Americans are generally becoming poorer and, what is worse, more dependent. This may seem a sad joke to tell the Chinese, who still cannot fill everyone's rice bowl, give everyone a ration of cloth, and provide everyone with a private corner of a house. But it is a sad joke to Americans, too, most of whom insist that they will be better off next year, and the year after, and the year after that as well.
To be poor is to give an intolerable amount of your life energies to your material subsistence. To become poorer is having to give more and more of your life energies to staying at the same level of subsistence. To be dependent is more complicated. It means surrendering your powers of obtaining material goods, respect, education, and good health to governmental or monopolistic bodies. To be dependent is to be subjected to and submissive to a culture of coercion, a force culture.
In America there exists some of the old poverty, and then much of a new kind of poverty. There is, above all, a trend to dependence or exartysia, which is disturbing people of all economic classes. The over-all American system of production and distribution is proving to have severe defects. Even while this is happening, the world situation in which America is heavily involved is deteriorating. And America, to solve its own problem, may try to abandon the rest of the world. This is already impossible without enormous loss all around.
There are dozens of ways of counting the number of people who are poor. The best way is never used; that is to take a sample of, say, twenty thousand persons from the nation, by scientific means so as to ensure the representation of every element, then to make a careful accounting of what each person takes in by way of money or non-cash services or commodities, and then of how each person spends resources and time. The sample would include children as well as women and men. Then place all of this material, with appropriate computer machinery and calculators, before a group of politicians, philosophers, and scientists, and let them analyze intensively the material and report upon it.
Probably they would report that about 20 per cent of the American people live in a state that could be called Old Poverty, where the basic needs of food, housing, medicine, clothing, and education are not being reliably supplied. They would also have to concede that there is another condition found especially in America that they would want to call New Poverty. The Old Poor are also suffering from the New Poverty, and there would be an additional 30 per cent of the population suffering from this condition. Thus they would end up with the assertion that the general problem of poverty in America is severe, with some 50 per cent of the people in continual trouble form material disequilibrium.
A number of fragmentary studies support these estimates. For example, 12 million Americans are provided with subsistence by the federal government for being poor. Another 12 million are estimated to fall in the same category but for one reason or another (perhaps because of political and bureaucratic suppression of benefits) are not given direct governmental aid. But the number of poor persons who are not qualified at all will probably add another 12 million, so we arrive at 36 million or about 18 per cent of the population.
A statement by Elliot L. Richardson, as he moved out of his post as Secretary of the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare in 1973, is worth quoting.
In spite of our progress, our institutions are failing to live up to our rising expectations. Budgets have spiraled upward, priorities have been reordered; yet to extend the present range of H.E.W. services equitable to those in need would require seemingly impossible allocations of resources-an additional 20 million trained personnel and an additional $250 billion, a sum equal to the entire federal budget.
There is an increasingly pervasive sense not only of failure, but of futility. In many fundamental respects the human service system is developing beyond the scope of control by government and the people.
The legislative process has become a cruel shell game and the service system has become a bureaucratic maze, inefficient, incomprehensible, and inaccessible.
Another simple way to estimate the Old Poor is to take the median income figure that divides the families of the whole population in half, and then to take half of this sum. A poor family would then take in less than half the median. In 1965, 20 per cent of the families had incomes below half the median.
A survey of the slums of ten large American cities in 1965 revealed a third of the able-bodied persons were unemployed or underemployed.
Facts like this are well known. There is no question but that people in this category are not able to maintain a decent level of material consumption. They will rarely go hungry, but they are helpless economically, educationally, socially, and politically. A great many of them are young and a great many old. Beyond them stands another large category of the population, perhaps another 20 per cent, who are practically in the same situation, except that they hold a job or pension that keeps them statistically out of the poverty category. Since these are not eligible for some of the free benefits the first group gets from the government, they may be materially just as badly off.
Another study, this by the Cambridge Institute, reported in 1972 that the poorest one fifth of all families received less than 6 per cent of all personal income. Here the poorest fifth turned out to be 10.4 million families. They received $3,054 for the year 1970, whereas if all money had been divided equally the average family would have received $11,000.
But again I must warn against playing with statistics. It is enough to know to begin with that practically no one has starved in the last generation but that one fifth of the people of the "richest nation in history" are in continual torment over how to feed themselves, get medical care, house themselves, and pursue the American imperative "to make something of themselves."
Some of the politicians' time and the full time of a great many bureaucrats is occupied with problems of poverty. As Richardson indicates, they have not been successful. And present techniques cannot cope with the problem. The group divides into the old, the young, the disabled, and the "unqualified." Efforts fail with the old because the efforts to help them merely shut down life except for the narrow slit through which necessities are passed. Efforts fail with the young because the young are beleaguered by unwanted attention from many quarters and become recalcitrant, sullen, and incompetent. They give every indication in the vast majority of cases of becoming lifelong misfits in the society. The "unqualified" are a great number that cannot cope with the complexity of modern life in America or do not possess the required skill to take a significant leap upward. A great many of these have only basic rural farming or laboring skills that go poorly in the cities where they now live.
Governmental efforts to train, to house, to give medical care to, and to find employment for these millions of persons, who number as many as the populations of Scandinavia and the Low Countries put together, have failed across the year of a full generation. Above them, I remind you, always remain the millions of families who have held themselves together by various combinations of work; but these are threatened continually by medical misfortune, loss of jobs due to automation and energy crises, a slump in the construction industry, and other happenings. Also, just beyond these, are many millions who are living from fixed incomes of private pension funds, receiving an average of a little over $2,000 in 1973 dollars, or form Social Security pensions and other savings that keep them from disaster so long as inflation does not maintain its present pace.
Robert Lampman has made some estimates of what proportion of income loss is replaced by existing public programs:
Approximately one-fifth of total family income lost because of unemployment is replaced by unemployment compensation. About one-half of the reduction in income caused by retirement is offset by OASDI and OAA (the government's insurance and grants systems). OASDI and AFDC (aid to dependent children) replace approximately one-half the income loss associated with the break-up of families. Much smaller proportions of the income loss resulting from illness and disability of earners are met by public payments. About one-third of health care costs are met by public provision and another third by voluntary health insurance. The "lost" per capita income that is a consequence of being born into a large family is met only irregularly and in small degree by public funds. These rough calculations apply only to aggregates. Some families receive more than 100 percent replacement for a particular type of income loss, some receive none at all.1
Nader and Blackwell said in 1972 that at least half the people covered by private pension plans never collect a cent, because of deficiencies and exceptions contained in the plans. Thus the near-poor, numbering perhaps 50 million, often sink below the poverty line, rise above, and then again sink and rise. In old age, they usually suffer both the Old poverty and some of the New Poverty (especially poverty of the love and environmental poverty.).
I must inform you, then, that America has not solved the problem of the Old poor, those 40 million or more people who suffer from inadequate food, housing, medical care, skills, and opportunities. I must mention too that the problem of the Old poor is tied in to problems of race relations in America, because the blacks, starting up on their own from slavery and largely ignored for a century, form therefore a large proportion of the poor and a not so large but still heavy proportion of the economically threatened group just above the ordinary definitions of poverty. Among other things, this means that poverty in America is accompanied often by widespread unfriendliness and hostility. The blacks measure themselves not by what they are, but by what they were and what they should be, and justifiably so.
Today there is in America a New Poverty or Neo-Poverty alongside the old or paleo-poverty. This is a kind of poverty neither the economists nor the poor of the world are willing to great. New poverty is the effect of ecological maladaptation of societies of advanced technology. It is a concrete problem that can only be dismissed at the peril of social chaos. It consists of high mobility and resulting effective crowding. It includes the separation of home from workplace and the crushing burden on people and the economy of 100 million hours a day spent in commuting to work. It consists of the 5 million auto injuries and 15 million auto crashes a year and their consequences. It consists of the deadening conditions of work in brackets of occupations extending far beyond the poor into the highest income levels.
Neo-poverty consists of pollution costs that degrade the environment, speeding up the depreciation of every object and persons. It consists of the epidemic psychological problems that gnaw at people as badly as the pangs of hunger -- these in turn circling back to environmental noises, rushing and jostling bodies, poisons in the food and air, inescapable ugliness, deteriorated recreation facilities and opportunities, and the practical disappearance of the bonds of neighborhood in the cities.
The poor are afflicted by Neo-poverty as much as or more than the middle and upper-middle economic and educational groups. Still automation is affecting the middle classes as much as the poor. More and more upper-income jobs are sliding into the tedious realm of the bureaucracy, both governmental and non-governmental. NO longer do the poor and the rich take peaceful automobile rides, nor do they find themselves in natural surroundings where they can peacefully fish or quietly boat.
To the middle classes and the poor, the private auto is like a millstone tied to their neck; they cannot remove it but they sink with it. A great deal more money is spent nowadays for medical services; but upon examination, these medical services use the pretext of "great scientific progress in medicine" to support a system of outrageously costly hospitals and medical schools, fully bureaucratic, and dominated by a monopolistic profession of medical doctors who have only the briefest possible time to spend with any patient, rich or poor.
No one can say that the country is better defended today than it was a hundred years ago, or that the mail services are as good as they once were, or that education is better today at any grade level from kindergarten of senior college than it was a generation ago, or that people of the middle classes are better housed today than in 1924, a half century ago, or that the middle classes have more free time. Yet very many billions of dollars, mostly of government funds, go regularly to these services. When exhausting life schedules, deterioration of the environment, psychological distress, and poorer services are added together, they compose the New poverty. Again, the statistic can be brought together but hardly in the ideal manner indicated earlier.
It is difficult to dispute two conclusions. The proportion of Americans suffering continually from New poverty, not counting the 20 per cent who are poor and usually suffer doubly, must arrive at 30 per cent of the nation. It is important to realize, secondly, that real income-- not as the economists define the term (solely in "constant dollars"), but as the shifting standard of satisfaction with what one gets for what one spends--has remained stagnant or declined in America since the first "Normal" year following World War II, that is, since 1947.
Hence I venture to say that 50 per cent or 105 million of the American people suffer from New and Old poverty. A survey was conducted in 1971, before the energy shortages and the consequences of pollution began to dawn upon the population. It discovered that Americans were beginning finally to appreciate that the quality of their life was changing for the worse. Reported the Survey Research Center: "When asked for their overall estimate of whether things are getting better or worse, or whether they are staying about the same people are about twice as likely to say worse than better." Considering how assiduously the business, advertising, educational, and political establishments of the country seek to sound notes of optimism, hope, and progress in all of their communications, this expression of discouragement is remarkable. Americans are coming to realize that their lives may have to be reorganized and revamped.
Dependency, or exartysia, is the giving to some or all of the people the necessities or the goods of life on a conditional basic, extracting concessions and servility in return. It is related to, but broader than, poverty; some of the Old and New poor have managed to evade much dependency; and a great many Americans of the most privileged classes are subjected to dependency.
Still there is no question but that dependency is economically determined. Work that is disliked is a form of imprisonment. A pension that must be begged for is a from of dependency. When the old can no longer live on their fixed incomes because of inflation and must beseech the government to give more money, that is a from of dependency. When the economy changes so that self-sufficiency, in part or whole, disappears, and when small-scale business operations are grouped into large-scale ones, these trends too increase the dependency of the population.
Restricted access to professions and occupations in order to pursue profitable monopolies happens in the medical profession and in a number of occupations controlled by labor unions. This makes dependents not only of those excluded, because it throws them back upon the society, but even forces the profiteers into the dependency that is found within gangs of conspirators.
When children are kept in school against their will for longer than it takes to begin to make adult decisions, they are effectively imprisoned. This form of dependency is aggravated by many laws that prohibit the young from working, that place educational qualifications upon the holding of jobs, and that extend the years of education by a combination of social, economic, and bureaucratic pressures even into the twenties of life.
The poor that are not supported by their jobs but are supported by the government succumb to a system of dependency that examines their smallest expenditures, intervenes in all their habits, and insists that they are undeserving beneficiaries of a benevolent system. The wage and salary earner frequently discovers that deductions for taxes, group benefits, and insurances, not to mention bondage to the installment credit that has been the sole means of raising one's standard of living, are cutting down on the cash that one has the freedom to spend; he and she are discovering that they are in effect becoming dependent; their economic will has disappeared into a maze of compulsory or voluntary obligations.
First one lived in an economy where the exchange of commodities and services ruled. Then came several generations of a cash economy. Now the economy of America, on the personal as well as the collective level, is an administered economy. Furthermore, the commodity and services exchange system cannot be reestablished, because life for most people has become urban and depersonalized.
If has become increasingly difficult for Americans to afford the time and costs of exercising economic, political, and social initiatives. The blanketing of their lives by the demands of large-scale organizations in every sphere is the main cause; general cash poverty is the second cause; social disorganization and mutual alienation or disattachment (family, neighborhood, city, and state) are the third cause.
This over-all picture is countered somewhat by the increased initiatives that the blacks have become capable of. In the case of women, this same trend of higher participation in response to economic independence might have been expected. However, there is some loss of political momentum because many women who used to participate in politics and social affairs, generally because they could not find opportunities in business, are now without as much time and energy to participate as they had before economic liberation.
These, then whether planned or happenstance, have been the means of producing a great increase in dependency in America: Reduce under various rationalizations -- youth, non-training, or age -- the period when people are fully employed. Deduct for various purposes as much as possible of their wages and income before paying them. Keep people from transferring from one occupation to another as much as possible. Shelter everyone ideally in huge organizations for their life's work even though the economy could be redesigned on a small-- scale basis. Bar the person from activities that might disturb his need and desire to remain in his pigeonhole. Make everyone believe that dependency, if they complain of it, is their fault and that they should be thankful to the state for its help. Keep everyone so far as possible either in a compulsory non-job status or a compulsory job status. Remember that "the devil has work for idle hands." Remember too that no matter how irrational and unnecessary, "any job is better than no job."
So long as these policies prevail and are effective, one need not be concerned with the ultimate purpose of man on earth, which is to develop oneself, in a full enjoyment of life, while working at the most pleasant tasks possible to provide the wherewithal.
If the idea of dependency is pursued in all directions, as it must be, it begins to show many of the weaknesses and contradictions of American government. A fully dependent population is quite incapable of performing all of the tasks that American ideology assigns to it: participation; initiative; voluntary cooperation; high productivity; and improved education. Furthermore, the economy itself must thus be locked onto a self-destruct course, produced by "the three exponentials," "the four disproductions," and "the one cumulative executive force."
Population resource consumption and pollution are "the three exponentials." All three are rising over the world in a steep way. Food will be increasingly costly and in short supply around the world. The growth of production in the world's factories has carried the exhaustion of the minerals, lands, and metals of the earth to a time schedule within your lifetimes. Before the resources will have been entirely exhausted, the pollution of the atmosphere and the oceans will be destructive and probably insufferable.
You may not believe these statements, for reasons that are peculiarly China. China has always had too many mouths to feed, you think, and has survived and is now better organized. But China has never been so overpopulated and growing in population as it is today. When I use the word "exponential" you should immediately take fright because it has become the most terrible word in the economic vocabulary lately. What it means to China is that you are continuously wiping out your economic gains by gains in population, and the economic growth will never catch up with the population growth. For no matter how ingenious you ingenious you are, the energy and resources that you can command, even in a world where you are much more powerful, will never match your capacity for reproduction.
The same is true of America. The same is true of the world as a whole. Right now in America, despite the decline of the birth rate to a point where we are reproducing at a sheerly replacement rate, we shall most likely acquire another 75 million people before the actual births match the actual number of deaths in a year. This is a lag, an inevitable hysteresis of the society, produced by the great number of women now arrived and continuing for some time at the age of childbearing.
Since you have not been using much energy fossil fuels or importing great quantities of minerals and metals for production and consumption, you perhaps do not sense so acutely as the American do now the fierce competitiveness over raw materials that is occurring along with an increase in their prices and the prospect of their exhaustion. I must tell you flatly that China will never achieve this outmoded type of industrialization. For by the time Chinese technology is ready to receive greatly increased supplies of the raw materials and machines on which industrialization is based, there will be little to be found anywhere and that little will be in the hands of countries of advanced technology that must either keep it or collapse industrially. America is particularly vulnerable to this kind of collapse because its total society and economy are postulated upon large- scale industry that uses a hundred times the artificial energy that Chinese use.
Thirdly the exponential growth of pollution has not struck you yet, in real terms or psychologically. Your agriculture does not depend upon poisonous insecticides; you have few automobiles; your factories are not so numerous. Moreover, it may be hard to imagine how the United States and your neighbors, the Soviet Union and Japan, can bring polluting effects home to you. But I suspect that your fishermen are finding fish harder to catch and I suspect that you will soon be measuring with dismay the toxins in the flesh of the fish. The fish are being overfished, and dying from chemical pollution.
All this has been happening to the United States, despite the Americans' ability to use resources lavishly for research and protective measures. The United States cannot keep its anti-pollution measures in step with the destructive effects of pollution upon the environment over the whole wide range of ecological problems. If Americans hate to face this fact, I can imagine how reluctant you must be to consider the degradation of the environment as a significant obstacle to your industrial expansion. Let me leave you with only one more thought on his subject. Present and planned nuclear energy plants around the world will not make up for the decline of fossil energy supplies. Even so, their heat, when transferred to the world's atmosphere and waters, might melt enough polar ice to flood many lowlands. Even if this calamity were to be avoided, others stand in line. For instance, under present siting practices, unless power expectations are cut in half, the California coast will carry a huge electric power plant at every eight-mile interval. California's coastline is not much shorter than China's.
The three exponentials lead us to consider the four disproductions. Again, as it is the world's greatest polluter and resource-destroyer by far, the U.S.A. commits the grossest errors of production. The Gross National Product, consisting of the "value of goods and services produced by the economy" and amounting now to over a trillion dollars per year, is a grand delusion masking the four disproductions. The four disproductions are waste, fraud, deviant costs, and systemic disorganization. Naturally since this is a time of dizzying changes of mind and vision around the world, some of the forms of production that are indicted here below have been respectable in the past. Too bad. The world has changed.
Waste production includes military expenditures. Unless the U.S.A. finds some cheap ways of containing its potential enemies by invention or by world order, this cost alone will block the needed reform of the economy. Waste includes lunar explorations and many other unneeded projects. It includes the replacing of one structure by another unless a great saving of energy will ensue. Only a tiny portion of the billions of bottles and cans, and waste paper, and old cut stone that the country disgorges is reclaimed and reused. The idea of recycling is only now taking hold.
The deviant costs are those that are unaccounted for and which deteriorate and degrade the environment. Pollution, crowding, and much sheer senseless movement go into the amassing of these unaccounted-for side costs. A great part of all medical and psychological costs go in here, for they are products of the increasingly unhealthy physical and social environment. You get stuck in traffic, get a headache, and take pills or visit a psychologist.
Conspiratorial costs include all the means by which people are urged to consume beyond their felt desires and to consume in ways that use up scarce resources or add to other costs. The effects of extravagant advertising are here. So are the effects of manufacturing and maintaining items in ways that guarantee quick replacement and expensive repair. If the state of mind of Americans regarding automobiles had come under foresight and control by benign means two generations ago, the history of American life would have been greatly changed for the better. Vehicles would have been smaller, used less fuel, and demanded less costly highways. They would have lasted twice as long, been safer, and required less costly repairs and materials. The manipulation of fashions certainly belongs in the category of rampant deceit; few Americans would sympathize with the Chinese communist policy of suppressing varied and colorful clothing, but equally few Americans value the pressures of fashion to which they must submit via the press, television, films, and shop windows.
By far the largest form of disproduction is systemic disorganization. This has two elements: inability to organize properly for what is necessary and good to produce; and the production of things to counter the hed effects resulting from the production of other things. I have said that pollution is a deviant and unaccounted-for waste; industrial commercial and consumer processes organized in certain ways promote expenditures to fight the very pollution they cause. A paper mill which pollutes waters and kills fish causes governments to spend money in subsidizing the fishing industry. Yet the millions of tons of paper that wrap and rewrap and every tiny or large thing are scarcely needed but are a form of conspiracy to get more money out of the consumer.
The organization of American cities is a tale of horrors. The cities first of all are bound up by special laws of all kinds, originating with the national and state governments legislatures, governors, and bureaucrats. They are thus involved in continual litigation and quarreling that takes everyones time to an appalling degree. Then they are victimized by the real estate interests, which prevent them from organizing properly the land within their boundaries. The cities are flooded by jammed, noisy, and dirty traffic. Their building interests are not held responsible for practically any of the impact of their building activities on the larger community. Then, too a great many people who work in the city live outside in suburbs; they cannot be involved in the continuous responsibility of its proper governance.
Every major city service and function is out of control, regardless of the so-called governing authorities. Their bureaucracies are of low morale and as impermeable to rational access and problem-solving as the distant federal bureaucracies and state bureaucracies. These latter, too, are in part ensconced in the cities to perform their own functions and are not accountable to the local authorities. Few Americans are proud of their cities; usually the best that they can say is that "I live in a better part of town." All this is systemic disorganization that lends its costs to the swollen and sick appearance of the Gross National Product.
Among Americans there is a vast potential for constructive planning and the execution of vast projects. Your first republican President, Sun Yat-sen, cited American examples long ago to show that "To understand is difficult, but to achieve is easy," but surprisingly he meant that Americans understand, they have knowledge, and therefore accomplish great projects. This has been shown in peacetime in the construction of cities such as Salt Lake City, Utah, a century ago, or Gary, Indiana, before World War I. And often in war, as in the invasions of Europe and Asia in World Wars I and II, when the equivalents of several large cities were carried over and set up quickly thousands of miles away. The Army project at Camranh Bay in Vietnam was alone large enough to provide much of the infrastructure of a port city, and was completed in a year's time. No doubt the ingenuity and knowhow exist in the population to build an alternative set of cities with the completely different design that our technology permits and demands, and to make them beautiful place to live.
To quote Sun Yat-sen again:
The nation is an assembly of individuals, and individuals, inn their turn are receptacles of mind. Thus the affairs of the people are the result of the expressions of mind in groups of these individuals. While we believe in our minds in the practicability of any plan, be it to move mountains or to fill up the sea, it can be easily accomplished. But when we are convinced in the impracticability, even of such simple act as to move our hand or to break a twig, they cannot be carried out. Truly, great is the power of mind.
If the American leaders and public had their heads on straight, they could manage to live better on one half of their present senseless production. The Gross National Product should be called the Grotesque National Product. It is the only index that many politicians and businessmen care to consult; but examining tea leaves or arranging bamboo sticks is as good a way of analyzing the present and future, and these methods are relatively harmless.
A precipitous cutback in the Grotesque National Product would appear to be an intolerable disaster. That it would not be such becomes immediately clear when you take a country, say Italy, that is within the range of American standards and well above Chinese ones. The Italian per capita GNP is only one third of the American. Yet learned men might argue for days over whether the Americans live better than the Italians.
If such an argument can even be maintained now, could it one third? Of course, the cutback would have to be more or less intelligent. But what American would admit that this would be impossible, that is, that the Italians are so well organized and superior in their life-style that the Americans would never be able to achieve what they do on twice what they have?
The concept of the Grotesque National Product was welcomed with open arms by the bureaucracy. I continue to believe that the economic trauma facing the United States is partially caused and certainly worsened by the executive force that has occupied the country. All forms of dependency and disproduction are fostered by the trend to control more and more activities and choices by means of legal regulations and officialdom. The system of fixed organizational structures, manned by permanent employees paid for by taxes and able to increase their spending remorselessly and inevitably, who are able to penetrate every aspect of the society while they themselves are unable to change, is a system fatal to the solution of the country's problems.
Assuming that, in some way, the Americans were able to cope with the problems of reorganizing their internal system and reducing poverty by some new system of income distribution, the reformed society must contain some provision for American responsibility to the world. This is also an explosive subject, one which can only be treated if there arises a new morality in the rest of the world , as well as in America.
Americans have become accustomed, like the rest of the world, to express regret for past aggression and war, for the horrors of genocide and the destruction of cities. The account is incomplete. American history has to be largely rewritten and is being rewritten in these regards. Although the U.S.A. will not turn out to be worst offender, its record will be bad enough to place it on the dock with every other nation whose past has been besmeared by needless, premeditated, and there-fore criminal violence on a large scale.
But one collective offense brands America beyond all other nations. That is ecological destruction and the waste of world resources. For as long as the oldest human living has remembered, year by year, the U.S.A. with its 5 per cent of the world's population has burned up or consumed as much of irretrievable resources as the remaining 95 per cent. By the time the rest of the world is in a position to commit the same offense, there will be no victim. No new arable land, no more minerals, no more metals, few fish, little wilderness, and bad air. It is, unfortunately, a one-time victim, a one-time crime, and a one-time culprit.
When the shock of full realization hits the world community, its historians cannot help but focus upon the behavior of the Americans. The defense offered will have to be the same as that of the criminals at the Nuremberg trials, to wit, that the law on which Americans are to be tried is not real law, but an ex post facto law invented by the future historians and unrecognized by the world of the accused at the time of the offense.
Americans can defend themselves certainly by pleading not only that their offense was unwitting and unlabeled under international law, but also that they had no savage motive, such as had the Nazis in destroying masses of people. On the other hand, the Americans, with their open political system and free press, cannot claim the defense of the German people, that the truth was kept from them and they played no part as individuals in the hidden mass crimes of a branch of their government.
It may be hoped that the nations will recognize their own feeble emulation of America and partial complicity in the rape of the Earth. They would have done the same if they could and indeed are trying as hard as they can right now to do the same! More that this (which I fear will still cast a guilty shadow upon American history), it may be possible, even before the verdict is handed down, to reverse the process by self-accusation and self-redemption, so that by the day of trial, the Americans will already have demonstrated their rehabilitation in a number of concrete actions that would mark the beginnings of a new, good era of mankind. Then they may be pardoned.