Sunday, May 4, 2014

The Crafty Foreign Policy of Otto Von Bismark

And even more from David Henderson's speech at The Naval War College (Note this is somewhat of a Hoppeian type analysis. SEE Democracy--The God That Failed: The Economics and Politics of Monarchy, Democracy, and Natural Order):
Now I want to talk about another issue that economists talk about all the time but I’m applying to foreign policy and they rarely get into that area. And I call it, and economists call, it the incentive problem. Neither the president nor the Congress necessarily has the incentive to make good decisions. Politicians tend to be very short-run oriented. They’re looking at the next election. And they’re looking at how they will play history to the extent they think long-run, and they, if they get us into a war, bear only their pro-rata share of the taxes to pay that war. And so you get very rarely these politicians who think long-run. One of them, by the way – in some my research, I became a fan of this man, and I never would have expected it – was German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck. He was, by the way, the person who started the German welfare state. But on foreign policy, he was pretty crafty. People were always trying to get him to get colonies and he said – he once compared German colonies to sable coats on the backs of Polish noblemen who had no shirts underneath. In other words, they weren’t worth much. When someone pushed him to acquire colonies for Germany, he retorted, “Your map of Africa is very fine, but my map of Africa is here in Europe. Here is Russia. And here is France. And we’re in the middle. And that is my map of Africa.”

He even put a low priority on the Balkans right next door saying in a speech to the Reichstag, Germany’s parliament, “The whole of the Balkans is not worth the healthy bones of a Pomeranian Musketeer.” Bismarck kept his eye on the prize and the prize was avoiding war, but he was very rare. And, of course, he was succeeded by Kaiser Wilhelm II, who was one of the dumbest politicians in our 20th century.

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