no re-elections and you have complete control of the media. You also have the right to arrest, imprison, or kill anyone in the country at your whim, without trial. You also just happen to personally be a bigger asshole than anybody else you’ve ever met in your whole life.
But you, and you alone, possess the true insight, and the courageous leadership capability to make communism work and leave the Capitalist West behind.
Unfortunately, nearly everybody in the country realizes, deep down, what a prick you are. 20% of the country would love to see you die, 5% would kill you if they could get away with it, and 0.1% of them (that’s 100,000 people) would sacrifice their lives to kill you.
The country has made great strides since you took office, and every bit of that, every iota, is due to your exceptional ideas. All hope for the country is lost if you die.
Plots are always happening, conspiracies to kill you pop up every day, and they must all be sought out and eradicated lest they kill you, and with you, any hope for communism.
All these people who want you dead just don’t understand. If only they could be shown your each and every decision in context, they would realize that you were motivated only by your ever so deep love for mankind. The future you are creating is so wonderful, so perfect, that achieving it justifies any conceivable crime. But most people are idiots who couldn’t possibly comprehend the big picture. There’s no hope of being liked all the time. In the absence of liking, fear will have to suffice.
In this video game, you get points for how long you live. Just killing everybody won’t work, because you need the Soviet Union to be as strong as possible when Hitler attacks in 1941. But you’ll die before 1936 unless you kill a lot of people, including a lot of people you aren’t at all sure are the slightest bit guilty.
And of course, in history Stalin dies in 1953 partly because he had purged the doctors who’d been taking care of him. So in the video game you can live longer than that, but you have to somehow manage to kill enough people to survive while at the same time being able to find physicians you can trust.
If you can do things right, you can organize it so that 20% of the country’s GDP is spent on medical research specifically aimed at the few specific illnesses that you personally are particularly likely to get, so they could extend your life to 100 years old, which would be 1978.
- From a Libertarian perspective, the bailouts were entirely unconscionable — normally, Libertarians argue against taxing people even to feed the poor. The bailout was widely perceived as taxing people and giving the money to the rich.
- The event was widely distorted by leftists as being much worse that it was. Michael Moore, for example, in his movie “Capitalism: A Love Story”, claimed that there really was no financial crisis, the bailout was completely unnecessary, and the perception of a financial crisis was a hoax perpetrated by George W. Bush in order to steal government dollars. Of course, the movie never mentions that most of the big banks had paid back their TARP money with a profit before his movie made it to theaters.
- There is a widespread perception of criminality on the part of the Wall Street banks. Most people don’t understand finance well enough to articulate accusations of specific criminal activity — they have no idea what happened, but they are sure it was something morally wrong.
- A widespread perception of immoral behavior at the top has terrible consequences for society. If young people are raised believing that the system is profoundly unjust and that the rich got that way by skulduggery, they are unlikely to apply themselves to the productive process. They are unlikely to major in difficult subjects that provide marketable skills, they are unlikely to be willing to work long hours.
- In her book, Sheila Bair, the head of the FDIC, claims that, while the Dodd-Frank reforms were being drafted, she was trying to oppose any possibility of future bailouts, while Tim Geithner (then secretary of the treasury), who was running the show, was doing everything he could to set up the system so that future bailouts would be possible.
- Many people talk about “Moral Hazard” in that, in the future, banks will behave irresponsibly and take inappropriate risks because they’re confident the government will bail them out if they get ih trouble.
One argument is that since we bailed out the big banks, we should be willing to also bail out people, i.e. the home owners. Firstly, I’m not keen on bailing out ANYBODY, but let’s explore the idea a bit. Most of the big banks paid back their bailout loans within 9 months. An underwater home owner would take years to pay back a loan for the amount they are underwater, so bailing them out would be very different.
One consequence of the housing crash is that many home owners wound up with massive negative equity in their homes, and then they lost their jobs due to the recession, and because they can’t sell their house for enough to pay off their loan, they can’t relocate for employment reasons.
One thing the government could do, at no cost to the taxpayer, is create a class of loan called “negative equity unsecured loan”. If someone has negative equity in their house and doesn’t want to declare bankruptcy or be foreclosed upon, make it possible to take out a loan for the amount they’re in the hole that would, like a student loan, be unsecured by any collateral and impossible to wipe out through bankruptcy. The interest rates on these loans would probably be similar to those on student loans — higher than mortgage loans due the absence of collateral, but much, much lower than credit card debt due to the unavailability of bankruptcy. Then people could sell their houses, relocate to where the jobs are, and resume paying taxes and paying off their debts.
One benefit of having a database with everyone’s genome in it would be that the paternity of anyone could be quickly and unambiguously identified. This could prove tremendously beneficial to society.
Out of Wedlock Births
About 40% of all American births are now out of wedlock. Most of these mothers, while at least not teenagers, are poor, high-school dropouts, ill-equipped to raise a child on their own, and likely to need government assistance.
One hears stories of some men actively setting out to deliberately leave a trail of illegitimate children behind them, none of whom they take any responsibility for, leaving the taxpayer to pick up the bill.
Mothers who receive government assistance for a child are currently required to try to help the government locate the biological father and hold him accountable. Evidently, many of them don’t try very hard. But perhaps this requirement could be amended so that, if any government assistance is to be had, the genome of mother and child should have to be sequenced and kept in government databases, to be cross-checked against the male population in search of the father. If the father could be located, he could be held accountable financially, his wages garnished if necessary, relieving the taxpayer of some of that burden. If a man then leaves enough illegitimate children behind, he will find himself so impoverished that he will be unable to wine and dine any more prospective mothers.
Then there are the minors. I read in Atlantic magazine that when a 14 year old inner city girl becomes pregnant, the father is rarely a boy her own age. It is usually an adult 22 years old or over. Think about this — a 22 year old who impregnates a 14 year old, provided she goes through with the pregnancy, is doing enormous harm, both to her and to society. She will probably never be able to achieve any reasonable educational or career goals she might have had (or at least should have had), and she is unlikely to ever find herself properly situated to have a child under conditions likely to result in good outcomes for that child.
But any 22 year old fellow who is enough of a lowlife to get a 14 year-old-girl pregnant probably has an arrest record. His DNA is probably in the databases we already have. Search for it, identify him, convict him of statutory rape, and throw him in jail for a long time. If we do this often enough, word will get around, and men may become a lot more principled all of a sudden about respecting the virtue of young girls.
In Wedlock Births
Something like 3% of children born in wedlock are not biologically related to their legal fathers. Some estimates are much higher.
What usually happens, when a woman cheats and becomes pregnant, is she never tells her husband, and he spends the next 22 years of his life helping to raise a child that is not his own.
Consider the magnitude of this fraud. Were he to discover the deception at the end of the 22 years, if he divorces his wife, he is probably realistically too old to start a new family — he has lost the opportunity to procreate. He has also invested tens, perhaps hundreds, of thousands of dollars in a fraudulent enterprise.
I read a news story about a man who suspected his wife of cheating, and had a paternity test done on their 6 year old child. The child was not his. He divorced his wife, who married the biological father. The courts forced him to pay child support to the couple who had deceived him, for a child who was not his own.
Normally, the law is very clear — if you defraud somebody and take hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of something — money, time, hassle, suffering — from them, the law will hold you accountable and you are civilly liable to pay it back. Yet a woman who defrauds her husband into raising a child who is not his — an enterprise that involves a tremendous amount of his money, time, hassle, and suffering, is not accountable at all.
These laws were obviously written before reliable paternity tests existed. I can see the logic — lawmakers and courts were concerned about the welfare of the child, so it made sense to hold some male accountable to it. If the legal father was not the biological father, there was no reliable way to track the biological father down. So, however unfair it may be to a husband, the law evolved such that he was responsible for any sentient life form that emerged from his wife’s body, absolutely regardless of her behavior.
But if we had everybody’s DNA in a database along with their social security numbers, we could always quickly and reliably track down the biological father and hold him accountable, and let the poor cuckolded schmuck off the hook. And as long as we have the interloper in our sights, we can hold him and the wife accountable for tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars for the act of fraud they have perpetrated. And it would be a court settlement, so the debt couldn’t be erased by bankruptcy.
We might evolve into a society where, when a divorce occurs, paternity testing of the kids is routinely done, especially if it was the wife who wanted out of the marriage — the husband might lose faith in her fidelity, and since the paternity test would have such important ramifications, property-wise, getting that information would be seen as a necessity. It should certainly become impossible to collect child support from a man without DNA testing to prove that the child is his.
Some people might argue that only a very selfish and old-fashioned husband would be so concerned for whether his own genes are in the child. After all, he had the joy of raising a child, and should be content with that. Many people knowingly adopt children they are not biologically related to, and they lead happy lives.
If you consider that to be a persuasive argument, bear in mind that all the wife has to do to avoid fraud charges being pressed is disclose, early on, to her husband that the child might not be his. If he doesn’t mind and sticks around, then no fraud is being perpetrated. She can send him an email while he’s at work:
“Honey, just an FYI — I was regularly having unprotected sex with Ralph Furschlinger around the time I became pregnant with Timmy. Oh, and please remember to pick up some eggs and milk on your way home. XXX – Diane”
We could also find ourselves in a situation where a man, realizing he has fathered another family’s child, decides to inform the legal father sooner rather than later, to avoid adding more years to the fraud being perpetrated. Someone who thinks he’s a father could find himself invited to lunch by a male friend. Upon arriving at the restaurant, he is led to a back room by the friend. In the back room is a lawyer and a couple of burly bodyguards. The lawyer does all the talking…
If we’re going to condemn a male who objects to raising kids who aren’t his, why not take it to its logical extreme — why not just have hospitals not put name tags on babies, but just mix them all up in one room, and when new parents are ready to go home, give them a child selected at random? Only a very selfish and old-fashioned mother would object to being given a child who is different from the one she carried, and if she complains she should be chastised for being so backward in her thinking.