Our Bangkok correspondent H. Numan extrapolates from our present fiscal woes to something more grievous and possibly terminal.
The nightmare of hyperinflation is coming
by H. Numan
He who doesn’t learn from history is doomed to do it all over again. We haven’t learned a lot from history, and are going to make the same mistakes. However, history never repeats itself. It’s always different. One of the reasons is that people tend to look at history, and think: ‘I wouldn’t have done that. How stupid!’ That’s looking back with 20/20 hindsight. You know the problem, and know what didn’t work back then. Most people think our ancestors were really stupid and they themselves are very smart. No, they weren’t, and you aren’t.
We’re about to make the same mistakes all over again. The current dogma is that Hitler was extreme right-wing and the treaty of Versailles was too harsh. Both assumptions are wrong. Disastrously wrong, as you will find out.
Let’s start with Hitler. He didn’t come out of thin air. He became politically active in 1919. Hitler wasn’t extreme right-wing; he was a socialist. His ideas, many of them, were mainstream in Germany at the time. The Germany army started planning rearmament right after (probably before) signing the treaty of Versailles. All Hitler did, once he gained power, was to speed it up and drop any pretenses. All Germans into a greater Germany (‘Heim ins Reich’) was something every German wanted, left and right. The German army was already planning to conquer the east in the future. That’s why they didn’t have a problem with Hitler’s Lebensraum policy. At first together with Poland, only later they switched to conquering Poland first. Before attacking the USSR, that is. Either way, large swaths of Poland were originally German. They would have reconquered it anyway. With or without Hitler.
Hitler himself was a racist communist. Not my words. His own words. He wrote in Mein Kampf, pages 406-407, that National Socialism differs from Communism only in its racism. Take away racial ideology from Nazism, and you’ve got communism.
Now the treaty of Versailles. World War One ended in three treaties: Versailles (Germany), Trianon (Austria-Hungary) and Lausanne (Ottoman empire). The treaties of Trianon and Lausanne were really harsh. They literally drew and quartered those empires into little pieces. Versailles was as lenient as it could be. Germany lost some territory, had to pay a steep penalty and was restricted in her armed forces. Compared with the other treaties almost a slap on the wrist. Don’t forget the Allies made huge sacrifices. Settling for anything less was not possible; their electorates would never have accepted that.
On the other hand — something not only the Germans tend to overlook — we have the treaty of Brest-Litovsk (March 3, 1918), which ended the war on the Eastern Front in favor of Germany. That was a real diktat. It was harsh to the max, so harsh that the USSR didn’t want to sign it. Kein Problem, said the German army. Then we simply go on. So they did, and added more demands. The USSR understood they had two options: take it or leave it. They took it. If you are merciless yourself, you can’t ask for mercy.
What you probably don’t know is that Germany, long before the war began, had the most developed welfare state of the time. Not only that, the German parliament was predominantly left-wing, with very strong labor and communist parties. They didn’t have any influence, mind you. Bismarck started with social laws, so they couldn’t. Not because Bismarck was a socialist, far from it. Better to give a little now instead of being forced to give more later on was his policy.
The German plan was to saddle the Allies with massive demands and make them pay for the war, plus a little extra. The problem was they lost that war. Experts have calculated they couldn’t make any profit out of the war. The costs were simply too high. Just like the Allies in the Versailles treaty, they would have to settle for something more realistic. However, that is moot. They lost. The result was a very expensive welfare state and massive war debts.