Saturday, December 15, 2007

"Perhaps the hardest question of twentieth-century history"?

I owe the following quotation from Harvard historian Niall Ferguson to Tiger Hawk
The contrast between the American and German responses to the Depression illuminates the central difficulty facing the historian who writes about the 1930s. These were the two industrial economies most severely affected by the economic crisis. Both entered the Depression as democracies; indeed, their constitutions had much in common -- both republics, both federations, both with a directly elected presidency, both with universal suffrage, both with a bicameral legislature, both with a supreme court. Yet one navigated the treacherous interwar waters without significant change to its political institutions and its citizens' freedoms; the other produced the most abominable regime ever to emerge from a modern democracy. To attempt to explain why is to address perhaps the hardest question of twentieth-century history.

Niall Ferguson sometimes says things congenial to conservatives but I think that the above quote shows very well that he is far from being a conservative. He seems blissfully unaware of one of the most frequent themes of conservative thinking: The importance of cultural continuity and the value of tradition. From Burke onward, conservatives have argued that the slow accumulation of "what has worked" in a given society is a valuable legacy that can only be lost or discarded at considerable peril. Yet that is exactly where Germany and the USA of the 1920s and 30s diverged.

Germany lost WWI and the USA won it. That did kinda make a difference. And the difference it made in Germany's case was great. Prior to 1918 Germany had been a constitutional monarchy where the legal powers of the monarch were not much different from the powers of the British monarch. But the traditions were very different. Where the British monarch conspicuously stayed out of politics, the Kaiser was very much a political voice. He made up for a lack of legal powers by using the great prestige of his office to persuade the politicians to do what he thought best for Germany. He saw his role as a check on the politicians and a voice on behalf of the ordinary people of Germany. He was, in short, an important father-figure and the embodiment of the Prussian traditions that were so influential and respected in most of Germany.

But after 1918 that was all thrown away. Not only did the Kaiser go into exile but many of Germany's previous constitutional arrangements were torn up and a substantially new system of government was invented largely out of thin air. All of the systems that had led to Germany's defeat were discredited and new systems had to be adopted wherever possible. Any conservative could have predicted where that would lead. And it did.

The USA, by contrast, came out of the war with flying colours, retained its traditional arrangements and remained stable -- despite the huge economic disruptions caused by its meddlesome Democrat President. The knowall FDR managed to convert a normal cyclic depression into the Great Depression by attacking business at exactly the time when business most needed support rather than hostility. (See also here and here)



Jonathan Wilde has a reasonable article on black IQ which makes a point that I have been making for decades: That those who do not want to believe in the evidence simply set ever higher standards of proof -- so much so that you would never prove anything about anything if you consistently did that. They use the fact that all science is essentially probabilistic as a dishonest way of avoiding conclusions they do not like. One point that Wilde seems to miss is that blacks are the same species as whites. So if IQ has a strong genetic basis in whites (which is generally agreed on among scientists) to say that it is not genetically transmitted in blacks is really quite amazing racism.

Brits admit Iranian bungle: "The capture of 15 Royal Navy personnel by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard during an operation in the Gulf in March was an embarrassment to the country, a report by the Commons Defence Committee said yesterday. Royal Navy commanders involved in the mission that led to the seizure of eight sailors and seven Royal Marines were also castigated for a "lapse in operational focus" and a "widespread failure of situational awareness". The MPs on the Defence Committee said that although no one had been court-martialled, "formal administrative action" had been taken against a number of Service personnel "across a wide spectrum of ranks". Administrative action can mean a letter of reprimand, but in some cases it can lead to an ending of promotion prospects and even discharge. The committee's report said that there had been "weaknesses in intelligence, in communications, in doctrine and in training".

Senate versus the Reps: "Democrats in each chamber are now blaming their colleagues in the other for the mess in which they find themselves. The predicament caused the majority party yesterday surrender to President Bush on domestic spending levels, drop a cherished renewable-energy mandate and move toward leaving a raft of high-profile legislation, from addressing the mortgage crisis to providing middle-class tax relief, undone or incomplete."

Pelosi's loss of reality contact: "With plummeting approval ratings and no legislative accomplishments to point to, Nancy Pelosi is melting down in the final days of the first session of the 110th Congress. Military success on the ground in Iraq also seems to be agitating the San Francisco Speaker who appears to be despondent over the fact that General Petraeus' surge is working.... Pelosi's desperation continues to grow as the clock appears to be running out on the Democrats. Their failure to address the nation's problems like rising prices, the seemingly inevitable return of the alternative minimum tax, and their gross abdication of their responsibility to our troops in the field have left the Americans restless and angry at their incompetence.... Instead of doing real Congressional business she will push forth bills that her and her cohorts understand have no chance....NO CHANCE of becoming law. Instead of working with those on the other side of the aisle she has allowed bills to languish or go down to defeat all to send a message. A message of complete and utter failure."

Dissecting the bailout plan: "It is not quite right to describe the new White House plan as a bailout of subprime mortgage borrowers. Actually, it is a bailout for a tiny fraction of those with adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs), not subprime loans per se. Nearly half of all subprime mortgage rates are fixed-rate loans, and only 32% of ARMs are subprime. With all the misplaced political anxiety about rates being reset, you might imagine that all those victims who signed-up for these mortgages had no idea their rates might actually be adjusted. The Bush administration claims the plan will help 'up to' 1.2 million people. Most of that promised help consists of nothing more than another phone number to call for counseling about refinancing -- a redundant service unlikely to prove wildly popular. Refinancing has been soaring anyway, thanks to 30-year mortgage rates dipping below 6%."

Your income and your house: "In my opinion, the number one priority in resolving today's mortgage crisis is to bring the housing market back to equilibrium. Equilibrium means prices that are in line with incomes, with supply and demand in balance. With equilibrium prices, houses could be readily bought and sold. When houses can be readily bought and sold, mortgage loans are backed by valid collateral. When mortgage loans are backed by valid collateral, investors will once again be able to trust securities backed by pools of mortgages. Only when we reach that point will the 'subprime crisis' be behind us. The alternative to bringing the housing market back to equilibrium as soon as possible is to kick the problem down the road by keeping people in homes that they cannot afford. Keeping people in their homes at artificially low interest rates will only serve to perpetuate a distorted structure of home prices, ensuring that the crisis stays with us for years."


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"Why should the German be interested in the liberation of the Jew, if the Jew is not interested in the liberation of the German?... We recognize in Judaism, therefore, a general anti-social element of the present time... In the final analysis, the emancipation of the Jews is the emancipation of mankind from Judaism.... Indeed, in North America, the practical domination of Judaism over the Christian world has achieved as its unambiguous and normal expression that the preaching of the Gospel itself and the Christian ministry have become articles of trade... Money is the jealous god of Israel, in face of which no other god may exist". Who said that? Hitler? No. It was Karl Marx. See also here and here and here.

The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialistisch) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party".


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