By Bryan Caplan
Suppose you want to murder a lot of innocent people, but you also want to be widely loved. What’s the best way to achieve both goals simultaneously?
Pablo Escobar’s approach is probably the most effective: Kill freely, but also give freely. Loudly help the poor, and psychologically normal humans will struggle to condemn you for the most blatant and brutal of crimes.
Indeed, the best way to make sure people do condemn mass murderers is to make sure people never hear about their charitable activities. And the second-best is probably to loudly publicize the mass murderers’ luxurious lifestyles so people picture them as playboys rather than philanthropists. Tales of Communist leaders’ dachas and limousines probably did more to discredit them than enumeration of their executions and slave labor camps. And if Westerners knew anything about Nazi internal social and economic policies, they’d feel much cognitive dissonance.
Challenge: Name any group of mass murderers that did not loudly help the poor. I can think of several candidates, but all of them pre-date the 20th century. In the age of global media, ambitious killers seem to know – almost by instinct – that conspicuous do-gooding is the best way to get away with murder.