He played some of the most highly educated people of his time for fools-- not only foreign political leaders but also members of the intelligentsia. The editor of The Times of London filtered out reports that his own foreign correspondents in Germany sent him about the evils and dangers of the Nazis. In the United States, W.E.B. Du Bois-- with a Ph.D. from Harvard-- said that dictatorship in Germany was "absolutely necessary to get the state in order."
In an age when facts seem to carry less weight than the visions of brilliant and charismatic leaders, it is more important than ever to look at the actual track records of those brilliant and charismatic leaders. After all, Hitler led Germany into military catastrophe and left much of the country in ruins.
Even in a country which suffered none of the wartime destruction that others suffered in the 20th century, Argentina began that century as one of the 10 richest nations in the world-- ahead of France and Germany-- and ended it as such an economic disaster that no one would even compare it to France or Germany.
Politically brilliant and charismatic leaders, promoting reckless government spending-- of whom Juan Peron was the most prominent, but by no means alone-- managed to create an economic disaster in a country with an abundance of natural resources and a country that was spared the stresses that wars inflicted on other nations in the 20th century.
Someone recently pointed out how much Barack Obama's style and strategies resemble those of Latin American charismatic despots-- the takeover of industries by demagogues who never ran a business, the rousing rhetoric of resentment addressed to the masses and the personal cult of the leader promoted by the media. But do we want to become the world's largest banana republic?
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