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    Democracy as alibi
    Democracy as ultimate alibi

    It is rational to create what I call “institutional alibi’s”, 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 don’t 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 don’t 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 prisoner’s dilemma. If we don’t 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 prisoner’s 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 crimes.

    That means that the arguments I give just violate the cake rule. That’s 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 time.
    (Fragment uit mijn nieuwe paper ‘How to beat a libertarian without driving him mad’)


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