September 23, 2014

Thoughts on the Germany/Russia Piece

By In Blogs, C.Jay Engel

As I was reading through Jared Lovell’s comparison between Germany and Russia today, several things came to my mind.  First of all, it is quite clear that the path to power for men such as Hitler and Stalin necessarily depended on mass approval. Or at least mass disinterest. When the multitudes have a sharp conscience and have discerning spirits it is nearly impossible for tyranny take such awful forms.  It is true that the regimes needed propagandizing efforts and loads of misinformation and deceit, but it is not historically accurate to say that these rulers were unpopular, especially in their early years.

Another point that Lovell makes is that these two nations were at opposite ends of the political spectrum.  The issue of the political spectrum is especially difficult, and it is one that I am quite interested in. And indeed, when comparing any set of nations, one must realize that the political spectrum analysis is remarkably nuanced; one must be careful to define terms. It is my position, in agreement with Lovell, that these two nations were at different ends of the spectrum only in one sense. Their opposition rested in whether or not there would be private property within the social-economic framework.  Previously, I have noted that there are two types of socialism:

Mises, writing this in 1940, shows that socialism can be “realized according to two different patterns” which are 1) “the Marxian or Russian pattern” and 2) “the German system.”  Today, these can be distinguished by other terms.  We can call the first one “Marxism” or Communism.  The second pattern can be referred to as Fascism or Corporatism.  Some call the second one “State-capitalism,” but in my opinion, this only confuses things.  And economically, if we take the Austrian approach to economics, we realize that this latter pattern actually has the effect of destroying capital and encouraging immediate consumption.  Thus, it should, just like the first pattern, be considered a form of anti-capitalism.

It is important to recognize that these are two differing styles under the one umbrella of socialism.  That is to say, fascism and communism are both forms of socialism.

So while there is a clear difference between the two systems, they are both socialistic.  In this sense, then they are both anti-individual freedom and therefore anti-capitalistic.  This puts them on the very same end.

Lovell also stated:

As the Nazi Party took actions to consolidate its power through the Enabling Act and Gleichschaltung, the synchronization process that led to a one-party system, the people approved of what they considered would be a more efficient political system than the ineffective Weimar Republic.

This is an important point. Remember this whenever one hears all the emphasis in our own two parties and national media regarding the so-called importance of “efficiency.”  Efficiency is not necessarily all that great.  I was immediately reminded of J. Gresham Machen, who said:

A man does not admire efficiency very much when the efficiency is working to his disadvantage.

Men want us to be overcome by admiration for a system that is working us harm.  For my part, I flatly refuse. The better it works the worse it suits me.

I am in favor of efficiency if it is directed to a good end, but I am not in favor of efficiency if it is directed to something that is bad.

Lovell concludes his article noting that both Hitler and Stalin sought “to exploit the prejudices and rivalries already existing within their society.”  And then he writes: “The implications of this comparison of Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia to our current situation need hardly to be explicitly stated.”

Indeed.

Written by C.Jay Engel

Editor and creator of The Reformed Libertarian. Living in Northern California with his wife, he writes on everything from politics to theology and from culture to economic theory. You can send an email to reformedlibertarian@gmail.com
  • If I remember right, I think Robbins put them on a spectrum of law vs lawless, both being lawless