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Mobs, Messiahs, and Markets by Lila Rajiva, Will Bonner

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The Late, Great Helmsman

The last time the world went really mad was in the 1930s. For some reason, never fully explained, people in that decade seemed to take leave of their senses. Of course, in light of what had happened in the Great War and the period just afterward, the two were barely on speaking terms already. World War I killed millions and toppled and bankrupted almost all the major governments of Europe. No one knows why, but the absurdity didn't end with the long, pointless war; it just seemed to pick up speed. And by the 1930s practically every major nation was caught up in it. The only important exceptions were France, Britain, and the United States, and in these countries, too, the institutions of relatively free societies were twisted into hideous new shapes. But the changes were far worse elsewhere. Germany was taken over by the Nazis, Italy by the Fascists, Japan by militarists, and China by Maoists, Nationalists, and the Japanese! And, of course, Russia was taken over by the Stalinists.

Monarchists, Republicans, Unionists, Troskyites, Stalinists, Fascists—when voting failed to get them what they wanted, they took to the streets, formed alliances, stormed the arsenals, stole weapons, commandeered trucks and artillery, murdered authorities and rivals … took revenge, and generally made a bloody mess of things.

When the pot gets stirred up, it is the most ruthless who rise to the surface. Why not? There is a time and a place for everything. Chastity is of no use to ...

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