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Putting the Socialism Back Into National Socialism:

The idea that Nazism was an extreme form of "capitalism" and Hitler primarily a tool serving the interests of "big business" is a longstanding myth that even now retains a measure of popularity in some quarters. This, despite the fact that the full name of the Nazi Party was the National Socialist German Workers' Party, and that Nazi political strategy was explicitly based on combining the appeal of socialism with that of nationalism (thus the choice of name). Once in power, the Nazis even went so far as to institute a Four Year Plan for running the German economy, modeled in large part on the Soviet Union's Five Year Plans.

I. The Socialist Elements of Nazism.

Two recent books further explain the socialist elements of Nazi economic policy, and will hopefully put the final nails in the coffin of the myth that the Nazis were "capitalists" or free marketeers. In The Wages of Destruction: The Making and Breaking of the Nazi Economy, historian Adam Tooze describes the statist nature of Nazi economic policy in great detail, and concludes that the Nazis imposed greater government control over the economy than any other noncommunist regime in modern history. (pp. 658-60). Tooze notes that, even before the outbreak of World War II, government military spending accounted for some 20% of the GDP, while much of the rest of the economy came under government control as a result of the Four Year Plan and other similar measures.

In Hitler's Beneficiaries: : Plunder, Racial War, and the Nazi Welfare State, Gotz Aly argues on the basis of extensive evidence, that German support for Nazi rule was maintained by the creation of a massive welfare state funded in large part by plunder captured in Hitler's foreign conquests, but also partly by means of "soak the rich" taxation within Germany itself.

Some nonetheless persist in viewing the Nazi economic system as "capitalist" because 1) some big businessmen (such as the Krupps) supported the Nazi regime, and 2) most of the means of production remained under private rather than state ownership. It is certainly true that much industrial capital remained formally under private ownership under the Nazis. However, under the Four Year Plan and other similar policies, it was primarily the government that determined what goods would be produced, what prices would be charged, and (in many cases) who would be the consumers. "Capitalist" private firms in Nazi Germany played a role far more similar to that of socialist managers of enterprises in the Soviet Union than that of actual capitalists in a market system. The Krupps and others certainly profited greatly under the Nazis, but so too did high-ranking Communist Party enterprise managers in the Soviet Union. Neither, however, detracted from the state's ultimate control over economic production. All of this is described by Tooze in much greater detail than I can do here.

These two new books are useful complements to Avraham Barkai's 1990 work Nazi Economics, which explored the ideological origins of Nazi economic policy and showed how Nazi economic theorists explicitly advocated statism, while rejecting free markets. Like some modern opponents of globalization and free trade, the Nazis viewed economics as a zero-sum game between nations, where increasing wealth for one country could, in the long run, only be achieved by impoverishing or conquering others.

II. Why it Mattters Today.

Why does any of this matter today? The fact that the Nazis pursued socialist policies does not in and of itself discredit socialism, any more than Hitler's apparent commitment to vegetarianism discredits the case against eating meat.

Nonetheless, the socialist element of National Socialism matters for three reasons. First, as noted above, some still claim that Nazism was a form of "capitalism" and try to use this association to discredit free markets. Second, and far more important, Tooze and Aly show that far-reaching state control over the economy was an essential element in Nazi policy, without which Hitler could not have carried out his plans for conquest and mass murder. It also helped quiesce potential German opposition to Nazi policies; both by imposing state control on economic resources that any opposition movement would need to support itself, and by "buying off" potential opponents through welfare state handouts (as Aly emphasizes).

The concentration of economic power in the hands of the state does not always lead to atrocities as extreme as Hitler's. But it does significantly increase the risk that these types of abuses will occur - not to mention numerous lesser (though still severe) atrocities. In the twentieth century, both left-wing (communist) and right-wing (Nazi) forms of state domination of the ecoomy paved the way for war, repression, and mass murder. There is little reason to expect better results from similar policies in the future. This is an important point, given the recent renewed popularity of socialist ideas in some parts of the Third World, such as parts of Latin American.

Finally, Barkai's discussion of Hitler's view of the world economy bears a remarkable similarity to the analysis put forward by many of today's opponents of free trade and globalization. Both view the world economy as a zero sum game; both reject the possibility that free international trade can provide for a growing population and lead to the development of "have not" nations; and both claim that the wealthy nations of the West had "rigged" the rules of the international economic game in their favor. Japanese nationalists of the 1930s held similar views. In another important recent book, Ian Kershaw shows that the Nazis and their Japanese allies embarked on a policy of conquest in large part because they believed it was the only road to longterm prosperity for their growing populations, prosperity that they thought could never be achieved through integration into the international capitalist system.

While today's antiglobalists propose global regulation and trade restriction rather than conquest as cures, their diagnosis of the disease is strikingly similar to that put forward by the Nazis and Japanese nationalists 70 years ago. Today, most would agree that the Nazi view of the world economy was disastrously wrong. The postwar prosperity of Germany and Japan - achieved by pursuing the very sorts of growth and trade-oriented policies that the Nazis condemned as ineffectual - is strong proof of that.

It is theoretically possible that the Nazis were simply ahead of their time. Perhaps their view of the world economy was unsound in the 1930s, but - with marginal modifications - an accurate portrayal of today's world. But we should also consider the far more likely possibility that the Nazi critique of world capitalism is just as wrong today as it was in Hitler's time.

UPDATE: To avoid possible misunderstanding, I should mention that, in my view, Aly's book is the weakest of the ones I discuss in the post, and I have some reservations about his thesis. To briefly summarize, I think that Aly overstates the role of plunder-financed welfare state benefits in strengthening popular support for Nazism, and understates the role of other factors (such as ideological indoctrination and repression of opposition groups). Nonetheless, the causal mechanism emphasized by Aly surely did play a major role.

Harry Eagar (mail):
Hitlerite Germany was sufficiently individual and chaotic that I think advocates of any economic system can justify claiming that his wasn't theirs.

Some of what you say is correct, although I am not sure what 'formal' private ownership means. Some kind of libertarian notion that government is wrongly interfering with property rights when it outlaws private purchase of machine guns, probably.

Hitler's Germany lasted only 12 years, half of them during a war of plunder. Of the six peacetime years, the first three were occupied largely with a crisis of foreign exchange, which Schacht managed by taking Germany out of the monetary system as far as foreign trade was concerned. Not very capitalist according to any definition of capitalism socialism I'm familiar with, but not socialistic either.

The Four-Year Plan had a number of motives, few of them economic. One that was, was an attempt to allocate scarce materials.

In practice, it was completely incoherent, with priorities changed every few months.

I have not read Kershaw's later book, but in "Hitler: Nemesis" he concludes that Germany was about broke by the time the war started. Taxes (including not-so-voluntary "contributions") were heavy and rising on all economic classes during the war.

If entrepreneurialism is a hallmark of a vibrant capitalism, then Hitler's Germany was extremely capitalistic and international: German capital was heavily invested during the war years outside Germany.

I don't think the 'was it capitalistic/was it socialistic' debate has anywhere to go. But the fact that 'socialist' and 'workers' were in the party name meant nothing.

Goebbels, who was the most radical socialist among the top Nazis, was permanently frustrated that he could not get Hitler to fleece the rich or introduce real planning. He spent much of his time during the war years trying to get the Four-Year Plan away from Goering.
7.24.2007 2:52am
Ilya Somin:
The Four-Year Plan had a number of motives, few of them economic. One that was, was an attempt to allocate scarce materials.

Allocating scarce resources is the essence of any economic system. In any event, there is no such thing as an "economic" motive. Economics is the study of means, not ends.

Some of what you say is correct, although I am not sure what 'formal' private ownership means. Some kind of libertarian notion that government is wrongly interfering with property rights when it outlaws private purchase of machine guns, probably.

That is a silly distortion of what I meant. I meant "formal" in the sene that private parties continued to own enterprises on paper, but lost the essential authority to control their actual uses. What makes a system socialist is government determination of what products will be produced for what purposes. That is what existed (to a very large degree) under Nazism.

If entrepreneurialism is a hallmark of a vibrant capitalism, then Hitler's Germany was extremely capitalistic and international: German capital was heavily invested during the war years outside Germany.

I don't understand what is meant by "entrepreneurialism" here. The capital was invested in military conquests acquired by the German government, and allocated at the direction of the state. Whether or not this is entrepreneurial,"" it has little connection to capitalism.

Goebbels, who was the most radical socialist among the top Nazis, was permanently frustrated that he could not get Hitler to fleece the rich or introduce real planning. He spent much of his time during the war years trying to get the Four-Year Plan away from Goering.

Aly and Tooze document that Germany in fact had very high taxes on the rich, and extensive economic planning. The fact that it wasn't quite enough to satisfy Goebbels is of minor importance, at most.
7.24.2007 3:03am
Andrew J. Lazarus (mail):
The arrangement between the Hitler government and Krupp may resemble Communist managers in the USSR to you, but I'm rather more reminded of the symbiotic relationship between the Bush-Cheney Administration and immensely profitable Halliburton.
7.24.2007 3:17am
Ilya Somin:
The arrangement between the Hitler government and Krupp may resemble Communist managers in the USSR to you, but I'm rather more reminded of the symbiotic relationship between the Bush-Cheney Administration and immensely profitable Halliburton.

Such claims might be persuasive if the Administration 1) set Halliburton's production plans and prices (including on goods not sold on government contracts), 2) was using Halliburton to engage in conquest and genocide, and 3) could fire and imprison any Halliburton executives who expressed any criticism of the Administration. But other than that, it's a great analogy.
7.24.2007 3:29am
Joe Johnson:
That was a nice retort, Professor Somin. Although I have unfortunately grown accustomed to it, I still have a hard time believing that anyone can compare "the Bush-Cheney Administration" to Hitler with a straight face. It is silly and incredibly misguided, and says much more about the speaker than it does about Bush.
7.24.2007 3:40am
David Sucher (mail) (www):
'Some nonetheless persist in viewing the Nazi economic system as "capitalist"...'

I think you are straw-manning it.

I don't think it's a very widespread belief --and your use of "some" suggests we agree -- that Hitler was a fan of Hayekian capitalist free-enterprise or that

But as you say, the Nazis were simply "statist" and used large corporations as a ready-made means of societal control -- they simply "bribed" the owners/managers for such use.
7.24.2007 3:45am
Ilya Somin:
Some nonetheless persist in viewing the Nazi economic system as "capitalist"...'

I think you are straw-manning it.

I don't think it's a very widespread belief --and your use of "some" suggests we agree -- that Hitler was a fan of Hayekian capitalist free-enterprise or that


It is a claim that I often still hear from socialists or other far leftists. It's not as common as it was 40 or 50 years ago, but is still far from disappearing. However, I did say that rebutting this claim is the least important of my 3 modern-day implications of Nazi socialism.
7.24.2007 3:59am
R Gould-Saltman (mail):
"This, despite the fact that the full name of the Nazi Party was the National Socialist German Workers' Party, and that Nazi political strategy was explicitly based on combining the appeal of socialism with that of nationalism (thus the choice of name)."

In other words, the reference to "socialism" in the party name was part of the sales job (or the propaganda job). This included kicking away the remnants of the German S,D.P. in the 30's, by appropriating the "Socialist" portion of the party name.

Post-war, the D.D.R. self-labeled as both "democratic" and a "republic"; this didn't make it either, or make its practices something which should be considered as say, part of a reasoned criticism of Republicanism.

rfgs
7.24.2007 4:28am
Scrivener:
I would recommend a 2006 study on the topic:

Christoph Buchheim, Jonas Scherner

The Role of Private Property in the Nazi Economy: The Case of Industry

Abstract.

Private property in the industry of the Third Reich is often considered a mere formal provision without much substance. However, that is not correct, because firms, despite the rationing and licensing activities of the state, still had ample scope to devise their own production and investment patterns. Even regarding war-related projects freedom of contract was generally respected and, instead of using power, the state offered firms a bundle of contract options to choose from. There were several motives behind this attitude of the regime, among them the conviction that private property provided important incentives for increasing efficiency.

PDF file

I would add that the ability to keep profits and to transfer ownership/control at will was very well preserved during Nazi regime while entirely unheard of amongst "socialist managers of enterprises in the Soviet Union" and is fundamental to call someone an "actual capitalist in a market system".
7.24.2007 6:03am
Daedalus Mugged:
Prof. Somin,
Could you explain your use of 'right' with regard to National Socialists? I understand that it is common to refer to Nazis as 'right' but it makes no sense to me, and historically reflects the communist view of Nazis rather than a capitalistic one.

I largely agree with your main point that the Nazis were totalitarians who were economically socialists (with the very subtle distinction between economic control through state ownership ('communist socialism') economic control through state mandates ('national socialism'). But in either case, it is statist economy under centrally planned control. I fail to see how on the spectrum of left versus right this is anything other than leftist. Yet you describe them as being on the right.

While the Nazis and Communists did hate each other...it was the hate of a civil war among the left, not the hate arising from being political opposites. The opposite of Communism is capitalism. And the opposite of Nazi economics is....also capitalism.

I clearly understand the motivations of leftists who refer to Nazis as on the right wing. But I don't understand why we (non-leftists) would or should adopt that view.
7.24.2007 8:29am
ATRGeek:
I think this conversation underscores a common problem when it comes to overbroad definitions of "socialism" and/or "capitalism".

Personally, I would define socialism somewhat narrowly as the state ownership of the means of production. As Scrivener suggested, by that definition Nazi economics were not truly socialist, because ownership largely remained in private hands. That would also mean that Nazi economics remained a version of "capitalism", defined as the private ownership of the means of production (not entirely, of course, but no system short of anarchy is entirely private).

Incidentally, a similar logic would apply to something like Nixon instituting price controls in 1971-73. Nixon did not quite turn the US into a socialist state by this definition, because the government was not taking ownership of the means of production.

Ilya, however, defined socialism as "government determination of what products will be produced for what purposes." I'd suggest what he is describing could more properly be called "central planning", the contrast to which would be "free markets" (this is a scale, of course: the state can introduce some elements of central planning but not others).

Now, it is true that socialism and central planning tend to go together, as do capitalism and free markets. But not always, and that is why I think it is useful to distinguish the two: it makes for a richer lexicon.

So, for example, we can say that while Nazi economics (and Nixon's price controls) contained many elements of central planning, they remained capitalist to the extent ownership remained private. As an aside, wars often lead to similar conditions (increased central planning even if ownership remains private).

Conversely, socialist countries sometimes experiment with various market mechanisms as an alternative to central planning, even while retaining ultimate ownership of the means of production. For example, a socialist state could set up competing firms in a certain product market and allow the prices for the products to be set competitively. Of course, this is tricky business for a socialist country (eg, if the managers of these firms had any sort of personal profit incentive, that would start crossing the line back to capitalism).

By the way, this is an oversimplification, but one can see this distinction as separating out two different sorts of common arguments in favor of free markets and/or capitalism. One sort of argument suggests that markets are an extremely efficient mechanism for allocating resources, and that central planners generally end up doing a much worse job than free markets when it comes to organizing an economy. A second sort of argument suggests that private ownership is an important motivating factor for economic activity, and that without private ownership economies tend to be less productive.

Again, often people believe both of these things are true. But in theory you can separate them out and accept only one or the other. Of course, as I noted this is an oversimplification, and on a deep level one might think there is a convergence. Indeed, I personally think that happens at the level of the strategic allocation of capital--I think it is difficult to replicate the allocative efficiency of something like a stock exchange, but to motivate people to participate in the stock exchanges (at least to participate in the way that we would want them to), you need to give them a pecuniary motive, and that basically amounts to a form of private ownership.

Anyway, at a minimum hopefully this distinction will help avoid some of the confusion in this sort of debate. Again, my suggestion would be to say something like that to the extent the Nazis retained private ownership of the means of production, they were capitalists and not socialists, but to the extent they were instituting things like rationing, they were engaging in central planning and not free-market economics.
7.24.2007 9:08am
markm (mail):
Has anyone done a comparison of the degree of state control of industry between Nazi Germany and the USA during WWII? IIRC, FDR's big-D Democratic government also soaked the rich with taxes, allocated resources, and controlled prices. I am not sure if they directly told factories what they must produce for civilians, but something like half of the GNP went to government contracts, so few factories or other large businesses could ignore the government.

I classify the USA under FDR as socialist, too. Of course, there were huge differences from the Nazis; FDR had to keep winning real elections to retain power, administration critics weren't sent to concentration camps (although American citizens of Japanese descent were), the detainment camps the government did run didn't kill off their occupants by design, and there was an expectation that the government hold on the economy would be loosened once the two crises (the Depression and the war) were over. Hitler enslaved workers from conquered countries and some German citizens too, and doled them out to favored industrialists.

Finally, the Nazi system was deeply corrupt, and it appears to me that this was intentional; it was government by the thugs and for the thugs. For example, I strongly suspect that German industrialists often became "favored" by bringing top-ranking Nazis and their cronies in as partners, similarly to how Mafiosi often worked their way into legitimate enterprises. FDR couldn't eliminate all corruption, but AFAIK his government stayed about as clean as any government with such far-reaching powers can be.
7.24.2007 9:18am
ATRGeek:
Daedalus Mugged,

This is a common observation, but the "Left/Right" distinction is generally problematic because there are multiple dimensions upon which political and economic ideologies can be distinguished and grouped. Lots of people have offered various multi-dimensional frameworks, but one of the simplest is to distinguish means and ends. So, for example, one might view it as a means question to what extent the state should be involved in the economy. In contrast, one might view it as an ends question what (or whose) purposes the economy should be serving.

With this distinction in mind, I think Nazis tend to get treated as being on the "Right" for ends-related reasons, even though they share much in common with some members of the "Left" when it comes to means-related questions. Not entirely, though: as I noted, there is a useful distinction between central planning and socialism, and I think one of the reasons why some central planners don't want to adopt socialism is related to ends. In other words, not all people who favor elements of central planning are trying to create a "workers' paradise", which can help explain why they are not promoting state ownership of the means of production.
7.24.2007 9:22am
Joe Bingham (mail):
THANK YOU for this post. My undergrad history teacher would consistently refer to Nazism as capitalistic. I tried to make him understand (in a polite, respectful, open-discussion sort of way) what capitalism was, but don't think I got through.
7.24.2007 9:24am
Al Maviva (mail) (www):
Ilya, I think you miss the main points of the left's effort to disavow the Nazis, which is to refute von Mises and Hayek's argument about the inevitability of tyranny where the state has broad powers; and to simply discredit capitalism.

Hayek posits that if government is given broad powers over the economy and the individual, tyranny ultimately results, because people tend to seek efficiency, rather than conforming their actions in accordance with some utopian plan that doesn't fit how they would like to live. Eventually, the state discovers that people aren't complying well enough with the plans to produce Heaven on Earth, and is compelled to use coercive force to get individuals to comply with the state's vast (and perhaps initially well-meaning) regulatory regime. (Trans fat bans, anybody?) Hayek's point is that the labels of right and left really don't matter that much, it is the totalitarianism of the state that poses the problem. Hayek doesn't argue against socialism or communism per se, he argues against totalitarianism, and the creeping statism that he views as the inevitable stalking horse for totalitarianism - many forms of socialism, communism and Nazism just happen to be totalitarian and get condemned.

The left has a problem with this because it objectively lumps in communism and its weak sister, leftist socialism in with fascism - to the individual who works at the barrel end of the gun, it really doesn't matter which minor economic philosopher's theory of production is adopted by the state, because the business end of a gun looks the same no matter who is holding it. This is a harsh and effective critique because it is objective, stating, in effect, "don't listen to what they say, watch what they do;" and enormous, controlling statist bureaucracies of any flavor do really bad things. Communist, Nazi... doesn't make a whole lot of difference.

That critique is hard to dodge, so left's argument is therefore defensive and diversionary in nature, and is a tactic aimed at discrediting Hayek and capitalism, rather than meeting their arguments head-on. "Don't listen to Hayek because Nazis are the offspring of capitalism and therefore right wing" doesn't answer Hayek's allegations, though it does do a pretty good job of smearing capitalism and keeping anybody from addressing the main argument.

Capitalism properly practiced isn't oligarchy, it is ordered markets, with the ordering primarily exercised to prevent the erection of barriers to entry into the marketplace, and to remedy market failures. This Chicago School understanding of capitalism is dependent on the existence of a broad range of individual liberties and respect for property rights that is inimical to leftist (and some neoliberal) thought - it simply isn't possible to regulate every aspect of the economy the way the left and many liberals would like, and to still preserve the individual freedom (especially the notions of property rights) permitting entreperneurship. I think many on the left are aware of this fact, but it is tough work to make the argument the left would need to make to win on the merits, so their fight precedes tactically, with a regulation here, discrediting a critic of creeping statism there. The argument they should be making if they want to win in the marketplace of ideas, is that the economic security provided by socialism is worth the price of purchase, which is a lot of individual autonomy and economic liberty. I believe the leftist critique is a non-trivial argument that a lot of people would agree with if the argument was made honestly. Although I disagree with the conclusion that it is worth it to trade economic liberty for a modicum of economic security, it is an argument that must be made if the left is serious about operating within a democratic framework. It's easier to discredit political enemies, however, than it is to refute their non-trivial arguments. So rather than try to explain why it is worth sacrificing a lot of individual liberty and potential prosperity for security, the left makes the "Nazism is capitalism" argument and issues other smears of private property rights and their proponents, while generally leaving unanswered Hayek's question about how states can be restrained from turning tyrannical once they are granted the power to order the society and the economy. Instead they rely on assurances that "it can't happen here," or occasionally on crude revolutionary maxims about breaking some eggs to make omelets.
7.24.2007 9:24am
JB:
Any claim that the Nazis were socialist rather than capitalist must deal with the fact that big German business supported them and the German socialists and communists were their inveterate enemies.

Ideology aside, it seems like the businesses got a good deal from them (certainly, the proletariat got screwed). Not capitalist, but pro-business?
7.24.2007 9:25am
Sean O'Hara (mail) (www):
The real issue here is whether a command economy is inherently socialist/communist. I don't think it is, and the Nazi system is a prime example -- neither socialist, capitalist, animal, vegetable or mineral.
7.24.2007 9:48am
paul lukasiak (mail):
Any claim that the Nazis were socialist rather than capitalist must deal with the fact that big German business supported them and the German socialists and communists were their inveterate enemies.

well now, don't let facts get in the way of their arguments. And we shouldn't mention that it was the socialists and communists in the United States and Europe that were in the vanguard of opposition to the Nazis, while it was European and Americn capitalists (like Ford, Harriman, and of course ancestors of GW Bush himself) who urged support for the Nazis.

(I mean, the whole "Munich agreement" was not so much about "appeasing" Hitler as it was about creating a military buffer against the Soviet Union --- right-wing British and European capitalists were scared to death of socialism/communism, and thought that the Germans would resist any communist encroachments.)

Nazi Germany was not socialist in any real sense of the world -- it was simply a capitalist system operating in times of crisis.

Revisionist history is lots of fun, but it does require that the historical facts not be forgotten. The next thing you know, we'll start hearing that George W. Bush was never a true conservative --- from the same people who spent six years praising him as a conservative... oh wait, that is already happening.
7.24.2007 9:54am
AntonK (mail):

The fact that the Nazis pursued socialist policies does not in and of itself discredit socialism, any more than Hitler's apparent commitment to vegetarianism discredits the case against eating meat.


I've seen some stupid analogies in my time, but the one above takes the cake for all-time idiocy.
7.24.2007 9:58am
ATRGeek:
Al Maviva,

As you note, Hayek did not think the labels "right" and "left" mattered much (and in fact expressly disclaimed the label "conservative"). So, I think your analysis would be stronger if you acknowledged that there are statists on both the "left" and the "right", and also in fact non-statists on both the "left" and the "right".

As we have been discussing, abandoning the overly simplistic left/right framework also makes it easier to understand the Nazis and why in fact they were not actually socialists even though they were authoritarians. I also think it helps to answer JB's point: socialists do not just disclaim Nazism because it would give them a bad name to be associated with Nazism, but also because the Nazis did not share their goal of creating what I called a "workers' paradise".
7.24.2007 9:58am
HLSbertarian (mail):

Ideology aside, it seems like the businesses got a good deal from them (certainly, the proletariat got screwed). Not capitalist, but pro-business?


To be fair, the proletariat got screwed in every communist country as well, so I'm not sure that's a great indicator.
7.24.2007 9:59am
ATRGeek:
By the way, I think this conversation is also illuminating another problem: when people's goal is not to have a good faith discussion but rather to attack others, it gives them an incentive to obscure important distinctions so that they can draw unfavorable analogies. That works both ways, of course.
7.24.2007 10:06am
Jeek:
In The Wages of Destruction: The Making and Breaking of the Nazi Economy, historian Adam Tooze describes the statist nature of Nazi economic policy in great detail, and concludes that the Nazis imposed greater government control over the economy than any other noncommunist regime in modern history.

I just wanted to put in a plug for this book, which I read recently. It is simply the most excellent book on Nazi Germany that I have read for a long time. Nearly every page of this long book contained a fact of which I was unaware or some thoughtful analysis. Best of all, it is so much more than just an economic history, despite the title - he shows the vital link between economics and Hitler's strategy (how they influenced and even determined each other). Five stars for this book!
7.24.2007 10:07am
T. Gracchus (mail):
What exactly is the connection between Nazism and opponents of global free trade? You appear to suggest an analogy and some ideological link, but I am having difficulty identifying anything of interest in the suggested link, if there is one.
7.24.2007 10:20am
Zathras (mail):
Naziism was far from monolithic on the question of the economy. The most hard core socialist was Roehm, who wanted most big corporations nationalized. The most extreme forms of socialism present within Naziism died with him. Many of the Gauleiters exercised considerable control and interference with the economy.

However, Hitler himself repeated told Speer and others that he was loathe to take extremely drastic steps as nationalization, since he was interested in preserving free enterprise. It is significant that Speer, who had as much knowledge over the wartime economy as anyone, deplored the fact that Germany was planning the economy for war much less than the US or UK.
7.24.2007 10:23am
DavidBernstein (mail):
The problem is that the socialist commenters here are using the traditional socialist definitions of "capitalism"--private ownership of the means of production--and "socialism"--collective ownership of the means of production--while Ilya is using a more libertarian definition of these terms, a free market economy and government control of the economy for political ends, respectively. Each side is correct given his definition, but the socialist commentors are arguing right past Ilya, instead of addressing his points.
7.24.2007 10:26am
Jeek:
Ideology aside, it seems like the businesses got a good deal from them (certainly, the proletariat got screwed). Not capitalist, but pro-business?

"Big business" in the USSR - i.e. the Soviet military-industrial complex - got a good deal from the government, and the proletariat got screwed there, too. The USSR was certainly "pro-business" from the standpoint of Tupolev, Chelomei, etc.
7.24.2007 10:28am
progressive person (mail):
Nazis = bad
Capitalism = bad
Therefore, Nazis = Capitalism
QED

At least I think that's the way the logic goes.....
7.24.2007 10:38am
PersonFromPorlock:
IS, Hitler's best years as a young man - and his only rewarding ones, apparently - were spent in the Army. That he came to see the military as an Ideal for society is hardly surprising and shows in Mein Kampf, where, for instance, he espouses war as a means of both population control and building individual and national character.

Thus, the structure of nazism echos the mission-oriented (i.e., totalitarian) nature of the military that so impressed him, as well as its centralized planning that is indifferent to private ownership unless it affects the mission. Of course, there was no mission, so the nazis had to use the promotion of nationalism (and ultimately, war) to serve as one.

But to call nazism either 'socialism' or 'capitalism' misses the point that what it really was was the Army writ large.
7.24.2007 10:44am
TDPerkins (mail):
David Sucher wrote:

the Nazis were simply "statist" and used large corporations as a ready-made means of societal control -- they simply "bribed" the owners/managers for such use.


Is plomo or plumbo really a bribe? Seems a lot more like extortion with a carrot for going along.

Yours, TDP, ml, msl, &pfpp
7.24.2007 10:54am
Gandalin (mail):
Thank you Professor Somin for a well-argued and documented discussion of the fundamental and inescapable socialism of National-socialism. (Incidentally, John Jay Ray of Australia has been writing on this subject on his many web-sites and blogs for years, and I recommend his articles for more useful information.)

The characterization of Naziism as "right wing" chiefly derives from Communist propaganda, and has been adopted across the academy and across popular journalism as these areas have come under the domination of Marxists, Marxist-Leninists, and Marxist-Leninist-Maoists.

One of the most pervasive and pernicious myths is that the political "spectrum" is really a "circle" and that at the extremes, right and left resemble each other. Thus Naziism is called the totalitarianism of the right, and Communism the totalitarianism of the left. In fact, the reason that Naziism and Communism resemble each other is that they are both leftist statist ideologies. The militarization of Nazi Germany and its economy was paralleled in the self-conscious militarization of the Soviet State by Lenin during the "War Communism" years.

May I add, that the major features of socialist movements and socialist societies long antedate the appearance of capitalism and the free market economy, and thus neither Communism nor Naziism ultimately derive from any crisis of capitalism. Regimented, centrally-controlled states in which all public and private behavior are regulated, and in which the dictates of an all-knowing elite are enforced by terror and violence go back to Plato's "Republic" and Thomas More's "Utopia," inter alia. Although his assumption of a unifying historical movement from antiquity to modern times is I think mistaken, Igor Shafarevich in his "Socialist Phenomenon," working from German and Russian sources available to him in the Soviet Union, very ably characterizes the predominant features of the socialist idea, and shows them at work n ancient and modern cultures.
7.24.2007 10:59am
ATRGeek:
Professor Bernstein,

Obviously I agree with the substance of your analysis of the disconnect between Ilya and some of the commentators. But I would also suggest that as a general principle, it is usually best to let the proponents of an ideology define that ideology. So, for example, I think it is important that the socialist's definition of "socialism" typically emphasizes the collective ownership of the means of production, because I would suggest that we should defer to the socialist's own definition of their ideology.

As an aside, deferring to their definition does not mean that we have to agree that socialism in practice delivers on what the ideology in theory seeks to attain. So, for example, some commentators are pointing out that in real socialist countries, it turns out that the workers typically do not get what socialism promised. In my view that is a perfectly sound practical critique of socialism, but I do not think that is a reason to modify the definition of the ideology.

To be fair, though, applying this principle means that we also should not let the socialists define capitalism, but rather should leave that task to the proponents of capitalism. If we then assume that capitalism is defined by capitalists to emphasize (at least in part) free market principles, we are going to need another category for Nazi economics (and, as I noted, Nixonian price controls). That is because as we have noted, the Nazis (and Nixon) neither embraced collective ownership of the means of production nor were they strict free-marketeers.

In short, I agree about the disconnect. But I think the best way to deal with the disconnect is to restrict our definitions of socialism and capitalism to the definitions offered by the proponents of those ideologies, and then come up with new categories if that leaves gaps for the likes of the Nazis (or Nixon).
7.24.2007 11:14am
ATRGeek:
Gandalin,

I agree that Nazism and Communism are both statist (or authoritarian or totalitarian) ideologies, and that statist/authoritarian/totalitarian ideologies are not exactly new to the 20th Century.

But what are you getting out of adding the term "leftist" to "statist" (as in "leftist statist ideologies")? In your view is that just redundant, meaning that any statist ideology is a leftist ideology? And vice-versa? And is every statist ideology a leftist ideology and every leftist ideology a socialist ideology? Is that why you are claiming that every statist ideology is a species of socialism? I really don't get your argument on this.

By the way, it may be worth noting that the origin of the use of the terms "Left" and "Right" in a political taxonomy goes back to the seating arrangement in the French Legislative Assembly of 1791. The idea was that those who sat on the right supported the old social order (broadly defined to include the aristocracy, royal order, clerical order, etc.) whereas those who sat on the left supported change (often radical change) to a new social order. So, the Left-Right dichotomy actually had its origins in one's views on societal change (or, even more specifically, on the types of societal change brought about by the French Revolution).

Thus in its original use the Left-Right dichotomy was more of a traditionalist/progressive dichotomy, rather than a statist/classical-liberal dichotomy (indeed, under the circumstances the classical liberals were on the French political Left). And as I noted before, Hayek among others has observed that there are indeed statists on both side of the traditionalist-progressive dichotomy.

Given this backdrop, I find your apparent equation between "leftist" and "statist" quite puzzling. But I am also happy with just dropping the terms "Left" and "Right". After all, even if we tried to preserve the old-order v. new-order sense of those terms, the fact is that "old order" and "new order" are historically contingent terms (eg, the old order in America today is not the same as the old order in France in 1791). Hence, to me it makes sense just to dump the historically contingent "Left-Right" dichotomy and substitute instead explicitly relative terms (something like "progressive" versus "traditionalist").
7.24.2007 11:43am
BGates (www):
Paul Lukasiak, the fact is that Bush was never conservative enough for National Review:

Bush has also taken some friendly fire from the National Review, which is running complaints that he's not conservative enough. The editors wrote, in part: "We have never been under any illusions about the extent of Bush's conservatism. He did not run in 2000 as a small-government conservative, or as someone who relished ideological combat on such issues as racial preferences and immigration...[But] we need presidential leadership on issues other than war and taxes. Instead we are getting the first full presidential term to go without a veto since John Quincy Adams."

the Claremont Institute:

Conservatives have two worries about the presumptive Republican presidential nominee — that he is not conservative enough and that he may lack the gravitas or personal seriousness needed to sustain the public's respect.

or Bob Novak: "The president is proud of the very programs his conservative base most dislikes, leading some of the president's supporters to wonder whether George W. Bush is really a conservative."

Don't think that you have to supply citations for your assertions the way I'm doing. Your way of arguing is good too.
7.24.2007 11:57am
Brad Thompson (mail):
Professor Somin:

Your post is exactly the kind that makes the Left squirm. They have for almost a century defined the terms of debate. This is why the Left hated Ayn Rand so much. She wouldn't let them do it. She recaptured the moral and rhetorical high ground and pummeled them with it.

Here is some more evidence to support your position. This from the NAZI platform of 1920:

1. "We ask that the government undertake the obligation above all of providing citizens with adequate opportunity for employment and earning a living."

2. "The activities of the individual must not be allowed to clash with the interests of the community, but must take place within its confines and be for the good of all. Therefore, we demand: . . . an end to the power of the financial interests."

3. "We demand profit sharing in big business."

4. "We demand a broad extension of care for the aged."

5. "We demand . . . the greatest possible consideration of small business in the purchases of the national, state, and municipal governments."

6. "In order to make possible to every capable and industrious [citizen] the attainment of higher education and thus the achievement of a post of leadership, the government must provide an all-around enlargment of our entire system of public education. . . . We demand the education at government expense of gifted children of poor parents."

7. "The government must undertake the improvement of public health--by protecting mother and child, by prohibiting child labor . . . by the greatest possible support for all clubs concerned with the physical education of youth."

8. "We combat the . . . materialistic spirit within and without us, and are convinced that a permanent recovery of our people can only proceed from within on the foundation of 'THE COMMON GOOD BEFORE THE INDIVIDUAL GOOD.'"

This all sounds a lot like the FDR's New Deal policy. For that matter, it sounds a lot like Irving Kristol and David Brooks.
7.24.2007 11:57am
Tom S (mail):
None of the comments reflect the context in which Nazis operated and built on. By libertarian standards, Germany was "socialist" since the 1880's, when after much kicking and screaming, Bismarck instituted social welfare programs such as unemployment insurance decades before Britain and the United States got around to it. There was also a considerable statist dimension to the economy in Wilhelmine Germany, as the armaments, shipbuilding, and steel industries were heavily dependent on government contracts (the naval race), and foreign policy (rail and mining projects around the world.
7.24.2007 12:22pm
ATRGeek:
Brad,

You might want to note that the Nazi Party was founded in 1919 by Anton Drexler as the "German Worker's Party", and in 1920 it became the "National Socialist German Workers' Party". Hitler joined the party in 1919 and became the leader of the party in 1921, but he did not write Mein Kampf until 1925. In the 1930s and 1940s, the party's ideology evolved as it consolidated power and started WWII. So, the 25-point program of the party from 1920 is not necessarily indicative of Nazi ideology in the late 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s.

By the way, I think it may be worth quoting your point #8 without the ellipses. I believe that is actually from number 24 of the original 25, and in full text it reads:

"We demand freedom of religion for all religious denominations within the state so long as they do not endanger its existence or oppose the moral senses of the Germanic race. The Party as such advocates the standpoint of a positive Christianity without binding itself confessionally to any one denomination. It combats the Jewish-materialistic spirit within and around us, and is convinced that a lasting recovery of our nation can only succeed from within on the framework: The good of the state before the good of the individual."

Statist? Yes. Leftist? That's a bit more of a stretch.
7.24.2007 12:29pm
ATRGeek:
By the way, here is the full text of Brad's #1 in context:

"4. Only a member of the race can be a citizen. A member of the race can only be one who is of German blood, without consideration of creed. Consequently no Jew can be a member of the race.

5. Whoever has no citizenship is to be able to live in Germany only as a guest, and must be under the authority of legislation for foreigners.

6. The right to determine matters concerning administration and law belongs only to the citizen. Therefore we demand that every public office, of any sort whatsoever, whether in the Reich, the county or municipality, be filled only by citizens. We combat the corrupting parliamentary economy, office-holding only according to party inclinations without consideration of character or abilities.

7. We demand that the state be charged first with providing the opportunity for a livelihood and way of life for the citizens. If it is impossible to sustain the total population of the State, then the members of foreign nations (non-citizens) are to be expelled from the Reich.

8. Any further immigration of non-citizens is to be prevented. We demand that all non-Germans, who have immigrated to Germany since the 2 August 1914, be forced immediately to leave the Reich."
7.24.2007 12:43pm
Atlantic06 (mail):
1. Too much of this analysis ignores the historical context in Germany and the world during the rise and rule of the Nazi Party -- particularly the dislocations caused by the post-war economic problems in Germany and the subsequent depression. Many (most?) nations resorted to large scale economic planning and controls during this era.

2. Prof. Bernstein's claim that we should analyze this issue on the basis of "libertarian" definitions is absurd; that he terms those who take issue with the premise of this post "socialists" even more so. It hardly made them socialist.

"When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean - neither more nor less."


3. B. Thompson's selections from the 1920 Twenty Five Points are somewhat misleading (and, according to my source, somewhat misquoted) as these points were meant to appeal to an audience of disaffected war vets and sought to create a sense of national identity and "folk." It was hardly an economic strategy.
7.24.2007 12:47pm
Andy Freeman (mail):
> German socialists and communists were [the Nazis] inveterate enemies.

Stalin had Trotsky killed. Does that mean that Trotsky wasn't a communist or that Stalin wasn't?

Infighting among totalitarians is the rule, even if they share ideologies.
7.24.2007 12:57pm
Robert Shaw:

we shouldn't mention that it was the socialists and communists in the United States and Europe that were in the vanguard of opposition to the Nazis


Of course we shouldn't mention that; it's a non sequiter, or do you not remember how Trotsky died?

The left was split into a myriad factions, incessantly feuding, many of which claimed that they and they alone were true socialists. The feud between nationalist socialists and leftist factions fits neatly into this pattern. Thus it's as consistent with the nazis being on the left as on the right, and therefore proves absolutely nothing.
7.24.2007 12:59pm
Brad Thompson (mail):
I think Ilya Somin is right to challenge us to look for the deeper philosophic connections between Nazism and socialism.

Are there non-essential principles or policies that differ between the Nazi party and various other socialist parties? Yes, of course. Did some Nazi policies change over time? Yes, of course.

The bottom line, however, is this: Nazism IS socialism. It's one form, one variant of the 47 different flavors of socialism.

On the necessary relationship of Nazism to socialism, one is reminded in this context of Marx's essay "On the Jewish Question."

Marx wrote: "What is the profane basis of Judaism? Practical need, self interest. What is the worldly cult of the Jew? Huckstering. What is his worldly god? Money."

For the Nazi, true socialism requires the elimination of the Jewish spirit because the Jewish spirit is connected to "self interest," which all socialists reject as the basis of a moral society.
7.24.2007 1:04pm
Justin (mail):
I may be wrong, but I thought the argument went along the lines that the Nazis and Fascists were corporatists, not traditional socialists - that is, they didn't believe in free markets, but instead believed that the power of the state should be used on behalf of the owners of capital rather than the workers (and thus their hatred of communism).

I don't think the battle here is between liberals and liberterians, but between liberals and big-government conservatives like Bush.
7.24.2007 1:08pm
Justin (mail):
I may be wrong, but I thought the argument went along the lines that the Nazis and Fascists were corporatists, not traditional socialists - that is, they didn't believe in free markets, but instead believed that the power of the state should be used on behalf of the owners of capital rather than the workers (and thus their hatred of communism).

I don't think the battle here is between liberals and liberterians, but between liberals and big-government conservatives like Bush.
7.24.2007 1:08pm
Justin (mail):
"Such claims might be persuasive if the Administration 1) set Halliburton's production plans and prices (including on goods not sold on government contracts), 2) was using Halliburton to engage in conquest and genocide, and 3) could fire and imprison any Halliburton executives who expressed any criticism of the Administration. But other than that, it's a great analogy."

I'm not sure why you even think two and three are relevant differenecs - though some (NOT ME) on the left would argue that two is not a difference in any event.

As far as one, did the Nazis seek and use input from the "regulated" industries in setting such prices. If so, the difference becomes marginal, and the government becomes just an antitrust tool rather than a force imposing itself on said capital - and the difference between this and (criticism of) Bush's policies seem also meaningless.

What you are left with is a difference in scale, not one of scope, which ones again leaves Bush defenders with their powerful mantra:

Bush - Not as bad as Hitler!
7.24.2007 1:12pm
Brad Thompson (mail):
"It is thus necessary that the individual should finally come to realize that his own ego is of no importance in comparison with the existence of his nation; that the position of the individual ego is conditioned solely by the interests of the nation as a whole; that pride and conceitedness, the feeling that the individual . . . is superior, so far from being merely laughable, involve great dangers for the existence of the community that is a nation; that above all the unity of a nation's spirit and will are worth far more than the freedom of the spirit and will of an individual; and that the higher interests involved in the life of the whole must here set the limits and lay down the duties of the interests of the individual."

Adolph Hitler, October 1, 1933
7.24.2007 1:12pm
Stacy (mail) (www):
Since nobody has mentioned this yet, Josh Muravchik lays out a tight history of the communist and fascist movements in his book Heaven on Earth (http://www.amazon.com/Heaven-Earth-Rise-Fall-Socialism)

In a nutshell, Mussolini began his political life as a socialist agitator, later observed that the workers of the world not only didn't unite but cheerfully went to war against each other in 1914, and following that war decided to replace "international" with "national" socialism. He found great success in building his political base that way. Johnny-come-lately Hitler (among others) was influenced by Il Duce and built the fascist movement in Germany on the same model.

So, Nazism is clearly an ideological offshoot of communism. The other flaw in calling Nazism "rightwing" in today's US political environment is that neither "paleocons" nor Goldwater conservatives, libertarians or any other segment of the political right -- even the religious right -- believe in the precepts of fascism. Economic statists in the US are almost exclusively on the left. Which makes sense...
7.24.2007 1:15pm
Justin (mail):
Brad,

That speech seems incompatible with both traditional theories of liberal socialism AND classic liberalism, both of which value the individual highly. Read Marx, and you'll find almost the exact opposite types of statements - its just that the solution for liberterians and socialists are radically different.
7.24.2007 1:19pm
loki13 (mail):

The problem is that the socialist commenters here are using the traditional socialist definitions of "capitalism"--private ownership of the means of production--and "socialism"--collective ownership of the means of production--while Ilya is using a more libertarian definition of these terms, a free market economy and government control of the economy for political ends, respectively.


So, to be fair use and libertarian definitions:

WW2 was fought between the socialist Nazis and socialist Japanese against the socialist United States, socialist UK, and socialist Union of Soviet *ahem* Socialist Republics?

Now I'm confused. I guess that's why it's important to define your terms. But when you define the Nazis as the leftists (as opposed to totalitarian, or even statist), there really isn't much left to talk about.
7.24.2007 1:23pm
Justin (mail):
Stacy, that viewpoint seems roughly consistent with the one that the neo-conservatives are, in fact, liberal. I buy neither argument, unfortunately.

"International" socialism's driving force was not in the power and authority of a global institution, but in giving personal autonomy back to the workers by removing the bonds caused by the unequal distribution of capitalism (I'm not asking you to agree with this argument, just understand that this is the argument). "National" socialism was taking the autonomy away from the individual and putting it in the nation. There seems to be some dispute how the benefits to the nation would flow - either to the owners of capitalism (making it seem more like corporatism) or to the individuals (making the distinction between socialism and fascism somewhat less distinct).
7.24.2007 1:24pm
Justin (mail):
typo: that last capitalism should be capital (no ism).
7.24.2007 1:25pm
Brad Thompson (mail):
Justin,

I respectfully disagree. The Hitler quotation that I use above has no connections with classical liberalism, but it certainly sounds ominously like FDR, JFK or Hillary Clinton. Also, I'm sitting here with a copy of Marx's "On the Jewish Question" open in front of me. There really are striking similarities between Marx and Hitler.
7.24.2007 1:30pm
Bob from Ohio (mail):
Communists in the United States were certainly enemies of the Nazis right up until the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact in August, 1939 when they switched sides. In June 1941 they became enemies again.

Shows what happens when personalities and not ideology drives your hatred.
7.24.2007 1:34pm
young economist (www):
I tend to think of left vs right on an individual liberty spectrum. The right, broadly speaking, is for individual freedom, while the left espouses collectivism.

I've always found it difficult why the Nazis are widely considered right-wing. (It's probably the nationalism, but isn't control more important here?)
7.24.2007 1:40pm
Justin (mail):
Could you please, in proper context (i.e., not in asking people to sacrifice for a greater cause such as World War II or defeating Communism, which is a different argument and one that I think Ilya, a classic liberal, would certainly agree with), provide quotes that support your assertions? Also, the Hitler statement is about self-worth, not self-capacity, so obviously the general thesis of Hillary's much-maligned Village book will not do either.

Note as well that I did not ask for quotes from, say, Stalin or other Leninists.

And I am particularly interested in your reference to Hillary Clinton.
7.24.2007 1:43pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
'What exactly is the connection between Nazism and opponents of global free trade?'

The fundamental goal of Hitler's economic thinking was autarky. So also with Italy and Japan.

Justin is right about corporatism. It was explicitly conceived (by Mussolini, an ex-socialist) as an alternative to socialism.

Of course, toward the end of his life, Mussolini declared his government a 'social republic.' Consistency wasn't a strong point of any other these systems.
7.24.2007 1:45pm
John Kunze:
"Left" and "Right" may be useful terms for casual political commentary within a given society and within a given period of time. They are less useful when comparing across countries with different political systems and histories. They are useless in scholarly discussion of differing idealized systems or historical political regimes.

"Socialism" and "Capitalism" mean differing things to different people. For our analytical purposes we might adopt terms like "Command Economy" and "Free Market", but then recognize that there are multiple types of each.
7.24.2007 1:49pm
Felix Sulla:
The amount of Kool-Aid being consumed on this thread (in the main, by the Nazis-were-socialists! people) leads me to declare Kraft Foods the actual winner. Since we've had this very discussion previously, I can only conclude Professor Somin must be a stockholder.
7.24.2007 1:51pm
Thomass (mail):
ATRGeek:


Daedalus Mugged,

This is a common observation, but the "Left/Right" distinction is generally problematic because there are multiple dimensions upon which political and economic ideologies can be distinguished and grouped.


One other thought. That Right doesn't mean the same things in most of Europe that it does in the UK and US.

I think the Nazis were right wing. But I know a few European right wingers and thats why I think that. They are anti free market statists, anti globo, and an important point... anti left wing... Mostly out of step with what would be called 'right wing' in the US or UK...

In Europe two anti free market traditions exist. The right and left.
7.24.2007 2:18pm
ATRGeek:
Brad,

Again, to my knowledge no one is arguing that Nazism was not a statist/authoritarian/totalitarian ideology, and so of course was Communism of the Stalinist variety (Marx himself actually seemed to be advocating some sort of anarchocommunism, but no real society has been truly Marxist).

But what you are calling "non-essential principles or policies" seem to include things like whether the state should be serving the interests of a particular race or rather the interests of a particular economic class. I think it is just silly to claim that is a "non-essential" element of Nazism and Communism respectively.

young economist,

What is your source for those definitions of the political left and right? As I noted above, it isn't the historical sense of the terms, so where are you getting that from?

By the way, if you haven't already, I strongly urge you to read this essay by Hayek:

Why I Am Not a Conservative
7.24.2007 2:18pm
Gandalin (mail):
ATRgeek,

Despite the inevitable hairsplitting pettifogging and pedantry, I think that the terms "left" and "right" still have some utility.

All of the ideologies which promote the interests of the State as such and under which every aspect of public and private life is controlled by the State for the benefit of the State are in fact socialist and hence it is reasonable to call them all leftist. All of the tyrannies and totalitarianisms popular during the 20th century were objectively socialist and leftist. Communism, Naziism, and fascism were all cut from the same socialist cloth. In particular, don't be confused by Mussolini's "corporatism." The "corpora" referred to was first of all the State conceived of as an organic entity, and secondly, the principal "corporations" were the trade unions and other associations.

The Statist ideologies and movements are in general anti-traditional, anti-religious, anti-capitalist, anti-individualist, and revolutionary. In the extreme, they are openly anti-human, and denounce human activities and human economic development, itself. They refuse to accept any concept of individual rights or individual value, and see all human beings only as interchangeable members of groups.
7.24.2007 2:19pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
As I said, way back when, I don't think socialism or capitalism have much to do with Germany's economy under Hitler.

But Professor Volokh is rewriting history if he ignores that -- at the time -- people who called themselves socialists were anti-Hitler and people who called themselves capitalists were pro-Hitler. Inside Germany and outside.

It was a package deal, too. When you bought or refused to buy into Hitlerism, you got a bunch of other stuff besides economic policies. In fact, I have read a good deal of anti-appeasement literature from the time, and it never mentions economics.
7.24.2007 2:29pm
Thomass (mail):
Oh, and one quick point about different people and different terms.

When socialist parties (or individuals who are self proclaimed socialists) support socialist candidates and/or socialist programs, in places with mixed economies, state ownership is not usually... an issue.

When trying to create distinctions between themselves and nazis or Italian fascists, socialists say socialism is always state ownership.
7.24.2007 2:31pm
Thomass (mail):
(link)Harry Eagar (mail):

[quote]But Professor Volokh is rewriting history if he ignores that -- at the time -- people who called themselves socialists were anti-Hitler and people who called themselves capitalists were pro-Hitler. Inside Germany and outside.

It was a package deal, too. When you bought or refused to buy into Hitlerism, you got a bunch of other stuff besides economic policies. In fact, I have read a good deal of anti-appeasement literature from the time, and it never mentions economics.[/quote]

Socialism was a package deal too.

It included execution for the capitalist class in the 'class war'.

Might... just maybe... have something to do with 'capitalist' support for Hitler...
7.24.2007 2:38pm
ATRGeek:
Gandalin,

Again, I have no problem with calling all those ideologies statist. The problem is that you insist on calling them "socialist" and "leftist", which is obscuring all sorts of important distinctions.

For example, you claim: "The Statist ideologies and movements are in general anti-traditional, anti-religious, anti-capitalist, anti-individualist, and revolutionary."

I'll grant you anti-individualist, and anti-capitalist if capitalism is defined as including free-market principles. But "anti-traditional", "anti-religious", and "revolutionary"? Historically statist regimes have often lasted long enough to become traditional, religions often supported statist regimes (and indeed became organs of state), and statists have played the role of counter-revolutionaries when others have sought to change the established social order.

So, with all due respect, for your claim to be true, it would have to be true that tradition and religion and the established order have historically always been in favor of individualism and against statism, and clearly that is absurd.
7.24.2007 2:40pm
ATRGeek:
Thomass,

My sense is that for self-described socialists who accept the idea of mixed economies, it is still very much an issue what parts of the economy should be owned by the state, even if they do not believe that the whole economy should be owned by the state.
7.24.2007 2:44pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
Harry, do you have an example of someone who "called himself a capitalist" and was "pro-Hitler?" Given that "capitalist" was a Communist/socialist term of derision, I doubt you can find anyone who called himself a capitalist who wasn't a Communist/socialist ideologically.

As for the point about all parties to WWII being socialist by libertarian standards, that's to some extent true, though to different degrees. Following Ilya, no one denies that FDR and his advisors were influenced too some extent by ideas emanating from socialism (though Communists for years claimed that the New Deal was "capitalist"), tho they were also influenced by fascism (especially the First New Deal), and by more traditional American ideologies. But for years people have claimed that the Nazis were "right-wing capitalists," and that's what Ilya is addressing.
7.24.2007 2:50pm
Justin (mail):
"The concentration of economic power in the hands of the state does not always lead to atrocities as extreme as Hitler's. But it does significantly increase the risk that these types of abuses will occur - not to mention numerous lesser (though still severe) atrocities. In the twentieth century, both left-wing (communist) and right-wing (Nazi) forms of state domination of the ecoomy paved the way for war, repression, and mass murder."

Sure, but so? Pro-liberterian movements have mostly paved the way for not running governments, and when parties that are supported by liberterians then pave the way for war, repression, and mass murder, liberterians cease to consider them liberterian. But liberterians (including Julian Sanchez in 2000 and pretty much ALL the anti-tax crowd in both 2000 and 2004) supported George W. Bush, who has committed both war and repression, and though not having committed mass murder, has instituted a war that has lead to the death of tens, or more likely hundreds of thousands, of civilian Iraqis.

As to the why it matters point - if all you are arguing is that liberterianism theory is opposed to the government committing mass murder and repression, its not a very interesting point. As to the war point, it would normally be a duh point, but it is unfortunately refuted by - your post of last week, which tended to reduce the Iraq war to an empirical question with a non-obvious answer.

A more interesting question: What candidates of then-superpowers were supported by liberterians and placed in office, and how many of them turned out to be repressive, depraved, or warmongering? I think as you increase the set of candidates by some neutral factor or degree, you may find that the odds of a liberterian-espousing candidate starting a war and supporting torture to be higher than you think, particularly given the liberterians support of highly repressive anti-communists in the post-1945 period.
7.24.2007 2:51pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
P.S., I'm sure some socialists would claim that WWII involved the capitalist U.S. and USSR vs. the capitalist Italy, Germany, and Japan.
7.24.2007 2:52pm
Justin (mail):
"But for years people have claimed that the Nazis were "right-wing capitalists," and that's what Ilya is addressing."

Maybe I haven't been paying attention, but who? The right-wing part, that I see all the time. But capitalists?
7.24.2007 2:52pm
Gandalin (mail):
ATRGeek,

In so far as the 20th century tyrannies are concerned -- Communism, Fascism, and Naziism -- they are in fact all socialist and all statist. If you can provide an example of a totalitarian ideology and a totalitarian state that is not socialist and not leftist, please do so, and I will be refuted. But not until then.

In the broader sweep of history, the discovery of the individual and of the individual's soul occurred in the context of religion. The totalitarian ideologies that flourished in the 20th century were reactions against the primacy of the individual that had become the core of traditional life.

Obviously there is a tension between the individual and the community in all societies. But feudalism, even at its most tyrannical, was not totalitarian, not statist, and not socialist.
7.24.2007 2:54pm
Justin (mail):
PS - Thurman Arnold, one of the major architects of the new deal, wrote in Folklore of Capitalism that the differences between capitalism, fasicsm, and communism were empirical, and their effect generally was not tied to their label. His argument intended to dispel the argument that what was not capitalist was communist, but importantly (in refutation of much of the silliness in this thread) did not try to label facism as a type of capitalism or a type of communism. The idea that liberals have historically linked fascism to CAPITALISM rather than CONSERVATIVISM still seems off, to me.
7.24.2007 2:55pm
Justin (mail):
"In so far as the 20th century tyrannies are concerned -- Communism, Fascism, and Naziism -- they are in fact all socialist and all statist. If you can provide an example of a totalitarian ideology and a totalitarian state that is not socialist and not leftist, please do so, and I will be refuted. But not until then."

Were the anti-Communist dictators, that American conservatives supported, all socialist? I assume by your definiton the answer is yes, which hopefully says something to you about the usefulness of your definition.
7.24.2007 2:57pm
Justin (mail):
My previous argument pins an intesting question: Looking at the cozy relationship between Dutch oil companies and Nigeria, certain French and German multinational organizations and other African nations, and the US and anticommunist dictators, could there be a counterargument that is only as silly (and you can be the judge of how silly this all is) as the thread's main point:

Posture: Free-market capitalism is the cause of the major death and disorder of third-world nations, because it is only with the support of capitalist nations that these countries continue to rule.

If we're going to blame the gulags on Sweden, we might as well blame Rwanda on Exxon-Mobil, no?
7.24.2007 3:00pm
Brad Thompson (mail):
Justin wrote:


Could you please, in proper context . . . provide quotes that support your assertions? Also, the Hitler statement is about self-worth, not self-capacity, so obviously the general thesis of Hillary's much-maligned Village book will not do either. . . . And I am particularly interested in your reference to Hillary Clinton.


This from Hillary Clinton:

"We're saying that for American to get back on track, we're going to cut [the Bush tax cuts] short and not give it to you. We're going to take things away from you on behalf of the common good." —Hillary Clinton, in a 2004 fundraising speech to wealthy liberals in San Francisco

"The unfettered free market has been the most radically disruptive force in American life in the last generation."

"We can't afford to have that money go to the private sector. The money has to go to the federal government because the federal government will spend that money better than the private sector will spend it." —First Lady Hillary Clinton, in 1993, regarding health care reform

"We can't afford to have that money go to the private sector. The money has to go to the federal government because the federal government will spend that money better than the private sector will spend it." —First Lady Hillary Clinton, in 1993, regarding health care reform

"We just can't trust the American people to make those types of choices…. Government has to make those choices for people"
(From the book "I've Always Been A Yankee Fan" by Thomas D. Kuiper, p 20 - Hillary to Rep. Dennis Hastert in 1993 discussing her expensive, disastrous taxpayer-funded health care plan)

"I am a fan of the social policies that you find in Europe"
Hillary in 1996 From the book "I've Always Been A Yankee Fan" by Thomas D. Kuiper, p. 76 - Hillary in 1996)

"We are at a stage in history in which remolding society is one of the great challenges facing all of us in the West."
(From the book "I've Always Been A Yankee Fan" by Thomas D. Kuiper, p 119 - During her 1993 commencement address at the University of Texas)

"The only way to make a difference is to acquire power"
(From the book "I've Always Been A Yankee Fan" by Thomas D. Kuiper, p 68 - Hillary to a friend before starting law school.)

"We must stop thinking of the individual and start thinking about what is best for society."

"Let us be willing to remold society by redefining what it means to be a human being in the 20th century, moving into a new millenium." (Speech at University of Texas)
7.24.2007 3:20pm
Brad Thompson (mail):
Or, to put a finer point on it:

"Common good comes before private good." Hermann Goering

"It's about time we start thinking about the common good and the national inerest, instead of just individuals." (Hillary Clinton speech to the Association of Medical Colleges)
7.24.2007 3:23pm
Justin (mail):
Brad, not ONE of these quotes have anything to do with the Hitler quote.
7.24.2007 3:27pm
Justin (mail):
Let me backtrack. It is clear on its face that all but one of them have nothing to do with the Hitler quote. Depending on the context, "We must stop thinking of the individual and start thinking about what is best for society," may or may not relate, but there is apparently no context provided.
7.24.2007 3:29pm
Brad Thompson (mail):
ATRGeek,

As "silly" as it might seem, I don't think we're that far apart. By non-essential, I didn't mean what you're attributing to me but rather some of the non-essential economic minutia that is being discussed here. I think it an important but not a philosophically fundamental distinction in determining whether one is serving one's race or class. The concept of sacrifice is more fundamental.
7.24.2007 3:29pm
Brad Thompson (mail):
Sorry, Justin, but I disagree. All the quotations--directly or indirectly, to one degree or another--share a philosophic connection to the Hitler quotation. The themes are: selfishness v. altruism, individualism v. collectivism, freedom v. statism. All these themes are found in Clinton and Hitler/Goering.
7.24.2007 3:40pm
Extraneus (mail):
Fascinating discussion, but it's very difficult to sift out the posters' current politics from their analyses. (Bush "committed both war and repression"? Sorry, but that disqualifies the poster who wrote it for me.)

At any rate, the idea that Nazism is either "right" or "left" is equally problematic, since nobody wants their own philosophy associated with Nazism, especially if they're trying to associate their current political enemies with it.

I thank the more dispassionate among the learned posters here, though. Very interesting stuff.
7.24.2007 4:01pm
Justin (mail):
Extraneus,

Iraq is just peaceful and peachy right now. I have a perfect idea for your honeymoon! Real estate deals! Shopping!

The idea that Bush has engaged in warfare is an empirical question that is of little dispute. That he is engaged in acts of repression is more qualitative in nature (what does "repressive" mean?), but there is little dispute that he has supported the right to coercive interrogation of foreign nationals (and perhaps citizens), and has also has "outsourced" foreign nationals to be tortured, an act so heinous that our own allies refused to grant us airspace and landing areas to perform the actions.
7.24.2007 4:06pm
Gandalin (mail):
Justin,

I claim that the totalitarian ideologies that undergird the important 20th century tyrannies, i.e. Communism, Naziism, and Fascism, are all socialist. You have not refuted that.

You ask: "Were the anti-Communist dictators, that American conservatives supported, all socialist?"

The short answer is no, they were not all socialist. But let's stick to real cases. I claim that Stalin was a socialist. I claim that Hitler was a socialist. I claim that Mussolini was a socialist.

Which "anti-Communist" dictator do you claim as a socialist, and which as a non-socialist? If we can examine real cases, then I think we can arrive at a better understanding of the issues.

I do not claim that every tyrant is motivated by socialism. The fact that Robert Mugabe, Pol Pot, Kim Jong Il, Hugo Chavez, etc all espouse socialism is of interest, though.
7.24.2007 4:09pm
paul lukasiak (mail):
DIscussing what the Naxi party was like in the early 20's, and then drawing conclusions about its economic policies under Hitler, is like pointing to Lincoln as the founder of the GOP, and drawing conclusions about the GOP's appeal to African Americans in modern day America.

The captains of industry in the mid-1930s recognized that Hilter was absolutely no threat to their economic interests.... and that the socialists were. If Hitler were a socialist, the leading capitalists of that era would have opposed him --- but they supported him.
7.24.2007 4:37pm
Extraneus (mail):
Iraq is just peaceful and peachy right now.

Sorry to have singled you out, but honestly, what does this have to do with whether the Nazis were socialists?
7.24.2007 4:47pm
Aleks:
Re: But feudalism, even at its most tyrannical, was not totalitarian, not statist, and not socialist.

well, in a sense feudalism was socialist: the means of production (the land) was owned by a government entity (the local feudal lord) who exercized at least some control over what was produced.
7.24.2007 4:47pm
Justin (mail):
Gandalin,

1) Last I checked, it was the proponant of an argument that had the initial burden of proof.

2) Last I checked, the following dictators were, in fact, real people: Pinochete, Batista, Mobatu, the Shah of Iran, Pattakos, Hernandez Martinez, Marcos, Salazar, Noriega, Franco, Mobutu Sekou, the National Party of South Africa, Abacha. And that's just off the top of my head (the list of terrible dictators supported by both sides during the Cold War is tragic, and their victims are numerous).

3) Your claims that Mussolini and Hitler as a "socialist", as I mentioned, is supported only through the false dichotomy of liberterianism vs socialism. As I mentioned, and as others have concurred, the differences between fascist "socialism" and modern socialism are not just radical but based on foundational differences - that is, HOW the government is used to support WHO. As I mentioned, the difference is between socialism (correctly defined) and corporatism, something that is foreign both to socialism AND liberterianism.

As I said, the idea that Nazis are "capitalists" is both obviously false and a strawman. But keep blowing.
7.24.2007 4:57pm
Justin (mail):
Extraneous, it was in response to someone who claimed that I was obviously biased for pointing out that (within a particular context refuting the point that it is only socialists), as defined by Somin, who start wars, that wars can be started by people who are generally supported by liberterians. Or is there now a Godwin's law for Bush too (but maybe a smaller one, because Bush is Not As Bad As Hitler(TM)?)
7.24.2007 5:00pm
Gandalin (mail):
Justin,

You have provided a list of mostly second-string, mostly third-world dictators, most of whom were clearly not leftists or socialists. These were in the main not in the same league with Stalin and Hitler. I am unsure whether Francisco Franco's regime was fascist or socialist; I have been told that the economic and political organization of Spain had some fascist features, but his dictatorship, like those of General Pinochet and Colonel Mobutu was more authoritarian than statist or leftist. General Pinochet in particular was no statist and in fact retired from power after holding an election to decide that issue.

None of the dictators you list, however, developed a worldwide ideological movement.

That still doesn't refute the point that National-socialism is a form of socialism, and that the Nazi state had more in common with the Communist state than with the liberal-conservative free economies of the west.

The claim that Hitler was a socialist is not based on a dichotomy between libertarianism and socialism, it is based on his anti-capitalist speeches and writings, and on the published program of the National Socialist German Workers' Party. That Hitler did not "nationalize" many of the industries in Germany is besides the point, as he himself said: he nationalized the people.

To me, the underlying point is that, as F.A. Hayek showed in The Road to Serfdom, socialism inevitably leads to a coercive form of economic organization, and that inevitably becomes a totalitarian tyranny. There are indeed other forms of tyranny. And there are gentler socialist nanny-states such as fascist-corporatist Sweden.

The left wants to be judged based on its professed aim of providing succor to the poor and weak. The fact that in practice the left makes more and more people poorer and weaker is always explained away as the result of particularly unforgiving historical circumstances in this or that communist hellhole. The fact is that socialism leads to poverty. Always has, always will.

And although they want to be judged by their professed altruism, leftists are psychologically powered by their nihilistic impulse to take. It's not the giving that fires them up, it's the taking.

The bolshevist Hillary Clinton has already been quoted in this thread, warning wealthy women Democratic donors that when the left comes back to power "We are going to take from you, for the common good." You'll notice in that expression that the "we" and the "take" and the "you" all refer to actual, physical, material referents, whereas the "common good" is a mere abstraction. What has got Hillary Clinton excited is the prospect of taking away from her complacent listeners have earned; what she will do with what she takes is almost an afterthought.
7.24.2007 5:13pm
Justin (mail):
It's a good thing I skim arguments before reading them, I was able to stop at "bolshevist Hillary Clinton."
7.24.2007 5:15pm
Gandalin (mail):
Aleks,

Economic relations in feudal societies were very complex. Although a feudal lord did excercise control over the peasants in his fiefdom, his own freedom and control were constrained by a variety of relationships, to his peers, to his liege lord, to the Church, to the Guilds. Moreover, in a traditional society, the rights and responsibilities of lords and peasants were sacrosanct, and the lord was limited by traditions in a way that Lenin and Stalin were not. Moreover, the State, as such, does not really exist in a feudal system.
7.24.2007 5:17pm
ATRGeek:
Gandalin,

Before I can name non-leftist and non-socialist examples of 20th Century statists, we would have to agree on a definition of the terms "leftist" and "socialist". Again, as far as I can tell you are simply asserting that a statist is by definition a socialist and a leftist, simply in virtue of being a statist. That apparently means that as long as any statist I mention is in fact a statist, you will claim that proves they are both a leftist and a socialist.

For example, take the Nationalist versus Republican divide from the Spanish Civil War. The Nationalists included monarchists and Catholics. The Republicans included everything from liberal democrats to anarchists to communists to separatists.

So as I assume you know, the Nationalists won and installed Franco in power, and I think it would be fair to say Franco was a statist. I also would have thought that it was pretty uncontroversial that Franco was not a "leftist", but again I gather that you would claim that Franco was a leftist simply because he was a statist. Aside from that striking me as a rather absurd use of the term, it certainly does not make sense of your claim that statists are always anti-traditionalist and anti-religion (eg, Franco remained a monarchist and a supporter of using the state to enforce Roman Catholicism).

Indeed, I would note that while you are trying to limit me to 20th Century statists (after previously not so limiting yourself), you have not yet limited me to European statists. So, what about Saudi Arabia? That is a pretty darn statist country, run by an absolutist monarchy with close ties to a particular sect of Islam (indeed, I gather among King Abdullah's titles is "Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques"). But I guess you would claim that Saudi Arabia is a leftist country simply because it is statist.

By the way, even if it were true that individualism arose out of some particular religious doctrine (and I know enough about the history of philosophy to think otherwise), that does not mean that ALL religion is supportive of individualism. That is what makes your claim so historically absurd: even if SOME religions have been supportive of individualism, many OTHERS have been supportive of statism. So, that is why it makes little sense to claim that statism is necessarily anti-religious--that all depends on what the particular religion in question has to say.
7.24.2007 5:22pm
ATRGeek:
Gandalin,

We cross-posted, and I honestly have no idea what you are even trying to argue anymore.

I think we have established pretty definitively that not every statist is a leftist, nor every statist an anti-traditionalist or anti-religion. So at this point I think you are just confirming what I said above ("when people's goal is not to have a good faith discussion but rather to attack others, it gives them an incentive to obscure important distinctions so that they can draw unfavorable analogies"): you wanted to attack leftists, so were trying to somehow brand all statists as leftists. And that led you to making your absurd and now refuted claims.
7.24.2007 5:31pm
ATRGeek:
Oh, and anyone citing Hayek while claiming only leftists are statists really needs to read the essay I linked above.
7.24.2007 5:35pm
Anon1ms (mail):
I believe that this thread is a perfect example of Johnny Carson's saying "Buy the premise, buy the bit."
7.24.2007 6:03pm
SG:
I hearby coin SG's Law:

As an online discussion of Hitler and Nazis grows longer, the probability of a comparison to George W. Bush approaches one.
7.24.2007 6:59pm
FredR (mail):
Nice post. Dr John Ray has a lengthy article on the subject as well.

A little history might be in order here:

Right after WWI a radical socialist named Benito Mussolini came up with a new variation on the political theme. "Classic" Marxism-Leninism specified both the abolition of private property and internationalism. The nation-state and private ownership were dead, due to be replaced by the state-run socialist brotherhood of man. Mussolini made two major changes -- he said that private ownership, including heavy industry, was okay as long as it was part of a planned economy, and that socialism and nationalism were not incompatible. He called his new philosophy Fascism.

Thus the state would act in partnership with industry, but always as the senior partner. As the embodiment of the Will of the People, it would exercise political control to see that resources were used not for private gain but for the good of everyone. In practice the State dictated to industry, not the other way around. This was hailed at the time as a "third way" between Soviet Communism and Western Capitalism (and as such sounds a lot like the Clinton-Blair Third Way or some of the things Hillary Clinton has been saying lately). Hitler, who was no theorist, adopted Fascism pretty much whole, including bits from the Roman Empire (e.g. the stiff-arm salute). In fact, the Nazis always said they were socialists.

This presented a problem for Marxist theoreticians, since the Great Man had failed to mention a rival form of socialism, so one had to posit that either Marx had been wrong (heresy!) or that fascism wasn't really socialism. Thru most of the 30s, when the Soviets were looking for allies, they pushed the idea of the anti-fascist Popular Front, especially in Spain. Later, however, when Hitler and Stalin signed a non-aggression pact, the party line shifted abruptly. Stalin divided Poland with Hitler and sat out the first two years of WWII. It was, he said, an intra-Fascist war — there was no essential difference between Nazi Germany and the Western democracies (something that would have come as a surprise to both parties), and so their conflict was of no concern to the Soviet Union. This got a certain amount of traction with Stalinist intellectuals in the West, but was hastily dropped in the summer of 1941.

After the war the Soviets revived the trope as part of the Cold War, and peddled it quite successfully to Western intellectuals. The idea became very popular in the 60s and 70s, with many intellectuals accepting the fact that both Nazi Germany and capitalist America were both "corporate" states (in the sense of being controlled by big business) and that their differences were only a matter of degree. Some went even further, saying that both imperialism and fascism were the inevitable end state of any capitalist society. It's still a popular view on campus today.

Lately, however, as Prof. Somin shows, there have been a number of excellent books that show both Fascism and Nazism as philosophies of the left and not the right. I confess, then, that I'm mystified when he talks about "left-wing (communist) and right-wing (Nazi) forms of state domination." Both were leftist.
7.24.2007 8:13pm
ATRGeek:
FredR,

I won't rehash the debates above. I will just note that you introduce the phrase "leftist" at the end of your post without providing a definition of that term, justifying that definition, or explaining how Nazism fits that definition.
7.24.2007 9:01pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
Professor Bernstein, when I wrote that people who regarded themselves as capitalists supported Hitler, I meant 'support' in the most literal sense. In particular, I was thinking of Baldwin and the 1935 Anglo-German naval treaty.

Will you accept Baldwin as a capitalist?

But it would not be difficult to lengthen the list with other people no one doubts were capitalists, like Ford, both Astors, Thyssen, Kennedy.

I take it you are not quarreling with my assertion that self-described socialists were anti-Hitler?
7.24.2007 11:57pm
FredR (mail):
ATRGeek

Socialism is a philosophy of the left.

The Nazis were socialists.

Therefore, Nazis are leftists.

It does not follow, however, that all socialists were Nazis or Communists.
7.25.2007 12:06am
Thomass (mail):
ATRGeek:


Thomass,

My sense is that for self-described socialists who accept the idea of mixed economies, it is still very much an issue what parts of the economy should be owned by the state, even if they do not believe that the whole economy should be owned by the state.


My only quibble, IMO its usually about what they think they can get away with in a given situation more than anything else. Hence my example that socialists do indeed exist within mixed economies (when doctrine would demand their fomenting open war on it... instead of working within the 'political liberal' system.. to help make it better... and end up causing a delay for the revolution...). Also, outside of orthodox Marxist circles there did exist some 'utopian' [but still revolutionary] socialists that veered away from demanding public ownership… but that's a whole other can of worms. Cheers.
7.25.2007 4:29am
Thomass (mail):
(link)DavidBernstein (mail):


P.S., I'm sure some socialists would claim that WWII involved the capitalist U.S. and USSR vs. the capitalist Italy, Germany, and Japan.


There was that infamous Berkley 'study' on conservatism that claimed the USSR's leaders were conservative... like Reagan and Hitler. :)

Yes, I'm laughing too. You can't make this stuff up.
7.25.2007 4:36am
Thomass (mail):
FredR (mail):


Socialism is a philosophy of the left.


Even Hitler insisted he was socialist... Mussolini's life history has been brought up often over the last few years and I think most people are beyond denying he was a socialist… he also claimed to be progressive (re: not conservative)… on the other hand, he also openly said he was running a right wing movement…
7.25.2007 4:47am
Gandalin (mail):
ATRGeek,

My brilliant and lengthy reply disappeared last night when I posted it, during a time that it became difficult to reach The Volokh Conspiracy. Let me just add one small point.

The point is not that all dictators are necessarily socialists, although many dictators in the 20th century liked to say so, including some you have not mentioned, such as Kim Il Sung and his son, Pol Pot, Robert Mugabe, Fidel Castro, and Hugo Chavez. Rather, the point is simply that the most important ideologies supporting the most important -- and deadliest -- tyrannies of the 20th century were all socialist, and that the supposed arrangement of Communism on the extreme left and Naziism on the extreme right is a falsehood.

As I mentioned, I do not think that Francisco Franco was a leftist, and I do not think that the Spanish economy during the Franco years was organized as a fascist economy, deespite the fact that among the varied, motley, and disparate supporters of the Franco regime was a fascist party.

As far as feudalism is concerned, in Aleks's view the lord controlled the means of production, hence the feudal system was a form of statism. This concern with control of the means of production is Marxist hocus-pocus. But in any event, the feudal lord was constrained by traditional limits on his traditional role, as well as by the increasingly complex network of liege-lord relationships that involved him with his lord, the Church, the Guilds, and other more or less independent institutions. So I think that the economic organization of feudal society was more complex than the schema presented in the "Communist Manifesto," and in any event, during the feudal period, there were no "States" as we understand them today.

In your last message addressed to me, ATRGeek, you mentioned the totalitarian tyranny of Saudi Arabia. That brings up the most important and dangerous totalitarian ideology of the 21st century, Wahhabist Sharia. The Wahhabist Sharia is certainly totalitarian, as it regulates every aspect of public and private life, from the grandest activities of the nation (on its way to becoming a worldwide Caliphate) to the most trivial details of the individual's mundane activities. It is not expressly socialist, although it does contain an anti-capitalist theme. I would not necessarily call it leftist, although leftists such as Ilich Ramirez Sanchez (Carlos the Jackal) have embraced Islamism as the coming vehicle of world revolution. Moreover, during the Second World War, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, who recruited a Muslim Regimen for the SS in the Balkans, wrote Hitler explaining that National Socialism and political Islam were identical. (Although he may simply have been flattering his patron, it is possible that he knew more about Islam and more about National Socialism than either you or I.)

I think the point is that a centrally planned economy is inevitably coercive in ways that a free market economy is not.
7.25.2007 7:57am
ATRGeek:
FredR,

From where are you getting the premise that socialism is a philosophy of the left? Indeed, once you assert that Nazism is socialism, and generally adopt a very broad definition of socialism (one which apparently drops the core aims of socialism), it seems entirely possible that there could be "socialists" on both the right and the left.

Of course, that depends on how you are defining "right" and "left". So what is your definition of those terms?

Thomass,

I was thinking of what are sometimes called "social democrats." As I understand it, they are explicitly non-revolutionary and explicitly favor mixed economies, (meaning they want to leave much of the economy in private hands). I gather you might have been thinking of "democratic socialists", who more have the classic socialist endpoint in mind but want to use democratic means to reach that endpoint. In any event, I'm not really qualified to discuss these various movements in detail, but I think it is safe to say that self-described socialist living in modern developed democracies have a pretty wide range of ideologies.

Gandalin,

I'm not interested in trying to decide which statist, totalitarian, and authoritarian regimes in the 20th Century were the "most important", since that is a subjective assessment (indeed, I'd suggest that each was most important to the people living under the regime). Again, I will just note we have now established the rather obvious fact that not all statist regimes are leftist regimes.

And again, as Hayek noted that is a rather important observation, because of course he agreed with your final statement, but also recognized that the threat in question could come from conservatives as well as progressives.
7.25.2007 8:42am
Jeek:
The captains of industry in the mid-1930s recognized that Hilter was absolutely no threat to their economic interests.... and that the socialists were.

The captains of industry who supported Hitler before 1933 thought they were buying something different than what they got. They thought they were getting someone who would guarantee the flow of state resources to big business, and who would make the proles behave, but who would otherwise leave business alone. They also thought that "moderates" would keep him in line. These were all fatally flawed assumptions.

If they'd had any real understanding of Hitler, they would have realized that he represented a far more serious threat to their economic interests than any German socialist. A world war that turns the country into rubble, hmmmm, just not good for business.

If Hitler were a socialist, the leading capitalists of that era would have opposed him --- but they supported him.

If you are actually talking about the mid-1930s here, and not pre-Machtergreifung, they didn't have any choice but to support the regime.

when I wrote that people who regarded themselves as capitalists supported Hitler, I meant 'support' in the most literal sense. In particular, I was thinking of Baldwin and the 1935 Anglo-German naval treaty.

So when Nixon signed the ABM Treaty, he was a capitalist who "supported Soviet Communism"? When Sadat signed the Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty, he was an Arab who "supported Israel"? Good grief. You have to deal with other countries even if you detest them and their political systems, and if you sign a treaty with them it is not out of liking or a desire to "support" them but because it is in your own self-interest to do so.
7.25.2007 8:48am
FredR (mail):
From where are you getting the premise that socialism is a philosophy of the left? Indeed, once you assert that Nazism is socialism, and generally adopt a very broad definition of socialism (one which apparently drops the core aims of socialism), it seems entirely possible that there could be "socialists" on both the right and the left.

Of course, that depends on how you are defining "right" and "left". So what is your definition of those terms?


Saying that socialism is a philosophy of the left is as basic -- and as obvious -- as saying that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. Not much sense continuing this if that's a problem for you.

"Right-wing socialist" is an oxymoron, although it is true that some variations of socialism (and von Mises in his classic book on the subject listed over 20) might be seen as more "conservative" than others.
7.25.2007 11:32am
ATRGeek:
FredR,

Whether that is obvious or not depends on your definition of socialism. As we have been discussing above, some people are defining socialism to include any sort of central planning, or just statism in general, which is how one could identify Nazism as socialist. As we have also discussed above, there are many such regimes which are not traditionally considered leftist.

Again, therefore, if you define socialism that broadly, it is no longer obvious that socialism is exclusively a "leftist" ideology. And once again, I will note that as yet you have refused to define "leftist".
7.25.2007 12:23pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
What compulsion was Britain under to endorse the repudiation of the Treaty of Versailles, jeek?

Your ABM treaty comparison makes no sense. Nixon did not have to repudiate any previous treaty in order to write the new one.
7.25.2007 2:09pm
Brad Thompson (mail):
Now that we've established that Nazism IS socialism (i.e., one form of socialism), let's go one step further.

Chattel slavery--i.e., American-Style slavery--was a form of socialism.

One of the most fascinating aspects of antebellum southern thought was the flirtation of some proslavery intellectuals with socialism. They were pre-Marxian socialists. There critique of capitalism is, for instance, stunning in it's similarity to Marx's critique in Das Kapital.

But they weren't just critics of capitalism; they also flirted with socialism.

The Virginian, Edmund Ruffin in his treatise on The Political Economy of Slavery wrote that "so far as their facts and reasoning go, and in their main doctrines, the socialists are right." The system of domestic slavery, Ruffin wrote, perfects the socialist ideal by elevating "one directing mind, and one controlling will"--that is, the mind and will of the master--over each plantation collective. He continued:


Our system of domestic slavery offers in use, and to the greatest profit for all parties in the association, the realization of all that is sound and valuable in the socialists' theories and doctrines. . . . Thus, in the institution of domestic slavery, and in that only, are most completely realized the dreams and sanguine hopes of the socialist school of philanthropists.


Slavery is, according to George Fitzhugh the deepest and most penetrating proslavery thinker, "the oldest, the best, and the most common form of socialism." He goes even further: "Slavery," he wrote, "is a form of communism." "A southern farm," Fitzhugh wrote, "is the beau ideal of communism."

And so it was.
7.25.2007 2:37pm
Gandalin (mail):
Brad Thompson,

Thank you for presenting the socialist rationales of Fitzhugh and Ruffin. I was aware that some Southerners thought of the plantation as a socialist institution only from the novels of William Faulkner. You present an area of thought that deserved to have been part of Shafarevich's account, but of course he had no access to that material in Soviet Russia.

Gandalin
7.25.2007 3:00pm
byomtov (mail):
Hey everyone, there's an elephant in here. It's called World War II.

Germany was fighting a massive war of conquest. Its economy was organized to support that effort. These wartime policies tell us nothing about Nazi economic philosophy, assuming it even makes sense to talk of such a thing. We simply don't know how a peacetime economy under a Nazi government would have worked.

In fact, the whole notion that economic philosophy was somehow important to the Nazis is a giant mistake. Nazism was a racist, imperialistic, militaristic political ideology. It did not become what it was because of state control of the economy. It took control of the economy to the degree needed to help it achieve its goals.

To play semantic games with silly definitions of socialism, etc., is to miss the point entirely. The Nazis exercised government control to the extent they thought it was helpful to their goals. They didn't do it because of some underlying idea about what constituted a desirable form of economic organization.
7.25.2007 4:51pm
ATRGeek:
To restate the now-obvious, slavery is only "socialist" if your definition of "socialism" is extremely broad, such that you will need to distinguish the many different ideologies within this broad category being labeled "socialism". Calling slavery "socialist" would also, of course, provide another instance of a purportedly "socialist" practice that was not anti-traditionalist nor anti-religious (in that many religions have supported slavery, although some have opposed it).
7.25.2007 6:19pm
Tom S (mail):
No one has mentioned that Hitler purged the Nazi party of its overtly "socialist" element ("night of the long knives" anyone?): the Strassers in particular. This made it possible for the industrialists and the right-wing parties to work with Hitler.
7.25.2007 6:20pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
I find Brad's post most interesting, primarily as an example of how strained proslavery justifications had to become by the mid-19th century.

It is not obvious that these special pleadings tell us anything at all about any kind of socialism.

If socialism means from each according to his abilities, to each according to his means, then slavery cannot be any kind of socialism.

It's true that the Slave Codes restricted the free market in slaves to some extent. For example, by forbidding manumission. I would hope this would lead libertarians to reject slavery, at least in its late American form.

++++
Tom, someone has mentioned it, in terms of Rohm, without naming the Strassers. However, the big industrialists worked closely with Hitler long before he became chancellor. Knifing the left (as well as some undoubted rightists, like Schleicher) may have given the German capitalists more comfort in Naziism, but they had never shown much doubt about it anyway.

There was a sizable block of small shopkeeper votes to be had in the '20s, and the Nazis went after it by, for example, attacking the big chain stores and promising to restrict them.

In the event, unless they were owned by Jews, the chains were not bothered by the Nazis. Gellately, in 'Backing Hitler,' has a photograph of an enormous Berlin galleria decorated with swastika flags.
7.25.2007 6:58pm
Gandalin (mail):
byomtov,

With all due respect, if you read the National Socialist German Workers' Party's electoral programs from the 1930s, well before the onset of the War, you will see that it was from the beginning an overtly anti-capitalist, socialist party. It was all of the other nasty things you mention, too. But it was genuinely socialist.
7.25.2007 7:20pm
Brad Thompson (mail):
I'm not of that school of thought which says that we can know the thinkers and actors of the past better than they knew themselves.

If a thinker as serious and as thoughtful as Fitzhugh attempts to draw a connection between the South's peculiar institution and socialism--nay, with communism--then we in the 21st century have an obligation to wonder what exactly he meant and to take seriously the possibility that he knew what he was talking about.

To have Nazism and American chattel slavery linked ideologically to socialism with such compelling evidence is, I'm sure, to cause some people to come unbuttoned psychologically.
7.25.2007 7:21pm
Gandalin (mail):
Harry Eagar,

When you say:

"If socialism means from each according to his abilities, to each according to his means, then slavery cannot be any kind of socialism. "

You are overlooking the fact that in any socialist society somebody has to determine what are an individual's abilities and what are his needs. That determination is inevitably made by a bureaucratic elite. In the case of the plantation, the master decides what his slaves' abilities are, and works them accordingly; the master decides what his slaves' needs are, and supplies them accordingly. In the socialist state, it is done for the entire society, and for each individual, by the appropriate legal Bureau or Apparat. Hence, slavery is indeed a form of socialism, and the converse is also true: socialism is slavery.

Q.E.D.
7.25.2007 7:29pm
byomtov (mail):
Gandalin,

I'm not interested in reading them, but I'll take your word as to their contents. I do not, however, attach much significance to party platforms. In particular, I doubt that Nazi platforms from a time when there were electoral contests tell us much. Are you suggesting the Nazis wouldn't put in anything they thought would get some votes?

My main point however is that what the platform said didn't matter. The underlying principle of Nazi economic policies was not socialism, or capitalism, or any other set of economic ideas. It was, "Do whatever will best support our war aims." Where that meant control, they controlled. Where it didn't, they left things alone.
7.25.2007 7:37pm
Gandalin (mail):
byomtov,

I am surprised by the fact that you don't want to study the actual primary sources on the movement you claim to understand better than someone who has perused them. The basic war aims of the NSDAP were to create a pan-European socialist state under the command of a single dictator operating through the apparatuses of the Party. No different than Stalin's aims, incidentally.
7.25.2007 8:25pm
byomtov (mail):
Gandalin,

I specifically said that I believed your statement as to what the platforms said. Hence, for purposes of this discussion, I see no need to read them since we have no dispute as to their contents.

I merely suggest that political parties of all stripes frequently advocate policies in their platforms that they turn out not to adopt. Indeed, they sometimes state positions solely to garne votes.

It does not make much sense to claim that the Nazis were so morally scrupulous as to refrain from doing this sort of thing. Therefore, the argument that they were socialists, or whatever, based on their party platform, is unpersuasive.
7.25.2007 8:40pm
Brad Thompson (mail):
Harry,

In response to your comment that "If socialism means from each according to his abilities, to each according to his means, then slavery cannot be any kind of socialism," I think Gandalin makes a good point to suggest that the Marxian moral principle is entirely subjective and arbitrary according to those who are in power. (Ayn Rand demonstrates this rather presciently in the story of Starnesville in Atlas Shrugged.)

But there's more concrete evidence from the proslavery writers as well. Consider George Fitzhugh's comment that "about nineteen out of every twenty individuals have a 'natural and inalienable right' to be taken care of and protected, to have guardians, trustees, husbands, or masters; in other words, they have a natural and inalienable right to be slaves." It's not an identical to the Marxian dictum, but it's underlying moral principle is in the same ballpark.
7.25.2007 9:52pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
Except that, in theory at least, the soviet determines the needs, and the soviet is everybody.

That isn't how my great-granddad ran his rice plantation, whatever Gandalin's fantasies about the American South are.

But, if we are to take his argument, that the party platform determines the facts of the matter, then we must also take the USSR Constitution of 1937 as an accurate statement of how the government of the Soviet Union operated.
7.25.2007 10:39pm
Smokey:
Andrew J. Lazarus:
''The arrangement between the Hitler government and Krupp may resemble Communist managers in the USSR to you, but I'm rather more reminded of the symbiotic relationship between the Bush-Cheney Administration and immensely profitable Halliburton.''
At least the 'immensely profitable Halliburton' passes its profits on to the public shareholders -- unlike certain Democrat profiteers.
7.25.2007 10:43pm
Gandalin (mail):
Harry Eagar,

I have no illusions about slavery in the South. You however harbor utopian illusions about the way the People's Soviets actually work. The idea that the people themselves run the socialist state is an hallucination. That has never happened and never will happen. Every socialist system in practice puts every detail of public and private life under the control of an elite who know better. And it is the elite's desire to control every aspect of public and private life -- to dictate what kind of work you should do, what kind of food you should eat, what kind of clothing you should wear, what kind of car you should drive -- that provides their drive to power. Total power. It was no different in the Inca State than in the War Communism of the Bolshevik State or under the iron heel of the Nazi State. It is all of a piece.
7.25.2007 11:09pm
Brad Thompson (mail):
I don't think it matters, Harry, whether it's the soviet or Simon Legree who determines what constitutes "ability" and "need." The point is that someone must always do it (the "who" part is a secondary detail) according to the moral principle which is the fundamental point.

The quotations that I've provided from Fitzhugh are and must be devastating to all socialists, as are the Nazi/Hitler/Goering/Clinton quotations that I've posted on this thread.
7.25.2007 11:10pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
It would matter to me.

Gandalin's idea that there isn't any difference between, say, the Soviet Union in 1937 (how about answering that objection, by the way) and Sweden in 2007 takes the breath away.
7.26.2007 2:45am
Gandalin (mail):
Harry Eagar,

How easy it is for you to argue against a point that hasn't been made. May I say, not an unusual Bolshevik technique.
7.26.2007 7:36am
Gandalin (mail):
byomtov,

"Therefore, the argument that they were socialists, or whatever, based on their party platform, is unpersuasive."

The argument is not "based on their party platform."

The published program of the NSDAP and the speeches of its Fuehrer are only part of the argument. The more important parts of the argument are based on the actual functioning economic and political systems of the Third Reich, as described in the books that Professor Somin initially made the basis of his original post.
7.26.2007 8:00am
Brad Thompson (mail):
To sum up: Nazism IS socialism:

This from the NAZI platform of 1920:

1. "We ask that the government undertake the obligation above all of providing citizens with adequate opportunity for employment and earning a living."

2. "The activities of the individual must not be allowed to clash with the interests of the community, but must take place within its confines and be for the good of all. Therefore, we demand: . . . an end to the power of the financial interests."

3. "We demand profit sharing in big business."

4. "We demand a broad extension of care for the aged."

5. "We demand . . . the greatest possible consideration of small business in the purchases of the national, state, and municipal governments."

6. "In order to make possible to every capable and industrious [citizen] the attainment of higher education and thus the achievement of a post of leadership, the government must provide an all-around enlargment of our entire system of public education. . . . We demand the education at government expense of gifted children of poor parents."

7. "The government must undertake the improvement of public health--by protecting mother and child, by prohibiting child labor . . . by the greatest possible support for all clubs concerned with the physical education of youth."

8. "We combat the . . . materialistic spirit within and without us, and are convinced that a permanent recovery of our people can only proceed from within on the foundation of 'THE COMMON GOOD BEFORE THE INDIVIDUAL GOOD.'"

More from Herr Hitler:

"It is thus necessary that the individual should finally come to realize that his own ego is of no importance in comparison with the existence of his nation; that the position of the individual ego is conditioned solely by the interests of the nation as a whole; that pride and conceitedness, the feeling that the individual . . . is superior, so far from being merely laughable, involve great dangers for the existence of the community that is a nation; that above all the unity of a nation's spirit and will are worth far more than the freedom of the spirit and will of an individual; and that the higher interests involved in the life of the whole must here set the limits and lay down the duties of the interests of the individual." (Adolph Hitler, October 1, 1933)

"Common good comes before private good." Hermann Goering

And this from the next president of the U.S.: "It's about time we start thinking about the common good and the national inerest, instead of just individuals." (Hillary Clinton speech to the Association of Medical Colleges)

And more from Hillary Clinton:

"We're saying that for American to get back on track, we're going to cut [the Bush tax cuts] short and not give it to you. We're going to take things away from you on behalf of the common good." —Hillary Clinton, in a 2004 fundraising speech to wealthy liberals in San Francisco

"The unfettered free market has been the most radically disruptive force in American life in the last generation."

"We can't afford to have that money go to the private sector. The money has to go to the federal government because the federal government will spend that money better than the private sector will spend it." —First Lady Hillary Clinton, in 1993, regarding health care reform

"We just can't trust the American people to make those types of choices…. Government has to make those choices for people" (From the book "I've Always Been A Yankee Fan" by Thomas D. Kuiper, p 20 - Hillary to Rep. Dennis Hastert in 1993 discussing her expensive, disastrous taxpayer-funded health care plan)

"We are at a stage in history in which remolding society is one of the great challenges facing all of us in the West." (From the book "I've Always Been A Yankee Fan" by Thomas D. Kuiper, p 119 - During her 1993 commencement address at the University of Texas)

"The only way to make a difference is to acquire power" (From the book "I've Always Been A Yankee Fan" by Thomas D. Kuiper, p 68 - Hillary to a friend before starting law school.)

"We must stop thinking of the individual and start thinking about what is best for society."

"Let us be willing to remold society by redefining what it means to be a human being in the 20th century, moving into a new millenium." (Speech at University of Texas)

And, best of all: This from the antebellum proslvery writers on the connection between their peculiar institution and slavery:

The Virginian, Edmund Ruffin in his treatise on The Political Economy of Slavery wrote that "so far as their facts and reasoning go, and in their main doctrines, the socialists are right." The system of domestic slavery, Ruffin wrote, perfects the socialist ideal by elevating "one directing mind, and one controlling will"--that is, the mind and will of the master--over each plantation collective. He continued:

Our system of domestic slavery offers in use, and to the greatest profit for all parties in the association, the realization of all that is sound and valuable in the socialists' theories and doctrines. . . . Thus, in the institution of domestic slavery, and in that only, are most completely realized the dreams and sanguine hopes of the socialist school of philanthropists.

Slavery is, according to George Fitzhugh the deepest and most penetrating proslavery thinker, "the oldest, the best, and the most common form of socialism." He goes even further: "Slavery," he wrote, "is a form of communism." "A southern farm," Fitzhugh wrote, "is the beau ideal of communism."

One could add pages from the New Dealers, but I think the point is made . . .
7.26.2007 8:30am
Gandalin (mail):
By the way, about 50% of the value on the Swedish stock exchange is owned by one single family. I guess their "needs" are greater than everybody else's.

Thank you, Brad Thompson, for providing some of the actual documentation so conveniently.
7.26.2007 8:37am
Jeek:
What compulsion was Britain under to endorse the repudiation of the Treaty of Versailles, jeek?

Your ABM treaty comparison makes no sense. Nixon did not have to repudiate any previous treaty in order to write the new one.


What does "compulsion" have to do with it? Are you arguing that because London voluntarily made a treaty with Hitler that conflicted with a previous treaty, they were somehow "supporting" him? Treaties get repudiated and superseded all the time, and this in no way implies "support" for a particular regime, only that perceived national interests have changed.

The comparison makes perfect sense. Both appeasement in the 1930s and detente in the 1970s were the effort of a democratic state to reach an understanding with a dictatorship to relax tensions and reduce the prospect of war. Baldwin / Chamberlain did not like or support the Nazis, and Nixon / Carter did not like or support the Soviets, but each signed treaties that seemed in their nation's best interests at the time.

Nixon may not have repudiated a previous treaty when he signed the SALT and ABM treaties, but he certainly repudiated over 25 years of national policy. Previous Presidents had insisted on maintaining American strategic superiority, which was the basis for American containment of the USSR. Yet Nixon threw this away when he signed these treaties. If, according to your logic, Baldwin was "pro-Nazi" when he signed the naval agreement with Germany that seemingly flew in the face of 16 years of British national policy, then Nixon must have been "pro-Soviet" / "pro-Communist" when he signed SALT and ABM.
7.26.2007 9:05am
Jeek:
about 50% of the value on the Swedish stock exchange is owned by one single family

They have the ability to provide the world with good cheap furniture, so therefore they need all that money! =D
7.26.2007 9:08am
Wolf Pangloss (mail) (www):
ATRGeek wrote at 7.24.2007 10:14am

But I would also suggest that as a general principle, it is usually best to let the proponents of an ideology define that ideology. So, for example, I think it is important that the socialist's definition of "socialism" typically emphasizes the collective ownership of the means of production, because I would suggest that we should defer to the socialist's own definition of their ideology.

I strongly disagree. We do not have to let the proponents of an ideology define it. Let's try to disprove the negative of your hypothesis with an example. There is a group of serial killers who wear pink and claim that their ideology consists of wearing pink, and that's it. They claim that serial killing is only incidental to their way of life.

Would we take their explanation seriously? The negative of your hypothesis is that we do not believe their explanation. I don't believe it. Nobody sane would. Serial killing is of much greater social weight than wardrobe choice. Negative confirmed. Therefore your proposition is proved false.

There is an old saying, perhaps you have heard it.

"Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits.
Matthew 7:15-16"

We must judge ideas by their results, not by their intentions. There's another saying you may know.

The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

The intentions of true believers are not an accurate way to describe any ideology. Only results are. And results must be measured by factual information, not by prejudice or invective.

Results testing is the nature of conservatism, to use what has been proved to work and abandon those things that don't. That's why people tend to become conservative when they reach a point in their life where they do things that are existentially meaningful, such as getting married and having children.

Results testing on socialism and its cousins communism, Maoism, and Nazism, has proved that it doesn't work, that it produces misery on a heroic scale, and in fact is the closest thing to human evil that is allowed by atheist atheology. I think that judging from the results, it's high time that socialist ideologues dropped the socialist ideology and picked one with a better track record.

Will you? How long will it take?
7.27.2007 2:31am
Gandalin (mail):
Wolf Pangloss,

You have hit the nail on the head. Leftists typically define themselves and ask that their programs be judged on the basis of their expressed intentions. Thus, they say that they are in favor of a better life for the common man, democracy, equality, and so on and so forth. When the results of their programs demonstrate the perfect accomplishment of the exact opposite of what they promised, they still want to be judged by their utopian dreams.

The right, on the other hand, is results oriented. Reality oriented, if you will. The rightists ask to be judged on the basis of the fact that the implementation of their policies actually resulted in a better life for the common man, democracy, and more freedom and equality. The right does not pretend to offer a pathway to a perfect utopia, only that the results will be better than those actually achieved in leftist-dominated societies.

As you say, "Results testing on socialism and its cousins communism, Maoism, and Nazism, has proved that it doesn't work, that it produces misery on a heroic scale, and in fact is the closest thing to human evil that is allowed by atheist atheology." It was one thing to advocate socialism in the days of Robert Owen; it is quite another thing to advocate socialism today.
7.27.2007 8:05am