Mark Milke Reviews Tyrants: A History of Power, Injustice, and Terror

April 18, 2018

The perennial problem of tyranny—lest we forget


One shopworn cliché about terrorism is that the root cause of it is poverty. Accordingly, if only we could dry up the “pools” of the poor, where resentment and terror ostensibly breed, we would end murderous chaos at its source. The underlying assumption is that if all humanity were fat and happy, the incentives for terrorism and tyranny would disappear.


Proponents of such arguments, who span the ideological spectrum from Marxists to (some) market economists, thus assume a largely materialist explanation for human behaviour. They forget the passions from the petty to the praiseworthy, from grievance-mongers and entitlement-seekers to soldiers who throw themselves on grenades to save their brothers in arms. Instead, the materialists skip past these and other examples of non-pecuniary motivations in the belief that all problems at base, have a material cause.



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