Suicide and Sincerity
By Bryan Caplan
I just shared the sublime Downfall with my older sons. It’s the German-language movie of the last days of Nazi Germany. (You probably already to know it from the countless Youtube parodies of Hitler screaming at his generals with funny subtitles). I trust it’s not a spoiler to tell you that almost all the characters die by the end – and that the most common cause of death is suicide.
The movie strongly suggests that suicide is a strong test of sincerity. Yes, opportunists might prefer suicide to torture and execution. And yes, the sincere might run away to fight another day. But for the most part, the sincere Nazi fanatics kill themselves (and sometimes their children, too), while the murderous opportunists frantically look for a way out – and prefer prison to oblivion.
Question: On balance, how credible is the suicide test of sincerity? I’m the first person to maintain that sincerity is overrated, but I’m still curious.