New Thinking in Political Economy series
Chapter 9: The Limits of Economic Policy: The Austrian Economists and the German ORDO Liberals
THE POLITICAL AND ECONOMIC CRISIS OF THE 20th CENTURY The century that has recently come to an end was one of the darkest and cruellest in human history. Twenty million people were killed in World War I; 50 million more lost their lives in World War II. The communist experiment in the Soviet Union cost the lives of 64 million. The Nazi experience in Europe took, separate from war combatants, another 25 million lives. The years of Mao Tse-tung’s reign in communist China may have taken up to 80 million lives. Overall, and separate from wars, it has been estimated that governments in the 20th century may have killed more than 270 million people.1 Many of the most cherished and hard-won freedoms and constitutional protections of human liberty acquired during the 18th and 19th centuries have been either weakened or, in some countries during various periods of time, denied and abolished in our time. The economic liberties of open competition and free trade, that were the hallmark of many if not most of the Western economies at the beginning of the 20th century, have been replaced by government regulation and redistributive welfarism, and state-managed trade between nations and regions of the world.2 At the height of this political-economic darkness, in the 1930s and 1940s, there were many who wondered if human freedom, democratic government and a free economy were going to perish under the onslaught of totalitarian collectivism.3 Even with the end of the Nazi era in 1945, and separate...
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