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I just finished reading Adam Tooze’s great (and perhaps classic by now) book The Wages of Destruction.

First of all it struck me as an absolut master piece of social science. It provides commentary on previous work in the economics of Nazi Germany, it goes to the primary sources to provide a different intepretation of the strategic thinking of the regime and it is clearly written so that a non expert can follow the arguments.

The book is ofcourse about the German economic policy from roughly 1933 to the end of WWII. I would now say that I am very well read on either WWII or Nazi Germany so I cannot really say how groundbreaking Tooze’s thesis was when the book was published in 2006, but to me most of the arguments made was quite new and I recognized many of the erroneous conclusions taken down by Tooze from other sources of popular scholarship on the subject.

I think my primary new insights are:

  • The Nazi economy policy was not that populist after all. If we by economic populism means old fasion redistribution. It is easy to attribute part of Nazi popularity to a classic Panem et circenses narative. But Tooze argues that in reality there were more circus than bread.
  • German success on the western front in 1940 was the consequence of a very high stakes gamble by the Nazi leadership. But it ultimately lead to an overestimation of the Wehrmacht.
  • The German was economy was much more fragile than I had realized.
  • The genocidal policy of the Nazi regime were both ideological, but also a pragmatic solution to Germany’s food and labor shortage.

The list is non exhaustive. But I highly recommend the book! I discovered it after listening to Tyler Cowen interviewing Tooze on CWT.