Otto von Bismarck

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    Hi Dr Jewell,
    In our history class at school we were talking about Otto von Bismarck. My teacher claims that Bismarck was a militarist conservative who apparently hated the socialists. I asked her why Bismarck implemented socialist policies like the State pension system and Universal Health Care. She replied that he did this to please the socialists and stay in power.
    I’ve thought Bismarck was a typical socialist, militarist who tried to expand government power through these policies. What are your thoughts on this? Who did actually support Bismarck if it weren’t the socialists and the classical liberals? Thanks!

    Jason Jewell

    Bismarck had the support of the traditional landowning class in Prussia (the “Junkers”). He favored the continued dominance of this class, and his implementation of portions of the welfare state were a strategy to co-opt the growing socialist movement. By promising social “insurance” he reduced the risk of social unrest from the working class. So he was neither a socialist nor a classical liberal, although he obviously displayed more traits of the former because of his statism.

    It sounds like your teacher gave what was in most respects a correct answer.

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