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Bei allen Zerstörungen, läßt sich aber immer eins behaupten: weil uns die Ökonmie der Weltgeschichte im großen dunkel bleibt, wissen wir nie, was geschehen sein würde, wenn etwas, und sei es das Schrecklichste, unterblieben ware. Statt einer weltgeschichtlichen Woge, die wir kennen, wäre wohl eine andere gekommen, die wir nicht kennen, statt eines schlimmen Unterdrückers vielleicht ein noch böserer.
Nur soll deshalb kein Mächtiger sich zu entschludigen glauben mit dem Wort: »Tun wir’s nicht, so tut’s ein anderer,« womit jede Art von Verbrechen gerechtfertigt werden könnte. (Solche halten eine Entschuldigung übrigens auch meist nicht für nötig, sondern finden: »Was wir tun, schlägt ja eo ipso zum Glück aus.«)
Notwithstanding the many disruptions, one thing can be maintained with certainty: because the economics of history remain largely cloaked, we never know what would have transpired had some development – perhaps even the most terrible – been avoided. Instead of the historical balance which we know, another might have come, which we don’t know – in the place of a terrible repressor, perhaps one who is still more evil.
However, no person of power should be able to excuse his excesses simply by saying: “If I hadn’t done it, then another would have,” a phrase which could be used to justify any crime. (Such people by the way generally consider an excuse entirely unnecessary. They feel that “what we do will turn out for the best in any event.”)
–Jacob Burckhardt, Weltgeschichtliche Betrachtungen ch 6, “Über Glück und Unglück in der Weltgeschichte” (1897)(S.H. transl.)
More from Scott Horton:
Conversation — March 30, 2016, 3:44 pm
Joseph Hickman discusses his new book, The Burn Pits, which tells the story of thousands of U.S. soldiers who, after returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, have developed rare cancers and respiratory diseases.
In Havana, the past year has been marked by a parade of bold-faced names from the north — John Kerry reopening the United States Embassy; Andrew Cuomo bringing a delegation of American business leaders; celebrities ranging from Joe Torre, traveling on behalf of Major League Baseball to oversee an exhibition game between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Cuban national team, to Jimmy Buffett, said to be considering opening one of his Margaritaville restaurants there. All this culminated with a three-day trip in March by Barack Obama, the first American president to visit Cuba since Calvin Coolidge in 1928. But to those who know the city well, perhaps nothing said as much about the transformation of political relations between the United States and Cuba that began in December 2014 as a concert in the Tribuna Antiimperialista.
Ratio of the amount J. P. Morgan paid a man to fight in his place in the Civil War to what he spent on cigars in 1863:
The Food and Drug Administration asked restaurants to help Americans eat less.
Pope Francis announced that nuns could use social media, and a priest flew a hot-air balloon around the world.
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“Matt was happy enough to sustain himself on the detritus of a world he saw as careening toward self-destruction, and equally happy to scam a government he despised. 'I’m glad everyone’s so wasteful,' he told me. 'It supports my lifestyle.'”