Thursday, October 16, 2008

Who voted for Hitler?

It is highly paradoxical that a democratic voting process led to such an undemocratic governing party, which is why this subject has long been of such interest to scholars. King et al. just published a new paper finding that voter actions in the Weimar elections can be largely explained through economic self interest:
Those who were unemployed or at high risk of becoming unemployed gave disproportionate support to the Communists or, to a lesser extent, the Social Democrats (in Protestant precints), for good reason, whereas those who were hurt by the economy but were at little risk of unemployment--such as self-employed shopkeepers and professionals, domestic employees, and helping family members--constituted the groups that gave the most disproportionate support to the Nazis.
It's amazing that people are able to rationalize (and support) obviously racist and antisemitic social policies if they believe that it best serves their economic interests. Of course, economically things ended up badly with the Nazis in power after WWII left Germany in ruins, so it's not as if the decision was rational in that regard either.