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January 17, 2005 by AK

Schumpeter on Hitler and Roosevelt: applied to Putin

The one and only J.A. Schumpeter:

I know something of the government which preceeded Hitler… and I can only say that I am quite prepared to forgive him much by virtue of comparison.

(1933)

[…] Nor am I a thorough exponent of the present German government, the actions of which look somewhat differently to one who has had the experience of the regime which preceded it. My conservative convictions make it impossible for me to share in the well-nigh condemnation the Hitler Ministry meets with in the world at large.

(Some time in the 1930s.)

This is how some of us treated Putin from 1999 to 2003 or 2004. But now his — or his junta’s transgressions have reached a critical mass. Therefore, it is necessary to support whatever opposition there exists to Putin’s bureaucratic authoritarianism, however ugly their war cry may sound. This does not mean the opposition should win, only that it should be strong enough to be capable of winning, creating a credible threat to the regime that would prevent it from ossifying. Only when pushed and shoved can it evolve into something more palatable.

Schumpeter comes in handy again, this time a quip from a private conversation on whether to support Roosevelt:

My dear lady, if Hitler runs for President and Stalin for Vice President, I shall be happy to vote for that ticket against Roosevelt.

At first glance, a moderate socialist running against an extreme socialist would simply marginalize any laissez-faire agenda, but two candidates sharing approaches to some problem would concentrate on the differences more than the commonality, as we observe in US elections. A Communist running against Putin might criticize him for not nationalizing extractive industries — all and at once — yet the radical contender would also have to stand up for the common man hurt by Putin’s macroeconomic and social policies and scared by the arbitrary seizures and persecutions he has allowed.


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