Against my better judgment – but because of all the hostile e-mails and comments that I’ve received over the past few hours – I return briefly here to my express opposition to Uncle Sam’s atomic-bombing 70 years ago of the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I do so to make one point and one point only. That point is the inconsistency of many conservatives’ approach to official history.
Most conservatives are eager – and rightly so – to dispute the official (that is, potted) histories offered for various government economic programs and of various periods of American economic history. The potted history of the origin of the Great Depression (“It was caused by greed and laissez faire!”) and of the end of the Great Depression (“FDR heroically used his economic genius to save the country from that scourge!”) is correctly rejected by most conservatives as being juvenile and wrong, despite the existence of many government officials and academics who continue to repeat this potted history as though it is carved-in-stone fact.
Ditto for much other history, such as the alleged need for, and the bountiful wonders of, programs including Medicare, the Federal Reserve, government-supplied schooling, the minimum wage, rent control, command-and-control environmental regulations, occupational-licensing regulations, and the Sherman Act and other antitrust statutes. Each of these (and many other) government domestic interventions enjoys a large body of popular history that proclaims its need and trumpets its wondrously good results. Yet each, when subjected to serious scholarly scrutiny, is found to be questionable at best: the popularly asserted need for the program is revealed to be less (or even non-existent) and the popularly asserted wondrously good results of the program are revealed to be, at best, questionable and, more frequently, illusory or even negative.
The typical conservative rightly understands and appreciates the need for skepticism of popular, familiar, and official historical accounts of domestic government interventions. Yet much of what I’ve been sent by correspondents over the past 14 or so hours – in opposition to my opposition to the atomic bombings – is largely uncritical of the official and popular history of those bombings (a history that began to take shape soon after the bombs were dropped).
The burden of persuasion for me regarding any government action (as it seems to be for most conservatives regarding any government economic action) is (1) on those who support the government action, and (2) heavy. That burden, for me, becomes an even heavier one for the proponents of government action to bear when it involves the admitted killing by government officials of tens of thousands of innocent civilians.
As I read the historical record, I cannot come remotely close to finding any credibly good reason for Uncle Sam to have dropped those bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. For the kind of sound and critical history that most conservatives find otherwise compelling when applied to domestic economic matters, read on those bombings the excellent analysis of Ralph Raico. Read Anthony Gregory. Read David Henderson. Pay attention to the fact that many respected conservatives 70 years ago – including many U.S. military brass – objected to the bombings on both practical and moral grounds. Pay attention to the fact that the people who chose to drop those terrible weapons on civilians in cities are the same people who you – dear conservatives – quite understandably do not trust with the power at home to set minimum wages, regulate carbon emissions, or conduct monetary policy. And yet you give them the benefit of the doubt when it comes to their killing of tens of thousands of innocent civilians. That, to me, is utterly inexplicable.