In Jason Zengerle's artful profile of Kentucky Senate Candidate Rand Paul, the big finish is a scene where Zengerle and a few other reporters manage to catch the press-averse candidate at a public rally and start a conversation; within minutes, it seems, he was observing that "in 1923, when they destroyed the currency, they elected Hitler." At Talking Points Memo, they've gone through the archives and found half-a-dozen other examples of Paul invoking Hitler's rise to power as a possibility in America, and reason for adopting his own ideas.
Paul clearly finds the story very compelling and has made it central to his worldview. The problem, of course, is that the story isn't true. As Matt Yglesias pointed out in an entirely different context, the famed hyperinflation of German currency from 1919-1923 came to an end when Chancellor Gustav Stresemann introduced new currency and brought monetary policy under control. The resulting six-year period was called the "Golden Age" of the Weimar Republic, and the Nazis only came to power when the Great Depression wrecked the world economy. Hitler, incidentally, went to jail after the Beer Hall Putsch in 1923, so it would be more accurate, though still wrong, for someone to say that "in 1923, when they destroyed the currency, they put Hitler in jail." It could happen here!
Paul, for all his love of the myth of Hitlerflation, or perhaps because of it, didn't bother to confirm the basic details of the story. It's one more example of the enduring epistemic closure among the libertarian anti-fiat money crowd, or perhaps just the laxity of American high school history text books, which tend to race pretty quickly through the inter-war years to get to the big show that kicked off in 1939. But that's why Rand Paul is in politics, darn it, because he heard a story about Hitler and it scared him, and who needs to check the facts?
-- Tim Fernholz
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