We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

I think you must have some other Britain in mind

Now I am always quick to say nasty things about the British state and the state’s educational system in particular, but this article is really strange (as in ‘has little relation to reality’ type strange).

So waiting for the Dolphin swim at Discovery Cove in Orlando, my daughter Nikki and I were seated with a Brit family – mom, daughter and son. After small talk about the great value of the pound vs the dollar etc, I mentioned that Churchill was one of my heroes. The son, no more than 16 countered that he really liked Hitler, and his sister Gandhi. I was stunned and sickened. [...] In speaking privately with his mother after my discussion, she stated that this is the new curriculum in the British schools to combat “prejudice” against Germans. They teach the children not to “judge” Hitler.

Sorry but much as I might slag off the state and all it’s works, this is preposterous. In fact of all the screwed up things I have heard about the goings on in British schools, I have never heard of anything even close to this. I suppose it shows the dangers of deriving your views of the situation in some other country on a casual conversation with a single group of strangers.

41 comments to I think you must have some other Britain in mind

  • MDC

    In my recent experience of the British national curriculum I didn’t encounter anything quite that crazy, but I was of course taught that Hitler’s socialist economic policies “saved the German economy”.

  • Well, up to a point, he did indeed respond correctly: when in a recession, the state spends to kickstart the economy.

    Something, unfortunately, that we will be unable to do when the next recesison hits because Prudent Gordon has already cleaned out the coffers.

    DK

  • Adrian Ramsey

    The article has the whiff of apocrypha about it (staff reporter citing uncredited e-mail) but it is, alas, believable. I remonstrated with my son’s school a while back for awarding top prize to a pupil whose report on the space race had the US launching the first artificial satellite and the Soviet Union being forced to reply in kind, only to be told that she’d won because her report was “exciting”.

  • James

    It’s riddled with factual errors.

    For a start, ‘British schools’ assumes that there is only one curriculum, when there is not. The English curriculum varies not wildly, but enough to denote a difference to the Scottish one.

    Perhaps the parent’s exageration stems from the lack of contextual teaching in history. What is described isn’t far off what I was taught in GCSE Modern World History not more than seven years ago. Combined with the simplistic nature of taught facts, the lack of context and lack of multi-dimensional thinking on behalf of most pupils leads many of them to reach naive conclusions.

    I remember a number of people in my age group coming to the conclusion that, because he built roads, ‘revitalised’ the economy, ‘stood up to’ European bullies and helped drive up employment, he was somehow a ‘great leader’- just with a ‘flawed logic’.

    A similar ‘fluffy’ picture is painted with the birth of the Soviet Union, also taught in GCSE Modern World History- the glory of the Five Year Plan and the Stakhanovite ethos. The brutal totality of the Soviet era is left entirely untouched.

    You’ll all be pleased to know that FDR was part of the syllabus, too…

  • Nick M

    Well it may’ve saved the German economy but I will pay top-dollar to any bugger who feels able to articulate that sentiment in Wenceslas Square, Warsaw. I now have Polish family and they have “opinions” on such matters.

    Do they hate the Germans more than the Russians? Well, I dunno but don’t ask the Poles that one. Or if you do, please perfect the duck and cover method first.

    Why don’t us Brits hate the krauts anymore? Well, we beat the buggers senseless twice in the last hundred years. And then there was Operation Gomorrah. That was payback and it was payback in spades. Coventry, Southampton, London and Liverpool were bad but Hamburg was something else. Google “Firestorm” and be very glad you never saw one.

    We fucked them over so badly they’ve become pacifists.

    Because no one experiences the Feuersturm twice. I thought that was what Rumsfeld et al were promising when they spoke of “Shock and Awe”. I was sadly mistaken. The USAF is reducing the B-52 force to 56 (when I was a kid and Reagan was on the throne they had over 400). I’ve seen a couple and even stationary they scare the bejesus out of me (eight engines – fuck me!). They used to call it Rolling Thunder – a vic of three B-52s just coventrating an area. The noise is apparently appalling.

    And enough to make whole battalions surrender.

  • Oldflyer

    Actually, any person who bothered to look beyond about a 10 or 12 year slice of history would note that Hitler absolutely wrecked the German economy. Of course he had the collaboration of B-17s, B-24s and Lancasters in the earlier stages; and more up close and personal attention from the Russian, British and American armies in the later stages. But, da Fuerher’s policies deserve all of the credit.

    One could say as well that FDR’s policies saved the American economy. When you are building thousands of war planes, dozens of ships and untold tons of munitions every month you are likely to have full employment Especially if you remove about 16 million working age men from the civilian work force.

    Little that is taught in school these days would surprise me. I suppose it is something of a blessing that little is taught. Beyond how to put condoms on bannanas that is.

  • What strikes me as most interesting about the reported encounter is that the boy is not afraid to formulate and publicly state his views… even if they are rather dumb.

    Not many societies can tolerate such free thinking.

  • nick g.

    I think it’s nice that his sister likes Gandhi. I no longer swear at the mention of Washington, that rebel. But I’m surprised that the BBC hasn’t done a feature film about the benefits of fascist rule, just to ‘even up’ history.
    A worrying tone is that the Russians are ready to sanitize their own history now- Stalin helped modernise the country, and gulags were mistakes made by others! Can you say ‘Warsaw Pact part 2′?

  • chuck

    James,

    Seems to me you have just made a good argument that the letter could be accurate.

  • lucklucky

    Hitler’s Germany was almost bankrupt at war start, even with the Anchluss Gold. Only the plundering since then masked it.

    Much data here:

    The Wages of Destruction: The Making and Breaking of the Nazi Economy by Adam Tooze

    http://www.amazon.com/Wages-Destruction-Making-Breaking-Economy/dp/0670038261

    A review:

    http://www.ft.com/cms/s/b5ef2df2-22b3-11db-91c7-0000779e2340.html

  • guy herbert

    I read this as the kid winding up the American going on about Churchill, compounded by the cultural differences. I can see how such a mocking response might be taken totally straight and the writer have worked himself up into such an earnest state of disturbance by the time the discussion took place with the mother, that he could be satisfied only with the absurd rationalisation.

    I recall an embarrassing incident once when, without any intent to mislead, or do anything much, I made a standard British joke and was treated to a long and serious lecture from someone, not exactly deeply hurt, but who was confused and annoyed by what I said.

    I was in the US listening to the radio along with an American acquaintance during breakfast. There was an item about a local politician who had said something that struck me as silly, rather than a news item (though I can’t remember what). “He’ll never get to be governer if he carries on like that,” I remarked in a light tone, intending to imply, “What a load of empty media nonsense!” I got a diatribe on the man’s importance and his great personal qualities, and any effort to explain I was joking just served to convince my friend that I had attacked the wonderful candidate.

  • michael farris

    “I will pay top-dollar to any bugger who feels able to articulate that sentiment in Wenceslas Square, Warsaw. I now have Polish family and they have “opinions” on such matters.”

    Or maybe at foot of the Eiffel Tower in Brussels?

  • ‘Itler woz righ’!
    Duur.

  • andrewf

    The kid’s taking the piss. Definitely. And he’s a good wind-up merchant too

  • scott

    Britain removed Churchill and most of WW2 from the curriculum altogether now.

    Anyone who thinks there are ‘many’ curriculum’s doesn’t understand Liberalism very well. The school board heads all go to fancy meetings and agree on stuff that they already agree on. Not only is it decided what ‘feels right’ and ‘won’t go over well’, their are certain things which are simply agreed upon but not spoken of. Like putting Ayn Rand on the required reading list, or teaching the value of individual rights and freedoms. It’s a bunch of socialists all in league.

    Fucked if I can feel sorry for them any more, but I really do pity the hold-out teachers who still have positions like in faculties of economics, who simply can’t bring themselves to repeat the leftist nonsense. They’re in a room filling up with water and they know it. Poor bastards.

  • MDC

    “Well, up to a point, he did indeed respond correctly: when in a recession, the state spends to kickstart the economy.”

    It did what all planned economies do – worked reasonably well at producing goods that the government specifically focused on (ie. arms) at the expense of causing chaos in the rest of the economy, which was quickly masked by the war (all chaos, shortages Etc. blamed on the war, allied attacks, Etc.)

  • J

    I say the kid:
    a) is smart
    b) was trolling you
    c) has won

    I remember my brother used to do the same:

    “What do you want to be when you grown up then?”
    “I’m going to be unemployed and sponge off the state.”
    “Um….”

  • Taught not to judge Hitler? No way. (Stalin, maybe.) The educrats, like all human beings, have the urge to make moral judgements. In most areas this urge is suppressed for ideological reasons. Naziism is one of the few things left that it is considered allowable to condemn and as a result teachers and textbook writers put all their passion into doing so.

    However he modern British educational system does turn out, by the thousand, ill-mannered brats who delight in mocking anyone who does not come up to their standards of cool by reason of age, foreigness, or failure to obey fashion.

  • Well, up to a point, he did indeed respond correctly: when in a recession, the state spends to kickstart the economy

    .

    Oh gawd. Someone clearly needs to read Bastiat.

  • “Well, up to a point, he did indeed respond correctly: when in a recession, the state spends to kickstart the economy.”

    Let’s grant that government spending can produce a short term boom, was this then the main reason for Germany’s recovery? Didn’t the great depression –generally, not only in Germany- bottom out in 1932? Considering that Hitler ascended to power in early 1933, is it not likely that he was in office during a recovery that would have happened anyway?

  • Midwesterner

    Hey, a credit card can “kickstart” my household economy. But I think there may be a downside.

  • jacob

    is it not likely that he was in office during a recovery that would have happened anyway?

    Isn’t that standard practice of western politicians ? They take credit for whatever good happens, and balme all failures on their precedesors.

  • Jacob

    ….predecessors…

  • Hardatwork

    Priceless. Given the level of respect for the likes of Fidel Castro, should we be so surprised? They’re already demonising the allies for bombing Dresden.

  • Jack Coupal

    Oldflyer,

    To paraphrase an old Ford Motor Company commercial, instructing public screwel chilluns on how to put a condom on a banana……”is JobOne“.

  • I say the kid:
    a) is smart
    b) was trolling you
    c) has won

    That he was a troll was rather the whole point of my article but he was not trolling us. It is Americanthinker who is being a tad credulous. Didn’t you follow the link?

  • State spending?Stand in a bucket of water, reach down, and lift it up.
    That’s state spending.
    When I was a kid I used to bring out the old ‘itler woz righ’ argument with full and deliberate irony, to sink any pretence that being invited to debate in a prison was somehow exercising freedom.

  • eoin

    “Hey, a credit card can “kickstart” my household economy. But I think there may be a downside.”

    A household is not an economy. In a recession, or depression, where credit is tight the government can kickstart the economy by borrowing against the future. Indeed in a depression, if it doesnt the economy will continue to collapse, and there is no future. If it does the economy will grow, and future generations will find it easy to pay of the debt, given the growth in the economy, and inflation. Growth that would not have happened without government intervention. Sometimes the market fails.

    All modern economies issue debt for this reason and others, in fact it would be impossible to regulate the credit supply without government debt. And indeed like all philosophies, this can be taken too far, for instance by pro-cyclical spending, but it stands, nevertheless.

    But the most important point, lost no doubt on the kind of mediocre “intelligence” that becomes Libertarian ( albeit of a pro-war, kill the arabs, and spend as much l government largess as possible somewhere else rather than here where it can circulate around the economy) is that a household is not equivalent to a complex economy.

    And really, I do say this, but I expect the kind of intellect which posts on samizdata to not quite get it.

    Maybe, someone should draw pictures.

    Anyone?

  • Jacob

    All modern economies issue debt for this reason and others…

    All modern economies issue debt because politicians love to spend as much as possible, and then some. Spending, the politician spreads favors, and buys supporters, and gets a thrill, generally. Spending helps him get reelected.
    This theory of “kickstarting” the economy is some handy pretext that some economist invented, it’s a rationalization for politicians to indulge in their natural vices.
    Of course, people of superior intelligence believe they have discovered the alchemical trick of creating wealth out of thin air (kickstarting), but we, of mediocre intelligence, have our doubts.

  • Oh, right, it’s so easy to pay off.
    How big is the US debt?
    And how fast is is growing?
    By ‘future’, do you mean you hate your own children or just everybody elses?
    (I don’t expect you to get that.Your intellect has been ‘adjusted’ to regard such inferences as ‘unreal’).

  • Midwesterner

    eoin, you’re not serious are you? It sounds almost like you might be.

    Do you even know why printing money ‘frees’ it up when “credit is tight”? Because it is stealing money from every person who holds currency. Because, like a hot potato, they have to get rid of it. Each dollar bill is rapidly loosing value to the government that is printing more of them. IT IS A TAX! And the newly printed money turns right around and bids up prices for people who are not able to print money.

    It “kickstarts” the economy by preventing savings and forcing spending. Just like personal debt, it creates the illusion of wealth without the substance. It is easier to repay because it is being paid back with inflated dollars that are literally worth less. It has taken money from everybody who has any and given it to the government. It drives up the ‘value’ (in currency) of everything from real estate to paychecks and increases property and income taxes. Progressive taxes like income taxes take a double hit. It triggers capital gains taxes when no increase in PPP value exists. It reduces the willingness of non-government secured lenders to gamble on how much the government is going to decide to inflate the currency and requires them to pad their interest rates to allow for inflation.

    Let me guess, Eoin. You have a lot of personal debt. Inflation is your only hope to save your future.

  • eoin ,

    In a recession, or depression, where credit is tight the government can kickstart the economy by borrowing against the future.

    The traditional Keynesian argument for deficit spending is based on a liquidity trap scenario. In this case credit is anything but tight; rather, the problem is seen in an infinitely large elasticity of speculative money demand. If credit was tight, and the government borrowed “against the future” (i.e. against higher tax receipts from future growth), credit would become tighter still: governments usually borrow by issuing bonds. A ceteris paribus increase in the supply of bonds should be expected to lead to lower bond prices and these, as any sophisticated authoritarian will know, have a habit of coinciding with rising interest rates. This is known as “crowding out”, i.e. part of the effect of deficit spending would be to drive up the rate of interest, the residual impact would then feed through to aggregate demand. How much of the latter is accompanied by a supply response would depend on the elasticity of aggregate supply at this particular point in the business cycle. Keynesian models of the economy tend to assume that this is close to infinity, other approaches generally do not.

    Indeed in a depression, if it doesnt the economy will continue to collapse, and there is no future. If it does the economy will grow, and future generations will find it easy to pay of the debt, given the growth in the economy, and inflation. Growth that would not have happened without government intervention. Sometimes the market fails.

    This would be an extreme case. The normal scenario is that an accurately timed countercyclical intervention can lower the amplitude of the business cycle. ‘Accurately timed’ is the operative expression here. It is a mainstream view in economics that governments are not very adept at targeting discretionary spending to fine-tune the business cycle and should therefore confine themselves to establishing automatic stabilizers.
    The great depression was possibly one of the few cases were such intervention may have had potential benefits, though how effectively those were actually obtained is a different question. In the particular case of Germany, government policy was decidedly pro-cyclical: Hitler increased government spending while the upswing was under way already.
    The extreme case, by the way, also illustrates how similar the decisions made by those in charge of households and complex economies are in the idealized case of purely anti-cyclical borrowing: both would be willing to borrow –and bear the cost of doing so– if the only alternative is systemic collapse.

    All modern economies issue debt for this reason and others…

    Could it be that “and others” is the main contender in quite a few modern economies?

    …in fact it would be impossible to regulate the credit supply without government debt.

    Impossible? I doubt this. What about minimum reserve requirements and direct central bank lending to commercial banks? Government debt is used to regulate the credit supply through open market operations. In many open economies, it is far from clear that the central bank still is a big enough player in the overall global capital market to control interest rates via the open market.

    Maybe, someone should draw pictures. Anyone?

    Anyone? I can be more specific: Marshall pioneered the use of graphs (or pictures if you prefer) in economics, many have followed. See here(Link) and here(Link)

  • Kenneth

    Check out the National Curriculum online for England – and the History curriculum objectives, especially the higher levels and exceptional performance. Looks like Globalism Prep to me (same as here.)

  • marc in calgary

    Retards, leftards, what’s the difference then?

  • Sunfish

    When I was a kid I used to bring out the old ‘itler woz righ’ argument with full and deliberate irony, to sink any pretence that being invited to debate in a prison was somehow exercising freedom.

    Amazing, I did the same thing. Well, except being American I remembered to pronounce my “H” sounds.

    “There’s no difference between George (H.W.) Bush and Clinton. All you f&*^ers that think that abortion makes them different and think that’s important are fooling yourselves” was great for spinning them up in college.

    So was “Israel should quit bombing innocent Palestinians.” It really messed with the kind of leftists who inhabit state-owned universities in the midwestern US: they hate Jews but don’t want to be anti-Semitic about it. Usually they were vegetarians or vegans too, which did wonders for their attitudes when I told them that, while they were yelling, I had added bacon to their rice and beans.

    (No, I didn’t. You don’t need mines for a minefield. You just need a press release.)

  • Paul Marks

    I see that economics teaching has not improved (one can not expect people to know much about economics when the university lecturers are as they are).

    Government spending does not “kick start” an economy.

    If government spending is financed by taxation it is a matter of taking money away from productive uses to less productive uses.

    If the government spending is financed by borrowing (from real savings) then money is (again) taken away from better uses.

    And if the government spending is financed by credit expansion (either via the printing press or by some complex book keeping tricks – which is more normal) then we are with the boom-bust cycle.

    “Ah, so you admit that a government spending increase CAN kick start the economy”.

    Only at the expense of making things worse in the long run.

    “In the long we are all dead”.

    Fuck off – which, I have come to conclusion, is the correct response when dealing with an “economist” who comes out with “in the long run we are all dead”.

    When a credit money expansion bursts the correct response is to CUT government spending (of course if there is no credit money bubble burst the correct economic response is to cut government spending – because that is always the correct economic policy).

    See for example what Warren Harding (the President the establishment loves to hate – although the corruption in his Administration was far less than that of the F.D.R. or Truman Administrations that they love) did to government spending in 1921. The economy was in recession because of the busting of the W.W.I credit bubble – but after the crash it started to recover with six months (because there was no orgy of statism).

    Of course it is better to prevent the credit money expansion in the first place (for example it would have been better to have prevented Ben Strong of the New York Federal Reserve increasing the money supply in the late 1920′s than to clear up the mess afterwards), but once it has happened one just has to ride out the bust and allow wages and prices to adust.

    For an example of what happens when a government tries to prevent wages and prices adusting to a bust see what happened under President Herbert “the forgotten Progressive” Hoover” – that is right the standard account of his “do nothing” Administration is wrong (if only he had done nothing).

    “But Hitler…..”

    The difference between Hitler and F.D.R. was not government spending (in both Germany and the United States government spending went up – but the United States stayed in depression with mass unemployment – yes the standard account is wrong again).

    The difference was that Hitler hit the UNIONS and F.D.R. did not.

    So as real (i.e. “black market”) prices went up in Germany wages did not – so unemployment fell.

    If Hitler had not increased government spending at all, and had still hit the unions, unemployement would have fallen just as much.

    It depresses me when I hear people (such as Mr Brown last week at “Prime Minister’s Question Time”) talking about the need to control wages in order to “control inflation”. Wages have nothing to do with inflation – five men with £200 each a week are no more “inflationary” than ten men with £100 each a week. Union power is about increasing unemployment (not inflation).

    Of course, as a libertarian, I do not favour Hitler’s method of dealing with the unions (he had the S.A. occupy their offices – and any one who objected too much got arrested), I favour getting rid of pro union regulations (no compulsory “collective bargaining”, no obstruction of factory gates “picketing”, employers allowed to fire people for belonging to a union if they feel like it – and so on), but the result is much the same.

    As for “wages and conditions would not have improved over time without unions” – unions were of no importance for most of American history and wages and conditions of work improved vastly. All unions try and do is to improve wages and conditions more than the market would have (and that always ends in tears – eventually even for their own members).

    By the way J.M. Keynes favoured Hilter’s method – as made clear from the introduction to the German edition of the “General Theory….” where Keynes talks about how a strong government (like that of Germany) can control wages (Keynes knew what methods Hitler had used on the unions).

    Perhaps Keynes understood (some of the time) that things like the “money illusion” (increasing prices to try and con people into accepting real wage cuts in a recession) do not work very well – people are not that stupid.

    As for the official line (about “multiplyer” effects and other such) that is all bullshit (again, like “fuck off”, not a term I would have used when I was younger – but I am very tired of seeing this nonsense trotted out again and again).

  • Nick M

    Paul,
    I appreciate your comments about unions. Certainly they have done me the least bit of good and all that but…

    There is another difference between Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Adolph Hitler. I am not an expert on American History but I suspect that FDR didn’t have millions gassed. I suspect that over FDR’s terms of office Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals, communists and “mental defectives” weren’t generally rounded up and Zyklon-B-ed.

    Now I appreciate that the USA of the times was hardly ideal – a racially segregated army and frankly dark-age treatment of mental illness (this was far from unique) but they didn’t gas every Jew and queer they could get their paws on.

    Hitler did.

  • RobtE

    Fuck off – which, I have come to conclusion, is the correct response when dealing with an “economist” who comes out with “in the long run we are all dead”.

    Please, please, please let this be a Samizdata Quote of the Day, double-underlined, in bold italics in a really big font size. Put it smack in the middle of the blog that the Today programme’s John Humphrys described last year as “the one blog everyone reads.”

    Paul – may I please contact you off-list? I should very much appreciate your help in building a reading list relevant to FDR’s policies and the Depression.

  • Paul Marks

    There was a bit of “mercy killing” in the United States in the 1930′s – but it really goes back to the “Progressive” movement.

    The main opposition to it (as to nasty things done to prevent the breeding of the “defective”) were conservative Christians (hard line Roman Catholics and old line Protestants).

    Germany had fewer of such folk than the United States did – most of Germany’s Christians were of the “modern” pragmatic variety (no good when something serious happens). Although the gassing of the defective even caused trouble in Germany (so much so that Hitler dropped it). I suppose the truth is that not enough people really cared about the Jews (and others).

    Also Germany lacked (by the 1930′s) a serious free market (or basically free market – at least up to the border) tradition.

    Yes they were a minority in the United States – but they were still about 40% of the population (mostly Republican but quite a few Democrats).

    In Germany if one did not vote Nazi, one tended to vote for S.P.D. (which was semi Marxist back then) or K.P.D. (Marxist and in love with Stalin).

    In short Hitler did not have to worry about tens of millions of pro liberty people – they were no such tens of millions in Germany.

    Still your point is taken. In any election between Hitler and F.D.R. I would vote for F.D.R.

    But I was writing about their economic policies (for the record the whole extermination policy was a massive negative in terms of the economy – the human hair, gold fillings, slave labour and so did not cover more than a small fraction of the cost of the project).

    RobtE asked if he could contact me.

    Any one can do that paulvmarks@hotmail.com

    But I only reply if a title of the e.mail catches my old eye (there is so a lot of junk mail on hotmail – yes I know I should go elsewhere).

  • Nick M

    Paul,
    I am not entirely sure this is true and you know the Italian fascists didn’t have anything like the anti-semitic bent the Nazis did. But… a guy I knew once told me that at one point the Germans essentially re-jigged the entire running of the railway system of Italy & Austria to take 23 Jews from an Italian island to Dachau. The subsequent disruption massively derailed the Axis war effort because there were munitions and fuel and troops and stores stuck on sidings all the way from the toe of Italy to Munich.

  • Paul Marks

    I do not know Nick.

    However, it would not astonish me if you were correct.

    I am used to people making crazy judgements – especially if they do not personally have to pay the costs.