More from our current reading

Dave Killion — September 24, 2011

Here are some more quotes from “They Thought They Were Free”. First, something humorous –

“Americans have not had the Germans’ troubles, perhaps by happy accident, perhaps because they have not made such troubles for others as the Germans have.”

I’m going for happy accident, as I am certain the USA has made a great deal of trouble for a great many others.

Later, Mayer is discussing with one of his friends the idea of the citizen as the sovereign, the highest office in America. When he asks if the idea becomes clearer if expressed by the phrase “Citizen Sovereign”, the friend agrees, but –

“Clearer, certainly,” said Herr Kessler, the bank clerk, “but wronger, if I may, Herr Professor. Those two words do not go together. The idea is not a ¬†German idea. It says that the citizen is the ruler, but there are millions of citizens, so that would be anarchy. There could be no rule.”

This is not, I think, a mindset unique to Germans. Americans and Canadians may say that the voter rules, but cannot really conceive of society without some coercive ruling party to organize and direct. Another friend points out the tendency for corporatism to command when the people are permitted to rule themselves.

We have heard of your American cities ruled by gangsters working with dishonest politicians who steal the people’s money and give them poor service, bad roads, and such, charging them always for good roads or good sewers. That we have never known in Germany, not under the Kaiser, not under Hitler. That is a kind of Anarchie, maybe not mob rule, but something like it.”

Mayer’s friend is observant, although I think ‘monarchs’ like Mao or Castro make a pretty tough counter-argument. Libertarians have no affection for unbridled democracy, but on the whole I think immigration stats show were people want to be.

Tune in tomorow for the final installment!

Comments

David C says

Dave: thanks for these notes on the book – they are fantastic.

— September 26, 2011

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