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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/6051/more-on-pinochet-and-marxism-the-necessity-of-evil-means-to-achieve-socialism/

More on Pinochet and Marxism: The Necessity of Evil Means to Achieve Socialism

December 21, 2006 by

Some of the responses to my post on General Pinochet have reminded me that along with the fable of Santa Claus and his reindeer, which is so prominent right now because it is the Christmas Season, there is another fable that is still going around. And while the Santa Claus fable is innocent, serving merely to entertain small children, this one is definitely not innocent, but positively vicious. It is the fable that those who are responsible for the attempt to socialize a country’s economic system, such as Chile’s, are well-intentioned and therefore deserve to be immune from bodily harm and certainly do not deserve ever to be killed.

According to this fable, in a country such as Chile under Allende, Marxist boys and girls are happily singing and dancing, their faces glowing with love of the downtrodden, while they attempt the joyous task of building a socialist economic system. To be sure, there are also dark forces at work in the fable: again and again, wherever the innocent and happy Marxists go and accomplish their work—Soviet Russia, Communist China, Cuba, and all the other various satellites—impoverishment, enslavement, and mass murder inexplicably always seem to follow.

Of course, according to the fable, this cannot have anything to do with the nature of socialism and the actions of the Marxists who establish it. It just happens. Equally inexplicably, unless it be simply because of their evil nature, mean, nasty men appear, who for no good reason lay hold of the innocent Marxists and beat and kill them, as did Pinochet’s soldiers in Chile in response to the Marxists’ attempt to socialize the economy of that country. What a horror, what an outrage against good and innocent Marxists! Such evil surely deserves to be severely punished!

End of fable.

I have made it part of my life’s work to throw intellectual ice water in the faces of people who have allowed themselves to become so deluded as to accept such a fable. And here, straight from my book Capitalism, is a good-sized bucketful of that intellectual ice water:

“Let us begin by considering the means employed to achieve socialism. We observe two phenomena that are not unrelated. First, wherever socialism has actually been enacted, as in the Communist-bloc countries and Nazi Germany, violent and bloody means have been used to achieve it and/or maintain it. And, second, where socialist parties have come to power but abstained from wholesale violence and bloodshed, as in Great Britain, Israel, and Sweden, they have not enacted socialism, but retained a so-called mixed economy, which they did not radically or fundamentally alter. Let us consider the reasons for these facts.

“Even if a socialist government were democratically elected, its first act in office in implementing socialism would have to be an act of enormous violence, namely, the forcible expropriation of the means of production. The democratic election of a socialist government would not change the fact that the seizure of property against the will of its owners is an act of force. A forcible expropriation of property based on a democratic vote is about as peaceful as a lynching based on a democratic vote. It is a cardinal violation of individual rights. The only way that socialism could truly come into existence by peaceful means would be if property owners voluntarily donated their property to the socialist state. But consider. If socialism had to wait for property owners to voluntarily donate their property to the state, it would almost certainly have to wait forever. If socialism is ever to exist, therefore, it can only come about by means of force—force applied on a massive scale, against all private property.

“Further, in the case of the socialization of the entire economic system, as opposed to that of an isolated industry, no form of compensation to the property owners is possible. In the case of an isolated nationalization, the government can largely compensate the former owners by taxing the rest of the property owners to some extent. If the government seizes all property, however, and simply abolishes private ownership, then there is just no possibility of compensation. The government simply steals everyone’s property lock, stock, and barrel. In these circumstances, property owners will almost certainly resist and try to defend their rights by force if necessary, as they properly should.

“This explains why it takes the Communists to achieve socialism, and why the Social Democrats always fail to achieve socialism. The Communists, in effect, know that they are out to steal all of men’s property from them and that if they expect to succeed, they had better come armed and prepared to kill the property owners, who will attempt to defend their rights. The Social Democrats, on the other hand, are held back by fear from taking the steps that would be necessary to achieve socialism.

“In sum, the essential facts are these. Socialism must commence with an enormous act of theft. Those who seriously want to steal must be prepared to kill those whom they plan to rob. In effect, the Social Democrats are mere con men and pickpockets, who engage in empty talk about pulling the `big job’—socialism—someday, and who flee before the first sign of resistance by their intended victims. The Communists, on the other hand, are serious about pulling the `big job.’ They are armed robbers prepared to commit murder. This is why the Communists are able to implement socialism. Of the two, only the Communists are willing to employ the bloody means that are necessary to implement socialism.”

The preceding paragraphs appear on pp. 282-283 of Capitalism. For explanations of the necessity of terror, forced labor, and mass murder under socialism, such as characterized the bloody history of the Soviet Union, Communist China, and the numerous Communist satellites, see pp. 283-290 of Capitalism.

The above analysis applies to Chile at the time of General Pinochet’s coup. At that time, President Allende, despite having been elected with only 36 percent of the vote, was aggressively pressing ahead, as even The New York Times’ largely hostile obituary admits, “with a Socialist program to nationalize mines, banks and strategic industries, split up large rural estates into communal farms, and impose price controls.” (Not surprisingly, such measures, as The Times notes, “soon resulted in steep declines in production, shortages of consumer goods and explosive inflation.”)

The essential point here is that a massive armed robbery on the part of the Marxist Allende government was actually in progress. It possessed armed “militias” and was using them to seize people’s property. According to The Wall Street Journal’s obituary, the regime was also acting in clear defiance of the Chilean Supreme Court, which denounced it for “`an open and willful contempt of judicial decisions’” that created the threat of an “`imminent breakdown of legality.’”

So long as Marxists are content merely to write, speak, and otherwise fantasize about the destruction of capitalism and the establishment of socialism, they have every right to be left alone, just as every one else has who harms no one but himself. But when they begin to act out their fantasy in the real world and commit armed robbery, which, as I have shown, is the only means of achieving their goal, then they forfeit their rights, including their right to life.

The right to life, liberty, and property, which every man possesses, carries with it the right to self-defense. Exercise of the right of self-defense includes killing those who are an imminent threat to one’s life. It includes killing those who are an imminent threat to one’s life in one’s attempt to defend one’s property, which is what armed robbers always are, Marxist or otherwise. If the Marxists killed or beaten in Chile had wanted to avoid such treatment, they should have stayed home, written another book or article, given another lecture or speech, or gone to another protest meeting or rally. They should not have set out to steal other people’s property.

True enough, all the writing, speaking, and peaceful protest in the world have no prospect of ever achieving socialism, because they will never persuade very many people to voluntarily donate their property to a socialist state. So at bottom, it must all be futile, unless at some point it erupts into violent action.

The implication of this is that unless Marxists can be satisfied, as the Social Democrats have apparently learned to be, with merely partial and largely token movement toward their goal, such as provided by the establishment and expansion of the welfare state, they are doomed to permanent frustration. At the same time, those of them who continue to be committed to the actual achievement of their goal of socialism, cannot be expected to tolerate such frustration permanently. At some point, it would seem, almost inevitably, they must erupt into violent action, because that is the only path that can ever achieve their goal.

Such Marxists, such socialists, i.e., the serious, dedicated ones, are not at all saints or martyrs, but dangerous people with a criminal mentality.

This article is copyright © 2006, by George Reisman. Permission is hereby granted to reproduce and distribute it electronically and in print, other than as part of a book and provided that mention of the author’s web site www.capitalism.net is included. (Email notification is requested.) All other rights reserved. George Reisman is the author of Capitalism: A Treatise on Economics (Ottawa, Illinois: Jameson Books, 1996) and is Pepperdine University Professor Emeritus of Economics.


Joshua Katz December 21, 2006 at 4:22 pm

Very well, but does Dr. Reisman expect us to accept that not one single innocent person was killed in Pinochet’s regime? Further, some explication is required on just what it means to talk about those “responsible” for socialism. Does Dr. Reisman include in this people who believe in socialism but take no action to bring it about?

If libertarians are to accept these arguments, that Pinochet was a saint, what criticism will we then make of Bush? If tactics are out of the realm of criticism, and instead we can only critize intention, what is there to say when a man tells us his intention is safety and freedom?

Reactionary December 21, 2006 at 5:42 pm

I wish it weren’t so but unfortunately once Marxists get organized they won’t stop until you shoot them.

Alan Tucker December 21, 2006 at 6:30 pm

I have read your comments on General Pinochet with interest, and agree with many of the points you are making about using force against an attempted communist purge or coup.

I have spent time in Chile, investigated the Pinochet phenomenon, and did some research on Allende. Recently, I have been reading all the Spanish-language press articles about Pinochet that appeared after this death.

First of all, for anyone in the Objectivist-oriented world, I would have to say Pinochet had very little to do with the reason-individualist-self-interest axis so fundamental to a free society. He believed he had a mandate from God to rule and change Chile, engaged in mystical practices such as tarot cards and palm reading, claimed to have seen his father’s soul rise from his body and believed in spiritualism.

He was an authoritarian military man who admired Francisco Franco and rooted for the Germans in the early part of World War II. Contrary to popular belief, he was never a big fan of America, despised Ronald Reagan, thought our Congress was controlled by communists, and believed that only himself and General Franco were defeating communism.

Pinochet hated communism and believed he had a mandate to save Chile for Christianity. Ironically, in the early coup plans, Pinochet was left outside of the loop. He was believed to be too loyal to Allende, and even Allende believed he was an “uneducated bumpkin too unskilled to even deceive his own wife.”

After the coup, the Social Democrats and the conservatives all believed the military would return the country to civil rule and establish elections. What they didn’t count on was the deep-seated resentment of the Chilean military and their belief that they were treated like “dirt” by the political establishment. Pinochet, himself, despised politicians of all stripes and considered them charlatans and frauds.

Once in power Pinochet showed a side of himself few had ever seen. He took control and slowly removed and eased out of power almost all the generals who had conspired with him. Anyone who posed a threat was sent packing and some cases murdered. (General Prats was murdered, General Bonilla died in a helicopter crash under very strange circumstances.)

While, yes, there were small groups of armed communist groups they were easily defeated within a short time. An organization called DINA was formed under a mystical, psychotic named Manuel Contreras, who was puritanical, mesianical and violently anti-communist. Under the direction of Contreras, Communist Party members were murdered and tortured, but even more, anyone at anytime was subject to seizure and arrest. People were snatched off the street and were never seen again. There was no judicial review or overview. One’s name could appear on a list perhaps for political affiliation or perhaps for a resentment from someone in power.

More than anything, Pinochet was lord and master of the country and answered to no one.(In some key areas very similar to Castro, who he met and disliked). A good measure of the economic reforms taken by his regime were pushed through because everyone was afraid of him. Most of the high-ranking generals opposed market reforms, as did most of the protected businesses, the Church, just about everyone in Chile.

Thus, we had a case of country being forced to be economically free without any type of philosophical or moral foundation for the capitalist reforms. Today, without this foundation and with Chile as the flag-ship example of economic success in Latin America, there is almost no talk of how this success was achieved, and the word capitalism in reference to Chile’s success is rarely mentioned.

Chile today is governed by the Socialist Party and has been for the last ten years. Thus, the dubious practice of instilling market reforms and capitalism under the guise of a quasi-fascist and authoritarian regime proves once again that Ayn Rand was right: capitalism must have a moral foundation to succeed and be appreciated.

One other thing, I would like to comment on. There is a lot of speculation about the Chicago Boys and Pinochet’s role in allowing them to make the changes. Most of the biographers of Pinochet speculate that he wanted to leave a legacy for Chile, something that would leave him in a positive image for posterity. The military regime initially started out with military men as economic advisors, which proved to be a disaster. Pinochet was intelligent to know something had to be changed. Some of the Chicago Boys got his attention, Sergio de Castro and Jaime Guzman, and he saw the possibilities of an economic revival.

So what we had in Chile was probably unique in history–University of Chicago economists opening up the economy, while the secret service and the military ran roughshod over the country. When I was in Chile around 2000, the military openly admitted to taking prisoners (over 100) for helicoptor rides and chucking them into the sea. Michelle Bachelet, the present president, was tortured as was her mother. Her father Alfred Bachelet, an officer in the air force, was murdered in prison.

Much of this anti-communist frenzy was backed up by the belief that communists and socialists were humanoids, soulless, diabolical. But then who were the communists? It could be anyone who opposed the regime, thought differently–anyone with any type of individualism. (Isabel Allende’s book, My Invented Country, is an excellent book in regards to this. She is the famous writer, a distant relative to the ex-president, and now a resident of the U.S.)

As an Objectivist, I believe it is a battle of ideas. Socialists and communists can be defeated easily in the intellectual arena, and as long as they don’t take up arms and propose a violent revolution, there is never any justification for torture, murder, or political intimidation.

In the end, General Pinochet saved Chile from communism by imposing a quasi-fascist regime for 17 years. Yes, he gave up political power voluntary but he imposed himself as the head of the army, senador for life, and had his military men in all key positions. Like many, he induced his own defeat by travelling to England, against the advice of his own counselors, and thus, once in prison, his invulnerability was exposed and his powers were slowly stripped away.

Historically, Pinochet was another Latin American caudillo in line with Franco, Stroessner, Perón, Banzer, Castro and Trujillo, and has nothing to do with the great characters of freedom and liberty such as Rand, Von Mises and Hazlitt.

Black Bloke December 21, 2006 at 7:45 pm

So you’re saying that Pinochet, a man who was engaged in mystical practices, i.e. spiritualism, was an authoritarian military man who despised Ronald Reagan (though not as much as Ayn Rand of course), and believed he had a mandate from God to save Chile for Christianity; who ruled over a military which had deep-seated resentment of the political establishment, despised politicians of all stripes, sent packing or murdered anyone who posed a threat, allowed a mystical, psychotic, puritanical, mesianical and violently anti-communist man named Manuel Contreras to murder and torture Communist party members?

This quasi-fascist Latin American caudillo’s regime imposed itself on Chile for 17 years… and was responsible for only around 3,200 deaths? Hell, terrorists can do better than that in one day. In fact since about 2800 of the deaths occurred within the first few weeks of the coup battle, I should really say that in 17 years of monstrous autocratic quasi-fascist rule about 400 people died.

Anyone want to select any random 17 year period from Castro’s regime? Stalin? Mao? Minh? Kim? Saddam? Any of the people we actually consider worthy of all of your adjectives?

Sam December 21, 2006 at 7:50 pm

This articles and blogs remind of those who would criticise the Inquisition as a few ‘bad apples’. In fact the Inquisition is a necessary tool to a religion which believes it has sole access to The Truth. This then makes it quite clear that other claims, other ‘truthes’, competing with The Truth cannot co-exist. These fasle ‘truthes’, if left to fester, would corrupt the flock, lead them astray and destroy the previously good society. Indeed the Old Testament shows that when the Hebrews lost their faith they consorted with pagan gods and fell into false worship, such as human sacrifice.

Such as it is with Capitalism, if Pinochet’s route seem harsh, it should be seen as necessary as he was stamping out false economic ideology. Around the world, Socialism, Communism, Welfare State, Trade Unionism, etc., were allowed to fester without much competition and only through the ‘hard way’ and million of lives was it shown to be false. Pinochet showed how to restore Capitalism but Chile was quickly hijacked by Socialist politicians and corrupted.

Ultimately, worldwide, Pinochet showed what really needs to be done with Socialism, etc., as it is quite clear that these false economic ideologies will not recede on their own. Just when it seems Socialism is disspating slowly on its own, a new wave of Socialists appear restoring the faith.

When you have fast-growing weeds in your garden, you must entirely eradicate them, not mostly so, lest they simply regrow. Pinochet showed the only path capable to do what is needed to be done. The only question is one of when are people going to do the job required. But when the job is started it cannot stop until it completely finish, not half so. Or we’ll talking about this problem for years to come.

Robert Brazil December 21, 2006 at 7:50 pm

Of course people have the right to defend themselves. But do they have the right to kidnap, torture and murder others with impunity, and then claim that all the people they killed had it coming?

Dr. Reisman, whom I respect enormously, is ignoring the elephant in the living room here. When someone is arrested, convicted and punished WITHOUT the benefit of something akin to a fair trial, there is no way for us to establish whether or not he is ACTUALLY GUILTY of a crime.

Let’s face it: an outspoken libertarian would probably not have lasted very long in Pinochet’s Chile. He would have been branded a “communist” and disappeared. (Imagine what Pinochet would have thought of Lysander Spooner.) I have been called a “communist” many times by Republicans because I dared criticize Dear Leader Bush.

Speaking of which. Don’t supporters of the current regime always say we can arrest, torture and detain people indefinitely because, well, they’re all terrorists anyway? Never mind that we don’t KNOW they’re terrorists — we just have to take Dear Leader’s word for it (he would never lie or make a mistake, you know).

Saying it was “an emergency” or “we’re at war” doesn’t change the reality. We aren’t talking about people killed on the battlefield or in the commission of a crime. A person who is bound and locked in a cell is no threat to life and liberty.

Maybe some of them DID have it coming, but let’s be realistic. Why no attempt at transparent justice, or does the charge of “plotting a communist takeover” itself imply guilt?

Black Bloke December 21, 2006 at 7:54 pm

Very well, but does Dr. Reisman expect us to accept that not one single innocent person was killed in Pinochet’s regime? Further, some explication is required on just what it means to talk about those “responsible” for socialism. Does Dr. Reisman include in this people who believe in socialism but take no action to bring it about?

If libertarians are to accept these arguments, that Pinochet was a saint, what criticism will we then make of Bush? If tactics are out of the realm of criticism, and instead we can only critize intention, what is there to say when a man tells us his intention is safety and freedom?

I think Dr. Reisman would argue that any innocent deaths that occur are on the heads and hands of those who initiated force: the Socialists. The force used by Pinochet and his men would be a defensive force, used against the force initiated by the Socialists. Those who were just “believers” in Socialism stayed out of the fight. The deaths that were not caused in defensive action are unjustified, and this is what makes Pinochet not a saint, but a vicious dictator. Though not anywhere near the level of the other dictators we’re familiar with.

happylee December 21, 2006 at 10:23 pm

I think of Cambodia and China and realize that what these countries needed was Augusto. It’d be better if the tens of millions who died for ideas hatched in Eurotrash salons were still alive to debate the meaning of a few dead commies.

Professor Reisman is, of course, correct. It says much of the cowardice of man that commies to this day can swagger through the halls of power unmolested. And now that the commies have hijacked the environmental movement and seek to yet once again impose their vicious anti-life creed on a meek humanity, I feel the loss of Augusto all the more.

Mark Brabson December 21, 2006 at 10:56 pm

Tis a pity there isn’t an “Augusto” lurking somewhere in the Venezualan Military Force. Hugo Chavez richly deserves the fate of Salvador Allende. Don’t mind me, just a pipe dream.

David J. Heinrich December 21, 2006 at 10:58 pm

I agree with Reisman’s analysis as far as it goes.

The problem is, as others have mentioned, it ignores the fact that innocent people were murdered. And you cna’t place all of that blame on the communists. I’d argue they’re co-responsible.

And when someone here says Pinochet was responsible for “only” 400 deaths after the initial coup, I have to think, WTF?

Most serial killers in the US are only responsible for a couple dozen or so deaths. Wow! What saints. I mean, they’re so much better than the Communist dicators. We should really all be worshipping Berkowitz, Kazinski, and other serial killers for the amazing restraint they’ve shown.

Hell, OJ Simpson only murdered 2 innocent persons! What a Saint!

David J. Heinrich December 21, 2006 at 11:02 pm

It’s one thing to say Pinochet wasn’t as bad as Stalin, Mao, Hitler, Castro, Minh, Kim, Saddam. That’s perfectly true. On the evil scale, each of them greatly outweighs Pinochet. They’re at deeper levels of Hell than Pinochet is. But he’s still at a pretty damn deep layer of Hell.

Just because he’s not as evil as someone else doesn’t mean he’s worth defending, or praising!

Is anyone here praising the Japanese soldiers who gang-raped Chinese women because, hell, they could’ve done something even more horrible to them in addition to gang-raping them?

Alex December 22, 2006 at 12:45 am

This is sick, sick, sick, and should be titled “The Necessity of Evil Means to Achieve Fascist Extremes.”

You cannot excuse the actions of Pinochet on any moral or political grounds.

I am saddened to see Dr. Reisman do so.

Justifying brutal crimes based on a hypothetical isn’t rational by any means.

Dr. Reisman is lost in a Cold War mentality that lacks any bearing in reality. The domino theory was absolutely false. Stop reading Ayn Rand or any of the adherents of Scoop Jackson that are around today. If you are clueless about foreign policy you might want to remain silent on such issues, stick to economics.

Maybe you might want to take a shot(where it might do some good) at the so-called “free capital markets” that have oligopolistic control of the world’s financial system in the hand of a few extremely powerful firms, whose domination of a virtually unlimited supply of global credit, supported by compliant, but supposedly “independent” central banks, enables them to earn inordinately excessive returns on leverage legal looting and thus expropriate the real wealth of the real economy for a very select few.

Are these folks “well-intentioned” and thus deserving of immunity “from bodily harm and certainly do not deserve ever to be killed?”

Read your own bloody book!

P.M.Lawrence December 22, 2006 at 4:02 am

There are at least two things that need to be explored before jumping to Reisman’s conclusion, and that’s even without getting into all the other issues that other posters have already raised.

One is to ask how much of the violence etc. (stipulating that it did follow the arrival of socialism) in fact proceeded from socialism as such rather than from counter-revolution. It does seem pretty clear that both Cuba and North Korea have had to bear the cost of reacting to outside pressures as well as inherent costs.

The other is to examine just how accurate that claim of socialism inherently involving violent property seizure really is. Marx himself sketched out an approach of skinning the cat by depreciating the currency rather than outright fraud. In Poland – the only Warsaw Pact country with a significant independent peasantry as at 1945 – the regime used similar jiggery pokery by compensating peasants for land by giving them urban work and privately owned flats valued at high prices (notional ones in a controlled market, of course). There is a lot of scope for fraud before force.

Nick Bradley December 22, 2006 at 4:59 am

If you have the right to defend their own property from theft, shouldn’t you also have the right to prevent collectivist, who PROMISE to rob you, from ascending to power? I think so.

As far as innocents go that were killed or detained during the reign of Pinochet… It is akin to an innocent man being shot for climbing over somebody’s fence in the middle of a crime spree. It may not be murder (self-defense gone awry?), but restitution must still be made to the victims and/or their families.

Nick Bradley December 22, 2006 at 5:12 am

P.M. Lawrence,

I did not know that about Marx (i.e. that he favored massive depreciation to achieve his goals). That would be a pretty easy way of going about it. Just have the Central Bank start printing currency like crazy, using the money to buy up property and turn it over to the government or turn it in to commons.

Severe hyperinflation would liquidate the wealth of the bourgeois overnight. Perhaps the government can offer negative-interest loans to the “proles” (the lower classes) to buy property up before hyperinflation sets in; a contingency of the loan would be that the government is a partial owner of the property. After all, inflation is nothing more than a wealth transfer from savers to debters…

Why not encourage the poor and middle class to run up substantial debt, then erase their debt through inflation? That is the most sure-fire way to implement socialism…

quasibill December 22, 2006 at 7:09 am

Mises Institute:

When people in the MSM refer to libertarians as nothing more than crypto-fascists or extremist Republicans, you’ll have only yourself to blame for publishing articles like this.

Hey, as long as you have good intentions, you can kill anyone you want! Awesome! I never knew the NAP could be so … liberating!

As someone else has previously commented, one wonders whether Dr. Reisman actually reads his own pulp…

David J. Heinrich December 22, 2006 at 12:07 pm


Although I very thoroughly disagree with Reisman on this issue, I think that it fosters healthy debate within libertarianism.

I don’t think that he’s saying as long as you have good intentions, you can kill anyone you want. What he’s saying is it’s ok to kill communists trying to takeover the government and institute programs of mass-murder.

My problem is that I find it very difficult to believe Pinochet only had innocent communist conspirators killed. See the post by the gentleman who visited Chile, Mr. Tucker.

Bill, Immediate self defender. December 22, 2006 at 12:51 pm

I agree with the author that people have rights to defend themselves and their property with third parties using violence. But this threat must be immediate. Many, I do not know or care if was a majority, of the people killed by Pinochet were just useful idiot dreamers and certainly did not deserve to be pushed out of a helicopter over the ocean or receive some other fate.

Yes the Chileans morally could hire Pinochet to stop the violent Commie hordes from their mayhem. But it stops there. Pinochet continued to rid the country of all the cancer even the benign stuff. That is just pure evil.

I actually feel sorry for the Chileans who very lives and work were threatened by the Communist scum. I am glad that they were able to fight back to save their own lives and keep their property. I also feel sorry for them that they had such a poor choice between the Pinochet and the Communists.

However, I do not believe the aftermath of the Pinochet coup to be moral or legitimate.

Sione Vatu December 22, 2006 at 1:29 pm

Alex, quasibill

Actually it is you two who should do some reading. Try thinking about the actual content of what is presented to you. The two of you should both calm down, shed the emotion & go read what Prof Reisman has actually written about the situation in Chile and General Pinochet’s actions. There have been two articles by Prof Reisman on the subject recently- this and one other. He made specific comments regarding dictators. Did you read that bit? Do you understand the context?

The business in Chile is an example of ethics of emergency. I’ve mentioned it in the previous blog about General Pinochet and so won’t go into it here save to say that ethics of an emergency is an important part of a system of philosophy. The subject needs great care in its derivation, validation and conclusion. It is contextual and it relies on certain other branches of philosophy. Not trivial.

Aside from that there remains an important question, why should one respect claims to individual rights made by those who fail to apply such concepts themselves?


Sione Vatu December 22, 2006 at 1:43 pm

Bill, Immediate self defender

You wrote: “I agree with the author that people have rights to defend themselves and their property with third parties using violence. But this threat must be immediate.”

A threat does not necessarily have to be immediate to require response. A gang or criminal enterprise may be sophisticated and considered in its approach. They may wait until an opportune moment to act. Alternatively, it may take a while for such an outfit to gain command of sufficient resource to beome an immediate threat to you. Do you wait until they are in an overwhelming position? I’d contend that the presence of an objective threat is sufficient reason to act. If you have evidence of intent as well, that seals it. Act to pre-empt.


happylee December 22, 2006 at 2:29 pm

Vatu: Those of us who believe that any amount of force is ok to expel and invader (as opposed to punish a transgressor) have no issue with Augusto. It is, by analogy, the expulsion of hostile aliens who hatch from pods that are laced with human victims. That the human victims die when the pods are destroyed makes the destruction no less justified.

I think some folks confuse proportionality in punishment with absolute right to expel invaders right now, at any cost. The right to protect oneself and one’s property is either 100% or not at all.

Happy Holidays!

Bill December 22, 2006 at 4:28 pm

My reading of the article is that as long as the Commies are idealist dreamers or talkers then they are of no threat and therefore have rights foremost among these is the right to life. Pinochet used the military appratus to attack these folks as well as those from the armed Communist mobs. This makes Pinochet evil in my humble opinion.

averros December 22, 2006 at 8:21 pm

Bill – any communist’s right to life ends at the soon as he tries to claim the part of *my* life. Like, if he tries to steal something which I bought on the proceeds form the part of my life spent working.

John December 22, 2006 at 9:48 pm

This thread is absurd. We are all living, in varying degrees, in a communist society. Do you condone going out to kill your neighbor since he votes every election for the political parties that will steal your money and destroy the value of it at the same time? I am waiting for Dr. Reisman, Sione Vatu and others to go out and kill 60% of the population of the United States, maybe even with the backing of the CIA as was the case in Chile.

Sione December 23, 2006 at 12:23 pm

So John

Do you belong to a group of people who are plotting and planning to come over here and steal my property by force and violence? Are you intending to kill me to get to my property or simply because I oppose you and disagree with your collectivist ideas? Are you in the process or gaining control of the resources to so do or have you already got control of them?

We are discussing an ethics of emergency situation. You seem to have missed the point.


Ozzie December 23, 2006 at 2:56 pm

“Very well, but does Dr. Reisman expect us to accept that not one single innocent person was killed in Pinochet’s regime?”

No. He said the opposite of that in the first article. He said that undoubtedly some innocents were killed.

“If libertarians are to accept these arguments, that Pinochet was a saint, what criticism will we then make of Bush? ”

No thats not right. The first article said that he wasn’t a Saint. No-one is arguing that he was a Saint. You are simply making that up.

“Of course people have the right to defend themselves. But do they have the right to kidnap, torture and murder others with impunity, and then claim that all the people they killed had it coming?”

Where is all this coming from? You’re supposed to read what the fellow actually said and criticise that.

“I agree with the author that people have rights to defend themselves and their property with third parties using violence. But this threat must be immediate. ”

Allendes goons had already stolen 1500 farms as well as other businesses. At least thats what his opponents protested in the Parliament.

How long were they going to leave things?

I suppose its all a matter of degree. But this guy was on a thieving frenzy and was ruthless in his illegality.

Worse still was the fact that when he had to step down he attempted to start a civil war. He effectively DID start a civil war. And this is only obscured by the fact that Pinochet won that rumble quickly. Which is the best way to win these wars.

400 deaths is not much for the following 17 years. I mean its not a good thing of course. But that dictatorship for you.

No-ones saying that bringing in free enterprise changes is any excuse for violent dictatorship. The Professor explicitly said that it isn’t.

Michael A. Clem December 24, 2006 at 12:59 pm

Um, is the Pinochet/Socialists argument really about the innocence or guilt of the socialists, or is it about whether or not Pinochet’s methods for dealing with socialism were appropriate? I’ll admit I’m not very familiar with Pinochet’s ‘regime’, but I daresay no condemnation of socialism (however appropriate) can justify rightist authoritarianism, even if it’s authoritarianism with a velvet glove. We don’t want to make the mistake of merely choosing the lesser evil, do we? Historical justice calls for facts, not rhetoric.

Mark Brabson December 24, 2006 at 1:12 pm

Allende had to be stopped. It is unfortunate that a right wing dictatorship ensued, but even with the deaths, the end result was better than what would have occured had Allende prevailed. We all know the results of socialism. You need only journey to Cuba to observe them. Chile is not a perfect place by any means, but it damn sure is better than Cuba.

I am not defending or apologizing for General Pinochet’s more brutal conduct. I must, however, applaud his stepping in and deposing Allende. Marxism, even democratically elected Marxism, must be stopped at all costs. I do not agree that the “democratic majority” has a right to institute a government that will proceed to abolish all private property rights. When the government proceeded to do that, its right to govern was annulled. At that point, it was not only General Pinochet’s right, but his OBLIGATION, to overthrow Allende. The only thing in question is General Pinochet’s brutality AFTER the overthrow. His right and obligation to overthrow Allende is unquestionable.

Ozzie December 24, 2006 at 2:22 pm

“but I daresay no condemnation of socialism (however appropriate) can justify rightist authoritarianism, even if it’s authoritarianism with a velvet glove.”

Well whose trying to justify it?

Government itself is only a necessary evil let alone dictatorial government. Some folks around here don’t even think thats the case. And we should try and do without government altogether.

But when communists fraudulently take over your country and start a civil war the main thing is to win. And win quickly or else you are going to wind up with an insurgency the likes of what we see in Iraq. Or worse still the communists can win.

What we’d want to know is what communist activities were tried on in later years. Or whether some of the things Pinochet did later were just plain dictatorial brutality.

Because you see if Cuba and the Soviet Union are trying to make inroads in there again its not like you’d want to give them any sort of headstart.

But on the other hand dictatorship is dictatorship.. And they don’t always need that sort of thing to be rounding large numbers of people up for interrogation.

happylee December 24, 2006 at 5:08 pm

I have a great idea! We need to start a comic book series titled “Augusto – back from the dead to finish the job.”

It would feature Augusto rising from the dead under some pseudo-heavenly mandate to spread justice through the world. He would be as Batman or Superman, albeit without a cape (The Incredibles cleared up my misunderstanding regarding capes and superheroes).

Our dashing Augusto would travel through the halls of power, squashing those commies who still seek to destroy this world.

As with many of today’s re-cast superheroes (Batman, Bond) he would have a darkside. So, for example, when he fillets Ted Kennedy he will find himself leaning over the barely breathing Ted, pausing, and then whispering in Teddy’s ear: Chappquidick.” Haha, the laughs will keep coming when Augusto next pays Hillary a visit on the day of her 2008 electoral victory, etc.

And, to allay the fears of those of you who worry of innocent “students” who have done no “wrong”, rest assured Augusto will truly only hunt those who seek to impose their unnatural and unGodly creed on the world by force.

I now return to my eggnogg and will refine the idea some more.

Kaveh Pourvand December 24, 2006 at 10:09 pm

It has always been fashionable among the left to praise Fidel Castro and at the same time, despise Pinochet. Comparing the records of the two dictators, the Pinochet is far more preferable. Dr Reisman’s obituary is an important balancing act in this regard.

While both Pinochet and Castro have run illiberal and repressive regimes, Pinochet ended his reign voluntarily and through market oriented reforms, created a more prosperous society. Chile now has much more civil freedom then Cuba.

However, upon reading Dr Reisman’s post, I was reminded of Lord Acton’s famous warning about absolute power. There are times (as Ludwig Von Mises realised ) that centralised power may lead to more liberal outcomes then others. However the contradiction with method and ideal are worrying for Libertarians. Dr Hoppe has warned about the contradiction with great wit:

‘It is wrong to appeal to the United Nations to break up a tax monopoly in Houston.’

My main objection with Dr Reisman’s post is his description of all ‘socialists’ as property stealing criminals. Given that most voting Americans believe in some form of state intervention beyond what Dr Reisman believes is just, would he claim that most Americans are criminals since they vote for interventionist policies?

Also, his criticism of the new regime for breaking a ‘contract’ by seeking to prosecute Pinochet seems very unlibertarian. If Pinochet has committed a crime, Dr Reisman is implying that he can grant himself immunity by signing a contract. An injustice is still an injustice, no matter what contracts have been signed.

Ozzie December 24, 2006 at 10:10 pm

Right. But it would be better without Pinochet. Perhaps with a character like Marv from Sin City.

And you’d want to send him after jihadists in this time period.

And such a person would clearly do a great deal of good if he went after jihadist enablers.

No need to be the least bit ironic about that.

Ozzie December 24, 2006 at 10:19 pm

“My main objection with Dr Reisman’s post is his description of all ‘socialists’ as property stealing criminals. Given that most voting Americans believe in some form of state intervention beyond what Dr Reisman believes is just, would he claim that most Americans are criminals since they vote for interventionist policies?”

Well I have good news for you. You now have lost your main objection since he didn’t say any such thing.

Now what was your second main objection?

Perhaps you can go over this one layer at a time with your psychiatrist until you’ve gotten rid of all the layers of things that the Professor DIDN’T say.

But by the way. Its a pretty rotten thing to do to vote for more interventionism. Its not a very nice or civilised thing to do at all.

Kaveh Pourvand December 25, 2006 at 7:33 am


Thank you for comment. I’m not sure why you have to be so uncivil in your response however. If you feel I misrepresented Dr Reisman, please state clearly why you think so. I don’t believe your ‘psychiatry’ comment added to the debate in a positive manner.
In regards to my objection about Dr Reisman’s views on socialists, I quote:

‘So long as Marxists are content merely to write, speak, and otherwise fantasize about the destruction of capitalism and the establishment of socialism, they have every right to be left alone, just as every one else has who harms no one but himself. But when they begin to act out their fantasy in the real world and commit armed robbery, which, as I have shown, is the only means of achieving their goal, then they forfeit their rights, including their right to life.’

Dr Reisman does make a distinction between socialists who employ political means and those who do not. I did misrepresent his views in this sense and apologise for it. However, I still argue it is problematic. Again I restate my objection, if the American electorate votes for interventionist policies, then by extension of Dr Reisman’s argument, are they engaging in armed robbery and forfeiting their rights? Maybe it would be to a lesser degree then those socialists who try to enact full blown socialisation but we are still left with the situation that the majority of the American electorate are criminals to some degree. Does this mean we have to put a majority of American electorate in jail if a libertarian society is achieved?

Sam December 25, 2006 at 8:14 am

But this then begs the question if a great many people in the U.S.A. were throwing their support behind a brazenly Socialist party who promise to take private interests and put them in government hands, then what?

Should they all be rounded up and put into jail? Executed? What? Interestingly, what would happen in a Libertarian society if this was happening? Civil war perhaps??

Sione December 25, 2006 at 12:39 pm


It’s a matter of context. The Professor was clear. He referred to ARMED ROBERY. This was an ethics of emergency situation.

As far as American citizens and residents are concerned: are they actively engaged in organising themselves in a plot, scheme, plan or conspiracy to arm up, take (or destroy) other peoples’ property and injure or murder other people by force under arms? Is it an emergency situation to which your question refers?



Kaveh Pourvand December 26, 2006 at 7:11 pm


As I understand it, the premise of Dr Reisman is that using political means to expropriate property is a crime and should be punished accordingly. I accept that in an emergency contact the punishment may be more severe. However, it seems to me that the implication of this premise is that even in a normal peacetime context (e.g. the current American political process), punishment is justified for using political means. This is perhaps less so then in an emergency context.

If we define criminal actions as ‘actively engag(ing) in a plot .. to take other people’s property.’ Then it seems to me that one is criminalising the many voters who select interventionist parties. It may be argued that this is so indirect as to be negligible aggression.

Even so, there are many Americans who actively take part in pressure groups e.g. Greenpeace that push legislation that trample upon libertarian property rights. This to me seems to fit the bill of ‘actively engaging to take other people’s property.’

Or on the other hand, how about the many individuals who work in the many government bureaucracies? Many of these institutions infringe upon libertarian property rights in countless ways. Are they all criminals?

Please bare in mind, I’m not saying that a consequence of Dr Reisman’s position is that they should all be shot. Of course, the context is important. However, I believe that a consequence of his position is that many Americans are criminalised and deserve some sort of punishment (of course, probably a lot less stringent then being shot).

The reason I raise the issue is that I think it highlights an important implication of a staunch rights libertarian position rather then a consequencialist one. If a strong Rothbardian/Randian natural rights position is accepted, then it seems to me that we are criminalising a great deal of people given the fact that we live in a thoroughly statist world.


Peter December 26, 2006 at 9:39 pm

Kaveh: yes, they’re all criminals, to one degree or another. See Walter Block’s paper, Toward a Libertarian Theory of Guilt and Punishment for the Crime of Statism.

Sam December 26, 2006 at 9:57 pm

Indeed Peter it could be assumed in a Democracy with capacity for freedom of speech, press and assembly, then it could be assumed that every citizen of a Democracy is partially guilty of war crimes committed by the President. Hint. Hint. Hint. ;D

Kaveh Pourvand December 27, 2006 at 6:03 pm

Thank you Peter,

I look forward to reading the journal. I do believe that sam has effectively highlighted the potential difficulties with such a position. Either way, I think it’s a healthy debate for Libertarians.

Ozzie December 28, 2006 at 2:29 am

“….if the American electorate votes for interventionist policies, then by extension of Dr Reisman’s argument, are they engaging in armed robbery and forfeiting their rights?….”

Dude. Allende and his goons were acting ruthlessly outside the law. They effectively started a civil war.

Its not even a strictly libertarian argument. We can bring it down to a matter of survival.

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