… in 1938, three systems of government were contending for global supremacy. One of them is still around: yours. Anglo-American liberal democracy. Had military luck favored either of the others – National Socialism or Marxist-Leninism – we can also be sure that it would have discovered and reveled in its foes’ every misdeed, and that it would have approached its own, if at all, tentatively and ambiguously.
If only one can survive, at least two must be illegitimate, and irredeemably criminal. And the survivor will certainly paint them as such. But suppose all three are irredemably criminal? If the third is an Orwellian mind-control state as well, its subjects are unlikely to regard it as such. It will certainly not prosecute itself.
The third, our third, is very different from the other two. We must remember that American democracy is categorically distinct from National Socialism and the people’s democracies in too many ways to count. Since there are too many ways to count, we will not bother counting them. We remain entitled to notice parallels. (For instance, it is almost more aesthetic criticism than political or economic analysis, but do read Wolfgang Schivelbusch’s Three New Deals.)
But no number of categorical distinctions from the other two can alter our estimate of the third’s criminality. There are as many ways to be a criminal as there are crimes. That we hang the murderer does not mean we must award a prize to the thief.
I must admit, this is a fascinating thought. I wonder, is it true? My recent readings of The Last Psychiatrist, and indeed my re-familiarization with Orwell’s 1984, make me think it is more true than I would like. Via Unqualified Reservations: A gentle introduction to Unqualified Reservations (part 1).