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How Dictators Come to Power in a Democracy

February 5, 2013 in Economics, Foreign Policy, History, Philosophy, Politics & Elections

By Jim Powell

Jim Powell

Dictatorships are often unexpected. They have arisen among
prosperous, educated and cultured people who seemed safe from a
dictatorship — in Europe, Asia and South America.

Consider Germany, one of the most paradoxical and dramatic
cases.

During the late 19thcentury, it was widely considered to have
the best educational system in the world. If any educational system
could inoculate people from barbarism, surely Germany would have
led the way. It had early childhood education – kindergarten.
Secondary schools emphasized cultural training. Germans developed
modern research universities. Germans were especially distinguished
for their achievements in science — just think of Karl Benz
who invented the gasoline-powered automobile, Rudolf Diesel who
invented the compression-ignition engine, Heinrich Hertz who proved
the existence of electromagnetic waves, Wilhelm Conrad Rőntgen who
invented x-rays, Friedrich August Kekulé who developed the theory
of chemical structure, Paul Ehrlich who produced the first
medicinal treatment for syphilis and, of course, theoretical
physicist Albert Einstein. It’s no wonder so many American
scholars went to German universities for their degrees during the
19th century.

After World War I, German university enrollment soared. By 1931,
it reached 120,000 versus a maximum of 73,000 before the war.
Government provided full scholarships for poor students with
ability. As one chronicler reported, a scholarship student
“pays no fees at the university, his textbooks are free, and
on most purchases which he makes, for clothing, medical treatment,
transportation and tickets to theaters and concerts, he receives
substantial reductions in price, and a student may get wholesome
food sufficient to keep body and soul together.”

While there was some German anti-Semitic agitation during the
late 19th century, Germany didn’t seem the most likely place
for it to flourish. Russia, after all, had pogroms —
anti-Jewish rioting and persecution — for decades.
Russia’s Bolshevik regime dedicated itself to hatred —
Karl Marx’s hatred for the “bourgeoisie” whom he
blamed for society’s ills. Lenin and his successor Stalin
pushed that philosophy farther, exterminating the so-called
“rich” who came to include peasants with one cow.

Why, then, did the highly educated Germans embrace a lunatic
like Adolf Hitler? The short answer is that bad policies caused
economic, military and political crises — chow time for
tyrants. German circumstances changed for the worse, and when
people become angry enough or desperate enough, sometimes
they’ll support crazies who would never attract a crowd in
normal circumstances.

Like the other belligerents, Germans had entered World War I
with the expectation that they would win and recoup their war costs
by making the losers pay. The German government led their people to
believe they were winning , so everybody was shocked when the truth
came out. Then U.S. President Woodrow Wilson gave a …read more
Source: OP-EDS  

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