The Best Economics Book I’ve Read Recently
Paul Solman: The most memorable book of the past month or so has been Yale historian Adam Tooze’s Wages of Destruction, an economic history of the Third Reich. Many striking facts — such as that the Volkswagen Beetle, ordered by Hitler as the People’s Car took downpayments from several hundred thousand Germans, but never delivered a single one to consumers; the military commandeered them all. But the overriding message is that from the very outset, Hitler felt that “Germany” — defined by its people, its supposed “race,” its historical culture — would be no match for the United States, with our vast population, land mass and material resources, unless it expanded geographically. Thus the expansion to the East — “lebensraum,” it was called: “living room” — was always part of his plan.
Moreover, to populate the “Germanic” areas of Eastern Europe with Germans from Germany, the native populations would have to be removed. And if they couldn’t be made to work effectively for the greater German state in concentrated work camps — “concentration camps” — their very existence meant not only possible resistance, but less food for Germany and its war effort. Thus were the Poles exterminated in addition to those who carried the “cancer within” — the Jews. I had never thought of an economic motivation behind the Holocaust, but there seems to have been one.