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It Can't Happen Here

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Sociologist William Brustein went to Berlin a few years ago to tour the city. As his bus tour passed the bunker where Hitler spent his last days, the guide told how Hitler had seized power and fooled the German people. He assured the tour that “It would never happen again.”

Brustein knew the guide was wrong. His many years of study had convinced him that “It could happen again.” Brustein knew he would need empirical data to prove that the elements that brought Hitler to power lie just below the surface of all societies.

After pouring through countless numbers of records which had been seized by the U.S. Army from the Gestapo in 1945, Brustein developed “a theory that the German people were not fully informed about the Nazis’ anti-semitic plans or their designs on world conquest. They were only doing what came naturally when they bought the party’s program.”

 The Germans, like the majority of today's Americans, “were motivated by ordinary and logical factors: their own material interests.” Francis Schaeffer, in keen prophetic insight, described what would motivate people in the future —“personal peace and affluence.” The 1992 election was evidence of this. Economics swept Clinton and his destructive generation into office. Clinton, like Hitler and Franklin D. Roosevelt before him, appealed to the working class. Clinton kept a sign ever before him as he campaigned: “It’s the economy, stupid.” The rise of Barack Obama and his willing accomplices in the media and the majority of the electorate to transfer the wealth from the productive to the non-productive are being repeated before our very eyes. Like those who voted for Adolf Hitler’s promises of an economic utopia, the majority of today’s voters are taking us down the road of fascism. Brustein writes: “The point I’m making is there has never been a fair hearing about the pocketbook issues that brought Hitler to power.” Economic self-interest has always been the tool used to bring fascists to power:

Rulers have ever been tempted to play the role of father to their people. . . . The state that acts like a wise parent instead of a vindictive judge has been an attractive image to many people. They include ecclesiastical authorities who have completely missed the point of the gospel warning to “call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven" (Matt. 23:9). The father is the symbol not only of authority but also of provision. “Our Father who art in heaven. . . . Give us this day our daily bread” (Matt. 6:9, 11). Looking to the state for sustenance is a cultic act [an act of worship]; we rightly learn to expect food from parents, and when we regard the state as the source of physical provision we render to it the obeisance of idolatry. The crowds who had fed on the multiplied loaves and fishes were ready to receive Christ as their ruler, not because of who he was but because of the provision. John Howard Yoder[1] has rightly interpreted that scene: “The distribution of bread moved the crowd to acclaim Jesus as the new Moses, the provider, the Welfare King whom they had been waiting for.”[2]

Power is most dangerous in the hands of people who claim to be good and to act for what they conceive to be our best interests. Jesus used His vast abilities sparingly. He did not issue a call to plunder the rich to pay for the needs of the poor. In J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, the power of the ring is not something to be desired even by good people. The goal is to destroy it. When Boromir fails to avoid the ring’s power, he dies. Even Gandalf and the elves shun the power of the ring. Tolkien is doubtful that any person has the ability to resist the temptation of absolute power promised by the ring, even if that power is used for good. That is one of the great themes of the series.

Once the State gains power, it works relentlessly to maintain it. Since it gained power by promising the masses security, it must offer more security to maintain and gain more power. The time will come when promises cannot be kept because the productive members of society have been plundered of their ability to create wealth. The incentive to work, create, and profit from their labor will have been destroyed.

The intention to do good for people becomes a destructive force when it keeps people in a condition of dependency. When George W. Bush proposed a tax cut for all wage earners in 2003, Alan M. Webber, founding editor of Fast Company magazine, presented the classic plunder-to-satisfy-the-wants-of-the-people worldview. “At the community level,” he writes, “ordinary folks want jobs, they want benefits, and they want reassurance. This is the time, not for tax cuts, but for Democratic-style spending programs: temporary job creation, targeted public works expenditures, extended unemployment benefits.”[3] Weber believes that confiscating money from wage earners, passing it through a huge bureaucracy, and then distributing a lesser amount of money to the helpless masses is better than allowing wage earners to keep their money, save it, spend it, and invest it.

Real jobs are created, and fewer people remain dependent on the State, when consumers make their own economic decisions. Webber believes that a complex and multifaceted economy is better managed by bureaucrats than by people who actually make countless economic decisions every day. The only ones who benefit by “public works expenditures” are the politicians who create the programs and those empowered to implement them. The losers are the productive members of society who are plundered and those who become dependent on confiscated wealth given to them in the name of compassion and “social justice.” And that’s what today’s politicians want and need. Dependency keeps them in power.

John Howard Yoder, The Politics of Jesus: Vicit Angus Noster, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1972), 34–35.
[2] Herbert Schlossberg, Idols for Destruction: The Conflict of Christian Faith and American Culture (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, [1983] 1993), 183.
[3] Alan M. Webber, “Bush’s proposed tax cuts won’t rescue sinking U.S. economy,” USA Today (January 13, 2003), 13A.

Article posted June 30, 2009

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