Friday, April 17, 2009

Von Mises compares Communists to Nazis

I remember someone once asking a group of American political and social leftists: So what is it, apart from their antisemitism and extermination camps, that you disagree with about Hitler's National Socialist policies in Nazi Germany? They had no answer.

A friend of mine who practices law in North Carolina sent me the following excerpts from a discussion of Ludwig von Mises' comparison of communism with national socialism (Nazis and Fascists) from Ralph Reiland, "National Socialism (and how they are doing it here)" (Ludwig von Mises Institute, September 28, 1996). He excerpts the following paragraphs:
It was common in those days, as it is in ours, to identify the Communists as leftist and the Nazis as rightists, as if they stood on opposite ends of the ideological spectrum. But Mises knew differently. They both sported the same ideological pedigree of socialism. "The German and Russian systems of socialism have in common the fact that the government has full control of the means of production. It decides what shall be produced and how. It allots to each individual a share of consumer's goods for his consumption."

The difference between the systems, wrote Mises, is that the German pattern "maintains private ownership of the means of production and keeps the appearance of ordinary prices, wages, and markets." But in fact the government directs production decisions, curbs entrepreneurship and the labor market, and determines wages and interest rates by central authority. "Market exchange," says Mises, "is only a sham."
"Industrialists were visited by state auditors who had strict orders to examine the balance sheets and all bookkeeping entries of the company or individual businessman for the preceding two, three or more years until some error or false entry was found," explains Reimann. "The slightest formal mistake was punished with tremendous penalties. A fine of millions of marks was imposed for a single bookkeeping error."

Reimann quotes from a businessman's letter: "You have no idea how far state control goes and how much power the Nazi representatives have over our work. The worst of it is that they are so ignorant. These Nazi radicals think of nothing except ‘distributing the wealth.' Some businessmen have even started studying Marxist theories, so that they will have a better understanding of the present economic system.

"While state representatives are busily engaged in investigating and interfering, our agents and salesmen are handicapped because they never know whether or not a sale at a higher price will mean denunciation as a ‘profiteer' or ‘saboteur,' followed by a prison sentence. You cannot imagine how taxation has increased. Yet everyone is afraid to complain. Everywhere there is a growing undercurrent of bitterness. Everyone has his doubts about the system, unless he is very young, very stupid, or is bound to it by the privileges he enjoys.

"The difference between this and the Russian system is much less than you think, despite the fact that we are still independent businessmen.
He adds: "As Mises says, 'independent' only in a decorous sense. Under fascism, explains this businessman, the capitalist 'must be servile to the representatives of the state' and 'must not insist on rights, and must not behave as if his private property rights were still sacred.' It's the businessman, characteristically independent, who is 'most likely to get into trouble with the Gestapo for having grumbled incautiously.'"

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