Government and the Captains of Industry

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I am reading a book by Eric Vuillard. It is called, The Order Of The Day. It is a short book with a very simple story: on February 20, 1933, “the titans of Germany industry gather to lend their support to Adolph Hitler. Their support makes it possible for the Nazis to assume power.”

This is a real story and the titans of industry of Germany are not at all unfamiliar. Twenty four titans met with Adolph Hitler and these twenty four (24) gave their blessing to Hitler and the Nazis and everything that came afterwards. While Vuillard mentions the names of these titans, he writes later that what is important is not their names but the names of their companies.

“They are called BASF, Bayer, Agfa, Opel, IG Farben, Siemens, Allianz, Telefunken,” he writes.

Vuillard’s point is these are real companies we all know and their CEO’s betrayed all of us. Bayer is a company we all know as is Opel, a German car manufacturer still in operation. Siemens is also a well known, a billion dollar manufacturing company that is the largest in Europe. Some of us likely use their products. Some of us, such as myself, take Bayer aspirin.

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Perhaps, the reader now thinks that this reference relates to the current occupant of the office of President. Perhaps, but mostly, I thought about the office of President overall, especially so since the Reagan era. Here is what Vuillard writes is the deal made that day that led to Nazi dominance:

“The basic idea was this: they had to put an end to a weak regime, ward off the Communist menace, eliminate trade unions, and allow every entrepreneur to be the fuhrer of his own shop.”

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The U.S. we know has always had a close relationship with corporate power. But today, in the throes of the lingering neoliberal era, it is particularly obvious. The Communist menace is gone but so is the power of trade unions. Did Reagan ward off a weak regime? Who knows, but the President of the United States cannot be perceived as weak, ever. If so, someone is going to get bombed or invaded. And finally, in the neoliberal era, the free market rules at the expense of nearly everything. This is what the book most of all makes me think about.

In the end, the unholy deal with Hitler Vuillard describes resulted in the death of over six million Jews and millions of others not to mention, Europe, the continent, was bombed to sawdust in many places. All because the moneychangers wanted to get rich. They did the bidding of an evil person. It was an unholy deal.

America’s deal with neoliberalism feels similar. Workers are devalued. Communism is defeated. Everything is for sale, and I mean everything. Violence is exported like rice or sugar. Maybe a deal wasn’t struck with a evil leader but a deal was struck with an ideal that is anti-human and immoral. This is message from Vuillard’s very poignant book.

Numbers runner. Cigar smoker.

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