“You remember how Robinson Crusoe managed to make a plank when he had no saw.”
“Yes; he felled a tree, and then, cutting the trunk right and left with his hatchet, he reduced it to the thickness of a board.”
“And that cost him much labour?”
“Fifteen whole days’ work.”
“And what did he live on during that time?”
“He had provisions.”
“What happened to the hatchet?”
“It was blunted by the work.”
“Yes; but you perhaps do not know this: that at the moment when Robinson was beginning the work he perceived a plank thrown by the tide upon the seashore.”
“Happy accident! He of course ran to appropriate it?”
“That was his first impulse; but he stopped short, and began to reason thus with himself:
“‘If I get this plank, it will cost me only the trouble of carrying it, and the time needed to descend and remount the cliff. But if I form a plank with my hatchet, first of all it will procure me fifteen days’ employment; then my hatchet will get blunt, which will furnish me with the additional employment of sharpening if; then I shall consume my stock of provisions, which will be a third source of employment in replacing them. Now, labour is wealth. It is clear that I should ruin myself by getting the plank. I must protect my personal labour; and, now that I think of it, I can even increase that labour by throwing back the plank into the sea.'”
“But this reasoning was absurd.”
“No doubt. It is nevertheless the reasoning of every nation which protects itself by prohibition…. Consider the nation as a collective being, and you will not find between its reasoning and that of Robinson an atom of difference.”
From Economic Sophisms, by Frederic Bastiat
Democide is killings by governments, not including war. Which killed more people in the 20th century, democide or war? Democide did.
R. J. Rummel’s book Death by Government catalogs democide in the 20th century through 1987. Everyone should know this information.
What has killed more, communism or fascism? Communism did. Did you know that Hitler killed twice as many Slavs as Jews? Did you know that some of the biggest killers of the 20th century include Mexico, Poland, Pakistan, Japan, and Turkey? Did you know that millions died in Southeast Asia after the United States pulled out of Vietnam?
Post Rummel’s research I believe the biggest killer has been North Korea, where millions died of starvation in the late 90s. Saddam Hussein is also believed to have killed about two million people. I’d also add the DDT ban, which killed tens of millions of people via mosquito-borne illnesses.
I think everyone should know these things, and Rummel’s book is an interesting, easy read. I recommend everyone read it.
My recommendations, in approximate order of preference:
- Left Turn, by Tim Groseclose. This the first book anyone interested in media bias should read, and the most thorough, covering all the theories and evidence (especially Groseclose and Milyo’s 2005 study A Measure of Media Bias). It’s written by an academic, but in a fashion that’s completely understandable to the general public. Still, if you don’t think you can hack a book that uses the phrase “thought experiment” multiple times you may want to skip this book.
- Stonewalled, by Sharyl Attkisson. Attkisson was an investigative reporter at CBS. The core of the book is example after example of how the government and her employer impeded her reporting. I consider it essential reading on media bias.
- Give Me a Break, by John Stossel. This book isn’t only about media bias, but Stossel experienced it when he was at ABC and relates his story here. Even if you’re not interested in media bias this is just a good book that I recommend everyone read.
- The War on Guns: Arming Yourself Against Gun Control Lies, by John Lott. This book is about the public debate on gun control, mostly how people mislead with statistics. Beforehand, you may want to read Lott’s research, the most extensive study of crime ever conducted, in More Guns, Less Crime. That book has one chapter on the media bias and related issues he experienced after his research was published.
- Bias, by Bernard Goldberg. The most well-known book about media bias is Goldberg’s story of his experience at CBS. Unfortunately, I think it’s only a fair book. Still, anyone seriously interested in the subject has to read this.
To whet your appetite, here’s a 12-minute video on media bias:
I decided to read William L. Shirer’s Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent, 1934-1941 because I’d read that it gave insight into how Hitler fooled the world during the 1930s. Shirer was a CBS radio correspondent in Berlin from 1934 (the year after Hitler came to power). His most famous work, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, came later than the book I’m discussing here. Berlin Diary contains Shirer’s diary entries from the time, written with the intention of publishing them later. They do provide an inside chronicle of Hitler’s lies, but in my opinion the book is far too long (over 600 pages) for what I learned. In the latter parts of the book I was eager to be done with it. Admittedly, I already knew much of what happened from reading biographies of Winston Churchill and Hitler, among other things.
I’ve always been interested in the appeasement of Hitler that took place during the 1930s. Europe allowed Hitler to build up Germany’s military (in violation of the treaty that ended World War I) and take over various countries, initially with just the threat of violence. Meanwhile, the rest of Europe cut back their militaries, leaving them completely unprepared for World War II when it came. British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain is primarily remembered for that appeasement, particularly for saying he’d achieved “peace in our time” after the Munich Agreement in 1938. In that agreement the European powers agreed to let Hitler take over part of Czechoslovakia (he’d already taken over Austria without opposition). Shortly after that Hitler took the rest of Czechoslovakia. Within a year he’d invaded Poland and, it finally being obvious that the appeasers had been wrong, Britain declared war on Germany. Hitler invaded Western Europe shortly after that.
It’s one of the great lessons of history that people could be so oblivious to something that seems so obvious in retrospect. I believe Hitler was able to get away with his lies because people wanted to believe them. They wanted to see no evil and hear no evil because they were afraid of another World War. They were willing to do anything for peace, and it ended up costing tens of millions of lives. If they’d merely stood up to Hitler his own people probably would have killed him (and they came close a couple of times).
Winston Churchill was one of the few voices in the 30s that warned about Hitler. I remember an anecdote about it. When you say you “stand for” a particular issue, that term comes from the British Parliament. There, to vote on an issue the members would leave the chamber and stand in different adjoining rooms to be counted, each room representing “yea” or “nay.” Winston Churchill put forth a motion to censure Hitler and was the only member standing in one room to pass it… until one young member said “I can’t bear to see the old man stand alone” and went and stood with him.
I read that anecdote in William Manchester’s biography The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill: Alone, 1932-1940. That’s my recommendation if you want to learn about appeasement. I also recommend the first volume of that three-part series, The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill: Visions of Glory, 1874-1932. Unfortunately, the final volume, covering World War II and later, was finished by someone else after Manchester’s death and is inferior in my opinion.