Heinrich Brüning was Chancellor of Germany from 1930 to 1932. His austerity policies (lowering spening as well as increasing taxes) are commonly blamed for worsening the Great Depression in Germany and thereby inadvertently strengthening the Nazis. Even today “Hunger Chancellor” Brüning is sometimes trotted out in Germany as a precautionary tale against austerity and in favour of Keynesian-style stimulus.
Do you know of any (economic) historians who challenge this standard account?
“The Hindenburg Program aimed at all-around planning of all production. The idea was to entrust the direction of all business activities to the authorities. If the Hindenburg Program had been executed, it would have transformed Germany into a purely totalitarian commonwealth. It would have realized the ideal of Othmar Spann, the champion of “German” socialism, to make Germany a country in which private property exists only in a formal and legal sense, while in fact there is public ownership only.
However, the Hindenburg Program had not yet been completely put into effect when the Reich collapsed. The disintegration of the imperial bureaucracy brushed away the whole apparatus of price control and of war socialism. But the nationalist authors continued to extol the merits of the Zwangswirtschaft, the compulsory economy. It was, they said, the most perfect method for the realization of socialism in a predominantly industrial country like Germany. They triumphed when Chancellor Brüning in 1931 went back to the essential provisions of the Hindenburg Program and when later the Nazis enforced these decrees with the utmost brutality.”
However, with specific attention to “austerity,” my understanding is that the mainstream historians more or less agree that there was no other option for Germany without a repeat of the hyperinflation of 1923.