The Value Of Violence by Benjamin Ginsberg (book review).

With an odd title like ‘The Value Of Violence’, Benjamin Ginsberg isn’t actually telling you to go and hit your neighbour. Please don’t. They might hit you back. No, what this book is about, for the most part, is the actionable violence carried out by governments in power. Although he looks at various governments across the world, his main target is his own US government. He isn’t even being reactionary because even a superficial analysis reveals he’s correct.


His analysis of Presidential decisions or what is propagated around them makes for interesting reading. Starting with the myth of George Washington and his non-existent cherry tree, he progresses up to the likes of Kennedy, Reagan, et al, who typically say they would never carry out one particular action and then immediately do it. Is it any wonder that we are cynical about our political leaders? No matter the best intentions, once they’re in office, what they think they will never do goes out the window. It’s enough to make you think they can’t come up with any other decisions although that might also be attribute to their advisors as well, especially as it carries on from person to person in the White House. Ginsberg briefly hits on the belief in Roswell being a result of this, forgetting that some cynical Americans thought there was a cover-up which it was, just not necessarily about aliens. Mind you, if a President says there was never an alien first contact, based on what he writes here, would you believe him?

The kow-towing of political US leaders to religion, from what Ginsberg notes, is comparable to the amount of property they own and how much they are subsidised. This tends to apply across much of the world as well. In many respects, when you compare this to earlier times when the Church’s leaders could turn against the heads of state, the only major difference now is that it is much more covert and how much power its leaders still have. Reading much further in and just how little actual power any US President actually has or needs to appease Congress also tends to show where the real power is as well. Oddly, the one thing they have the most control over is going to war which the military actually wants. The evidence of corruption at this level means if you follow the chain back is everything is in the hands of the corporations. A lot of this is things many of us suspect anyway. One odd fact that Ginsberg doesn’t take into account is that all American politicians tend to come from wealthy backgrounds than from the ordinary person which should speak for itself. No wonder it’s so hard to raise taxes in the USA as the wealthy are never known to want to give any more to taxes than they have to. In some respects, I wish Ginsberg had gone further but his main concern with this book is violence and accountability committed by the government.

The examples of armed federal officers going after people at their place of work over simple violations given as examples here would be funny if it wasn’t so seriously over the top. What is equally scary is the power of the US police and they rarely get more than a slap on the wrist when they get things wrong. The cases noted based on flimsy evidence would worry anyone. With the police and the political machine hand in hand, you do have to worry about who is being served? I know the UK police have hardly been exemplary on occasions but they aren’t above the law and there is no time period allocated to a crime. The nearest American equivalent is the Hyde Amendment but as there has been so few convictions of abuse of power that it appears more as lip service when applied to police abuse.

Ginsberg makes a decent point about Congressmen once voted in tend to stay in and get re-elected more than introducing new blood. When I read this, I couldn’t help but think that it could be interpreted as better the devil you know, except the devil tends to be wealthy enough to keep any opposition down or ensuring their political campaigns do their job for them. From my perspective, I can’t help but feel that this is very much the effect of the herd instinct.

I should remind you that this is not a big book but the message is very clear even if I don’t think the title is that appropriate about political corruption and how the use of the police on some levels is even worse than the USSR at its height. Although Ginsberg does look at other parts of the world, his main focus of attention is the USA. If you thought your fears about what is done are there, this will cite the cases although it would take time to check them all off for complete confirmation. If you live in America, I can understand why citizens are so polite to the police simply because of the power they wield.

Looking Ginsberg up, it’s obvious he has an axe to grind, but it’s worth reading this book and consider how much of what he is telling you lives up to what you know personally in your evaluation. Frankly, I think you will disturbed to realise just how little power you actually have across the pond.

GF Willmetts

February 2014

(pub: Prometheus Books. 200 page small hardback. Price: $24.95 (US), $26.50 (CAN). ISBN: 978-1-61614-831-7. Ebook: $12.99/ISBN: 978-1-61614-832-4)

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Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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