Poster Boy for Socialism
“Probably it is true that the very magnitude of the outrages committed by totalitarian governments, instead of increasing the fear that such a system might one day arise in more enlightened countries, has rather strengthened the assurance that it cannot happen here.” F.A. Hayek, “The Road to Serfdom”
The Tea Party of Iowa removed its Hitler-Obama-Lenin billboard and tea partiers everywhere are breathing a sigh of relief. As if we don’t have enough problems. When people think of Hitler, they don’t see an image of a centralized, domineering, totalitarian government. They see the ovens of Auschwitz.
No matter how badly you think of Obama, he’s just not a homicidal maniac (as far as we know).
Yet, in a few days, the financial reform bill will be placed on his desk, and he’ll sign it, giving the government unprecedented and nearly unchecked control over the nation’s economy. He has already appointed an army of bureaucratic czars to oversee every aspect of our nation’s business.
The bill will set banks up for failure, yet provide fail-out protection for the biggest of those banks while offering no fail-out protection to smaller institutions. Our country has an enormous debt burden of $13 trillion. The debt per taxpayer is $119 thousand. Our total unfunded liability (the IOUs that are piling up for Social Security and Medicare) is $109 trillion, and that’s before Obamacare sets up shop. But no problem – the government will just grow more money.
According to Hayek, the totalitarians regard society – and the economy – as a machine that needs to be well-oiled and maintained. The individual, with his love of freedom and creativity, is a monkey wrench in the great social machine. Therefore, his every move must be monitored and controlled. There’s no better mechanism for that control of the individual than the monopolistic corporation.
Germany’s problems, Hayek says, began long before Hitler arrived on the scene. 19th Century German philosophers, influenced by advances in science and engineering (remember, it was the Germans who invented the modern automobile), began to apply the theories of engineering efficiency to government and economics.
Creativity was considered an untenable risk. Better to stick with the well-planned, but unpopular Model A machine than take a chance on developing the new improved Model B. The Germans regarded England and her concepts of freedom, democracy, and free trade as outdated and passé, dangerous to the new world order they had in mind.
Individuals had to be convinced that they needed to sacrifice their freedom for the greater good. Wartime provided the ideal setting for such sacrifice, and the Germans loved nothing better than a good war. Sensible Germans, seeing what was happening politically and finding their potato crops decimated by the same fungus that wiped out the Irish potatoes, headed for America.
During the 19th century, German became a major industrial power. Under Bismarck, the German Empire expanded, annexing Denmark, Austria and the Bohemian countries. Meanwhile the industrial class workers were urged by the Marxists to agitate for better job security and income. Still, Germany’s great enemy, Britain, prospered, and war began to brew between the two nations.
At the outbreak of World War I, Germany threatened France, bringing England into a European-wide conflict. Only America’s entry late in the war, in 1917, brought an end to the conflict. But the reparations England and France demanded from Germany brought the country to the brink of economic ruin.
The U.S. loaned Germany money, but the crash of 1929 brought about many bank failures, including the Austrian Credit-Anstalt. Adolf Hitler, taking power in 1933, brought the German economy under government control, turning factories in war plants. According to Hayek, the devastated middle class found new hope and security in bureaucratic careers. Unwilling to take any capital risks, they left small and medium entrepreneurship to the disenfranchised class of Jewish business owners, who were forbidden to hold government jobs.
Does all this sound familiar? The German people became cogs of the government that basically owned them. Every aspect of German life was controlled, including religion. They were instilled from childhood up with propagandist notions of Aryan perfection (the original people), as opposed to the hybrid English and of course, the despised Jews, who were quite successful as independent business owners.
Socialists and communists clashed over who could establish the more totalitarian government. The Marxists viewed themselves as freedom-lovers, while still acknowledging that individuality had to be exterminated. A similar fascist movement was occurring in Italy. German invaded Poland and the war was on. Altogether, it’s estimated that some 45 million people died in World War II.
The Allies emerged as the victors, but in Great Britain, socialism had triumphed after all. The necessary, but temporary, war powers with which the English government granted itself were extended indefinitely. Friedrich Hayek arrived from Austria in the early 1930s to teach economics at the London School of Economics. He cautioned that reason, not idealistic utopianism, and freedom, not oppression, were the proper ingredients for a well-functioning, democratic economy – and nation.
His book goes on to give an economic history of Germany and Britain, and how Germany came to fall under the influence of the Nazis, the National Socialist party, and how Britain, by her very war with Germany, wound up falling under the same spell.
Reading from a modern context, it’s appalling to see how closely America is paralleling the fate of these two European powers. Our march towards totalitarianism began in the 1930s with FDR. Obama is simply the current drum major for this parade of bureaucracy. Private companies being taken over by the government, labor unions deciding the fates of those private companies and even deciding elections, and the government takeover of the health care industry are ominous signs, indeed.
Have we not heard Obama from his podium (looking more like Mussolini than Hitler as he imperiously tilts his head back and juts out his jaw) tell us that we must make “sacrifices?” Are we not now beset with “emergencies” (the oil spill in the Gulf) that require the government to usurp for itself unconstitutional powers?
Hayek gives America a prescient warning about giving in to fear and insecurity when faced with troubling times. Ironically, the Tea Party billboard was removed out of concern for alarming the general population and appearing to be exaggerated and over the top. Hitler has become such an iconic symbol of political evil that it’s impossible to compare anyone else to him without causing an uproar of hysteria and angry indignation.
Obama may or may not be the next totalitarian dictator. But so far, we are paving the road smooth for someone to assume that role someday unless we put a check on it now, while we can, protests to the contrary that “that could never happen here” notwithstanding. The best way to make sure something like that could never happen here is by realizing that it could.