Bruno Heilig’s 1938 essay Why the German Republic Fell is posted and freely available on the Internet. Unfortunately, the Scholars at the School of Cooperative Individualism are not the world’s greatest proofreaders, so google has some trouble finding it, but it is here. There is also a nice abridgement here. Hardcopy, of course, is for sale cheap at Schalkenbach.
I read this booklet about 25 years ago, didn’t remember a thing about it, but hoped it would give me some insight into how the Weimar inflation was dealt with. No such luck, it really begins after inflation had been tamed and prosperity commenced, but it’s all the more worthwhile for that. Heilig asserts that the rise of Hitler was caused by land speculation. I am no expert in German history, but he does seem to make a good case.
Not by land speculation exclusively, of course, but land speculation as an ingredient along with:
- public aid to large landlords, encouraging them to withhold land from use
- privatization, on especially favorable terms to connected individuals and groups
- failure to fully utilize farmland, resulting in unemployment as well as high food prices
- tariffs, raising prices of consumer and industrial goods
- public subsidies to favored enterprises
- control of the major news media by the landed class
Land prices soared, wages fell, eventually the economy slowed, and:
Although it was obvious that the, “invariable costs” — i.e. the tribute land monopoly exacts from the working people — were eating into all production, the responsible men and the leading exponents of what was taught as economics kept their eyes, as if under some hypnotic influence, fixed upon the worker’s pay-packet.
Reformers advocated unworkable or ineffective solutions: If progress brings poverty, they urged that we retard progress.
The newspapers, of course, served the interests of their owners:
I need not explain what that propaganda organization meant in operation. Its effect was to sway public opinion into believing that the interests of the landowners were the interests of the nation. Subsidizing the landlords was the accepted policy for preserving and even saving the sources of subsistence of the people: the higher tariff walls were for the benefit of the wage-earning population: increase in land values meant increase in the national wealth: and so on…
[A]s unemployment grew, and with it poverty and the fear of poverty, so grew the influence of the Nazi Party, which was making its lavish promises to the frustrated and its violent appeal to the revenges of a populace aware of its wrongs but condemned to hear only a malignant and distorted explanation of them.
Much in this essay is similar to today, tho Heilig never uses words like “TIF” or “terrorism.” Some things are decidely different, for example I don’t think Germany at the time had anything like a well-paid public employee class, nor a large class of small-scale investors, such as workers with 401k’s. But it’s easy to see how today’s conditions could lead to similar results.