The Path to War

While the purpose of this chapter has been to examine the debt and economic circumstances in the United States during the 1930s, the linkages between economic conditions and political conditions, both within the United States and between the United States and other countries—most importantly Germany and Japan—cannot be ignored because economics and geopolitics were very intertwined at the time. Most importantly, Germany and Japan had internal conflicts between the haves (the Right) and the have-nots (the Left), which led to more populist, autocratic, nationalistic, and militaristic leaders who were given special autocratic powers by their democracies to bring order to their badly-managed economies. They also faced external economic and military conflicts arising as these countries became rival economic and military powers to existing world powers.

The case is also a good example of Thucydides’s Trap—where rivalries between countries lead to wars in order to establish which country is more powerful, which are then followed by periods of peace in which the dominant power/powers get to set the rules because no country can fight them until a rival power emerges, at which time they do it all over again.

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