The Good Society, by Matt Koehl
The following is a transcript of a presentation by Matt Koehl to students of a senior Political Science class at a high school in Worthington, Ohio, on January 11, 2005…
I want to thank you for giving me this opportunity to discuss with you a few ideas, which I hope will prove both stimulating and challenging.
This morning I would like to talk about the good society. More specifically, I would like to discuss the economic and social aspects of a good society.
What should these be? What are the signs of such a society? Let’s take a look…
Among other things in such a society, we would want a stable and prosperous economy, one with full employment and living wages. We would want affordable housing, whether in the purchasing or renting of a home. We would want a system of health care accessible to everyone, regardless of economic circumstance. We would want generous provision for disability, maturnity leave and retirement. We would want free access to college education and vocational training for any qualified applicant. We would want a healthy farming community, one which favors small family farms over large agribusiness conglomerates.
We would want the kind of public safety where one didn’t have to live in gated communities to feel secure, and where one could walk down the street of any city at any time, day or night-without fear of being mugged, assaulted, or worse. We would want rigorous protection of the environment under a regime that is more concerned about the condition of our forests, our earth, our air and our waters than about corporate profit and pollution.
These are some the things we would want – for every citizen of our good society.
Today, we have NONE of these things. Why? Do these expectations of a good society sound unreasonable, or utopian?
I say to you that they are not – as is proven by the fact that there once was a society which had all of these things and more.
This society first came to my attention when I had the opportunity to meet and talk to people who had the privilege of living in such a society. In talking about their experience, they invariably described it as the happiest and most memorable time of their lives, and they looked back upon it with deepest fondness.
The society I am talking about was none other than – Pre WWII National Socialist Germany under Adolf Hitler.
I would like to take a few moments to describe and summarize some of the social and economic achievements of this remarkable society. In so doing, I think it will help to explain why the people I have just mentioned felt the way they did.
But first, we have to go back and consider the condition of Germany following the First World War.
There was mass starvation in the land. There was a vindictive peace treaty-the Treaty of Versailles-which imposed humongous reparations on the German people and caused great suffering. There was runaway inflation, and money became worthless. People were actually living in hovels and going hungry.
After that came the Great Depression, in which 7 million Germans were thrown out of work and the economy collapsed.
UNEMPLOYMENT & THE ECONOMY
Then Hitler came to power in 1933. Immediately he set about turning things around. His first challenge was that of unemployment, as well as that of restoring Germany’s ruined agriculture.
The problem was aggravated by the fact that the German economy was bankrupt. It didn’t have gold reserves. It had no foreign credit. At the same time, it was suffering under the burden of crushing reparations payments. It seemed like situation impossible.
But that didn’t stop Hitler….
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