Why Nazism Was Socialism and Why Socialism is Totalitarian | George Reisman



well good afternoon ladies and gentlemen my purpose today is to make just two main points one to show why Nazi Germany was a socialist state not a capitalist one and two to show why socialism understood as an economic system based on government ownership of the means of production positively requires a totalitarian dictatorship the identification of Nazi Germany as a socialist state was one of the main one of the many great contributions of Ludwig von Mises when one remembers as other speakers have pointed out that the word Nazi was an abbreviation for their Nazi Oh now socialists assha Deutsche arbeiterpartei in English translation the National Socialist German Workers Party Mises identification might not appear all that noteworthy for what should one expect the economic system of the country ruled by a party with socialists in its name to be but socialism nevertheless apart from nice ascent his readers practically no one thinks of Nazi Germany as the socialist state that is far more common to believe that it represented a form of capitalism which is what the Communists and all other Marxists have claimed the basis of the claim that Nazi Germany was capitalist was the fact that most industries in Nazi Germany appeared to be left in private hands as you've heard from other speakers what Mises identified was that private ownership of the means of production existed in name only under the Nazis and the at the actual substance of ownership of the means of production resided in the German government for it was the German government and not the nominal private owners that exercised all of the substantive powers of ownership it not the nominal private owners decided what was to be produced in what quantity by what methods and to whom it was to be distributed as well as what prices would be charged and what wages would be paid and what dividends or other income the nominal private owners would be permitted to receive the position of the alleged private owners Mises showed was reduced essentially to that of government pensioners de facto government ownership of the means of production as Mises termed it was logically implied by such fundamental collectivist principles embraced by the Nazis as that the common good comes before the private good and the individual exists as a means to the ends of the state if the individual is a means for the ends of the state so to of course is his property just as he is owned by the state his property is also owned by the state but what specifically established de facto socialism in Nazi Germany was the introduction of price and wage controls in 1936 these were imposed in response to the inflation of the money supply carried out by the regime from the time of its coming to power in early 1933 the Nazi regime inflated the money supply has the means of financing the vast increase in government spending required by its programs of Public Works subsidies and rearmament the price and wage controls were imposed in response to the rise in prices that began to result from the inflation the effect of the combination of inflation and price and wage controls is shortages that is a situation in which the quantities of goods people attempt to buy exceed the quantities available for sale shortages in turn result in economic chaos it is not only that consumers who show up in stores early in the day are in a position to buy up all the stocks of goods and leave customers who arrive later nothing a situation to which governments typically respond by imposing rationing shortages result in chaos throughout the economic system they introduce randomness in the distribution of supplies between geographical areas in the allocation of a factor of production among its different products in the allocation of labour and capital among the different branches of the economic system in the face of the combination of price controls and shortages the effect of a decrease in the supply of an item is not as it would be in a free market to raise its price and increase its profitability thereby operating to stop the decrease in supply or reverse it if it has gone too far price control prohibits the rise in price and thus the increase in profitability at the same time the shortages caused by price controls prevent increases in supply from reducing price and profitability when there is a shortage the effect of an increase in supply is merely a reduction in the severity of the shortage only when the shortage is totally eliminated does an increase in supply necessitate a decrease in price and bring about a decrease in profitability as a result the combination of price controls and shortages makes possible random movements of supply without any effect on price and profitability in this situation the production of the most trivial and unimportant goods even pet rocks to take the most bizarre example can be expanded at the expense of the production of the most urgently needed and important codes such as life-saving medicines with no effect on the price and profitability of either good price controls would prevent the production of the medicines from becoming more profitable as their supply decrease while the shortage even of pet rocks prevented their production from becoming less profitable as their supply increased as needs to show to cope with such unintended effects of its price controls the government must either abolish the price trolls or add further measures namely precisely the control over what is produced in what quantity by what methods and to whom it is distributed which I refer to earlier the combination of price controls with this further set of controls constitutes the de facto socialization of the economic system for it means that the government then exercises all of the substantive powers of ownership this was the socialism instituted by the Nazis and Mises calls it socialism on the German or Nazi pattern in contrast to the more obvious socialism of the Soviets which he calls socialism on the Russian or Bolshevik pattern of course socialism does not end the chaos caused by the destruction of the price system it perpetuates it and if it is introduced without the prior existence of price controls its effect is to inaugurate that very chaos this is because socialism is not actually a positive economic system it is merely the negation of capitalism and its price system as such the essential nature of socialism is one in the same as the economic chaos resulting from the destruction of the price system by price and wage controls parenthetically I want to note that Bolshevik style of socialism's imposition of a system of production quotas with incentives everywhere to exceed the quotas is the sure formula for universal shortages just as exists under all-round price and wage controls that most socialism merely changes the direction of the chaos the government's control over production they make possible a greater production of some Goods especially importance to itself but it does so only at the expense of wreaking havoc throughout the rest of the economic system this is because the government has no way of knowing the effects on the rest of the economic system of its securing the production of the goods to which it attaches special importance the requirements of enforcing a system of price and wage controls shed major light on the totalitarian nature of socialism most obviously of course on that of the German or Nazi variant of socialism but also on that of Soviet style socialism as well we can start with the fact that the financial self-interest of sellers operating under price controls is to evade the price controls and raise their prices buyers otherwise unable to obtain goods are willing indeed eager to pay these higher prices as the means of securing the goods they want in these circumstances what is to stop prices from rising and a massive black market from developing the answer is a combination of severe penalties and combined with a great likelihood of being caught and actually suffering those penalties mere fines are not likely to provide much of a deterrent they will be regarded simply as an additional business expense if the government is serious about its price controls it is necessary for it to impose penalties comparable to those for a major felony but the mere existence of such penalties is not enough the government has to make it actually dangerous to conduct black market transactions it has to make people fear that in conducting such a transaction they might somehow be discovered by the police and actually end up in jail in order to create such fear the government must develop an army of spies and secret informers for example the government must make a storekeeper and his customer fearful that if they engage in a black market transaction some other customer in the store will report them the COS of the privacy and secrecy in which many black market transactions can be conducted the government must also make anyone contemplating a black market transaction fearful that the other party might turn out to be a police agent trying to entrap him the government must make people fearful even of their longtime associates even of their friends and relatives lest even they now to be informers and finally in order to obtain convictions the government must place the decision about innocence or guilt in the case of black market transactions in the hands of an Administrative Tribunal or pits police agents on the spot it cannot rely on jury trials because it is unlikely that many juries can be found willing to bring in guilty verdicts in cases in which a man might have to go to jail for several years for the crime of selling a few pounds of meat or a pair of shoes above the ceiling price in sum therefore the requirements merely of enforcing price control regulations is the adoption of essential features of a totalitarian state namely the establishment of the category of economic crimes in which the peaceful pursuit of material self-interest is treated as a criminal offence and the establishment of a totalitarian police apparatus replete with spies and informers and the power of arbitrary arrest and imprisonment clearly the enforcement of price controls requires a government similar to that of Hitler's Germany or Stalin's Russia in which practically anyone might turn out to be a police spy and in which a secret police exists and has the power to arrest and imprison people if the government is unwilling to go to such lengths then to that extent its price controls prove unenforceable and simply break down the black market then assumes major proportions incidentally none of this is to suggest that price controls were the cause of the reign of terror instead the Nazis the Nazis began their reign of terror well before the enactment of price controls as a result they enacted price controls in an environment ready-made for their enforcement black market activity entails the commission of further crimes under de facto socialism the production and sale of goods in the black market entails the defiance of the government's regulations concerning production and distribution as well as defiance of the of its price controls for example the goods themselves that are sold in the black market are intended by the government to be distributed in accordance with its plan and not in the black market the factors of production used to produce those goods are likewise intended by the government to be used in accordance with its plan and not for the purpose of supplying the black market under a system of dangerous socialism such as existed in Soviet Russia in which the legal code of the country openly and explicitly makes the government the owner of the means of production all black market activity necessarily entails the misappropriation or theft of state property for example the factory workers were managers in Soviet Russia who turned out products that they sold in the black market were considered as stealing the raw materials supplied by the state furthermore in any type of socialist state and that's your communist the government's economic plan is part of the supreme law of the land we all have a good idea of how chaotic the so-called planning process of socialism is it's further disruption by workers and managers siphoning off materials and supplies to produce for the black market is something which a socialist state is logically entitled to regard as an act of sabotage of its national economic plan and sabotage is how the legal code of a socialist state does regard it consistent with this fact black market activity in a socialist country often carries the death penalty now I think that a fundamental fact that explains the all-round reign of terror found under socialism here's the incredible dilemma in which a socialist state places itself in relation to the masses of its citizens on the one hand it assumes full responsibility for the individual's economic well-being Russian or Bolshevik style socialism opened the allows this responsibility this is the main source of its popular appeal on the other hand in all of the ways one can imagine a socialist state makes an unbelievable botch of the job it makes the individuals life a nightmare every day of his life the citizen of a socialist state must spend time in endless waiting lines for him the problems Americans experienced in the gas and the in shortages of the 1970s are normal only he does not experience them in relation to gasoline for he does not own a car and has no hope of ever owning one but in relation to simple items of clothing to vegetables even to bread even worse he is frequently forced to work at a job that is not of his choice and which he therefore must certainly hate for under shortages the government comes to decide the allocation of labour just as it does the allocation of the material factors of production and he lives in a condition of unbelievable overcrowding with hardly ever a chance for privacy in the face of housing shortages borders are assigned to homes families are compelled to share apartments and a system of internal passports and visas is adopted to limit the severity of housing shortages in the more desirable areas of the country to put it mildly a person forced to live in such conditions must Steve with resentment and hostility now against whom would it be more logical for the citizens of a socialist state to direct their resentment and hostility then against that very socialist state itself the same socialist state which has proclaimed its responsibility for their life has provided them has promised them a life of bliss and which in fact is responsible for giving them a life at hell indeed the leaders of a socialist state live in a further dilemma in that they daily encourage people to believe that socialism is a perfect system whose bad results can only be the work of evil men if that were true who in reason could those evil men be but the rulers themselves who have not only made life a hell but have perverted an allegedly perfect system to do it it follows that the rulers of a socialist state must live in of the people by the logic of their actions and their teachings the boiling seething resentment of the people should well up and swallow them in an orgy of bloody vengeance the ruler sense this even if they do not admit it openly unless their major concern is always to keep the lid on the citizenry consequently that is true but very inadequate merely to say such things as that socialism lacks freedom of the press and freedom of speech of course it lacks these freedoms if the government owns all the newspapers and publishing houses if it decides for what purposes newsprint and paper are to be made available then obviously nothing can be printed which the government does not want printed if it owns all the meeting halls no public speech or lecture can be delivered which the government was does not want delivered but socialism goes far beyond the near lack of freedom of press and speech a socialist government totally annihilate these freedoms it turns the press and every public forum into a vehicle of hysterical propaganda in its own behalf and it engages in a relentless persecution of everyone who dares to deviate by so much as an inch from its official party line the reason for these facts is the socialist rulers terror of the people to protect themselves they must order the propaganda ministry and the secret police to work round the clock the one to constantly divert the people's attention from the responsibilities of socialism and the rulers of socialism for the people's misery the other to spirit away and silence anyone who might even remotely suggest the responsibilities of socialism or its rulers to spirit away anyone who begins to show signs of thinking for himself it is because of the rulers terror and their desperate need to find scapegoats for the failure of socialism that the press of a socialist country is always full of stories about foreign plots and sabotage and about corruption and mismanagement on the part of subordinate officials and why periodically it is necessary to unmask large-scale domestic plots and to sacrifice major officials factions in giant purges that is because of their terror and their desperate need to crush every breath even a potential opposition that the rulers of socialism do not dare to allow even purely cultural activities that are not under the control of the state for a people so much as assemble for an art show or poetry reading that is not controlled by the state the rulers must fear the dissemination of dangerous ideas any unauthorized ears ideas are dangerous ideas because they can lead people to begin thinking for themselves and thus to begin thinking about the nature of socialism and its rulers the rulers must fear the spontaneous assembly of a handful of people in a room and use the secret police and its apparatus of spies informers and terror to stop such meetings or to make sure that their content is entirely innocuous from the point of view of the state socialism cannot be ruled for very long except by terror as soon as the terror is relaxed resentment and hostility logically begin to well up against the rulers the stage is thus set for a revolution or civil war in fact in the absence of terror who are more correctly a sufficient degree of terror socialism would be characterized by an endless series of revolutions and civil wars as each new group of rulers proved as incapable of making socialism function successfully as its predecessors before it the inescapable inference to be drawn is that the terror actually experienced in the socialist countries was not simply the work of evil men such as Stalin but Springs from the nature of the socialist system Stalin could come to the fore because his unusual willingness and cunning in the use of terror were the specific characteristics most required by our ruler of socialism in order to remain in power he rose to the top by a process of socialist natural selection the selection of the worst I need to anticipate a possible misunderstanding concerning my thesis that socialism is totalitarian by its very nature this concerns the allege of the socialist countries run by Social Democrats such as Sweden and the other Scandinavian countries which are clearly not totalitarian dictatorships in such cases it is necessary to realize that along with these country is not being totalitarian they are also not socialist their governing parties may espouse socialism as their philosophy and their ultimate goal but socialism is not what they have implemented has their economic system their actual economic system is that of a hampered market economy as Mises termed it while more hampered than our own in important respects their economic system is essentially similar to our own in that the characteristic driving force of production and economic activity is not government decree but the initiative of private owners motivated by the prospect of private profit the reason that Social Democrats do not establish socialism when they come to power is that they are unwilling to do what would be required the establishment of socialism as an economic system requires a massive act of theft the means of production must be seized from their owners and turned over to the state such seizure is virtually certain to provoke substantial resistance on the part of the owners resistance which can be overcome only by the massive use of force the Communists were and are willing to apply such force as evidenced in Soviet Russia their character is that of armed robbers prepared to commit murder if that is what is necessary to carry out their robbery the character of the Social Democrats in contrast is more like that of pickpockets who may talk of pulling the big job Sunday but who in fact are unwilling to do the killing that would be required and so give up at the slightest sign of serious resistance just think about it for a moment if you did have the intent to go and rob someone it would not be enough for you to simply say mister give me your wallet what if he turns around and walks is ready to punch you in the face if you're serious about robbing someone you better come with a gun and be prepared to shoot him well the Communists are willing to do that the Social Democrats aren't now as for the Nazis they generally did not have to kill in order to seize the property of Germans other than Jews this was because as we have seen they establish socialism by stealth through price controls which serve to maintain the outward guise and appearance of private ownership the private owners were thus deprived of their property without knowing it and thus felt no need to defend it by force well I think I've shown that socialism actual socialism is totalitarian by its very nature now in the United States at the present time we do not have socialism and we do not have a dictatorship let alone a totalitarian dictatorship among the essential elements that are still lacking this goes to why we do not yet have fascism among the essential elements still lacking or a one-party rule and censorship we still have freedom of speech and press and free elections though both have been undermined and their continued existence certainly cannot be guaranteed what we have is a hampered market economy that is growing ever more hampered by ever more government intervention and that is characterised by a growing loss of individual freedom I've read this talk aloud several times I always manage to do it within half an hour and I see now I've got two minutes left and about six minutes of text so thank you thank you okay okay the price I pay will have to be the delivery of the talk okay good thank you all right well what we have is an increasingly hampered market economy that's progressively depriving us of more and more of our freedom the growth of the government's economic intervention is synonymous with a loss of individual freedom because it means increasingly initiating the use of physical force to make people do what they do not voluntarily choose to do or prevent them from doing what they do voluntarily choose to do and since the individual is the best judge of his own interest and at least as a rule seeks to do what it is it what is in his interest to do and avoid doing what is what harms his interests it follows that the greater the extent of government intervention the greater the extent to which individuals are prevented from doing what benefits them and are instead compelled to do what causes them loss today in the United States government spending federal state and local amounts to almost half of the monetary incomes of the portion of the citizenry that does not work for the government if you start with the national income statistics eliminate all of the imputations just look at the monetary incomes and then take government spending at all levels as a percentage of that it comes to roughly have 15 federal cabinet departments and a much larger number of federal regulatory agencies together in most instances with counterparts at the state and local level routinely intrude into virtually every area of the individual citizens life in countless ways these tax compelled and prohibited the effect of such massive government interference his unemployment rising prices falling real wages a need to work longer and harder and growing economic insecurity the further effect is anger and resentment though the government's policy of economic intervention is their logical target the anger and resentment people feel are typically directed at businessmen and the rich instead this is a mistake which is fueled for the most part by an ignorant and envious intellectual establishment and media and in conformity with this attitude since the collapse of the stock market bubble which was in fact created by the Federal Reserve's policy of credit expansion and then pricked by its temporary abandonment of that policy government prosecutors have adopted what appears to be a particularly vengeful policy toward executives guilty of financial dishonesty as though their actions were responsible for the widespread losses resulting from the collapse of the bubble thus the former head of a major telecommunications company was recently given a 25 year prison sentence other top executives have suffered similarly even more ominously the government's power to obtain near criminal indictments has become the equivalent of the power to destroy a firm as occurred in the case of Arthur Andersen the major accounting firm the threatened use of this power was then sufficient to force major insurance brokerage firms in the United States to change their management's to the satisfaction of New York State's Attorney General there is no way to describe such developments other than as conviction and punishment without trial and as extortion by the government these are major steps along a very dangerous path fortunately there is still sufficient freedom in the United States to undo all the damage that has been done there is first of all the freedom to publicly name it and denounce it more fundamentally there's the freedom to analyze and refute the ideas that underlie the destructive policies that have been adopted or that may be adopted and that is what is critical for the fundamental factor underlying the interventionism and of course socialism as well whether Nazi or communist is nothing but wrong ideas above all wrong ideas about economics and philosophy there is now an extensive and growing body of literature that presents sound I in these two vital fields in my judgment the two most important authors of this literature are good for von Mises and iron Rand an extensive knowledge of their writings is an indispensable prerequisite for success in the defense of individual freedom and the free market this Institute the Ludwig von Mises Institute is the world's leading center for the dissemination of Mises ideas it presents a constant flow of analyses based on his ideas analyses that appear in its academic journals its books and periodicals and in its daily website news articles that deal with the issues of the moment it educates college and university students and young instructors in his ideas and the related ideas of other members of the Austrian School of Economics it does this through the leaves a summer University the Austrian scholars conferences and a variety of seminars two very major ways of fighting for freedom like to educate oneself to the point of being able to speak and write as articulately in its defence as do the scholars associated with this institute or if one does not have the time or inclination to pursue such activity than to financially support the Institute in its vital work to whatever extent one can it is possible to turn the tide no single person can do it but a large and growing number of intelligent people educated in the cause of economic freedom and speaking up and arguing in its defense wherever possible is capable of gradually forming the attitudes of the culture and thus of the nature of its political and economic system you in this audience are already involved in this great effort and I hope you will continue and intensify your commitment thank you very much

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