February 15, 2017
The parallel between the Nazi “revolution” in the 1930s and the neoliberal “revolution” in the 1980s and ’90s goes much further. The Nazis were also pioneers in what was then the uncharted economic waters of “privatization.” In the face of the Great Depression, states across the world — including the Social Democratic led Weimar Republic — nationalized key industries and, in some cases, like Germany, nearly the entirety of the financial sector. The Nazis — despite early propaganda indicating otherwise — were the unique exception. Not only did they avoid further nationalization but they innovated a process so idiosyncratic at the time that it required coining a German neologism: Reprivatisierung.
Quickly transferred into English as “reprivatization,” the phenomenon and its potentially salutary effects were observed by such notable organs of liberal economic thought as The Economist and mainstream outlets like Time magazine. Before Margaret Thatcher began the privatization of council housing and long before welfare reform was a twinkle in Bill Clinton’s eye, the Nazis were turning heavy industries, nearly the entirety of the financial and banking sector, and even some social services over to private hands and to new, innovative public/private hybrids. Even before this process was “enhanced” by “Aryanizing” previously Jewish held property, rates of privatization were as high the European average would become some 70 years later when neoliberal reforms began on the continent.