19 Dec 2008

Bryan Caplan Gets Pre-Emptively Attacked by Hawks

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Over at EconLog, Bryan Caplan made a surprisingly courageous post about disarmament. Now granted, Caplan’s argument wasn’t airtight, but give the guy a break; you’re not going to get world peace with a few paragraphs. Anyway, the majority of commentators lecture Bryan about human nature, A is A, therefore we need nukes, etc., but this one really pushed me over the edge (and note that I changed “Ghandi” to “Gandhi” throughout):

Would Gandhi, going up against any power other than Britain, have succeeded as well as he did — or would he have been executed for treason?

Now the author, “liberty,” is a guylady I like; heshe posts a lot at The Austrian Economists blog. But I think this type of quick dismissal of Gandhi is goofy:

C’mon guys, let’s “think like economists” here and reason on the margin. You’re saying, e.g., that Gandhi would have been slaughtered by Hitler. Yes he would have. So what that means is the way to beat Hitler is to try to kill him with a suitcase bomb placed under his table! Violence is clearly a more successful strategy.

(And yes, I understand you will say, “Huh? I’m talking about the Allies coming in with tanks and bombers.” But Gandhi didn’t have tanks and bombers at his disposal. I get exasperated when people somehow flip the example of Gandhi to show that nonviolence doesn’t really get you anywhere in the real world.)

Now let me be clear: I am not claiming I just made the case for pacifism in the above retort. I’m just pointing out the sloppy arguments often made in the “obvious” case against nonviolence.

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