I’ve been working on a classroom revision of Friedrich Hayek’s Road to Serfdom, updating some of its historical background since, after 80 years, the political situation that led to Hitler’s rise in Germany is no longer that well-known in America.
If anything Hayek’s book is more relevant today than it was in 1944, so needs to be taught in the classroom. But so muddled has the image of Adolf Hitler become, as an incendiary larger-than-life image of Evil, it’s become almost impossible to mention any attribute about him without damning anyone else with that same attribute. His name alone conjures up hideous images. Still, in America, we’ve seen politician after politician invoke Hitler or the Nazis to condemn the slightest of political beliefs, almost making Hitler a parody of himself. I expect Martin Bashir invokes the name daily, perhaps against one of Ted Cruz’s cats. George W Bush was often called Hitler by Dick Durbin and Keith Ellison, and others, but so has Paul Ryan, of all people. Even SC governor Nikki Haley has been called Eva Braun. Even the sad sack GOP in the whole has been called Nazis, so you can imagine the names they call Tea Parties.
Do you see a trend here? Anything that is un-Democrat Party-like can honestly be called “Hitler” or “Nazi.”
Actually, this is significant, as I’ll explain. But it should be obvious that the word “Hitler” is presumed to be owned by the American Left, and anyone else using it must provide a waist-deep list of equivocations if its use in any way strays from the standard left-wing mantra as to just who and what evil that name represents. As an example, it’s OK to say Hitler was a very good rhetorician, (which he was) as long as you mention that he used those skills to murder innocent people (which he often did). But if you say Hitler was a master rhetorician, and so is Bill Clinton (which he is) you will have to cancel your Twitter account, it will be so inundated with all those filthy threats (or Bashirisms, as they’re known today.)
But as a segue to my principal theme, from the record, since WWII it seems the Left almost always mentions Hitler as a demonic mass murderer, but almost never as a mass enslaver, since Josef Stalin in the USSR had gone Hitler some distance further in suppressing freedom in his country. And since much of the Stalinist blueprint for controlling human activity is still very much a part of the modern Left’s ambitions for political control today, they say very little about a loss of personal liberty in a negative way. “Its a grave crime to murder them, but imprisoning therm? Not so much.”
And that was precisely the purpose of Hayek’s book back in 1944; to illustrate to the socialists of England and the United States that Hitler’s “National Socialism” was a direct result of the foundations German socialists had laid for it since 1914, and that the economic policies of the Nazis were almost identical to the economic policies of the Soviet Union since 1922. What’s in a name? To ordinary people totalitarianism is not distinguishable by any special name.
Today, most people don’t know there actually were intellectual aantecedents for National Socialism. We have been raised to see Nazism only as driven by hate, the hatred of one man, and a very evil man at that. Again, Hayek proved that those Nazi foundations were very similar to those of the Marxists in the USSR and the socialists in America…which explains why his book was met with such hateful, knee-jerk invective by the American academy in 1944, even from many professors who proudly confessed to never having read it! (Sound familiar?)
It’s in this spirit that I’ve tried to “update the background” of a book that is actually timeless, for the modern American Left provides today equally glaring exclamation marks to the truths that Hayek revealed about the Nazis in the 1930s. I can draw on recent events, for the millennial benefit, to sell Hayek’s propositions just as effectively as Germany in the 30s. In fact, I submit, Hayek would have done the same thing had he lived to see these days, for he foretold them all in 1944.
Of Intellectuals, Ideologues and Technocrats
Fredrich Hayek was an intellectual of the highest order, and he moved in those circles, in his writings and professional career. If he played rummy or Dominoes with the corner grocer I’ve yet to read of it.
But Adolf Hitler was not an intellectual. He was an ideologue and there is a great difference. Lenin was both an intellectual and an ideologue, while Josef Stalin merely an ideologue. But since Stalin I’m not sure if any of the Soviet leaders were true ideologues, except perhaps Yuri Andopov, who succeeded Brezhnev for only a very short time. Instead, they were all apparatchiks (technocrats), and some say this is why the USSR died as it did; its mission-fire had simply gone out. (The same might also be said of modern Big Business.) Take note: there’s a natural law here; While liberty is transcendental, the embers forever kept warm, restraints on liberty are not, and always die out.
America was founded by intellectuals, at least a few, but what bound them together wasn’t their intellectualism so much as wisdom and common-sense understandings of freedom. Collectively they preformed a miracle of sorts. But beyond the Founders I can count only one true intellectual to have entered the White House since, Woodrow Wilson. And he was a leftist (called “progressive” at the time.) Of course, the Left today would argue that Barack Obama is the second of this intellectual tribe to be president, and my shortest reply would be: Wilson had a resume; a long one, including dissertations and grades. So prove it.
But whether the White-House-intellectuals list is only one or extends to two, it is still pretty sparse in quality of achievement. Had he studied the Wilson Era, Hayek no doubt might have added a few paragraphs about the oppressions of the Wilson administration but would still never have broken stride in his detailing of the potential horrors of the tyrannical state.
On the other hand, and according to its founding principles in fact, most American presidents were fairly ordinary in their origins. Only two, both Roosevelts, could be considered to have been blue bloods (inherited old money wealth, which in Europe was viewed as the highest virtue; to be of “gentle condition”) while the others in modern times came from middle class backgrounds. James Garfield, who was shot after only 200 days in office, but who accomplished more in that period than did John F Kennedy in nearly three years, was the last “log cabin” president, which represented really humble origins, of men having pulled themselves up by their boot straps. I’m not sure he was born in one, but Bill Clinton spent enough time in trailer parks, he might also qualify as a “double-wide cabin” president.
With a presidential bag as mixed as Clinton, Nixon, Carter, Reagan, Coolidge, and Truman, America has been as varied as the Founders’ design could expect it to be; from social origins, backgrounds and education, from leadership, to executive management, the quality of success in public affairs while in office, to personal qualities, both moral and otherwise. Some will argue that FDR was an ideologue, I’m not certain, but Ronald Reagan was a genuine ideologue, and possibly the only one in the 20th Century.
But Reagan was not an intellectual, men of action rarely are. But conservatism does have its intellectuals and Friedrich Hayek was among them, even though he insisted he was a liberal. (Different times, different definitions.)
If Barack Obama ever gave an intellectually-based speech I’ve not seen it, although the intellectual pool inside the modern Left today is so shallow, compared to Hayek’s time, they’d scarcely notice this shortcoming in any case. Obama’s followers swear that everything that comes out of his mouth is intellectually red-letter, and not a few seem to actually mean this sincerely, never realizing they are condemning themselves more than they are Obama. Awhile back, I asked the question if the Tea Parties are the intellectual antidote to the Left, and in terms of foundations, (intellectual premises) Founders vs Hegel and Marx, the answer is clearly yes, for the simple reason the Tea Parties can articulate the Founder’s intellectual theses as if they were written yesterday, while the Left is not even a glisten in their founders’ eyes.
This is what makes Hayek timeless, for he articulates transcendental truths which never really burn out.
The Left’s ideology, like Obama’s speeches, is entirely political and as empty as yesterday’s newspaper.
Which takes us back to Adolf Hitler, for I’ve scanned his speeches, and while Mein Kampf was an attempt to sound intellectual (he was 36 at the time) it was largely a political manifesto and screed.
Hitler is said to have written his own speeches (you’ve seen his stage performances in film clips) but usually he wrote only certain key words, printed LARGE, because he didn’t want to wear his glasses. He was a master of the nuanced word, like Clinton. So no two speeches were ever exactly alike. Hitler knew his stuff, and didn’t have to practice before a camera to get his gestures and facial expressions down just so-so.
And Hitler didn’t use, or need, a teleprompter even if they’d had one.
He also didn’t make a lot of speeches. He wasn’t like Castro, who could drone on for hours, sputtering Marxist gibberish to the throngs who were ordered to stand there and cheer on cue, or miss their rice and beans for the day. Hitler’s speeches were mostly of the “why” variety; as to “why we need to gain control of the government”, (pre-1933), “why we need to isolate the Jews” (1933, and thereafter), and “why we need to repel the invasion of Germany by Poland” (1939).
To get a better sense of the man and his mind, you should read HR Trevor-Roper’s, Hitlers Secret Conversations, 1941-1944, which were mostly transcribed by Martin Bormann while Hitler and various staff members were hunkered down in the Wolf’s Lair during Allied bombing raids. I read it, in paperback, in the 1960s, and it was so worn it just fell apart. I’m not sure it’s available in that format any longer, but in those conversations Hitler goes on about the whole of German culture; the future of the Volkswagen, the churches, art, and while politically laced, quite frankly, displays a dimension, a level of understanding about the German world out there, we have yet to see put on display by Barack Obama about any subject, much less America.
The American Left Plagiarizes Nazi Propaganda.
I want to digress a little here, for I discovered some interesting, and “disturbing” facts, (as the Left likes to say) about modern leftist propaganda. I won’t belabor it, for it speaks for itself. While caterwauling about the evils of Nazism, they’ve been lifting from Goebbel’s propaganda machine, almost word-for-word, words and phrases to use against their modern democrat-with-a-little-d enemies.
For years I’d thought the Left was simply more clever than we are, based on a deeper belief in their cause. While we’re grappling for words and phrases to repel one of their attacks, they have ready-made accusations, to attack and parry, always at hand. Turns out they’ve been simply plagiarizing the German Propaganda machine ever since those files became public in the 1960s.
You can visit this site at the Nazi Propaganda Archive to see the prominent Nazi writings and speeches from the earliest days.
I suggest you scroll down to Part II, “Racial and Anti-Semitic Material”, then pick one, such as Advice for Nazi Speakers, and note the similarity not just in content, but in cant, phraseology, with the language the Left has used in America since the 1960s to describe conservatives, Republicans, Christians, whites, capitalists, and entrepreneurs, even Ted Cruz’s cats.
It’s quite startling. Just strike “Jew” and replace it with the name of your choice, and you have a full course of diatribes against any enemy, accounting for probably 70% of the language used on left-wing Twitter today, and half the adjectives used at the DailyCuss.
As I’m sure the Left’s bottom feeders don’t know the genesis of the repository of invective that is passed down to them, this is news the Right can use, for with it, you can not only put the Left on the defense by publicly embarrassing them, but also split the herd, by separating their guileless cannon fodder from them. If it ever gets around that Dick Durbin is calling his enemies Hitler while at the same time employing Hitler’s wordsmiths in party propaganda, it will give new meaning to the term “propaganda” for a lot of people who take the sins of the Nazis more seriously. It will remove arrows from their quiver, so to speak.
That said, at least you can see that Hayek is more right today than he was in 1944, and why we need to provide university programs with a new course offering in History and Political Science curricula around the country.
I’ll be happy to speak with any sponsors who would like to help in this endeavor. firstname.lastname@example.org, for both email and paypal.