Sunday, July 4, 2010

Sink the Bismarck (Politically speaking, that is.)

One of the (few) advantages of being an old guy is that I can read a book that I read years before and not remember a thing. I'm re-reading William L. Shirer's "The Rise And Fall of the Third Reich." I read it in high school when I was danged sure I knew everything about everything. Now that I'm older and am only pretty sure that I know something about a few things I find that what I'm reading makes quite a bit of sense but now it scares me. A little background before I offer a quote. The German political, economic and hierarchical systems were in a bit of chaos during the 19th century. Otto von Bismarck worked to unify the various German provinces into a cohesive state. He was successful and established an empire of which he was the chancellor. There was an expense though. An excerpt from the book: " The middle classes, grown prosperous by the belated but staggering development of the industrial revolution and dazzled by the success ofBismarck's policy of force and war, had traded for material gain any aspirations for political freedom they may have had. The German working class made a similar trade. To combat socialism, Bismark put through between 1883 and 1889 a program for social security far beyond anything known in other countries. It included compulsory insurance for workers against old age, sickness, accident and incapacity, and though organized by the State it was financed by the employers and employees. It cannot be said that it stopped the rise of the Social Democrats or the trade unions, but it did have a profound influence on the working class in that it gradually made them value security over political freedom and caused them to see in the State, however conservative, a benefactor and a protector." (Italics are mine.) I can't help but make comparisons to today's political climate. What are we willing to give up in order to have security, both financial and political? What is being forced on us in the name of security and for our own good by those who feel superior to the masses? I'll admit that I'm a little concerned. Back to reading.