Schumpeter on War

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Robert Loring Allen, Opening Doors: The Life and Work of Joseph Schumpeter (New Brunswick: Transaction, 1991, vol. 2, pp. 90-91), on Schumpeter’s private views on World War II:

“Before the war’s outbreak on 1 September 1939, [Schumpeter] made clear to his friends and colleagues his belief that war should be avoided at all costs. Even if concessions to Hitler were necessary, they would be preferable to an all-out war that could destroy the European economy and, even more important, its culture. Not only did Schumpeter fear the physical destruction of cities and the loss of many lives, he also dreaded the idea that European civilization itself might receive a blow from which it could not recover. Imagining yet another threat, he felt that capitalism could not survive a war. His alarm was not based on a fear of socialism, because he believed it would result from the natural evolution of capitalist society anyway, but he did fear fascism, state-controlled capitalism, and circumscribed personal liberties. He reasoned that a war would so change Europe that fettered and state-dominated capitalism in the hands of totalitarian regimes would become permanent features of European states. And, as he would say later, even the United States might share the same fate. ”

Allen also reports that both Schumpeter and his third wife, Elizabeth Boody Schumpeter, an economist with an academic interest in Japan, were repeatedly investigated by the FBI during the war. The Washington FBI (and J. Edgar Hoover personally) pressured its Boston office to come up with evidence that the Schumpeters were foreign agents.

10:18 pm on January 7, 2004