LESSONS LEARNED #5: “When it comes to regretting past choices, liberals lead conservatives when it comes to their vote.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - March 18th, 2010

BEFORE THE SS death camps, before the Einsatzgruppen (action groups tasked to mass murder civilians in Poland and the Soviet Union), before the policy of conquest for Lebensraum (living space) for the ‘master race’, before eugenics and selective breeding policies were enacted to produce a ‘master race’, before the Munich Agreement (the Nazi annexation of Czechoslovakia’s Sudetenland), before Kristallnacht (a coordinated Nazi assault on Jewish people and their property in Germany and Austria), before the Nuremberg Laws (anti-Semitic laws), before the Anschluss (the Nazi annexation of Austria), before the Enabling Act gave Hitler full dictatorial powers, before The Reichstag Fire Decree suspended habeas corpus and most of the Weimar Republic’s constitutional civil liberties, before these despotic actions there were free elections.  And the National Socialist German Workers’ (Nazi) Party rose to power by the ballot, not by arms. 

The Treaty of Versailles treated Germany poorly.  It blamed her solely for World War I.  And to the victors went the spoils.  From Germany.  Economically destroyed by the war, the peace was little better.  Runaway inflation and rampant unemployment of the Great Depression.  Humiliation.  People were looking for something.  They didn’t know what.  But Hitler did.

The National Socialist German Workers’ Party was the party for German workers, not the capitalists.   In fact, the Nazis were anti-capitalists.  This was good because the people blamed capitalists for the Great Depression.  Socialism put people before profits.  Nationalism would restore Germany’s pride.  There was a lot about the Nazi party to like in 1930s Germany.

The Nazis put people back to work.  Building public works and building for war.  They printed money to pay for what the confiscated wealth of the ‘undesirables’ didn’t.  They ‘enslaved’ workers by prohibiting strikes, labor unions and the voicing of workers’ complaints.  Hitler paid them less than they were in the Weimar (i.e., capitalist) days.  Then they turned on the business owners.  They once supported Hitler because they thought he would remove the grip of labor on business and allow unfettered capitalism.  But the state’s grip just replaced labor’s grip.

War followed the war economy.  And conscription.  And another generation of German dead.  The devastation of World War II dwarfed that of World War I.  World War I didn’t have carpet bombing.  And the Soviets never reached Berlin in World War I.  But it had all sounded so good back in the 30s.  A nation so eager for government to do something.  And government did.  But few Germans liked the result.  If they could all do it over again they would probably have supported the Weimar Republic, not the National Socialist German Workers’ Party.

THE CONSERVATIVE government of Winston Churchill won the war but the Labour Party won the peace that followed.  They, too, blamed capitalism for the Great Depression.  It wasn’t going to be business as usual now that the war was over.  So they nationalized Big Industry (coal, steel, rail, etc.).  There would be no more abject poverty or squalor.  They created a nanny state.  From the cradle to the grave.  And they created the National Health Service.  Health care for everyone.  Courtesy of the taxpayer.

Of course, to pay for such huge government spending you need taxes.  A lot of them.  And when you can’t tax anymore, you depreciate your currency (i.e., print money).  Like every other nation in the world has ever done when their government spent more than it could afford to spend. 

With monopolies came inefficiencies.  Shortages.  A shortage of coal required scheduled electrical blackouts.  Also with monopolies came power.  Union power.  Whenever they wanted more pay they just had a strike until the bosses caved.  It became the way of doing things.  The strikes were epidemic and crippling.  People outside of Great Britain called them the ‘British Disease’.

Excessive government spending to pay for the national industries, the unions, the nanny state and the National Health Service was turning Great Britain back to the discontent of a Dickens novel.  Only instead of the business owners, the oppressors were Big Labor and their unions.  The common people were tired of going without and sitting in the dark.  Especially when they were paying enormous taxes (the Beatles left Great Britain to escape the confiscatory taxes).   Economically, life was becoming more similar to that like in the Soviet Union.  The difference was that the Soviet people didn’t know what life under capitalism could be like.  The British, of course, did.  And they could vote.

And they did.  Labour was out.  The conservatives were in.  Margaret Thatcher took on the unions and privatized industry.  These moves were not popular at the time because poorly ran businesses lost government subsidies and failed.  Unemployment grew.  In the short term.  Things did get better in time, though.  You see, propping up bad businesses with government subsidies forced consumers to pay more for inferior goods.  This was in addition to already paying high taxes to subsidize the businesses in the first place.  It just couldn’t go on.  And didn’t.  They controlled costs.  The people kept more of their earnings.   They spent and stimulated.  The economy grew.  As did the living standards of the common Briton.

THE MORAL OF this lesson is to be careful what you wish for.  Whenever anyone talks about putting the people first, warning flags should go up.  History is full of people who have said this.  And just about every one of them was a liar.  They want something.   Anyone who read Mein Kampf would have known Hitler’s plans.  Some did but chose not to believe.  They just wanted to believe the lie.  They wanted what Hitler was offering.  It was just too good to be true.  And, as it turned out, it was. 

When they nationalized British industry the goal was not to repeat what had happened during the Great Depression.  For anyone who had lived through the Great Depression didn’t want to live through another.  So there was popular support.  But nationalization didn’t improve life for the common Briton.    Instead, the life of organized labor got VERY good at the expense of the common Briton.  Until it couldn’t be sustained anymore by the common Briton.

So be careful what you wish for.  You might just get it.  And all the unintended consequences that come along with it.

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