Posts tagged ‘Nazi Germany’

Thoughts On Campus Speech 1: Hitler Would Have Been The Most Valuable Campus Speaker

Yesterday,  Yale did not cave to pressure from certain parts of the student body and Ayaan Hirsi Ali spoke on campus.  As with many controversial speakers, mostly consisting of folks not on the political Left, a number of campus groups tried to force Yale to cancel her speech because they expressed themselves offended by her.   Among politically correct colleges, there has been a growing trend towards enforcing a right not to be offended, though this enforcement tends to be asymmetric -- Muslims apparently have a right not to be offended, but Christians do not.  Women have it but men do not.  Greenpeace has it but Exxon does not.

People of prominence who offend us or with whom we violently disagree should not be the least but the most welcome speakers on campus.  I will demonstrate this by using the most extreme of all possible examples:  An imaginary speaking tour by Adolph Hitler, say in December of 1938.  Could there be a more distasteful person, the leader of Nazi Germany just weeks after the Reichskristallnacht?  But I think he would have been the most valuable speaker I could possibly imagine.

If he were honest, which Hitler likely couldn't have stopped himself from being, what valuable insights we could have gained.  The West made numerous mistakes in the late thirties and even into the forties because it just could not believe the full extent of Hitler's objectives and hatreds**.   Perhaps we would have understood sooner and better exactly what we were dealing with.

Even if he were dishonest, and tried to "convert" the office without discussing specific plans, that would still be fascinating.  What arguments did he use?  Could we get insights into why he struck a chord among the German people?  Would his rhetoric be compelling to American audiences?  I despise the guy and almost everything he stood for but I would have loved to have him on campus as a speaker.

I will tell one of my favorite stories about the rise of Hitler.   You have heard the story of Jesse Owens at the Berlin Olympics.   Supposedly this was a slap in the face to Hitler, to have a black man winning medals.  But one of the last events of the games was a four man relay race.  The US was certainly going to win.  But one of the US runners was Jewish and the US pulled the runner from the race and substituted Owens.  The US didn't want to embarrass Hitler by making him hand a medal to a Jew.  This sounds odd to put it this way, but one of the problems we had in really taking the worst of the Holocaust seriously as it was happening is that we were not able to see that Hitler's anti-semitism was so much more dangerous than the ubiquitous and run-of-the-mill anti-semitism that obtained all over Britain and America.  We should always have a policy of letting even the most extreme people talk as much as they like.  We might learn that they have a point and adjust our thinking on something, or we might learn that they are even batshit crazier than we thought.  Either outcome is useful.

What Happens When You Abandon Prices As A Supply-Demand Matching Tool? California Tries Totalitarianism

Mostly, we use prices to match supply and demand. When supplies of some item are short, rising prices provide incentives for conservation and substitution, as well as the creation of creative new sources of supply.

When we abandon prices, often out of some sort of political opportunism, chaos usually results.

California, for example, has never had the political will to allow water prices to rise when water is short. They cite all kinds of awful things that would happen to people if water prices were higher, but then proceed instead with all sorts of authoritarian rationing initiatives that strike me as far worse than any downsides of higher prices.

In this particular drought, California has taken a page from Nazi Germany block watches to try to ration water

So, faced with apparent indifference to stern warnings from state leaders and media alarms, cities across California have encouraged residents to tattle on their neighbors for wasting water — and the residents have responded in droves. Sacramento, for instance, has received more than 6,000 reports of water waste this year, up twentyfold from last year...

Some drought-conscious Californians have turned not only to tattling, but also to an age-old strategy to persuade friends and neighbors to cut back: shaming. On Twitter, radio shows and elsewhere, Californians are indulging in such sports as shower-shaming (trying to embarrass a neighbor or relative who takes a leisurely wash), car-wash-shaming and lawn-shaming.

“Is washing the sidewalk with water a good idea in a drought @sfgov?” Sahand Mirzahossein, a 32-year-old management consultant, posted on Twitter, along with a picture of a San Francisco city employee cleaning the sidewalk with a hose. (He said he hoped a city official would respond to his post, but he never heard back.)

Drought-shaming may sound like a petty, vindictive strategy, and officials at water agencies all denied wanting to shame anyone, preferring to call it “education” or “competition.” But there are signs that pitting residents against one another can pay dividends.

All this to get, in the best case, a 10% savings. How much would water prices have to rise to cut demand 10% and avoid all this creepy Orwellian crap?

One of the features of Nazi and communist block watch systems was that certain people would instrumentalize the system to use it to pay back old grudges. The same thing is apparently happening in California

In Santa Cruz, dozens of complaints have come from just a few residents, who seem to be trying to use the city’s tight water restrictions to indulge old grudges.

“You get people who hate their neighbors and chronically report them in hopes they’ll be thrown in prison for wasting water,” said Eileen Cross, Santa Cruz’s water conservation manager. People claim water-waste innocence, she said, and ask: “Was that my neighbor? She’s been after me ever since I got that dog.”

Ms. Franzi said that in her Sacramento neighborhood, people were now looking askance at one another, wondering who reported them for wasting water.

“There’s a lot of suspiciousness,” Ms. Franzi said. “It’s a little uncomfortable at this point.” She pointed out that she and her husband have proudly replaced their green lawn with drought-resistant plants, and even cut back showers to once every few days.

Update:  Seriously, for those that are unclear -- this is the alternative to capitalism.  This is the Progressive alternative to markets.  Sure, bad things happen in a free society with free markets, but how can anyone believe that this is a better alternative?

I Feel Like I'm Taking Crazy Pills

Just as a brief aside, it is sometimes entertaining to be a libertarian without an affiliation to either the Coke or Pepsi party.  It's amazing, from the perspective of standing off to the side on a point of the political spectrum that most civics books don't even acknowledge exists**, how much of political discourse is team-loyalty politics rather than meaningful policy discussion.

The posts that happened to set me off down this path were a pair from Kevin Drum about poor Barney Frank having to meet rowdy protestors and a lament on the frustrations of cloture in the Senate, but I am not particularly singling him or the left out.  In fact, I read Drum because he is less bad on the team politics angle than others.  I force myself to read a couple of political blogs on the left and right to see what they are saying.  A few observations:

  • Both teams are absolutely convinced that they are occupying the high ground and it is the other side that is resulting to personal attacks, negative campaigning, astroturfing, whatever.  Seriously, its really hilarious -- I see exactly the same posts written about "our side is losing because we don't resort to the low tactics of the other side" written by bloggers on both sides of the political spectrum on the same day.
  • Both teams are absolutely convinced that the media does not give their side the coverage or respect they deserve.
  • Both teams are guilty of trying to block dissent through clever rhetorical games without having to actually answer policy critiques.  Team red did it with the Iraq war, saying it was wrong to criticize a President in wartime, a useful concept when it is combined with the theory that the President can declare any time to be wartime.   Team blue takes a different approach, by claiming any opposing argument on subjects like climate or health care are being raised as part of plots funded by nefarious interest groups, and so therefore don't deserve a response.
  • Both teams hold up wacky members of the opposing team's fringes and attempt to portray them as representative of the mainstream opposition.  (OK, I may have been guilty of this once or twice myself)
  • Both teams can be loud and strident where they are energized and ticked off (this is a good thing).  Both teams have recently compared the opposition president to Hitler.   Both teams have been "obstructionist" as the minority in Congress.  Both teams have dreamed of changing the filibuster rules in the Senate while in the majority.  Both teams have freaked at suggestions the filibuster rules in the Senate would be changed while in the minority.  Both teams have promised bipartisanship when they were in the majority and not delivered on it.  Both teams have members who are corrupt.  Both teams have members who have had affairs.
  • Both teams have supposed evil genius schemers in the background (Rahm Emanuel meet Karl Rove).  Both teams have found it convenient to make concerted personal attacks on individual opponents (Sarah Palin meet Bill Clinton).
  • Both teams have promised respect for the Constitution in the Executive office and not delivered on it.  Both teams have promised a less interventionist foreign policy and never delivered on it (people forget GWB first campaigned almost as an isolationist against Clinton's Kosovo interventions).  Both teams have Presidents who are addicted to signing statements.  Both teams have really gone after selected Supreme Court nominees.
  • Both teams have Congressmen who support ethanol subsidies, which thoughtful people agree are stupid.  Both teams have Congressmen who support farm subsidies, which thoughtful people agree are stupid.  Both teams have Congressmen who support trade interventions (e.g. sugar tariffs) which thoughtful people agree are stupid.  Both teams have actively supported ratcheting up the war on drugs, which some thoughtful people may agree with but I think is stupid.  Both teams have voted in the last 15 years for major government interventions in medicine, education, and limitations on personal freedoms in the name of security.  When team blue was in power, it supported a law that was basically the Patriot Act, but had it voted down due to team red opposition.  When team red was in power, it forcefully pushed through the Patriot Act which it had previously opposed, this time against the opposition of team blue members who had previously supported it.

All this is not to say that libertarians are necessarily better people.  If we had a real team that wasn't a political joke, we'd probably engage in similar behaviors.  Of course, the difference is that we would be trying to lower the stakes of the political game rather than continue to raise them.

** Footnote: I don't know about you, but my civics textbooks in elementary school described a 2-dimensional political spectrum that ran from "fascism" on the political right to "communism" at the extreme of the left.  How does a libertarian even place himself on a spectrum that ranges from totalitarian statism to totalitarian statism?   I haven't seen such textbooks lately, so I don't know if this "heads statism wins, tails freedom loses" approach to the political spectrum still exists.

By the way, I have been reading a book called The Vampire Economy by Gunter Reimann, published in 1939.  It is a description of the economic policy of Nazi Germany, a subject that gets very little coverage because, frankly, later Nazi atrocities are such a magnet for attention.

I challenge anyone to read that book and find any substantial point of differentiatoin between Hitler's economy and a strongly socialist country.  And the section on strong-arming the banking industry for political goals was especially entertaining the context of the last 2 administrations.

Hitler approached his later war with Russia as an ideological war to the finish between polar opposites, but in fact it was really a feud between blood brothers.

Full Quote Referenced in the Title from Zoolander: "The man has only one look, for Christ's sake! Blue Steel? Ferrari? Le Tigra? They're the same face! Doesn't anybody notice this?  I feel like I'm taking crazy pills!"

Ve Have Vays of Making You Conform

I am not sure this even needs an introduction.  Comparisons to "1984" are invoked in political discourse almost as much as those to Nazi Germany, and most are overblown, but the George Orwell novel is all I can think of when I see this:

It may be almost 2007, but it feels more like "1984" at Michigan
State University. The university's Student Accountability in Community
Seminar (SAC) forces students whose speech or behavior is deemed
unacceptable to undergo ideological reeducation at their own expense.
The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) is challenging
Michigan State to dismantle this unconstitutional program, which
presents a profound threat to both freedom of speech and freedom of
conscience.

 
"Michigan State's SAC program is simply one of the most invasive
attempts at reeducation that FIRE has ever seen, yet it has been
allowed to exist at the university for years," FIRE President Greg
Lukianoff said. "As bad as it is to tell citizens in a free society
what they can't say, it is even worse to tell them what they must
say. Michigan State's program is an immoral and unconstitutional
program of compelled speech, blatant thought reform, and
pseudo-psychology."
 
According to the program's materials,
SAC is an "early intervention" for students who use such
"power-and-control tactics" as "male/white privilege" and
"obfuscation," which the university cryptically defines as "any action
of obscuring, concealing, or changing people's perceptions that result
in your advantage and/or another's disadvantage." Students can be
required to attend SAC if they demonstrate what a judicial
administrator arbitrarily deems aggressive behavior, past examples of
which have included slamming a door during an argument or playing a
practical joke. Students can also be required to attend SAC for
engaging in various types of constitutionally protected speech,
including "insulting instructors" or "making sexist, homophobic, or
racist remarks at a meeting." When participation in SAC is required,
"non-compliance typically results in a hold being placed on the
student's account," an action that leaves the student unable to
register for classes and thus effectively expelled from the university.
Students are required to pay the cost of the SAC sessions.
 
Once in the program, students are instructed to answer a series of
written questionnaires. In their answers, students must specifically
describe how they are taking "full responsibility" for their offensive
behavior and must do so using language that the director of the session
deems acceptable. Most students will be asked to fill out this
questionnaire multiple times, slowly inching closer to what
administrators deem to be "correct" responses.

PC indoctrination at our nation's universities is alive and well.  It just astounds me that a group of adults thought this was acceptable.

Yalta

GWB seems to have riled lots of folks up over his reference in a recent speech to Yalta.  If you have read any of the comentary from the left, you might be imagining he said all kinds of wild things.  I read much of the commentary before I ever read Bush's words, so I was prepared for a real gaffe.  After reading his speech, I was left wondering if those attacking Bush heard the same speech.  Here is the key paragraph:

As we mark a victory of six days ago -- six decades ago, we are
mindful of a paradox. For much of Germany, defeat led to freedom. For
much of Eastern and Central Europe, victory brought the iron rule of
another empire. V-E Day marked the end of fascism, but it did not end
oppression. The agreement at Yalta followed in the unjust tradition of
Munich and the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. Once again, when powerful
governments negotiated, the freedom of small nations was somehow
expendable. Yet this attempt to sacrifice freedom for the sake of
stability left a continent divided and unstable. The captivity of
millions in Central and Eastern Europe will be remembered as one of the
greatest wrongs of history.

I am not sure how you can disagree with this.  I think the US owes Eastern Europe a big appology for selling them out at Yalta.  Now, one can argue that we had some reasons for our actions at Yalta.  First and foremost, we were exhausted from the worst war in history, and no one had the energy to gear up for a new confrontation.  Also, one can argue that it may be 20/20 hindisght that causes us to be more aware of Soviet hegemonic intentions than the actors at the time might have been (though certainly Churchill was fully cognizant of the dangers).  But, no matter how you cut it, small countries like Latvia were wiped out of existance and handed over to the Soviet Union by the Yalta agreement, and Bush's audience was made up of people still stung by this.  I think the comparison to Munich is very apt - the US post-WWII was exhausted and was more than ready to suspend disbelief and hope that appeasing Soviet territorial ambitions would head off a fresh confrontation no one had the will to fight.  Reason's hit and run has a nice roundup and further analysis.

The only explanation I can come upfor the uproar is that FDR, like Reagan and Kennedy, has an incredibly powerful though informal legacy protection society that leaps into action at even the smallest attempt to besmirch his historical halo.  In this case, Bush rightly does not even mention FDR; however, since FDR was the main advocate for pandering to Stalin at Yalta (against Churchill's vociforous but ultimately ignored objections), his defense forces feel the need to jump into action.  I would have hoped that with 3 generations separating us from FDR, we could finally look at him objectively.  He fought a fabulous war, in some sense carrying the whole free world on his shoulders for four years.  But he fumbled the peace, though, and screwed up at Yalta.

UPDATE:  Professor Bainbridge has this nice quote from Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga a few days before Bush's speech:

In Latvia ... the
totalitarian occupation ... of Nazi Germany was immediately replaced by
another "“ that of Stalinist totalitarian communist Soviet Union and was
one that lasted a very long time. The day we shall be commemorating
does have double significance and by coming to the Baltic States
President Bush is, I believe, underscoring this double meaning of these
historic events. 60 years ago when the war ended it meant liberation
for many, it meant victory for many who could truly rejoiced in it.

But for others it meant slavery, it meant occupation, it meant
subjugation, and it meant Stalinist terror. For Latvia the true day of
liberation came only with the collapse of the Soviet Union as it did
for our neighbours Lithuania and Estonia.

Sounds a lot like what Bush said.  Seems like Bush is in pretty good touch with the sentiments of the Latvian people he is speaking to.

 

The First Health Nazis were, uh, Nazis

For years I have called groups like the Center for Science and the Public Interest the health or food Nazis for their continuing desire for the government to interfere with all of our individual decision-making.  They have even been google bombed with that term, it appears, so I will help -- Food Nazis!

Anyway, Reason has an interesting post linking to a study of Nazi Germany:

In a brief BMJ article, George Davey Smith describes Nazi Germany's pioneering campaigns against smoking, drinking, overeating, and other unhealthy habits. (Robert N. Proctor's 1999 book The Nazi War on Cancer explores this topic in more detail.) "It may seem paradoxical that the robust identification of one of the most important environmental causes of disease of the 20th century occurred in a totalitarian state," Smith writes, referring to Nazi research on the link between smoking and lung cancer.

Uh, no it doesn't seem paradoxical at all that totalitarians would try to micro-manage individual decision-making.