Now Bryan writes,

For example, the Soviet Union from 1956 on was clearly an institutional arrangement, run by many individuals with competing interests, which were resolved using rules that were viewed as more important than any one individual. Khrushchev was peacefully removed from power and died of old age.

Thus, contrary to Arnold, I don’t literally think that government is a “single warlord.” I just think that rule by a committee according to formal procedures is not fundamentally different from rule by a single man.

I think it’s fair to say that one has to believe either one of the following statements:

1. The U.S. political system is fundamentally different from the Soviet system; or

2. The U.S. political system is only superficially different from the Soviet system.

Bryan sounds like he is arguing for (2). In that case, he ought to be aware of the difficult hole he is digging himself into. There appear to be a number of important differences. The results were clearly different.

Certainly, you cannot dig yourself out of the hole with rhetoric like this: “By most accounts, Lenin and Stalin lived like monks.”

And Hitler was a vegetarian. So what? A dictator who does not value meat or does not value personal luxury is still a dictator. And politicians can be wealthy and greedy without being autocrats.

My own position is based on (1). I think that the checks and balances in our system are meaningful, so that our government does not act like a Communist dictatorship.

(By the way, the claim that Khruschev’s removal from power was peaceful should not go unchallenged. I’ll grant that he was not murdered. But don’t make it sound like all it took to get him out of office was a simple committee vote.)