Daring the list
Source Brad De Long
Date 99/06/07/13:24

No, people are educated. And people who are open-minded enough to be
willing to mark their beliefs to market occasionally are sometimes
convinced. After all, if you have not changed your mind on anything since
the 1970s you are dead, whether you realize it or not...

Long-term violent and starvation deaths (say, between 1945 and 1990) had
the Stalin regime collapsed in the summer of 1942, and had the U.S. and
Britain then made a separate peace with the Nazis--settling for Nazi
abandonment of the alliance with Japan and withdrawal from and the
demilitarization of France, Benelux, and Scandinavia in exchange for giving
Hitler a free hand in the east, say--would have been, I think:

80 million more dead in the Soviet Union (according to a conversation
I had with Daniel Goldhagen) as the Nazis turn retired soldiers
into large-scale landholders engaged in capital-intensive
agriculture in the New Eastern Territories...

25 million more dead in pre-1939 Poland as part of the same process...

10 million more dead in the pacification of Yugoslavia and the crushing
of the various Yugoslavian resistance movements...

2 million extra as non-Polish and non-Russian Jews and Gypsies are

Call it 120 million. And that's assuming that Hitler would have stopped
there. A Nazi descent on Africa would have added at least another 50
million to the total...

We *all* owe an enormous debt to the Red Army and to the workers and
farmers of the Soviet Union for their unbelievable sacrifices and courage
during World War II.

On the other hand, I don't think that we owe this debt to *Stalin*. After
all, a Stalin who had not signed the Nazi-Soviet pact but who had instead
joined Britain and France in a guarantee of the integrity of Poland might
have kept Hitler from starting World War II at all (my guess: a probability
of about 1/3). And if Hitler had started World War II in spite of a Soviet
guarantee of Poland--or if Stalin had double-crossed Hitler in September of
1939 and joined the Anglo-French alliance--then it seems likely that World
War II would have been much shorter (my guess: a probability of 2/3--and if
Tukhachevsky had purged Stalin first in 1936 and avoided the decimation of
the command structures and cadres of the Red Army, my guess is that the
probability is very close to one).

As it was, it was a very near-run thing. I suspect that, if Hitler had just
kept his mouth shut and not declared war on the U.S. in December 1941, the
U.S. would have kept deliveries of lend-lease supplies at a tiny trickle as
it focused on overwhelming Japan, and Russia and Britain would have lost
World War II in Europe...

Brad DeLong

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