Thursday, June 02, 2005

Et Tu Cato?

The Cato Institute’s work in the area of economics is invaluable but their reputation is undercut by their dabbling in foreign policy. Recently Jim Powell blames America for every ill of the 20th century from the rise of communism and Nazism to the belligerent acts of every two-bit dictator!

According to this line of reasoning, the rise of a dictator like Hitler is but an unintended consequence of our helping the Allies achieve a greater victory over the Germans in WWI. That’s odd, the Italians, who were on the winning side and not subject to an “unfair” punishment became fascist a decade earlier than Germany. Indeed, they invented fascism!

The rise of fascism and Nazism was not the result of some accident or byproduct or an otherwise noble effort (even if I wish we would have avoided or limited our involvement in WWI). There were cultural factors involved in Germany’s disintegration in the 20s and 30s. In the two or three years before Hitler gained political power he was already popular among students and faculty in German universities. Hitler was no fluke – but a creation of the German culture.

What’s disappointing about Jim is that he’s the author of a wonderful book, “The Triumph of Liberty” that shows how the concept and tradition of liberty slowly evolved over 2500 years. Jim shows both the limits of the context of cultural development at points in the past and the power of those cultures – like that of our founding fathers – that have furthered liberty by quantum leaps. The problem with paleo-libertarians like Jim is that when it comes to wars, there are two cultures involved – and, like the left, he just doesn’t understand the dynamics and limitations of the our enemies.

There’s a reason why this blog is named liberty and culture. Culture counts.

3 Comments:

Blogger Bithead said...

Given Cato's traditionally being isolationist, Jason, what would you expect?

6/2/05, 10:17 AM  
Blogger beakerkin said...

Jason

I would like to ask you a question on the rise of Nazism. After the economic disaster the German people turned to a secular messianic figure . This pattern also happened in Russia in 1917 and elsewhere.

Are we truly better off in the days of these post religious saviour types with a cult of personality or are we as a people worse off.

In my opinion we are worse off because everytime man tries to replace god the bodies get piled high. There was legitamate argument
over the nature of the French Revolution and if it belongs in the cult of man.

I do not know that Germany is the correct variable. I think it is the cult of man .

6/2/05, 12:02 PM  
Blogger James said...

Beakerkin,
I would argue that Germany is the correct variable. It is a very rules-based society. For about 150 years they have had a sort of secret police force in one form or another, not to mention that of Austria-Hungary. They had been turning to collectivist solutions since the 1850s or thereabout or before. Hitler was a product of Austrian-German Culture, just like Marx.

Hayek does a nice little aside on the rise of Nazism in The Road to Serfdom. It put some of my own experiences of living in Germany into perspective.

For instance, there is the story of some riot being disbursed in the 30s, but many people died from being trampled on because they would only stick to the pavement instead of going on to the grass, which had a sign forbidding stepping on it. Stick a sign up with a rule on it, and it will be very difficult for a German to break that rule.

Anyway, a bit of a ramble...

6/11/05, 3:00 PM  

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