A Question for Your Consideration

Let me ask you something. Do the ends justify the means? To understand this question, consider this scenario. You are going to do something amazing, something that will revolutionize life for the better. However, to do that thing, you have to do things that are truly awful. But the end result will be something very good. The question is, do you do the awful things to get to the good one? Do the ends justify the means?
Well if you answered yes, congratulations, you are in the company of great men like Abraham Lincoln.
And Hitler.
And Stalin.
And Mao.
At first glance, you wouldn’t believe that these people have anything in common, but you’d be wrong. They all had a great plan. For Lincoln, it was to preserve the Union and create a county where everyone was free to go about their lives as they would. For Hitler, it was to bring the whole world under Aryan control. For Stalin and Mao, it was freedom through communism. Obviously, you can’t compare the end goals of Abe Lincoln and Hitler, but the fact remains that they shared (at least in part) a common philosophy. They all believed that the ends justified the means.
This is one of the most dangerous and backward philosophies of all time. Even with an end goal as worthy as preserving the Union, the idea that the ends justify the means leads to disaster. Consider pre-War Between the States America. The country was divided between those who owned slaves and those who didn’t. Secession had been threatened by the Southern states for a long time. Finally, a man was elected who the Southerners saw as a threat to their livelihood, and most seceded. What happened next could have gone three (probably) different ways. (1) Politicians could have worked together from both sides and brought the country back together. (2) The North could have waited until the South inevitably broke with slavery on its own, and then welcomed back their wayward brothers. (3) War. Every student of history knows what actually happened. Well, sort of.
You see, what most people don’t realize is that the War never had to happen. They also don’t know that Lincoln started it. He believed that the Union should be preserved so completely, that he sent warships down south, knowing full well that the South would have to retaliate. That way, it would look as if they fired the first shots. We know from letters that he sent at the time that he knew what was going to happen. I would love to go back in history and ask Lincoln if it was really worth it, if the ends really did justify the means.
And that’s just when the ends are a good thing. For Hitler, Stalin, and Mao, the end goal wasn’t nearly so noble, and we see what happens. Millions of people died from war, disease, and famine. An entire group of people was nearly obliterated. A whole country (Ukraine) was purposefully starved. All this happened because certain men thought that they knew best and were willing to do anything to bring about their vision.
So what about now? Do you still think the ends justify the means?

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4 thoughts on “A Question for Your Consideration

  1. The ends do not justify the means. Great post!

  2. ginjuh says:

    It is a philosophy that helps you make one justification, one compromise after another.

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