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the political economy of germany in the twentieth century reviewed

This book covers the German economy, essentially between 1918 and 1970. It is fairly sketchy and has weaknesses in analysis. It could be seen as a typical PhD thesis. It is a useful introduction to the subject, but should be treated with caution.

the weimar

“...with over 300 paper mills and some 2000 printing presses working around the clock to produce reichbank notes, it was impossible to provide the notes necessary to insure transactions at the inflated prices...”

“...although [the Reichbank] president seriously expressed the hope that the new high-speed presses soon to be installed would help to overcome the currency shortage...”

Depreciation of the mark
Period Index of U.S. dollar rate of exchange (1913=100)
1920   January 1,542  
    July 940  
1921   January 1,545  
    July 1,826  
1922   January 4,569  
    July 11,750  
1923   January 427,900  
    July 8,415,000  
    August 110,000,000  
    September 2,354,000,000  
    October 601,430,000,000  
    November 219,400,000,000,000  

“Put simply one can say: it took about five and one-half years from the beginning of the war for the mark to fall to about one-tenth of its pre-war value; the next decrease to one-tenth took only two and one-half years; the following one only 108 days; while in October 1923 the mark was down to ten percent of the value of the previous period every 8 to 11 days.”

national socialism

There is a section on the National Socialist economy [pp.53-87] which is a little incoherent and even borders on apologia. Hitler was immature and consumed with teenage-like dreams of revenge and empire.

To understand Hitler’s policies coherently, it is necessary to realise that his every decision was directed to taking Germany to war as set out in Mein Kamph. Motorways for quick military communications, technology for armament, diplomacy to encourage wishful thinking in weak leaders intended as victims, placating and seducing his own population with growing consumer goods while planning to turn that population into a war machine, stealing the property of Jews to pay his henchmen and increase foreign exchange - by the time of war, 600,000 of 800,000 German Jews had left the country, having to pay what amounted to bribes to escape, while leaving behind their property.

The author seems to attempt to minimise Hitler’s aggressive objectives by pointing out that Germany remained short of some necessary raw materials, such as oil. But of course, Hitler’s intention was to gain those assets by invasion and conquest, and to enslave or kill the populations, while milking the conquered nations where profitable.

The remaining 115 pages bring the survey up to 1970.
Three Golden Yaks for a useful introduction.
three and half GoldenYak (tm) award

The political economy of Germany in the twentieth century
by Karl Hardach

The political economy of Germany in the twentieth century by K. Hardach

University of California Press, 2005, hbk
ISBN-10: 0520040236
ISBN-13: 978-0520040236

Original German edition: Wirtschaftsgeschichte Deutchlande im 20.Jahrhundert, published by Vandenhoeck & Rupreche, Göttingen, 1976

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a useful tract/booklet on constitutions - pr and national socialism three and half GoldenYak (tm) award

Borrowing constitutional designs by Cindy Skach is an analysis of what the author calls ‘semipresidential constitutions’. That is constitutions where a president shares power with a prime minister. The book is concerned with incentives for conflict, cooperation and instability with such constitutions.

Two main case studies are used: the German Weimar Republic and the 4th/5th Republic constitutions in France since World War Two. Pertinent voting systems are also discussed. (The book has approximately 130 pages of text.)

“...Weimar was an experiment with one of the purest forms of proportional representation ever used to elect deputies to a national parliament...” [p.38]

“...However, neither President Hindenburg, nor the Reichswehr (the army), was willing to accept Brüning’s collaboration with the SPD [Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands], which they considered a move to the left. In any case, a Reichstag coalition could not be built, because the SPD and now the DVP [Deutsche Volkspartei] preferred to remain in the opposition rather than take responsibility for governing these times:

“Brüning found that many labor leaders privately endorsed his policies but implored him to take all responsibility for wage reductions. Leaders of the SPD, Business Party and DVP told him that they wanted his program to succeed but did not want to vote for it in the Reichstag; they preferred to accept emergency decrees passively. Brüning saw himself becoming a scapegoat, asked to bear responsibility for all the painful measures considered necessary by the entire political and economic elite.” [p.61]

“... [1932] Von Papen also suspended certain civil liberties in Prussia, including freedom of the press, freedom of assembly and postal secrecy; and in Berlin and the entire province of Brandenburg he suspended the inviolability of the home... [p.64]

The Weimar produced and elected Hitler.

The author has done her homework. She uses a two-dimensional grid of left/right and religious/secular. The circles represent the various levels of commitment of the various parties to constitutional government, the centre of the ‘target’ being the most committed.

Cleavages in Weimar's party system

She correctly labels the National Socialists at the extreme left and secular ends.

It is interesting that academic liberals generated the Weimar constitution. Such is the ascendancy of theory over pragmatism!

The text is cogent and clear, but this book is no page-turner, useful to its intended audience - thus 3½ Golden Yaks.

related material
authoritarianism and liberty

Borrowing Constitutional Designs: Constitutional Law in Weimar Germany and the French Fifth Republic
by Cindy Skach

Borrowing Constitutional Designs by Skach

Princeton University Press, 2005, hbk
ISBN-10: 0691123454
ISBN-13: 978-0691123455
£26.55 [] {advert}

Princeton University Press, 2009, pbk
ISBN-10: 0691146721
ISBN-13: 978-0691146720
$20.95 [] {advert}

Kindle edition
Princeton University Press, 2009, 724 KB
$15.86 [] {advert}

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Willard L. Beaulac (1899-1990), two reviews

Franco, silent ally in World War Two

Written by the number two in the American Embassy in Spain during World War Two, this book is a model of fluency and organisation by someone right in the centre of the action. It is also among one of the very best books of political realism that I have read. The book’s author went on to become ambassador to five different South American countries.

Franco, silent ally in World War Two by Willard L. Beaulac
Southern Illinois University Press, 1986
ISBN-10: 0809312549
ISBN-13: 978-0809312542

The fractured continent
Four GoldenYak (tm) award

This book is not as well written as Franco, silent ally, but it is still very neat. It is packed with snippets of wise political advice by a very experienced man of the world. This book was written six years earlier than Franco, silent ally.

“IN 1945, when I was serving in Paraguay, an American writer visited Asuncion, the capital. He noticed that most people were modestly and even poorly dressed, that dwellings were far below United States standards, that only the principal streets were paved, and that there were few automobiles. The city's best hotel had very simple accommodations, and the writer was unable to find a really good restaurant. He was appalled at what he considered Paraguay's poverty.

“About the same time another American visited Paraguay. He was a businessman and banker, one of the first presidents of the US government's Export-Import Bank. He walked up and down Asuncion's streets and drove out through the countryside. And he looked into the eyes of Paraguayans. Later he said to me, "I hope nothing we may do will change these people." The banker remarked that Paraguayans seemed to be well-fed. They were a sturdy, vigorous people. Their clothing was usually very clean. While he noticed the scarcity of automobiles he saw, too, that nearly everyone who came in from the country had an animal to ride. He said he would not soon forget the sight of a country woman trotting into market on her burro, her baskets of vegetables slung behind her, a black cigar in her mouth. To him she was a free woman, one of nature's capitalists, self-confident and independent. The banker saw in Paraguayans not poverty but pride, an inner tranquility that he had missed in many countries, possibly including his own.

“The writer thought the Paraguayan government, and the government of the United States, should do more to help Paraguay's masses who were living in conditions that he considered intolerable. The banker, who had come to Paraguay to see what he might do to help, was expressing a wish that his efforts, wise or unwise, successful or unsuccessful, would not unwittingly offend the dignity of Paraguayans or lessen their pride; that he would not needlessly and thoughtlessly disrupt a way of life that, simple as it was, and doubtless in part because it was simple, brought rewards that were real and lasting and that might not survive mere material improvement, or the wrong kind of material improvement.” [pp.95-96]

Fractured continent by Willard Beaulac

Fractured continent: Latin America in Close Up
(Hoover Institution publication 225)

Hoover Institution Press,U.S., 1st edition, 1980
ISBN-10: 081797251X
ISBN-13: 978-0817972516


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boomerang by michael lewis Four GoldenYak (tm) award

I was looking at Michael Lewis’s recent book on the bank crash, The Big Short, and noted he’s published an even more recent book on the sovereign debt development - Boomerang. It looked more interesting so I put out the hard earned on a copy.

The book is done in terms of reviews of the ways the mess is having an impact on several societies.

Iceland, Greece, Ireland, Germany and the USA.

The lowest ranked schools in Europe are in Greece.
The highest ranked schools are in Finland.

Greece ‘employs’ four times as many teachers in their teacher-pupil ratio as Finland.

Greek parents assume they will need to employ tutors.

“...the short-term parking attendants at Dublin Airport noticed their daily take had fallen. The lot appeared full; they couldn't understand it; then they noticed the cars never changed. They phoned the Dublin police, who in turn traced the cars to Polish construction workers, who has bought them with money borrowed from the big Irish banks. The migrant workers had ditched the cars and gone home. A few months later the Bank of Ireland sent three collectors to Poland to see what they could get back, but they had no luck. The Poles were untraceable. But for their cars in the parking lot, they might never have existed.”

“...the German losses are still being totted up, but at the last count they stand at $21 billion in the Icelandic banks, $100 billion in Irish banks, $60 billion in various U.S. subprime-backed bonds and some yet to be determined amount in Greek bonds...”

“ view of the European debt crisis—the Greek view—is that it is an elaborate attempt by the German government on behalf of its banks to get their money back without calling attention to what they are up to. The German government gives money to the European Union rescue fund so that it can give money to the Irish government so that the Irish government can give money to the Irish banks, so that the Irish banks can repay their loans to the German banks...”

A lawsuit still going through the German courts is challenging the legal status of the euro on constitutional grounds. The lawsuit was instigated before the euro was formed!

No index, damn him; 212 pages.
I’d like to see him produce a second volume on other countries like Italy, Portugal, the UK, Japan and Spain. I’d buy that!

4 GoldenYaks, just - due to negatives such as there being no index and it being too short.

Boomerang: the meltdown tour
by Michael Lewis

£11.23 [] {advert}

Allen Lane, hbk, 2011
ISBN-10: 1846144841
ISBN-13: 978-1846144844

Kindle edition, B005PR44XC, 346 kb
£9.99 [] {advert}
$21.18 [] {advert}

The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine
by Michael Lewis
Big shot by Michael Lewis

$8.69 [] {advert}
Penguin Books, pbk, 2011
ISBN-10: 0141043539
ISBN-13: 978-0141043531

US Kindle edition, 0393338827
$9.94 [] {advert}

Big shot by Michael Lewis

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