Just Because The US Won Against Nazis and Communists, Does Not Mean The US Is Not Awful Itself

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).

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2 thoughts on “Just Because The US Won Against Nazis and Communists, Does Not Mean The US Is Not Awful Itself”

  1. Hey Paul, it’s Ross from the PHP Meetup–good presentation last night! I thought I’d check out your site and noticed this topic. There is a very interesting thread to follow here concerning science, since you mention NAZIs and Communists.

    Are you familiar with Operation Paperclip? If not, Google it. The short version is, our good aerospace technology came from NAZI scientists! NASA, the Stealth Bomber–none of that without the NAZIs. In this way, we are heirs to part of their legacy, and they are involved in ours.

    After WWII ended, we rounded up all the NAZI scientists and cut them a deal: we would wipe their criminal records if they would help us create better rockets and weapons. Which they certainly did. Meanwhile, the Soviets were also recruiting former NAZIs–basically, we got the A team and they got the B team, and the Space Race was really our NAZIs vs. their NAZIs.

    There is much more to say about this, but I wanted to at least break the ice.

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