Democracy as ultimate alibi
It is rational to create what I call institutional alibis, to commit together a crime, without leaving a trace to any particular criminal. Democracy might be just such an institutional alibi.
Imagine that my democratic army gets into your country with a rucksack full of bullets and comes back with a rucksack full of oil. This might make it impossible to find any perpetrator.
First, the elections are secret, so nobody knows who put the commander in chief in his armchair.
Then even if I dont vote for him, somebody else would do it. So my
vote is not a sufficient cause of bringing him to power. And even if
another party got elected, acting as a government, means that it tries
to keep me smiling by bringing as much yummy stuff at home.
The soldier in the field is just taking orders. The government operates
in secret so we dont have a smoking memo, where the president declares
that he wants to rob the oil. He might just say that he spreads
democracy, welfare and human rights. This secrecy might partly be to
blame on my wish not to know a truth that makes me guilty, or to hide
this truth from the outside world.
Nobody asks the president to prove that he will bring democracy, welfare and human rights. If the conquered country is a dictatorship and in poverty after twenty years, I could always blame the inferior niggers that are not capable of civilized vote, or describe their savagery as a necessity for a strong hand to prevent them from anarchy.
Despite the fact that the contracts signed with the tirants would be dismissed in my courts as illegal, I could always assert that they were signed by free choice.
I can always argue that the government functions in an international prisoners dilemma. If we
dont steal, somebody else will do it and then they will soon be
powerful enough to steal from us.
I could also bring to my defense that a democracy has some control mechanisms that prevents real huge crimes from happening unnoticed and uncorrected. We have the so called free press, controlling parliaments, free to organize, demonstrate, and inform activist groups. But we know already that people in safe cars drive much faster and more dangerously. Those democratic safety nets might just work as Volvos of the mind, or as whitewashing laundries of the souls.
Thus I can always sooth my consciousness or deflect any argument that I
might be guilty, enabling democracy to be the perfect organized crime gang. That does not mean that whenever I drive my SUV I could not find into
the asphalt the rests of the bones of the collateral babies.
Being in a
prisoners dilemma it makes it rational to cheat and there are no
sufficient mechanisms to catch me. That means that it is smart to act
in small steps in such a way as to create together a big criminal
organization that would hide the crime and anonymize the perpetrators.
Of course, I am innocent until proven guilty. But in the international
arena there is no tribunal where the weak can sue me, or my country, so
the weak does not have the instrument to prove her argument. And this
impunity is also partly to blame on my clinging to power, sure not
something that the weak contributed to or endorsed.
It is thus
possible, if I had bad intentions, to commit great crimes, by taking
(maybe innocent) small steps, just by participating or just by being
complacent in my powerlessness.
But wait a second. When arguing in my defense I use a bunch of excuses that give
me arbitrary advantages. If I was one of the dead babies, I would not
be compelled by such an argument. There is no reason whatsoever, for
instance, that one should be compelled to accept that there is not
tribunal to sue another, when she believes that the other commits great
That means that the arguments I give just violate the cake rule.
Thats the reason why as soon that I get any advantage from a crime, or
from a world that keeps me in feathers, the burden of proof shifts to
me and I have to prove that I really did everything in my power to
change stuff. At least if I pretend to be smart and honest at the same
(Fragment uit mijn nieuwe paper How to beat a libertarian without driving him mad)