31 December 2007
The downside of the British Empire

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I haven’t quite finished Adam Tooze’s The Wages of Destruction: The Making and Breaking of the Nazi Economy but I think it is worth posting an interim review of this monumental3 economic history of the Third Reich while the stuff at the beginning of the book is still fresh in my mind.

The thing that most struck me - and rather unsettled me - was Tooze’s description of Hitler’s underlying philosophy.  The rabid anti-semitism is as well known as it is bizarre - how exactly you convince yourself that Jews run capitalism as well as communism is beyond me.  But it’s the stuff about empire and economics that is was surprising.

Hitler’s Weltanschauung goes like this:

  1. I want Germany to be rich
  2. I look around the world to find examples of rich countries
  3. I find Britain, France and the United States.
  4. They all have empires1.
  5. That’s why they’re rich - certainly not this liberal economics nonsense which is just there to pull the wool over the eyes of the workers
  6. Therefore if Germany is to be rich she must have an empire
  7. We can’t go North, West or South.
  8. Therefore, we must go East.
  9. Sure, there are people in the way but we will treat them just the same way as the Americans treated the Indians or the British treated the, er, Indians.

I have a soft spot for pre-1914 Britain.  I think it had reached a cultural (if not technological) peak.  I also have a soft spot for the Empire.  I am by no means blind to its injustices but it seems to have been better than both what came before and what came after.

So, the idea that Britain’s empire created an envy that led to the Second World War2 is disturbing.  Mind you it could only have happened in an environment in which liberal economics had been forgotten.

The other disturbing idea is that Britain could have avoided the Second World War.  I tend to get rather sniffy when some of my fellow libertarians tell me that Hitler’s ambitions were solely in the East and therefore he posed no threat to Britain.  This tends to back them up.

Notes

1. Hitler would have regarded the westward expansion of the US as empire-building.

2. The Japanese had similar thoughts.

3. It comprises over 600 pages of text and 50 pages of footnotes.

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  1. Hitler would have regarded the westward expansion of the US as empire-building.

    Certainly as Lebensraum.

    Interesting.

    Posted by Blognor Regis on 01 January 2008 at 02:01pm

  2. “So, the idea that Britain’s empire created an envy that led to the Second World War2 is disturbing.”

    Liberals always need to find something to feel guilty about. - Any problem that there has ever been in the world can always be traced back to Britain. It’s all Britain’s fault.

    Posted by Benny on 10 January 2008 at 05:09am

  3. No, no...it’s all America’s fault...we bought out Britain’s assets and liabilities long ago...so all the evil done by Britain is now our property.

    “All your biases are belong to us!”

    Posted by doug in colorado on 13 February 2008 at 03:41am

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