The Nation, 7 April 2008

A special issue devoted to the 75th anniversary of the New Deal.

Most interesting are three items outside the special pieces.  A brief editorial by Laila al-Arian notices the recent panels Iraq Veterans Against the War sponsored in Silver Spring, Maryland, where US military personnel returned from Iraq testified about war crimes they committed and witnessed in that country.  Unlike their predecessors who appeared at the 1971 Winter Soldier Investigation during the Vietnam War, these veterans all produced photographs, videos, and other corroborating evidence for their accounts.  What stick in my mind was a quote from an active duty enlisted man named Hart Viges.  Specialist Viges tells of his refusal to join in desecrating an Iraqi corpse.  “I said no- not in the context of, That’s really wrong on an ethical basis.  I said no because it wasn’t my kill.  You shouldn’t take trophies for things you didn’t kill.  That’s where my mindset was back then.” 

Kim Phillips-Fein reviews a silly book by libertarian writer Amity Shlaes arguing that the Great Depression was solely the result of government meddling and that only laissez faire economic policies can lead to prosperity.  Phillips-Fein points out the logical implication of this argument.  The US effort in World War Two represented the biggest increase in government spending, taxation, and regulation in history up to that point.  On Shlaes’ premises, that should have been accompanied by a profound exacerbation of the depression.  Yet in fact the war years saw prosperity return to America, and were followed by decades of tremendous growth. 

Robin Einhorn reviews Woody Holton’s history of the debates around the constitution, faulting Holton for his uncritical acceptance of the Antifederalist worldview and his failure to engage with any scholarship produced since 1940.  Still, Einhorn finds much to praise in Holton’s unflagging optimism and democratic spirit.  “What Holton really wants is for Americans to understand that we have a grander political tradition than constitutionalism, a democratic tradition in which ‘ordinary farmers’ used tangible power to win tangible gains.”

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