What Is Evil?
by William Stone III
I'm always surprised that I have so few critics - or even people who
have disagreements. This is probably a testament to the fact that most of
my readership are Zero Aggression Principle devotees, and that they are by
definition extremely intelligent.
There are basically two kinds of critics: the kind who have a knee-jerk
emotional reaction and are so angry that they can't string together a
coherent sentence, and the kind who have a thoughtful disagreement. The
people who write to me are uniformly of the latter kind.
I'm fond of quoting seminal libertarian author L. Neil Smith, who once
observed that people who intentionally take actions that are demonstrably
harmful to others are either stupid, insane, or evil - possibly all
In "Professional Paranoid, Part III," I applied this principle to
elected officials at the Federal level who support the "war" on terror
(more correctly, the "War on Freedom").
I believe that in the main, stupid people do not get elected to Federal
office. In addition, aside from a large dose of power madness and a
smattering of personality disorders, "insanity" does not apply to most
elected officials - e.g., they understand perfectly well that their
policies are actively harmful.
The only remaining explanation is that they're unspeakably evil.
The thoughtful disagreement directed to me was:
"That misses the biggest and most plausible category: they couldn't
care less about the harmfulness of the policy, and ceasing to do the harm
would hurt them (loss of votes, annoyed campaign contributors,
vulnerability to being 'smeared' by the opposition, etc). That isn't
proactive 'evil', just selfishness, ambition, and a lack of conscience."
To an extent, this is absolutely correct. However, it set me to thinking:
How does one define "evil"?
Traditionally, "evil" has all sorts of religious connotations. It is
inextricably bound with consorting with Satan and other such trappings.
If you're a religious individual and wish to adhere to this kind of
definition, I've certainly no objection. However, it's not my definition.
I define all basic morality in terms of the Zero Aggression Principle,
"No human being has the right - under ANY circumstances - to
initiate force against another human being, nor to threaten or delegate
Any activity that violates the ZAP is defined as "immoral." Any other
action is "moral."
Does initiating force - e.g. committing an immoral act - make a person
The Miriam-Webster definitions of "evil" that apply
in this context are:
By either definition, violation of the Zero Aggression Principle can be
categorized as evil. It is morally reprehensible to violate the ZAP, and
to do so typically causes harm.
However, in modern society, "evil" has emotional content that goes well
beyond the emotion evoked by "causing harm" or being "morally
reprehensible." It invokes images of slavery, concentration camps, rape,
murder, and so on. It is an appellation generally reserved for the most
hideous and reprehensible activities.
The question, then, is: is the conduct of Federally-elected officials
reprehensible enough to deserve the emotional connotation "evil"?
I would argue that it is.
Let's take, for example, the average Congressman. Not the stupid ones who
do what they do because they don't know the harm it causes, nor the
insane ones who cause harm because they believe wrong is right. Let's
examine the AVERAGE Congressman, who engages in his behavior because he
wants power and doesn't care what he has to do in order to get it.
On taking office, Congressman Average placed his hand on a Bible and swore
the following sacred Oath to God:
"I, Joe Average, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support
and defend the constitution of the United States against all enemies,
foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the
same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation
or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the
duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God."
Now, let's take a universal issue in which all Congressmen believe the
Federal Government should be involved: education.
I invite one to examine the Constitution for language that authorizes the
Federal Government to become involved in an individual's education. There
is none. It is, under the Constitution, not the purview of the Federal
Government. Therefore, should Congressman Average vote for any bill that
allows the FedGov to become involved with education, he will be in willful
violation of his Oath of Office. He will be explicitly undermining the
Constitutional prohibition against FedGov involvement in unauthorized
So on the first level, Congressman Average has violated a sacred vow made
to God. I'm not a religious individual, but if you are, think of the
implications of that for a moment. Violation of a sacred oath made to God
is literally on the same level as, say, violating the sacrament of
marriage. If you're religious, Congressman Average's vote to involve the
FedGov in education is a sin, and Congressman Average is likely to burn in
Hell for all eternity for his actions.
If you're a religious individual, would you consider a person who would
violate a sacred oath made to God "evil"? And what if he violated this
oath not just on that one issue, but on virtually every issue that came
1 a : morally reprehensible : SINFUL, WICKED
3 a : causing harm : PERNICIOUS
However, like me, you might not be a religious individual. It might be
that you simply consider violating a sacred oath something totally
consistent with the way most Congressmen operate: hypocritical at best.
Can we still consider Congressman Average evil?
We can. Firstly, there's the ZAP issue: by voting to authorize the
FedGov to become involved in education, Congressman Average has delegated
the initiation of force. He has violated the ZAP, because government
cannot so much as lay one brick atop another without stealing the money
necessary to do so.
And again, it isn't just education in which Congressman Average has
initiated force. There is almost nothing he does that does not involve
initiating force, either explicitly or through delegation.
- From a religious perspective, our Congressmen are evil because of their
repeated and willful violations of an oath made not to man, but to God
But suppose you're neither a ZAP devotee nor a Constitutionalist nor
religious. Can Congressman Average still be considered "evil"?
Yes, he can. FedGov involvement in education is quite clearly detrimental
to education. Since the FedGov first involved itself in education,
nothing it has done has ever made education better or more effective. It
does nothing but harm the minds in its charge. Frankly, ANY government
involvement in education is demonstrably harmful, but none more so than
So Congressman Average is explicitly causing harm to other individuals.
He knows it. He doesn't care.
He's evil, any way you look at it.
In the words of my critic, Congressman Average (and every other
Congressman now in office) is so selfish, ambitious, and lacking of
conscience that he doesn't care who he has to hurt in order to stay in
power. He doesn't care if millions of young minds are ruined forever,
unable to read, write, or perform simple arithmetic as a direct result of
his power madness. Worse, he KNOWS they're being hurt - he just doesn't
Again, it isn't just education. The litany of Unconstitutional, immoral,
and outright harmful activities undertaken by government fills the day of
every Congressman. Harmful, immoral, Unconstitutional activities exclude
everything resembling the moral, Constitutional work they've sworn to
They know it. They just don't care.
- From the perspective of the ZAP, a repeated, unrepentant initiator of
force can only be one thing: evil
William Stone III
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