By Bryan Caplan
I do not intellectually engage with apologists for Nazism or Communism. When I think someone does not deserve a reply, I simply don’t reply. Still, Counterpunch‘s instantly infamous “Pol Pot Revisted” has a striking passage:
The people now in charge of the US, Europe and Russia want to present every alternative to their rule as inept or bloody or both. They especially hate incorruptible leaders, be it Robespierre or Lenin, Stalin or Mao – and Pol Pot. They prefer leaders keen on graft, and eventually install them.
I don’t know if the author is right about “the people now in charge of the U.S., Europe, and Russia.” But he’s definitely got my number. As far as I know, Robespierre, Lenin, Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot were indeed unusually incorruptible, and I do hate them for this trait.
Why? Because when your goal is mass murder, corruption saves lives. Corruption leads you to take the easy way out, to compromise, to go along to get along. Corruption isn’t a poison that makes everything worse. It’s a diluting agent like water. Corruption makes good policies less good, and evil policies less evil.
I’ve read thousands of pages about Hitler. I can’t recall the slightest hint of “corruption” on his record. Like Robespierre, Lenin, Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot, Hitler was a sincerely murderous fanatic. The same goes for many of history’s leading villains – see Eric Hoffer’s classic The True Believer. Sincerity is so overrated. If only these self-righteous monsters had been corrupt hypocrites, millions of their victims could have bargained and bribed their way out of hell.