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1916 and the Health of the State

  • Hindenburg and Ludendorff
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Tags War and Foreign PolicyWorld HistoryInterventionism

01/21/2016

In Planning for Freedom, we find Mises commenting once more on the ravages of World War I as he discusses the Hindenburg Program: had it had time to come to fruition, he suggests, “it would have transformed Germany into a purely totalitarian commonwealth.” Well, the war ended two years later, and the military dictatorship of Hindenburg and Ludendorff had indeed done much to create a totalitarian commonwealth. Within two years, as well, the Hindenburg Program had suggested to the Bolsheviks a practical program for achieving dissolution of capitalism. As Paul Johnson put it in Modern Times:

So one might say that the man who really inspired Soviet economic planning was Ludendorff. His "war socialism" certainly did not shrink from barbarism. It employed slave-labourers. In January 1918 Ludendorff broke a strike of 400,000 Berlin workers by drafting tens of thousands of them to the front in "labor battalions".

Hindenburg’s famous Quartermaster-General, Erich Ludendorff, was the chief promoter of the “Hindenburg” Program, but it was in fact a group of bureaucrats, army officers, technocratic intellectuals, and a crony capitalists who shaped it.

It was still a “mixed economy” affair, but one that Mises came back to more than once to demonstrate the easy continuity from mixed economy to omnipotent government.

Nineteen-sixteen once again. A major boost to the health of the state.

(See also Hunt Tooley's book, The Great War: Western Front and Home Front, and his two blogs, Design of Violent Century and The World At War and the World That Was.)

Hunt Tooley teaches History at Austin College. He is the author of The Great War: Western Front and Home Front. 

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