Home > Uncategorized > The sentiment behind eugenics thrives in human capital theory

The sentiment behind eugenics thrives in human capital theory

from Blair Fix and current RWER issue

A key problem with eugenics is that it neglects the social nature of human traits. It assumes that productivity is an innate trait of the individual, and that breeding for this trait would lead to a better society. It is a seductive idea that is deeply flawed. In all likelihood, selectively breeding people for productivity would, like chickens, lead to a psychopathic strain of human.

The rise of human capital theory

After the horrors of the Holocaust, eugenics fell into disrepute. As a result, few people today dare argue that we should selectively breed humans for productivity. Still, the sentiment behind eugenics (that some people are far more productive than others) lingers on in mainstream academia. It survives – even thrives – in human capital theory.

The ground work for human capital theory was laid just as eugenics fell out of favor. In the 1950s, economists at the University of Chicago tackled the question of individual income.[1] Why do some people earn more than others? The explanation that these economists settled on was that income resulted from productivity. So a CEO who earns hundreds of times more than a janitor does so for a simple reason: the CEO contributes far more to society.

The claim that income stems from productivity was not new. It dated back to the 19th-century work of John Bates Clark (1899) and Philip Wicksteed (1894), founders of the neoclassical theory of marginal productivity.[2] Clark and Wicksteed, though, were concerned only with the income of social classes. What the Chicago-school economists did was expand productivist theory to individuals.

oing so required inventing a new form of capital. The idea was that individuals’ skills and abilities actually constituted a stock of capital – human capital. This stock made individuals more productive, and hence, earn more income. Figure 3 shows key papers that initiated human capital theory.

Figure 3. Key papers that initiated human capital theory

The theory of human capital began in the late 1950s and early 1960s with papers by Chicago-school economists Gary Becker, Jacob Mincer, and Theodore Schultz. Pictured here from top to bottom: Becker (1962) and the 2nd edition of Becker (1964); Mincer (1958) and Mincer (1974); Schultz (1961) and (1970).

The idea that skills constituted “human capital” was initially greeted with skepticism. For one thing, the term itself smacked of slavery. (Capital is property, so “human capital” implies human property.) For another, human capital theory overtly justified inequality. It implied that no matter how fat their incomes, the rich always earned what they produced. Any attempt (by the government) to redistribute income would therefore “distort” the natural order. During the 1950s and 1960s, there was little tolerance for such views. It was the era of welfare-state expansion, driven by Keynesian-style thinking. Yes, big government may have been “distorting” the free market – but society seemed all the better for it.

Until the 1970s, human capital theory remained obscure. But then politics began to change. In the words of Ronald Reagan, “People were tired of wasteful government programs and welfare chisellers” (1990). The welfare system was not a social safety net, Reagan declared. It was a “creator and reinforcer of dependency” (1987). Reagan’s language, you will note, is eerily similar to the eugenics sentiment of old:

“Some people are born to be a burden on the rest.”

Yes, Reagan removed the crass genetic component. But the sentiment remained the same:

“Some people are a burden on the rest.”

The stage was set for a return to eugenics-style thinking – to the idea that the poor were a burden on the rich (not the other way around). As a result, the fortunes of human capital theory rose.

[1] It is no coincidence that human capital theory arose out of the University of Chicago. The school was established in 1890 with a $600,000 donation from John D. Rockefeller. In return, the school became a bastion of neoclassical economics. Rockefeller later described his donation as “the best investment I ever made” (Collier & Horowitz, 1976; quoted in Nitzan & Bichler, 2009).

[2] We can go further and trace productivist sentiment back to the 17th-century philosopher John Locke, who argued that property comes from the exertion of productive labor (Locke, 1689).



  1. Robert Locke
    March 26, 2021 at 3:07 pm

    You are ignoring two books I published about human capital, which were well recived in business history circles, The End of the Practical Man, 1984, JAI Press, and Management and Higher Education Since 940, Cambridge Univ. Press,1989, that are solidly based on historical study and the book on Appreciating Mental Capital, 2015, published here in which I ignore these economists.

  2. Robert Locke
    March 27, 2021 at 9:55 am

    This is bad history. People have been disc8ssing mental capital for 3 centuries. see .
    Daastøl, A. M. (2014). Friedrich List’s Heart, Wit, and Will: Mental Capital as the
    Productive Forces of Progress. Dissertation Erfurt University. St

  3. Ken Zimmerman
    March 27, 2021 at 12:14 pm

    It might be useful to consider the question of Eugenics from the other side. Which group(s) makes the decision about which groups are a burden on society and which are not? And which are a benefit? Like almost all cultural categories, burden and benefit to society are disputed. The Nazis considered all Jews a burden if not a threat to society. This was based on no empirical evidence. Jews had been labeled an ‘out’ group in Germany for several hundred years. As was also the case in many other European societies. Antisemitism has a long history in Europe and elsewhere. The Nazi government accused the Jews of controlling up to 20% of the German economy. Yet research after the War puts the value of Jewish assets in 1938 at 4.5 billion Reichsmarks. Estimates by Gehrig (1961) and Hoffmann (1965) value Germany’s capital stock in 1936 at around 400 billion Reichsmarks. Private-sector real capital stock in the mid-1930s would be roughly 300 billion Reichsmarks. This places the Jewish share of Germany’s wealth in 1938 between 3% and 4.5%. This is significant, so the German Jewish population was clearly productive. But the share is nowhere near the 20% claimed by the Nazis. So German Jews were not ‘unproductive’ as described by Eugenics theory. Then why were they persecuted and eventually murdered? Clearly not because of Eugenics. At a bit more of an abstract level, which is more beneficial to society – a gaggle of CEOs or millions of workers building products (e.g., medical equipment), growing food, or providing services (e.g., health care) needed by millions of people? I reject that anyone could show with data that it was the former on any sustained basis. So, why are CEOs paid 300% to 500% more than the workers? Clearly, Eugenics cannot be the reason. The reason for events in both these situations goes back at least 12,000 years in human history. Racial, ethnic, and class jealousy, prejudice, and discrimination. In other words, the stratification arrangements set up by humans in Europe, the Americas, and elsewhere over this 12,000-year period. The Nazis wanted a scapegoat for Germany’s loss of WWI. For purposes of gaining and maintaining political and economic power, they ‘used’ German Jews to achieve this objective. Similarly, CEOs and their class and race cohorts wanted a way to justify both their wealth and control over workers. Eugenics was their justification. Of course, there were some ‘true believers’ for Eugenics in both situations. But clearly a minority. It may be correct that these centuries old racial and ethnic stratifications provide the sentiment for Eugenics. But Eugenics itself is as I see it in most instances just a cover up for one or another prejudice, jealousy, or hatred created as part of cultures over thousands of years. In many situations economic theory has now it seems replaced Eugenics in this role.

    • March 31, 2021 at 2:21 pm

      “research after the War puts the value of Jewish assets in 1938 at 4.5 billion Reichsmarks. Estimates by Gehrig (1961) and Hoffmann (1965) value Germany’s capital stock in 1936 at around 400 billion Reichsmarks. Private-sector real capital stock in the mid-1930s would be roughly 300 billion Reichsmarks. This places the Jewish share of Germany’s wealth in 1938 between 3% and 4.5%.”

      What this doesn’t show, Ken, is the position of Jewish wealth in the hierarchical structure of the German economy, with the multiplier effect of control over money being itself multiplied by financial direction of large corporations.

      “So, why are CEOs paid 300% to 500% more than the workers?”

      Would that they were. That would mean they were paid three time to five times as much as their workers, not the present obscene levels of up to 500 times as much.

      • Ken Zimmerman
        April 1, 2021 at 9:30 am

        You are certainly correct about my math error. As to the multiplier effects of Jewish controlled wealth before WWII I could find no data on that area. Will continue to search of course.

  4. Robert Locke
    March 28, 2021 at 10:28 am

    Ken, Veblen never subscribed to this stuff. Nor the German historical economists, nor Bismarck. Nor the reformers who changed Prussia after 1807. If they wanted a strong country, they needed healthy and educated citizens. My books are all about creating that.

    • Ken Zimmerman
      March 29, 2021 at 10:04 pm

      Agreed, Robert. But there are also many working to create sociopaths like themselves. And thereby a sociopathic society. Witness what the world just went through over the years 2016 thru 2020. There are many historical examples of the same. Remember, the name of the game for a species is survival. Sometimes sociopathic culture effectively meets that mark. Like it or not.

  5. Varis
    March 29, 2021 at 8:22 am

    True or false: best society is the one that breeds better humans, because on the long run it is the only thing that matters?

    • Ken Zimmerman
      March 29, 2021 at 10:06 pm

      From a strictly biological evolution perspective that is correct. From a cultural evolution perspective, however, the culture that goes with biological survival matters a lot. Since it may actually threaten the physical survival of the species.

      • Robert Locke
        March 30, 2021 at 11:30 am

        Choices have to be made. After WWII Germany legalized co=determination in their firm governance system, which subdued psychiopaths. But us managers fought it tooth and nail.ll

      • Ken Zimmerman
        March 30, 2021 at 12:43 pm

        Robert, the folks who achieved this have my admiration. From experience I know just how difficult it is to defeat sociopaths and even more so psychopaths.

      • Robert Locke
        March 30, 2021 at 2:44 pm

        After the war Germany suffer from a great guilt complex and a broad spectrum of society got behind co-determinaion, including politically spd and cdu, religiously, catholics and protestants, trade unions….

      • Ken Zimmerman
        March 31, 2021 at 12:09 am

        Great societal break downs can have this effect. People have the opportunity to clearly see the underneath of how and why things are happening. They have the opportunity to change these things. An opportunity that is seldom available.

    • Meta Capitalism
      March 30, 2021 at 5:01 pm

      True or false: best society is the one that breeds better humans, because on the long run it is the only thing that matters? ~ Varis

      Only someone utterly ignorant of biology and history would frame such a stupid question. It implies a belief in genetic determinism that the modern science biology has debunked experimentally. Genes alone do not determine who we are and less what we become as human beings on a moral, ethical, and social level. Character is more than just genes.
      Epigenetics reveals that how one is raised and nurtured can alter an individual’s development. Whether a child experiences loving parental care or abuse and trauma alters the epigenetic chromatin markings and these in turn can be passed on to the next generation. The genome is not a read only memory system but rather a read/write memory system. We can erase and rewrite certain aspects of our epigenome.
      Then add on top of this the simple fact that even if one has a genetic Übermensch if such a child were raised by a highy intelligent yet racist, bigotted, sadistic Nazi you would still end up with a racist, sadistic Nazi. Nurture (culture) trumps genes when it comes to those traits that count for our survival.
      What does it mean to “breed better humans”? The Nazis thought they were breeding better humans and look were that got us. No, such terrible simplifications are misleading. In the long run it won’t be better breeding that matters but better character and that is not determined by genes alone.

      • Ken Zimmerman
        March 31, 2021 at 12:25 am

        Meta, in terms of biological evolution Nazi society offered many biological advantages in terms of survival. Which means that in terms of survival of the species the Nazis were more likely to survive than most other parts of humanity. The Nazi culture was also strong in terms survivability. In fact, Nazi Germany is often recognized by historians as the most efficient society on earth during its time. So why did Nazi society perish? First, it did not. Elements of it still survive today. Second, it was opposed my massive counter forces. Opposition that even such an efficient society as Nazism could not beat back. Third, Nazi society was not just psychotic but malignant to an extent beyond the grasp of people in 1940 and today. Failures that no level of societal efficiency could transcend.

      • Meta Capitalism
        March 31, 2021 at 5:12 am

        [I]n terms of biological evolution Nazi society offered many biological advantages in terms of survival. ~ Pseudo-Scientific Nonsense from Ken

        Utter nonsense Ken. The German society was no more biologically fit than was those societies that ultimately defeated them. You are using the term “biological evolution” as a buzzword for cheap appeal to authority parroting Galton’s dream. There is no real biological basis to Nazi ideology and they were not the first to use mix racist ideology with biology. There is a long history of this line of thinking:

        Galton’s dream
        Galton derived the word “eugenics” from the Greek for “well born,” signaling his fascination with the sources of natural ability rather than a preoccupation with the causes of human disability. His 1869 book, Hereditary Genius, analyzed the pedigrees of eminent men, whose names Galton culled from biographical reference books and lists of high achievers, leading to the conclusion that genius (in all its forms) runs in families. Galton later pioneered the comparative study of twins raised apart. “Everywhere is the enormous power of hereditary influence forced on our attention,” he wrote, “proving the vast preponderating effects of nature over nurture.” On the basis of these findings, Galton proposed that society should encourage men and women of hereditary fitness to marry each other and to bear many children — propositions that became known as positive eugenics. “What an extraordinary effect might be produced on our race, if its object was to unite in marriage those who possessed the finest and most suitable natures, mental, moral, and physical!” he exclaimed. Toward this end, and reflecting his belief that physical beauty served as a marker for eugenic fitness, Galton collected data for what he called a “Beauty Map of the British Isles,” which graphically presented his assessment of the geographical distribution of attractive female mating stock. “I found London to rank highest for beauty; Aberdeen lowest,” the English scholar observed. (Biology and Ideology from Descartes to Dawkins (Kindle Locations 2183-2191). Kindle Edition.)
        Although Galton urged from the outset that society also discourage “weakly and incapable” persons from breeding, and later recommended their compulsory segregation into single-sex institutions, such efforts of so-called negative eugenics never became as much the focus of attention for him as they did for so many later eugenicists.” Combining his belief in hard heredity transmitting eugenic and dysgenic traits with his faith in the cumulative impact of marginally raising the reproductive rate for the fit and marginally lowering it for the unfit, Galton affirmed “that the improvement of the breed of mankind is no insuperable difficulty. Indeed, he predicted, “If a twentieth part of the cost and pains were spent in measures for the improvement of the human race that is spent on the improvement of the breed of horses and cattle, what a galaxy of genius might we not create! We might introduce prophets and high priests of civilization into the world, as surely as we can propagate idiots by mating cretins.” (Biology and Ideology from Descartes to Dawkins (Kindle Locations 2191-2197). Kindle Edition.)
        For Galton, the selective breeding of the human population represented the greatest promise of applied biology and the highest mission of a scientific society. “I take Eugenics very seriously, feeling that its principles ought to become one of the dominant motives in a civilized nation, much as if they were one of its religious tenets,” he wrote in the concluding passage of his autobiography. “Individuals appear to me as partial detachments from the infinite ocean of Being, and this world as a stage on which Evolution takes place.” In the past, Galton explained, human evolution proceeded fitfully and with great individual pain through natural selection, but with the developed mind of modern man, “I conceive it to fall well within his province to replace Natural Selection by other processes that are more merciful and not less effective. This is precisely the aim of Eugenics.” (Biology and Ideology from Descartes to Dawkins (Kindle Locations 2197-2202). Kindle Edition.)
        As Galton conceived it, eugenics would operate solely within a race, and not across racial groups. Like Charles Darwin and German evolutionist Ernst Haeckel, Galton believed in a strict hierarchy of racial types with some subset of Northern Europeans at the apex of the evolutionary pyramid. All three of them assumed that, where different races came into extended contact, superior ones would inevitably supplant inferior ones through natural selection. Galton never suggested that some sort of genocidal artificial selection of races either should be employed to hasten this process or could alter the ultimate outcome. “There exists a sentiment, for the most part quite unreasonable, against the gradual extinction of an inferior race,” Galton explained. “It rests on some confusion between the race and the individual, as if the destruction of a race was equivalent to the destruction of a large number of men. It is nothing of the kind when the process of extinction works silently and slowly through” a process of natural selection. This comment reflects the mainstream tenets of late nineteenth-century scientific race theory. Darwin made precisely the same arguments in Descent of Man.” Only in the twentieth century would some of Haeckel’s followers attempt to assist the process through genocide in the Nazi death camps. (Biology and Ideology from Descartes to Dawkins (Kindle Locations 2202-2209). Kindle Edition.) (Alexander, Denis R. and Numbers Ronald L. Biology and Ideology [From Descartes to Dawkins]. Chicago: University of Chicago Press; 2010.)

        Efficiency is not the only measure of intelligence. The brutal conduct of highly educated so-called intelligent Nazis establishes the value of environment and education as factors in character development or lack thereof. These Nazis had an ideal inheritance in their minds, and firmly believed heredity lies at the bottom of all character; but the influence of an inferior environment such as a culture steeped in racism and fascist nationalist ideology virtually neutralized this purported superior inheritance ending in its utter destruction.

      • Ken Zimmerman
        March 31, 2021 at 7:24 am

        As I wrote, ‘biological’, not genetic. Before WWII there were millions of homeless youth roaming Europe. The Nazis were the only ones to take action to fix this problem. They not only housed these youth in Germany but set up regular exercise and much improved diet and health care for these youth. They also indoctrinated them, of course. When war began Germany had a well conditioned, well feed, healthy, and indoctrinated army ready to deploy. No other nation in Europe or the US had this advantage. Germany was well on its way to having these same advantages for all of its entire population as the war began. So, if for no other reason than this, Germany had distinct advantages in terms of biological survival over those nations with which it would soon be at war. The fact that Nazism is psychotic and malignant does not change this.

      • Meta Capitalism
        March 31, 2021 at 5:39 am

        A second scientific factor limiting the appeal of eugenics was the widespread acceptance by late nineteenth-century evolutionists (though not by Galton) of Lamarckian notions of soft heredity (see Krementsov, Chapter 9, this volume). It was not that Lamarckians never embraced eugenic remedies — many of them did — it was simply that a belief in the inheritance of acquired characteristics undercut the urgency of such prescriptions. This was apparent in Dugdale’s recommendation of how to deal with the Jukes. “Environment tends to produce habits which may become hereditary, especially so in pauperism and licentiousness,” he explained in patent Lamarckian terms. “The licentious parent makes an example which greatly aids in fixing habits of debauchery in the child. The correction is change of the environment.” In particular, Dugdale argued in The Jukes, the way to break a chain of hereditary degeneracy in a family is to remove the children of social misfits from the home and raise them in a healthy environment. Eugenic restrictions on reproduction were unnecessary under this perspective because, as Dugdale asserted, “Where the environment changes in youth, the characteristics of heredity may be measurably altered.” (Biology and Ideology from Descartes to Dawkins (Kindle Locations 2225-2231). Kindle Edition.)
        By the beginning of the twentieth century, the scientific theories that held back eugenics began to crumble. Galton, Weismann, de Vries, and others pressed the case for hard heredity. Then, in 1900, the rediscovery of Mendel’s laws suggested that parental and other ancestral traits reappear in children and more remote descendants without blending. From its rediscovery, mutation theorists embraced Mendelism as showing how discontinuous variations are propagated. During the 1920s and early 1930s, geneticists R. A. Fisher and J. B. S. Haldane in Britain and Sewall Wright in the USA demonstrated mathematically how Mendelian processes could also account for the evolution of new species through normal, seemingly continuous, inborn variations. Through their work, biometricians and mutation theorists united under the banner of population genetics to rout Lamarckian notions of soft heredity from biology. For many, including Fisher, Haldane, and Wright, this made the case for eugenics. If there are superior and inferior hereditary traits, they reasoned, and if the impact of these traits on succeeding generations is unalterable by environmental influences or blending, then eugenics must be true — at least if the genes carrying those traits operate as simple Mendelian factors. Indeed, Fisher bent his mind to genetics to prove this very point and thereby encourage the propagation of a better breed of Britons. (Biology and Ideology from Descartes to Dawkins (Kindle Locations 2231-2238). Kindle Edition.)
        “More children from the fit, less from the unfit,” became the motto for a new age of eugenicists. Of course, the triumph of eugenics built on a history of greater public acceptance both of hereditarianism in general and of a competitive struggle for existence as the driving force for social and economic progress. It only took a slight twist of reasoning to transpose accepting the natural selection of the fit into encouraging the intentional elimination of the unfit. (Biology and Ideology from Descartes to Dawkins (Kindle Locations 2238-2241). Kindle Edition.) (Alexander, Denis R. and Numbers Ronald L. Biology and Ideology [From Descartes to Dawkins]. Chicago: University of Chicago Press; 2010.)

        Nature vs. Nurture, Hard Heredity vs. Soft Heredity, these debates are still with us today except today there exists entire new fields that have opened up many black boxes that those above never had access to. We know today through evo-devo (developmental biology, epigenetics, and comparative genomics) that “soft heredity” is a reality, that our genome can be altered in ways once thought impossible. We also know that the human organism’s genome is in more dimensions than just genes and that it is a plastic read-write system. Biology as ideology is alive and well today.

    • March 31, 2021 at 2:44 pm

      In answer to Ken (March 31, 2021 at 7:24 am), Varis did say “best society”, not best genetic programme. I think, anyway, that Blair Fix’s opening paragraph has already answered this.

      Blair’s final paragraph here leaves me doubtful. The returns on productivity argument is surely about human productivity, not property ownership? Was John Locke what he seemed to be, a democrat; or a slave owner who thought of slave manpower as subhuman property?

  6. Meta Capitalism
    March 31, 2021 at 1:31 pm

    As I wrote, ‘biological’, not genetic. ~ Ken’s empty rhetoric qua distinction without a difference.

    When we talk about biology we are talking about genomic in all its dimensions, including the organism in relation to its environment. The claim that the “Nazi society offered many biological advantages” is empty rhetoric without specific examples. What exactly do you mean?
    Biology (and that means all levels including genomic) alone does not determine our destiny. It is important, and we are gaining ever deeper understanding and the potential to determine our own biological destiny. But how we do that is a matter if culture.

    • Robert Locke
      April 1, 2021 at 5:18 pm

      Hitler fed the German soldiers narcotics to make them more aggressive. When the German troops marched into Paris, the French actrice Arletty said that compared to the defeated French soldiers the Germans were marvelous physical specimens, attractive for sex.

      • Meta Capitalism
        April 3, 2021 at 4:42 am

        Amd Robert? What is your point? Whatever do you mean?

      • Robert Locke
        April 3, 2021 at 10:22 am

        German soldiers in 1940 impressed people for their physical appearance and combative prowess. Learned from interviews conducted in the 1960s..tHitler fostered this by pumping them full of narcotics. you should know that

      • Robert Locke
        April 3, 2021 at 10:43 am

        Wehrmacht medical officers administered Pervitin to soldiers of the Third Tank Division during the occupation of Czecholslovakia in 1938. But the invasion of Poland in September 1939 served as the first real military test of the drug in the field. Germany overran its eastern neighbor by October, with 100,000 Polish soldiers killed in the attack. The invasion introduced a new form of industrialized warfare, Blitzkrieg. This “lightning war” emphasized speed and surprise, catching the enemy off guard by the unprecedented quickness of the mechanized attack and advance. The weak link in the Blitzkrieg strategy was the soldiers, who were humans rather than machines and as such suffered from fatigue. They required regular rest and sleep, which, of course, slowed down the military advance. That is where Pervitin came in—part of the speed of the Blitzkrieg literally came from speed. As medical historian Peter Steinkamp puts it, “Blitzkrieg was guided by methamphetamine. If not to say that Blitzkrieg was founded on methamphetamine.”

        In late 1939 and early 1940, Leo Conti, the “Reich Health Führer,” and others sounded the alarm bells about the risk of Pervitin, resulting in the drug being made available by prescription only. But these warnings largely fell on deaf ears, and the new regulations were widely ignored. Use of the drug continued to grow. At the Temmler-Werke factory, production revved into overdrive, pressing as many as 833,000 tablets per day. Between April and July 1940, German servicemen received more than 35 million methamphetamine tablets. The drug was even dispensed to pilots and tank crews in the form of chocolate bars known as Fliegerschokolade (flyer’s chocolate) and Panzerschokolade (tanker’s chocolate).

        Armies had long consumed various psychoactive substances, but this was the first large-scale use of a synthetic performance-enhancing drug. Historian Shelby Stanton comments: “They dispensed it to the line troops. Ninety percent of their army had to march on foot, day and night. It was more important for them to keep punching during the Blitzkrieg than to get a good night’s sleep. The whole damn army was hopped up. It was one of the secrets of Blitzkrieg.”

        The Blitzkreig depended on speed, relentlessly pushing ahead with tank troops, day and night. In April 1940, it quickly led to the fall of Denmark and Norway. The next month, the troops moved on to Holland, Belgium, and finally France. German tanks covered 240 miles of challenging terrain, including the Ardennes Forest, in 11 days, bypassing the entrenched British and French forced who had mistakenly assumed the Ardennes was impassable. Paratroopers sometimes landed ahead of the advance, causing chaos behind enemy lines; the British press described these soldiers as “heavily drugged, fearless and berserk.”

        General Heinz Guderian, an expert in tank warfare and leader of the invasion, gave the order to speed ahead to the French border: “I demand that you go sleepless for at least three nights if that should be necessary.” When they crossed into France, French reinforcements had yet to arrive, and their defenses were overwhelmed by the German attack.

        “I was dumbfounded,” Churchill wrote in his memoirs. “I had never expected to have to face…the overrunning of the whole communications and countryside by an irresistible incursion of armoured vehicles…I admit it was one of the greatest surprises I have had in my life.” The speed of the attack was jaw-dropping. High on Pervitin, German tank and artillery drivers covered ground night and day, almost without stopping. Foreign commanders and civilians alike were caught entirely off guard.

        Some users reported negative side effects of the drug. During the French invasion, these included a lieutenant colonel with the Panzer Ersatz Division I, who experienced heart pains after taking Pervitin four times daily for as many weeks; the commander of the Twelfth Tank Division, who rushed to a military hospital due to the heart attacked he suffered an hour after taking one pill; and several officers who suffered heart attacks while off duty after taking Pervitin.

        Amid growing worries about the addictive potential and negative side effects of overusing the drug, the German military began to cut back on allocations of methamphetamines by the end of 1940. Consumption declined sharply in 1941 and 1942, when the medical establishment formally acknowledged that amphetamines were addictive.

        Nevertheless, the drug continued to be dispensed on both the western and eastern fronts. Temmler-Wenke, the maker of the drug, remained as profitable as ever, despite rising awareness of the negative health effects.

        Adapted from Killer High: A History of War in Six Drugs by Peter Andreas with permission from Oxford University Press, Inc. Copyright © 2020 by Oxford University Press.

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      • Meta Capitalism
        April 3, 2021 at 11:49 am

        Thank you Robert that was great history. The were pumped up on drugs. Good to know thanks for the detail. Will archive.

      • Meta Capitalism
        April 3, 2021 at 12:52 pm

        Will definitely read source. Thanks again.

  7. Gerald Holtham
    March 31, 2021 at 3:13 pm

    Going back to the origin of this stream….I don’t know what was going through the minds of Becker et al but the reason that “human capital” caught on in economics was there is something to explain: why do different occupations command different pay in a market economy? It has to do with productivity in terms of of marketed output but what explains that? Don’t forget economists are conditioned to look for economic explanations for economic phenomena. Hypothesis : if some people have received more investment in nurture, training and education than others they are likely to be more productive and get paid more. The advantage of this hypothesis is that it can be tested since there are data on education levels etc in the population. Of course there are many exceptions and anomalies as you would expect but the relationship broadly holds so the notion gained currency. This does not mean society is fair or without prejudice or exploitation nor does it mean that there are no cases of powerful people awarding themselves outrageous rents. It doesn’t apply to workers in sectors whose output is not marketed, like public education or the civil service. And it ignores the question of how investment in people is determined in the first place. In other words human capital theory cannot reasonably be used to justify the distribution of income in society and only a small number of ideologues would attempt to so use it. I think they must all live in the USA. I have never heard anyone in Europe cite human capital theory as a justification for anything except spending more money on education.

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