Ivan Hoffman, B.A., J.D.


          In 1932, the world faced an existential crisis.  The pandemic of the Great Depression had only recently started and no one could know its dimensions or if there was a way out or what that way could look like.  We did not know if there would ever be a time of normality again. 

          In the United States, we had an election.  The Republican candidate for president was Herbert Hoover, the incumbent, whose approach was to do nothing and that the economic pandemic would just go away.   He said he was not to blame.  He even called in federal troops to clear a public space in Washington D.C. of unemployed men wanting the government to fulfill its promise early to pay a bonus to those who fought in World War I.  Americans, feeling the need for someone who cared and who would have a more active approach, overwhelmingly elected the Democrat Franklin Roosevelt in the hopes that he could lead us out of the crisis.  The solutions he proposed were not simple and certainly not easy but we ended up with Social Security, the Hoover and Grand Coulee dams, the Tennessee Valley Authority which brought electricity to hundreds of thousands of Americans, the FDIC to protect savings, and some of the most beautiful art deco federal buildings you can imagine, to name but a few examples, all of which are still with us today.  FDR brought compassion to the role of the President, offering fireside chats over the radio, helping Americans spiritually and emotionally as well as politically and economically through those very difficult times.

          In Germany, they also had an election.  One of the candidates was Adolph Hitler and his Nazi party.  Although Hitler and his party did not win the election outright, they did manage to get enough votes so that Hitler was able to form a coalition which resulted in him being asked to form a government.  He then began to consolidate his power, eventually becoming the government in the form of the Führer (read “The Enabling Act” ).   Germany too, was suffering from the same economic pandemic as the rest of the world but Germans chose a leader who offered seemingly simple and easy solutions to the complex problems Germany was suffering.  Hitler told the German people that the problems they were having were because of the Jews and communists and but for the Jews and communists, the German people’s problems would practically be over.  Hitler believed that the German people should be pure and white.  Germany had no free press, which Hitler branded “the lying press.”  Hitler’s speeches to the German people were harangues and militaristic, filled with fear tactics and thus the need for law and order and how everyone else was to blame.  He created a culture of fear that intimidated anyone who disagreed, enforced not only by German troops but by paramilitary followers wearing brown shirts.  And the German people went along.  And the German legislature went along.  And the German courts went along.   And the German people were willing to sacrifice their freedoms and their security and allow right wing Gestapo troops to stir up mobs and riots.   When you are hurting, when you are uncertain, when you fear the future, your ability to resist is worn down and you will follow a leader down any path that the leader says will solve your problems.  And we all know where that path led.  Although much of the Nazi infrastructure has crumbled, its ideas still lurk in the air like noxious fumes from tear gas.

           And here we are again.  


Copyright © 2020 Ivan Hoffman.  All Rights Reserved. 


Ivan Hoffman has been practicing intellectual property law for over 47 years and has written extensively about the topic. (www.ivanhoffman.com).  


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