Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Billionaires' Likening of Today's Campaign Against the Rich to Nazi Germany is Frighteningly Close to the Mark

Two members of the much-maligned "top 1%" have recently made statements comparing the currently populist crusade against "income inequality" to events in Nazi Germany.

In a letter-to-the-editor to The Wall Street journal, Tom Perkins, a founder of the venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers,
 wrote, in part:

    Writing from the epicenter of progressive thought, San Francisco, I would call attention to the parallels of fascist Nazi Germany to its war on its "one percent," namely its Jews, to the progressive war on the American one percent, namely the "rich."
    This is a very dangerous drift in our American thinking. Kristallnacht was unthinkable in 1930; is its descendant "progressive" radicalism unthinkable now?
    From the Occupy movement to the demonization of the rich embedded in virtually every word of our local newspaper, the San Francisco Chronicle, I perceive a rising tide of hatred of the successful one percent.

("Kristallnacht" refers to the murderous "Night of Broken Glass" in 1938 Germany and Austria, which featured coordinated attacks against Jews and their businesses and marked the beginning of the Holocaust.)

Home Depot founder Ken Langone said of the "populist" attacks on "the rich":

“I hope it’s not working, because if you go back to 1933, with different words, this is what Hitler was saying in Germany. You don’t survive as a society if you encourage and thrive on envy or jealousy.”

The likening of the swelling political and cultural assault on the rich to Hitler's campaign against the Jews and the "plutocrats" may be a bit hyperbolic, and these two guys took public heat for it. But, if one understands that ideas drive human history, then their critics have it wrong. Frighteningly, Perkins' and Langone's remarks may not be as far off the mark as we would like. There are parallels not only to Nazism but also to communism. 

The current campaign against income inequality—i.e., the rich—is part and parcel of a long-time hostility toward American business—particularly, large, successful businesses, the primary source of the fortunes of the American super-rich. Ayn Rand identified the dangerous trajectory on which the anti-business trend had set this nation half a century ago:

Every movement that seeks to enslave a country, every dictatorship or potential dictatorship, needs some minority group as a scapegoat which it can blame for the nation’s troubles and use as a justification of its own demands for dictatorial powers. In Soviet Russia, the scapegoat was the bourgeoisie; in Nazi Germany, it was the Jewish people; in America, it is the businessmen.

America is not even close to a Nazi Germany or Soviet Russia—not yet—and I don't believe that's what Perkins and Langone are saying. What they are saying is that we should learn from history, before it is too late. Their critics think it absurd to equate America's top 1% with the plight of the Jews in Nazi Germany. After all, the 1%ers are rich and "privileged," aren't they? 

But that didn't stop the Bolsheviks from destroying what was then the rich in Soviet Russia, the bourgeoisie. A dollar is no match for a gun. As Ayn Rand presciently warned—

“The uncontested absurdities of today are the accepted slogans of tomorrow. They come to be accepted by degrees, by dint of constant pressure on one side and constant retreat on the other - until one day when they are suddenly declared to be the country's official ideology.”

How close is egalitarianism to being America's "official ideology?" Frighteningly too close for comfort, it seems.

Related Reading:

Obama's Corrupt "Equality" Campaign and the 99/1 Premise

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