FYIGAQ, Better Of Ted edition

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Kazzy

One man. Two boys. Twelve kids.

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85 Responses

  1. Avatar Jaybird
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    says:

    How much time would it require to address monorchism?Report

  2. Avatar BlaiseP
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    says:

    I’d stop WW1 from happening, if I was that far back in time. The Christmas Truce had broken out: the soldiers in the trenches spontaneously arranged cease fires, sent patrols across No Man’s Land, rounded up their dead. Small Christmas gifts were exchanged.

    But one decorated corporal of the 16th Bavarians, a brave man, a runner, loudly condemned the Christmas truce. His name was Adolf Hitler. He was not alone: the generals of both sides were outraged and demanded their troops cease fraternising with the enemy.

    If it had not been Hitler, it would have been someone else, someone with better judgement. The Allies gave considerable thought to killing Hitler. Others thought better of it: if Hitler had been a good corporal, he was a wretched commander. Anyone else could have done a better job managing the Third Reich. Its rise was inevitable, in any event. Eliminating Hitler would not have stopped WW1 and what followed: the idiocy of France’s humiliating terms of victory, its blank defiance of Wilson’s Fourteen Points. It would not have stopped the rise of Communism or the Spanish Civil War, the warm-up exercise for WW2: everyone knew the winner of the Spanish Civil War would become the next enemy of democracy. In time, both would have their turns as a casus belli: the 20th century was defined by opposition to one or the other. It would not have stopped the Depression, which set the stage for the rise of the Fascists.

    We make too much of these Hitler Types. Greatness, Napoleon said, is the combination of the man and the times.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy in reply to BlaiseP
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      says:

      30 seconds, Blaise! And you don’t control your travel! You just pop into his nursery and have 30 seconds!Report

    • Avatar Jim Heffman in reply to BlaiseP
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      says:

      Yeah; my thought would be “damn, couldn’t they have put me next to Kaiser Bill?”Report

    • Avatar NewDealer in reply to BlaiseP
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      says:

      Pretty much. The Treaty of Versailles pretty much determined that there would be very bitter right-wing Germans. The Jews would still have been scape-goated.

      Now I really dark and interesting question is what if the US did institute the Morgenthau Plan at the end of WWII?

      For those who don’t know, Treasury Secretary Morgenthau wanted to turn Germany into a perpetual pastoral state at the end of WWII as punishment. This was ultimately rejected as too cruel:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Morgenthau_PlanReport

      • Avatar greginak in reply to NewDealer
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        says:

        The Morg Plan would have been a disaster for Western Europe. West Germany was an economic powerhouse and bulwark against communism. If Germany had been razed it would have been a massive propaganda tool and left East Germany as the stronger of the Germany’s after the the Iron Curtain came down. In the long run there would have been no West Germany to absorb EG which would have been terrible for all of them. No strong prosperous WG would have offered less of beacon for those in the east. All of western europe would have been weaker and more divided.Report

  3. Avatar Tod Kelly
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    says:

    I’m not one of those people that think major shifts in history occur because there was this one guy; so I’m not sure that fascism, a devastating World War, or even the slaughter of Eastern European Jews are all prevented by taking out Hitler. Still, what’s the harm in finding out?

    So I’d snatch the the baby and take him back with me and raise him as my adopted son. I would TOTALLY support the idea of art school if and when it came up.Report

  4. Avatar Matty
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    says:

    I do nothing, yes the history we have is bad but I have no way of knowing I wouldn’t be making a worse history. As Blaise says the events that led to both world wars would have happened anyway without Hitler but what else might have happened? Maybe Hitler Mark 2 set up a team to work on the atom bomb in 1938 and got one before the Americans, maybe he was a better military planner and found a way to defeat the Red Army before engaging the US.

    Only sure choice is not to choose.Report

  5. Avatar NewDealer
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    says:

    This is one of the oldest counter-factuals in the book and one of the most offensive as counter-factuals go.

    I am generally not a fan of what-if/alt-history because it tends not to disservice those who suffered at the hands of various events.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy in reply to NewDealer
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      says:

      What is offensive about it, NewDealer?Report

      • Avatar DRS in reply to Kazzy
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        says:

        Um, that enormous numbers of people died in horrendous ways and that entire countries were devasted for years afterwards – and that maybe some things aren’t really appropriate for second guessing? I’m not ND, obviously, but it’s a legitimate POV.Report

        • Avatar Kazzy in reply to DRS
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          says:

          I’m not disagreeing… just trying to suss out the source of objection.

          These are thought experiments intended to explore deeper/big concepts. It is possible that the formulation of this one is insensitive and, as such, I can restructure it. As noted, this was inspired by a television show, so I didn’t put a ton of thought into it.Report

        • Avatar Zach in reply to DRS
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          says:

          I’m skeptical about the utility of counterfactual scenarios in writing history, but I’ve always found it a useful exercise in unpacking the components to the particular ‘why’ question during the initial research stage. As someone who appreciates complexity over clean narratives, it can serve as a useful reminder not to cut corners.Report

      • Avatar NewDealer in reply to Kazzy
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        says:

        Same reasons listed as DRS, Millions if not tens of millions of people suffered at the hands of the Nazi’s and through out WWII.

        Plus most alt history seems to be written by Christian, White Men who often don’t understand how many minority groups suffered at the hands of real historical events. Their geeky what-if fantasies often show a like of compassion and sympathy.Report

    • Avatar dhex in reply to NewDealer
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      says:

      doesn’t this make any historical musings off limits? there’s very little that was “big” in history that didn’t often harm a great many people.Report

  6. Avatar DRS
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    says:

    Let’s put it this way: go ahead and kill baby Adolph – I’ll take it as given that you can do it in 30 seconds. Then go back to the future, get out a library book and spend the rest of your life with the burden that whatever happened instead is entirely your fault. Good or bad.

    Are you prepared to live with it if it turns out that a more competant Nazi-type won the war?Report

    • Avatar DRS in reply to DRS
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      says:

      Sorry, should have been clearer: “…get out a library book of a history of Europe in the 20th century…”Report

    • Avatar Kim in reply to DRS
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      says:

      Saving millions of Russian lives?Report

      • Avatar DRS in reply to Kim
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        says:

        Well, like I said above: “Good or bad.” Either/or.

        But taking Kazzy’s proposition as is, you’ve got a lot of counterfactualling to do in a relatively few seconds and it’s clear from all of AH’s bios that there were other people on the scene who could have stepped forward and were just as nasty as Hitler.

        People like Ernst Rohm, the founder and leader of the SA, who was murdered with his top supporters during the Night of the Long Knives. Rohm was just as evil as AH and had real military skills too. He had big issues with AH’s efforts to conciliate the German Army leaders who he regarded as incompetent traitors, he wanted the SA to take over the German Army and he was starting to distrust AH personally.

        There’s a counter factual for you – Rohm survives the NLK. What does he do next?Report

      • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Kim
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        says:

        Eh. Stalin would have killed them anyway.Report

  7. Avatar North
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    says:

    Hmm yes I’m with Matty. Nothing is the only ethical action to take on multiple levels:
    A: On a personal level the infant before you has committed no crimes. He is innocent.
    Response: But he’s baby Hitler!!
    Counter response: By this scenario’s definition history is fluid. The baby before you, thus, is a free individual whose history is dictated by his choices. If this is true then the baby is not guilty of his future crimes and you’d be slaying an innocent. If this is not true and history is immutable then this scenario collapses because you cannot do anything to baby Hitler because history is immutable.

    B: on a societal level as others have noticed the political, social and economic causes for WWII were already in motion; if not Hitler then someone else would have led the Nazi movement.

    C: On a strategic level Hitler’s elimination could be cataclysmic. It is entirely possible that, properly managed, Germany could have won World War II. Imagine for a moment if Germany had not invaded Russia. We’re talking about probably all of Europe, the middle east and North Africa dominated by Fascist Germany (and England eventually beaten down) before America even entered the war.

    Nope, inaction, is to my mind the only ethical course.Report

  8. Avatar Burt Likko
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    says:

    I couldn’t steel myself up enough to kill a baby in thirty seconds even if afterwards I’d wish I could have taken out Baby Hitler. At this point, he’s a baby. Every neuron in my body is the product of millions of years of evolutionary imperative, and every ounce of my moral constitution, hard-wiring my default programming to protect and nurture babies, not kill them.

    Even if I could overcome those basic impulses, taking Hitler out of the equation — but leaving the economic and political pressures that threw Europe back into total war — could produce something even worse than what actually happened. Maybe it all could be avoided and things would turn out just fine. But. A chance of history turning out with Stalin triumphant? Or Goebbels in charge of Germany? Or a superior-quality military leader like Dönitz? Or maybe Hindenburg or someone else can keep a lid on it all? Or without Hitler around to scare the piss out of FDR, Joe Kennedy becomes President and makes an alliance with Germany and three-term PM Neville Chamberlain smiles approvingly from the safety of the stale relic of the Empire and no one finds out that Reichschancellor Göring is herding away all the Jews until the early 1960’s because he’s doing it all quiet-like? I can’t think through the probabilities of all those gambles in the thirty seconds allotted.

    So I let the 30 seconds tick away and spend the rest of my life wondering if I blew the call.Report

  9. Avatar James Hanley
    Ignored
    says:

    Kill the baby.

    1. This is fairly simple from a utilitarian ethics standpoint. The “there could have been something worse” arguments all fail as they do not take probability into account. Based on historical examples of better and worse regimes, the probability that something even worse than causing the deaths of nearly 21 million people–not including battle deaths!–could have happened is very small.

    2. You’ll be whisked back to the future so you don’t have to worry about punishment.

    3. Hopefully the baby will be crying, so it will be easier to pull the trigger.Report

  10. Avatar Mike Dwyer
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    says:

    I do nothing. Has no one here heard of the Prime Directive?Report

  11. Avatar Turgid Jacobian
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    says:

    Hide the baby. That’s the flapping of my butterfly’s wings.Report

  12. Avatar b-psycho
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    says:

    I imagine the thought in your head if you killed him only to find out that his actions contributed to you being born would, for the seconds before you dematerialized into nothing, be amusing.

    This is still funny, btw.Report

  13. Avatar Michael Drew
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    says:

    2.) Barring intervention of some kind by you, history will precede in exactly the same manner.

    I’d use my thirty seconds to mentally flat-out deny that this constraint could in fact be in place as a matter of physics. And I wouldn’t kill anyone.Report

  14. Avatar Jason Kuznicki
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    says:

    The question seems to imply we’ve learned something actionable from a single experimental trial that was conducted without a control.

    I’m not sure that we have.Report

  15. Avatar Ryan Noonan
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    says:

    I’m just concerned that this poor kid ended up with a name that’s disturbing similar to that of Adolf Hitler, a guy who is going to do some pretty messed up things over the course of young Adolph’s life, and that a time-traveling illiterate sociopath is even now standing over his crib contemplating murder.Report

  16. Avatar Pierre Corneille
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    says:

    My answer is to agree with North, especially his point A.

    Here’s a counter-hypothetical: suppose someone from the future arrives today for 30 seconds and sees a newborn baby. This person states, truthfully and we know he or she is speaking truthfully, that this baby will grow up to be the next Godwin-esque dictator of your choice. And this person has the added advantage–which we don’t have in your hypothetical–that things will indeed work out better if, well, you know, the person from the future does what you’re asking us to consider doing (or justify not doing). How would we feel about the justice of that action?Report

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