Alibris Secondhand Books Standard

Saturday, August 01, 2009

writers and nazis

This started out as a reply to a comment, but I've written so much that I'm going to make it into a post of its own.

John of the Zeray Gazette writes, in reply to my earlier post,

I'm looking at the passages that you and Zombietime have copied, and I don't see how these can be seen as anything other than normative. For example, on pp.787-788, Holdren talks about placing sterilants in drinking water. And he writes: "To be acceptable, such a substance...." And he lists various qualities.

John argues that the phrase, "To be acceptable," indicates that the authors of Ecoscience found this proposal acceptable.

However, the authors explain in the very next paragraph that it is not they but one "Physiologist Melvin Ketchel, of the Tufts University School of Medicine" who has advocated this extreme measure. That paragraph concludes with Holdren and Ehrlich's assessment:

And the risk of serious, unforeseen side effects would, in our opinion, militate against the use of any such agent, even though this plan has the advantage of avoiding the need for socioeconomic pressures that might tend to discriminate against particular groups or penalize children.

I don't see how the phrase "militate against the use of any such agent" (emphasis in the original) could in any way be understood as advocacy of this particular policy, particularly when the authors conclude the section with their fear that others might advocate coercive measures:

Compulsory control of family size is an unpalatable idea, but the alternatives may be much more horrifying. As those alternatives become clearer to an increasing number of people in the 1980s, they may begin demanding such control.

And explicitly stating their hope that it won't come to that:

A far better choice, in our view, is to expand the use of milder methods of influencing family size preferences, while redoubling efforts to ensure that the means of birth control, including abortion and sterilization, are accessible to every human being on Earth within the shortest possible time. If effective action is taken promptly against population growth, perhaps the need for the more extreme involuntary or repressive measures can be averted in most countries.

Were Ehrlich and Holdren advocating extremist policies? Yes, undoubtedly. But what they were doing in this section of the book was listing policies that were even more extreme, to make their own alarmist views appear more reasonable.

They were driven by the mistaken view that the earth's population was spiralling out of control, and that governments would need to enact policies to deal with the problem.

They were wrong about the facts of the problem, and they were wrong about the urgency.

I'll go further than that: Even though I see no indication that they were advocating coercive measures, I believe they were wrong to even mention such things. They had no reason to even discuss the possibility that these policies might be enacted, except to instill fear in their readers in order to win support for their own policy preferences. When you need to use fear as your motivator, you don't have much of an argument.

But I must stop short of what John has said at his own blog:

And Holdren's policy proposals represent crimes on par with the worst actions of Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union.

To equate the authors of Ecoscience with Nazis is beyond the pale. To say such a thing of any political leader in this country — past or present — is to diminish the horrors of the Holocaust.

It may be wise to recall what Jonah Goldberg of the National Review said in 2003, when it was fashionable for liberals to compare George W. Bush to the Nazis:

Nazis murdered millions of unarmed people. They put them in ovens. They made soap out of them. They carted off children in boxcars to die and used some of the kids for medical experiments, including injecting dyes into their eyes to see if they could improve their looks. Lower on the list of charges, the Nazis enslaved millions and launched wars for territorial and egotistical gain (and sent many of the conquered populations to death camps as well). Lower still, they banned books and burned them too. They expropriated homes and businesses, banned religions, etc.

If Paul Ehrlich and John Holdren were advocating limiting the population by making unwanted children into soap, I could understand the comparison. But the worst I could find in Ecoscience was their advocacy of allowing abortions for sex selection, something which is already legal in the United States, Canada, Australia, and much of Europe. If you want to make the case that all these nations are morally equivalent to Nazi Germany, then you're tacitly claiming that the Nazis were not particularly evil. And that, I believe, is as dangerous as any of the ideas advocated in Ecoscience.

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At 8/02/2009 6:29 PM, Blogger Steve Hayes said...

Perhaps it depends on how you look at it. I've read neither the document not the critique.

It may be a fair criticism to day that one dislikes the advocacy of coercive government policies for the same reasons that oen dislikes Nazizm (whicvh advocated coercive government policies). That is a matter of opinion, which a person is entitled to express. But to say that people advocate something they do not in fact advocate is an error in a matter of fact.

At 8/02/2009 10:50 PM, Blogger BruceA said...

Steve -

That's a good point. I don't think the critics of John Holdren are claiming they dislike his alleged policy proposals the way they dislike Nazism; I think they are saying something stronger than that. But I guess they are free to clarify if I'm misunderstanding.

At 8/04/2009 12:43 PM, Blogger John said...

To equate the authors of Ecoscience with Nazis is beyond the pale. To say such a thing of any political leader in this country — past or present — is to diminish the horrors of the Holocaust.

It may be wise to recall what Jonah Goldberg of the National Review said in 2003, when it was fashionable for liberals to compare George W. Bush to the Nazis:

Bait and switch. George W. Bush advocated nothing even remotely approaching what Holdren did.

Holdren may not have advocated the wholesale slaughter of the Jewish population, but he did propose mandatory abortion for entire sectors of the population, mandatory sterilization for entire sectors of the population, seizure of children from single mothers, and the enactment of a worldwide totalitarian government to carry out this plan.

These are, by the ways, other crimes that the Nazi regime committed other than the death camps. Mass sterilizations were part of Nazi policy, although even the Nazis did not imagine it possible to regulate reproduction down to the individual level, as Holdren did.

To compare Holdren to the Nazis is fair because the policies that he advocated, even if not completely procedurally equivalent, are morally equivalent.

This is not beyond the pale. What is beyond the pale is to defend the proposals of this man as somehow understandable or debatable. They are not, now or ever.

It does not diminish the significance of the Holocaust to compare Holdren's ideas to it. What diminishes the Holocaust is to find its practices acceptable if the (completely non-existent) crisis is sufficiently severe.

At 8/04/2009 1:36 PM, Blogger BruceA said...

John -

The fatal flaw in your logic is that Holdren never advocated the policies that you say he did.


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