Saturday, March 27, 2010
All the 'Nuance' That's Fit to Print
The New York Times relaxes taboos about Nazi Germany.
The other day David Leonhardt, who writes the "Economic Scene" column for the New York Times business section, offered an analogy that some are likely to find shocking:
In the summer of 1933, just as they will do on Thursday, heads of government and their finance ministers met in London to talk about a global economic crisis. They accomplished little and went home to battle the crisis in their own ways.
More than any other country, Germany--Nazi Germany--then set out on a serious stimulus program. The government built up the military, expanded the autobahn, put up stadiums for the 1936 Berlin Olympics and built monuments to the Nazi Party across Munich and Berlin.
The economic benefits of this vast works program never flowed to most workers, because fascism doesn't look kindly on collective bargaining. But Germany did escape the Great Depression faster than other countries. Corporate profits boomed, and unemployment sank (and not because of slave labor, which didn't become widespread until later). Harold James, an economic historian, says that the young liberal economists studying under John Maynard Keynes in the 1930s began to debate whether Hitler had solved unemployment.
What interests us here is not the merits of the argument but the fact that it is being aired at all on the pages of the nation's leading liberal newspaper. Not long ago it was considered in horribly poor taste to praise anything about the Nazi regime, or to liken contemporary liberalism to Nazism or other fascist movements of the past. (The left's hostility to Jonah Goldberg's book "Liberal Fascism" rested heavily on the latter element of the taboo.)...