History: The Struggle for Liberty

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9. The First World War

History the Struggle for Liberty 2003

Tags War and Foreign PolicyWorld HistoryPhilosophy and MethodologyPolitical Theory

09/03/2004Ralph Raico

Intellectuals are pro-power and anti-market. Great presidents are war presidents who glorify power. The Costs of War and Reassessing the Presidency are recommended books on this topic. The First World War was a turning point which vastly extended state power, and vastly destroyed social power.

Bismark united all of the German tribes into one state to preserve a German peace. The understanding in 1907 linking Great Britain, France and Russia was called the Triple Entente. This alliance in 1914 entered WWI as Allies against the Central Powers Germany and Austria-Hungary. The creation of a German navy put them on a collision course with Great Britain.

Germany’s strategy was to quickly knock France out of the war by sending troops through Belgium. The Archduke is killed in Sarajevo. Austria declares war on Serbia. Austrians could then invade Serbia and do away with it. Germany declares war on Russia and France. France convinces Britain that she must declare war against Germany, although no Britain had any clue about the war or any say about it. Yet, war was greeted with enthusiasm. The intellectuals were rapturous.

German U-boats sank British ships, bringing America into the war. The 1915 sinking of the Lusitania with some Americans aboard was used to justify Wilson’s position against Germany. Wilson had a hidden agenda to create a New World Order. The case of Eugene Debs was an example of how vindictive Wilson was and how individual liberties lost more ground in WWI than during WWII.


Ralph Raico

Ralph Raico (1936–2016) was professor emeritus in European history at Buffalo State College and a senior fellow of the Mises Institute. He was a specialist on the history of liberty, the liberal tradition in Europe, and the relationship between war and the rise of the state. He is the author of The Place of Religion in the Liberal Philosophy of Constant, Tocqueville, and Lord Acton.

A bibliography of Ralph Raico's work, compiled by Tyler Kubik, is found here.

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