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The Nazi Mind-Set in America

Copyright by Jacob G. Hornberger, The Future of Freedom Foundation

Nazis in America?

Before the end of World War II, in 1944, Friedrich A. Hayek, who was later to win the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Science, startled the Western world with a book entitled "The Road to Serfdom". Hayek argued that despite the war against Nazi Germany, the economic philosophy of the Nazis and communists was becoming the guiding light for American and British policymakers. In a later forward to the book, Hayek wrote:
"But after the war broke out I felt that this widespread mis- understanding of the political systems of our enemies, and soon also of our new ally, Russia, constituted a serious danger which had to be met by a more systematic effort. Also, it was already fairly obvious that England herself was likely to ex- periment after the war with the same kind of policies which I was convinced had contributed so much to destroy liberty else- where...

Opinion moves fast in the United States, and even now it is difficult to remember how comparatively a short time it was before "The Road to Serfdom" appeared that the most extreme kind of economic planning had been seriously advocated and the model of Russia held up for imitation by men who were soon to play an important role in public affairs...Be it enough to mention that in 1934 the newly established National Planning Board devoted a good deal of attention to the example of plan- ning provided by these four countries: Germany, Italy, Russia, and Japan."

Americans must ask themselves a troubling question: Did Hayek's concerns become reality - have Americans, in fact, traveled the road to serfdom the past fifty years? Or, to put it another way, did the Nazis lose the military battles but win the war for the hearts and minds of the American people?

Consider, for example, the Nazi economic system. Who can argue that the American people do not believe in and support most of its tenets? For example, how many Americans today do not unequi- vocally support the following planks of the Nationalist (Nazi) Party of Germany, adopted in Munich on February 24, 1920:

"We ask that the government undertake the obligation above all of providing citizens with adequate opportunity for employment and earning a living."

"The activities of the individual must not be allowed to clash with the interests of the community, but must take place within its confines and be for the good of all. Therefore, we demand: end to the power of the financial interests."

"We demand profit sharing in big business."

"We demand a broad extension of care for the aged."

"We demand...the greatest possible consideration of small business in the purchases of the national, state, and municipal governments."

"In order to make possible every capable and industrious [citizen] the attainment of higher education and thus the achievement of a post of leadership, the government must provide an all-around enlargement of our entire system of public edu- cation... We demand the education at government expense of gifted children of poor parents..."

"The government must undertake the improvement of public health - by protecting mother and child, by prohibiting child the greatest possible support for all clubs concerned with the physical education of youth."

"[We] combat the...materialistic spirit within and without us, and are convinced that a permanent recovery of our people can only proceed from within on the foundation of The Common Good Before The Individual Good."

I repeat: How many Americans today do not unequivocally support most, if not all, of these Nazi economic and political principles?

And if there is any doubt whether the Nazi economic philosophy did, in fact, win the hearts and minds of the American people, consider the following description of the Nazi economic system by Leonard Peikoff in his book "The Ominous Parallels:"

"Contrary to the Marxists, the Nazis did not advocate public ownership of the means of production. They did demand that the government oversee and run the nation's economy. The issue of legal ownership, they explained, is secondary: what counts is the issue of control. Private citizens, therefore, may continue to hold titles to property - so long as the state reserves to itself the unqualified right to regulate the use of their property."
What American objects to these principles of the Nazi economic system? Don't most Americans favor the planned economy, the regulated economy, the controlled economy? Don't most Americans favor the type of economic controls, and the right of government to institute such controls, that characterized the Nazi society: wage and price controls, high taxes, government-business partner- ships, licensing, permits, and a myriad other economic regulations?

The truth is that Hayek's warning was ignored. Having defeated the Nazis in battle, Americans became ardent supporters and advocates of Nazi economic policies.

Why? Part of the answer lies in another feature that was central to the Nazi way of life: public schooling. "Oh, no! You have gone too far this time," the average American will exclaim. "Public schooling is a distinctively American institution - as American as apple pie and free enterprise."

The truth? As Sheldon Richman documents so well in his book, "Separating School & State," twentieth-century Americans adopted the idea of a state schooling system in the latter part of the nineteenth century from - you guessed it - Prussia! And as Mr. Richman points out, public schooling has proven as successful in the United States as it did in Germany. Why? Because it has succeeded in its goal of producing a nation of "good little citizens" - people who pay their taxes on time, follow the rules, obey orders, condemn and turn in the rule-breakers, and see themselves as essential cogs in the national wheel. Consider the words of Richard Ebeling, in his introduction to "Separating School & State:"

"In the hands of the state, compulsory public education becomes a tool for political control and manipulation - a prime instrument for the thought police of society. And precisely because every child passes through the same indoctrination process - learning the same "official history," the same "civic virtues," the same lessons of obedience and loyalty to the state - it becomes extremely difficult for the independent soul to free himself from the straight jacket of the ideology and values the political authorities wish to imprint upon the population under its jurisdiction. For the communists, it was the class struggle and obedience to the Party and Comrade Stalin; for the fascists, it was worship of the nation-state and obedience to the Duce; for the Nazis, it was race purity and obedience to the Fuhrer. The content has varied, but the form has remained the same. Through the institution of compulsory state education, the child is to be molded like wax into the shape desired by the state and its educational elite.

We should not believe that because ours is a freer, more democratic society, the same imprinting procedure has not occurred even here, in America. Every generation of school-age children has imprinted upon it a politically correct ideology concerning America's past and the sanctity of the role of the state in society. Practically every child in the public school system learns that the "robber barons" of the 19th century exploited the common working man; that unregulated capitalism needed to be harnessed by enlightened government regulation beginning in the Progressive era at the turn of the century; that wild Wall Street speculation was a primary cause of the Great Depression; that only Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal saved America from catastrophe; and that American intervention in foreign wars has been necessary and inevitable, with the United States government required to be a global leader and an occasional world policeman."

This brings us to the heart of the problem - the core of the Nazi mind-set: that the interests of the individual must be subordi- nated to the interests of the nation. This is the principle that controls the minds of the American people, just as it controlled the minds of the German people sixty years ago.

Each person is viewed as a bee in a hive; his primary role in life is to serve the hive and the ruler of the hive, and to be sacrificed when the hive and its rulers consider it necessary. This is why Americans of our time, unlike their ancestors, favor such things as income taxation, Social Security, socialized medicine, and drug laws; they believe, as did Germans in the 1930s, that their bodies, lives, income, and property, in the final analysis, are subordinate to the interests of the nation.

As you read the following words of Adolf Hitler, ask yourself which American politician, which American bureaucrat, which American schoolteacher, which American citizen would disagree with the principles to which Hitler subscribed:

"It is thus necessary that the individual shall finally come to realize that his own ego is of no importance in comparison with the existence of this nation; that the position of the individual ego is conditioned solely by the interests of the nation as a whole; that pride and conceitedness, the feeling that the superior, so far from being merely laughable, involve great dangers for the existence of the community that is a nation; that above all the unity of a nation's spirit and will are worth far more than the freedom of the spirit and will of an individual; and that the higher interests involved in the life of the whole must here set the limits and lay down the duties of the interests of the individual."
Even though the average American enthusiastically supports the Nazi economic philosophy, he recoils at having his beliefs labeled as "Nazi". Why? Because, he argues, the Nazi government, unlike the U.S. government, killed six million people in concentration camps, and this mass murder of millions of people, rather than economic philosophy, captures the true essence of the Nazi label.

What Americans fail (or refuse) to recognize is that the concentration camps were simply the logical extension of the Nazi mindset! It does not matter whether there were six million killed - or six hundred - or six - or even one. The evil - the terrible, black evil - is the belief that a government should have the power to sacrifice even one individual for the good of the nation. Once this basic philosophical premise and political power are conceded, innocent people, beginning with a few and inevitably ending in multitudes, will be killed, because "the good of the nation" always ends up requiring it.

Political killings of innocent people could never happen in America, our fellow citizens tell us. America is a democracy. But so was Nazi Germany. Hitler was popularly elected, and his economic policies were widely favored and acclaimed (by Germans and Americans).

But there is another basic problem with that assertion: it is happening here in America. And like the German people of the 1930s, Americans either refuse to see it happening, or they rationalize what is happening so that they do not have to deal with it. Now, it is true that the killings do not number in the millions - but they certainly do number, so far, in the thousands.

Let's take some examples. The Branch Davidians at Waco, Texas: U.S. Army tanks and gas were used against peaceful, religious, well-armed people. More than eighty Americans, including children were gassed and burned. And is there any remorse - any regret - any independent governmental investigation into this massacre? Not on your life. The government officials, just like their Nazi counterparts, think they did "the right thing" in killing our fellow citizens. And for those of you who look to the judiciary for protection, you had better look elsewhere: the federal judge who presided over the trial of the Waco survivors declared that he would not permit the government to be "put on trial," and then slapped forty-year sentences on the Branch Davidian survivors.

Or take Randy Weaver, his wife, and son, of Idaho. First, they were set up on an idiotic gun charge. (Weaver sold a shotgun that was a quarter of an inch too short, at the request of a U.S. government agent.) Then, they sent Weaver a notice of a wrong trial date. When he failed to appear, they surrounded his house and attacked. A government sniper shot his unarmed wife in the head with a bullet as she was holding her baby. And they shot Weaver's son in the back. Then, at Weaver's trial, they fabricated evidence and committed perjury. Fortunately, Weaver was acquitted. But have any criminal charges been brought against the government agents for the murder of Weaver's wife and son? Did the federal judge in the case even cite the agents for contempt for their reprehensible conduct? Well, did the Nazi government ever bring charges against the SS? Did Nazi judges ever punish Nazi officials for killing Jews?

Government officials killed Donald Scott, a millionaire rancher in California. They claimed that they needed to barge into his house in the middle of the night to look for marijuana. And when Scott obeyed their order to lay down the gun he had picked up in his fear of the intruders, they shot him dead. And it later turned out that they hoped to find marijuana so that they could confiscate his land and convert it to a national park.

But Americans either look the other way, the way the Germans did, or they rationalize what is happening by saying, "The war on drugs has gotta be won."

And it is not just killings. Just as the Nazis did, they are confiscating people's money, land, boats, cars - anything they can get their hands on. No longer do they need to depend only on taxes for their revenues - they just go grab the money and property directly and keep it, regardless of the guilt or innocence of the victims. And, of course, it's all rationalized because "the war on drugs has gotta be won."

And it's not just confiscation. It is also terror - the terror of the Internal Revenue Service agents barging into people's homes, "visiting" them at work, and levying liens on bank accounts and real estate without notice, hearing, or other semblance of due process.

Yes, it's true - we are not dealing with the killings and mass confiscations and infliction of terror on millions of people. It is happening only to several thousands. But that's today. What happens in a crisis? Suppose an American ruler decided he is not going to get "pushed around" by the ruler of North Korea, Haiti, Panama, Iraq, or Japan? What happens if a war is not over in a few weeks, but instead drags out into months, even years, with higher taxes, more controls, and...conscription? What happens if Americans, who are already being taxed 50 percent of their incomes, now find taxes at 70 or 80 percent? What happens if there is a massive tax strike in which millions refuse to pay their taxes? What happens if hundreds of thousands of American students refuse to be drafted by a president who refused to be drafted?

Will the government meekly surrender? Will it simply agree to lose "international face"? Not on your life. The Internal Revenue Service, the Department of Justice, the FBI, and the army will simply turn their massive powers against the leaders of the tax revolt and as many of its followers as possible. And they will do whatever is necessary to teach those "draft-dodging cowards" a lesson. The American people will learn what the German people learned: that the omnipotent state that loves the poor and the needy will remove its velvet glove and use its iron fist to smash those who interfere with the "good of the nation."

Let's look at some more examples of the Nazi mind-set in America - this time in the Department of the Army. The army conducted nuclear radiation experiments on American soldiers. Why? Because the good of the nation required it. The army conducted drug experiments on American citizens. Why? Because the good of the nation required it. The army conducted disease experiments on the American people. Why? Because the good the nation required it. The army herded innocent Americans of Japanese descent into American concentration camps. Why? Because the good of the nation required it. The army entered into joint ventures with German Nazis at the end of World War II. Why? Because the good of the nation required it.

In other words, in the past, U.S. government officials have engaged in evil, Nazi-like conduct for the "good of the nation." Would they do so again? You can bet your life they would, if the "good of the nation required it", and even if it entailed the violation of every single restriction on government power set forth in the U.S. Constitution. There is nothing inevitable in all this. Through the power of ideas, we can reverse the trend. If ideas did not matter, governments would not try to suppress ideas. Ideas do matter; they do have consequences; they do influence people into acting, into changing, into reversing course.

But the rights guaranteed by the First Amendment - the right to speak, to write, to disseminate ideas - are not sufficient. The ultimate safeguard against the ultimate tyranny lies instead with the right to bear arms guaranteed by the Second Amendment. If this Amendment is destroyed or severely constricted, the rest of the Constitution becomes worthless, because in a crisis in which their power base is threatened, and in which there are no means of forcible resistance, government officials will squash the things they view as "technicalities" - free speech, habeas corpus, trial by jury, and the other rights guaranteed in the Constitution.

Combine a crisis with a disarmed, discontented citizenry, and the concentration camp for hundreds of thousands becomes a real possibility. But when the citizenry, together with various patriotic sheriffs, police, and members of the armed forces, have the means to inflict severe casualties on their potential oppressors, tyrants think twice before they try to oppress their own citizens too heavily.

That is why every single effort to restrict or control or manage the ownership of guns must be resisted. The ultimate barrier to the ultimate tyranny lies not with the ballot box. It lies not with the soapbox. It lies not with the jury box. The ultimate barrier to the tyranny of one's own government lies with the cartridge box.

Contrary to everything our rulers tell us, and everything that our schoolteachers are teaching the children of this nation, the biggest threat to the lives and well-being of the American people lies not with some foreign government. The biggest threat to the American people lies with the United States government.

And while gun ownership stands as a barrier to potential, Nazi-like behavior, the long-term solution is to dismantle, not reform, the iron fist of the welfare state and the controlled economy. This includes the end (not the reform) of the IRS, the DEA, the BATF, the SEC, the FDA, HUD, the departments of HHS, Labor, Agriculture, and Energy, and every other agency that takes money from some and gives it to others or interferes with peaceful behavior. It entails the repeal of all laws that permit such conduct. And it means the privatization of most of the bureaucrats who work for the U.S. government.

But it also entails the end of potential oppressors, who, in the past, have shown no reluctance to engage in evil, malicious, illegal, Nazi-like conduct against American citizens, such as the CIA and the standing army.

Would this mean that the U.S. government would not be permitted to act as the international Roman emperor? That is exactly what it should mean. But what about threats of invasion of the United States? Such threats are virtually nonexistent. But if every single citizen if free to arm himself to the teeth, any nation contemplating invasion would know that attacking the United States would be like swallowing a porcupine.

What about a quick mobilization? There would be no reason why citizen-soldiers would not quickly mobilize in the event of an emergency. For example, suppose that the standing army is disbanded. The members of the 82nd Airborne Division would not simply disappear. They would become private, productive citizens, but ready in times of peril to answer the call. They could be, and probably would be more than willing to be, at any location in the country within 24 hours.

Moreover, there would be a doubly positive effect in terms of economic prosperity. No longer would taxes have to be sucked out of the pockets of private citizens to support the armed forces. And the members of the armed forces, now privatized, would now be economically productive members of society.

In his book "The Road to Serfdom," Friedrich Hayek warned Americans in 1944 that despite their military war against the Nazis, they were traveling the philosophical and economic road that the Nazis and the communists were traveling. Our grandparents and parents ignored Hayek's warning. Now, we are left with the consequences; a government of omnipotent size and power using its power to kill innocent, peaceful citizens and confiscate millions of dollars of property to feed its insatiable hunger for more power. Today, the number of victims is in the thousands. But at the end of this road lie the concentration camps for the multitudes.

Can the tide be reversed? Can the omnipotent state be dismantled, rather than simply reformed?

Yes. It will take a return to first principles - the principles on which this nation, not Germany, was founded: principles that hold that it is the individual, not the collective, that is supreme; that each individual has been endowed by his creator with inalienable rights; that among these rights are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; that whenever any government, including the American government, becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it and to institute a new government; and that no individual - his life, liberty, or property - shall ever be sacrificed for the good of the nation. As Ayn Rand put it thirty years ago in her essay, "The Fascist New Frontier":

"If you wish to oppose [statism], you must challenge its basic premises. You must begin by realizing that there is no such thing as "the public interest" except as the sum of the interests of individual men. And the basic, common interest of all men - all rational men - is freedom. Freedom is the first requirement of "the public interest" - not what men do when they are free, but that they are free. All their achievements rest on that foundation - and cannot exist without it.

The principles of a free, non-coercive social system are the only form of "the public interest." Such principles did and do exist. Try to project such a system. In today's cultural atmosphere, it might appear to you like a journey into the unknown. But - like Columbus - what you will discover is America."

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