Quotation of the Day…

by Don Boudreaux on February 4, 2021

in History, Myths and Fallacies

… is from page 288 of Jonah Goldberg’s 2008 book, Liberal Fascism:

The National Socialist German Worker’s Party was in every respect a grassroots populist party. Party leaders spouted all sorts of socialist prattle about seizing the wealth of the rich. Mein Kampf is replete with attacks on “dividend-hungry businessmen” whose “greed,” “ruthlessness,” and “short-sighted narrow-mindedness” were ruining the country. Hitler adamantly took the side of the trade union movement over “dishonorable employers.” In 1941 he was still calling big-business men “rogues” and “cold-blooded money-grubbers” who were constantly complaining about not getting their way.

DBx: Hitler was truly an evil monster. But he did not rise to power in Germany by portraying himself as an evil monster. He portrayed himself as a well-meaning man who would protect the people from the evil, greed, and negligence of others. And he might even have believed that he was such a man. Many ordinary Germans believed this about him. These ordinary Germans, surely, were nearly all not evil individuals. They were ordinary men and women gripped by the sorts of regrettable but common prejudices and superstitions that have gripped ordinary men and women throughout the millennia.

These prejudices and superstitions, when mixed with simple economic ignorance (itself also the norm), make ordinary people easy prey of those who seek power by promising secular salvation. And if these power-seekers use great charisma to promise to bring that salvation in the form of direct attacks on demons, and on what seem to be the overt consequences of the demons’ action, ordinary people will often be intrigued.

Left or right – it doesn’t much matter. Demonize entrepreneurs who succeed in the market. Demonize big corporations simply because they’re big. (As in “Big Oil,” prefacing an industry name with “Big” is usually sufficient to achieve the demonization.) Demonize differences in monetary incomes and wealth. Demonize foreigners. Demonize imports. Demonize technology.

And for “solutions,” always aim low (when measured by the thoughtfulness of the proposals) while seeming to aim high (when measured by the proposals’ ostensible goals). Demand that incomes of the poor be increased by hiking the minimum wage and seizing income from the rich. Demand that “Big Industry” be broken up by antitrust interventions or regulated in the details of its activities by government officials. Demand that imports be restricted in order to “protect” whatever is most politically salient at the moment – jobs, national security, our traditional way of life, the so-called “industries of the future.” And as of March 2020, reduce people’s risk of dying from some particular pathogen by forcibly keeping people away from each other – and demonize all persons who object to the simplemindedness, the disproportionateness, and the tyranny of this “solution.”

Never propose “solutions” that would not be thought of by a nine-year old child.

Evil never rises to power revealing itself as evil. It presents itself as good.

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