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Who Are the Little Eichmanns? A modest proposal

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From the War on Terror

Ward Churchill's epithet of "little Eichmanns" was misplaced: 9/11 casualties in New York were not bureaucrats, except in the typical conflated sense from the perspective of a modern leftist intellectual (and leaving aside the confounding circumstances of crony capitalism).

The real "little Eichmanns" are the bureaucrats of the state: in particular, those instrumental in authorizing, implementing, or executing the police power of the state. But while BATF, FBI, and IRS are obvious, these agents include employees of the social welfare establishment, and the regulatory enforcement agencies - and their counterparts at the state and local levels. It will be an interesting question to determine the degree of culpability attributed to the enablers - the "support staff".

Summoning spirits from the vasty deep

If such a list of agents were to be made public, it would strip their anonymity.

The idea of a representational government vests ultimate responsibility in the voters, and then in their elected agents, but the plain fact is that the latter-day analogues of Adolf Eichmann are those who exercise the coercive force of the state, and benefit directly from its use.

The Official Register of the United States identifies the federal employees; no doubt such lists exist for each state. The fact that these are not generally available (transparency in government?) is technically trivial. The precedent for such transparency has been made recently; it's simple enough, then, to propose a database of state agents sortable by name, address, position (implying level of authority), salary, and elements tying that individual to a larger social network?

Are there laws against this sort of thing? Quite likely, but identifying that statutory authority would be a useful exercise if only to draw attention to the insulation from accountability afforded to these agents. And data has proved to be surprisingly leaky.

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I understand your objection to the apparent moral equivalence (always a valid objection), but consider: Eichmann's role in facilitating the Holocaust was essentially bureaucratic - in fact, the same charge could be made against Himmler, and many lesser agents as well (although the SS did not lack for educated enablers: see esp. Table 4, p.12 - and many were convicted murderers) -but the point which Churchill only implies, and which I find to be the common element among these thugs is the classic "Befehl ist Befehl" - a fruitful resource, BTW, which takes us off the topic of Nazis and more towards culpability.

I would go one step further away from my proposal and suggest to you as well that in Nazi Germany many were perfectly aware who was a Party member and who was not, although positions in the secret police were probably not advertised. So such a list would not even be thinkable, let alone have any impact (except destruction for the author, of course).

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If we had a dictatorship or something close to it, it would be useful to know the names of collaborators. (Of course, publishing a list might be illegal and dangerous, and therefore unwise.) However, what we have in the U.S. is a democracy. Something like the ATF is in place as a result of a causal chain that starts with the ideas of voters. By and large, government employees are in place and do what they do, because enough voters want them there -- even if in an indirect way. So, it does not make sense for these voters to then publicize a list of these bureaucrats, as if they're some foreign force that has been imposed upon them contrary to their wishes.

When an EPA bureaucrat does something, it is not because he walked in and decided to act against the wishes of voters. He is in place and does what he does because of the environmental ideas supported by a large number of voters. The same for ATF, and even the IRS.

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I understand your objection to the apparent moral equivalence (always a valid objection), but consider: Eichmann's role in facilitating the Holocaust was essentially bureaucratic

I wasn't objecting to morally equating giving orders to carrying them out. Equate away, they're both guilty. I was objecting to morally equating the Holocaust with whatever problem you have with the United States.

P.S. I also agree with what SN said.

Edited by Nicky
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If we had a dictatorship or something close to it, it would be useful to know the names of collaborators. (Of course, publishing a list might be illegal and dangerous, and therefore unwise.) However, what we have in the U.S. is a democracy. Something like the ATF is in place as a result of a causal chain that starts with the ideas of voters. By and large, government employees are in place and do what they do, because enough voters want them there -- even if in an indirect way. So, it does not make sense for these voters to then publicize a list of these bureaucrats, as if they're some foreign force that has been imposed upon them contrary to their wishes.

When an EPA bureaucrat does something, it is not because he walked in and decided to act against the wishes of voters. He is in place and does what he does because of the environmental ideas supported by a large number of voters. The same for ATF, and even the IRS.

I find it difficult to distinguish between this line of thought and one that leads to "therefore, orders are orders, and my job is to follow them." My modest proposal, as Swiftian as it might be, is to simply suggest that it is not only technically possible to hold these bureaucrats to account by name, it is also likely that it will occur. Sooner or later.

BTW, the fine distinction between a "democracy" and a "democratic republic" is forgotten, apparently - and one might ask, to whom are the bureaucrats responsible? And who wants to know?

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I find it difficult to distinguish between this line of thought and one that leads to "therefore, orders are orders, and my job is to follow them."
My point is different. If you expose these bureaucrats, their defense is not that "we're following orders", but that "we're following your orders". Take the example of the EPA... the name of the head of the EPA is no secret. The names of the people on the NLRB who gave Boeing a hard time about moving to Carolina are no secret. The name of the guy who shot down the Keystone pipeline is no secret. These people do what they do because their actions have enough support among voters.

Exposing names would make some sense if these people were not doing what voters sent them to do. So, it would be pretty pointless to tell voters the details of the junior level bureaucrats.

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My point is different. If you expose these bureaucrats, their defense is not that "we're following orders", but that "we're following your orders". Take the example of the EPA... the name of the head of the EPA is no secret. The names of the people on the NLRB who gave Boeing a hard time about moving to Carolina are no secret. The name of the guy who shot down the Keystone pipeline is no secret. These people do what they do because their actions have enough support among voters.

Exposing names would make some sense if these people were not doing what voters sent them to do. So, it would be pretty pointless to tell voters the details of the junior level bureaucrats.

I am, however, reminded of the enabling legislation passed by the National Socialists in 1933, upon which they erected the edifice of their regime: all completely "assented to" - and, by the way, a very difficult bone for the postwar German historians to chew, when considering the legal status of resisters prosecuted under those laws. (See Also, obviously, Ominous Parallels).

I don't think there's any problem with my identification of modern-day anonymous bureaucrats entrusted with the initiation of coercive force as latter-day analogues of the equally anonymous and lethal agents of the RSHA?

Here's the heart of it, for me: these people depend on two things for their continued uninterrupted activity (All Perfectly Legal): one is personal anonymity, so that not even their neighbors have any idea about what they do, relieving them of the possibility of any personal sanction; the other is the continued maintenance of the myth of voter consent, which simply deflects the accountability, as in the (invalid) Eichmann defense.

My distinction between a "democracy" and a "democratic republic" is intended to refer to the solution implemented by the American Founding Fathers, which has been steadily eroded to this point, approaching (but no, not yet exceeding) the limit of credibility and authority. However, in this weblinked world, it seems to me more probable that an anti-authoritarian (Not Perfectly Legal) act such as I describe is more likely than the restoration of the limits of a constitutional republic.

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Here's the heart of it, for me: these people depend on two things for their continued uninterrupted activity (All Perfectly Legal): one is personal anonymity, so that not even their neighbors have any idea about what they do, relieving them of the possibility of any personal sanction; the other is the continued maintenance of the myth of voter consent,... ...
I would bet that most IRS employees, ATF agents, and so on do not lie about their employer. Their neighbors and fellow church-goers are just as likely to know where they work as they do for someone who works for a private company. So, it is simply not true that these people hide their jobs, far less that they depend on such anonymity. As for voter consent, it is not a myth but a fact.
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I would bet that most IRS employees, ATF agents, and so on do not lie about their employer. Their neighbors and fellow church-goers are just as likely to know where they work as they do for someone who works for a private company.

This would be an interesting hypothesis to test (but I wouldn't take the bet because I just don't bet!!).

So, it is simply not true that these people hide their jobs, far less that they depend on such anonymity.

This conclusion depends necessarily on a confirmation of the hypothesis, of course.

As for voter consent, it is not a myth but a fact.

And is a topic for another discussion, sometime.

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