A Wall Street Journal story illustrates the economics of violence, what UCLA economist Jack Hirshleifer called “the dark side of the force.” Reporting on a rabble-rousing speech given by Vladimir Putin, the WSJ mentions a war-mongering supporter, one of the Instagram “military bloggers,” who made some rousing statements of his own (“With Risks Rising at Home, Putin Takes Anti-Western Rhetoric to New Heights,” October 2, 2022):
Another military blogger, Vladlen Tatarsky, recorded his own video from the Kremlin with a different message.
“We’ll conquer everyone, we’ll kill everyone, we’ll loot whoever we need to, and everything will be as we like it,” he said.
This project has been a frequent feature of the history of mankind. Civilization—which can only be classical-liberal civilization, or else it is regimentation—has tried to replace violence with the ideal of an abstract social order based on voluntary exchange. But would-be conquerors, killers, and looters will always exist. If they can be bribed in the sense that they choose the prosperity of a free society instead of following their tribal instincts, the problem is solved. (This is easier to attain within a single society where institutions for obtaining consent are available.) When that doesn’t work, fighting them or being ready to fight is the only solution, although the defense of liberal civilization does impose some severe constraints on the means used. Of course, a particular prudence is also required in the nuclear age.
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