Hitler had Henry Ford’s picture hanging on his wall and the admiration was mutual. That is a pretty well known bit of history. Ford financed a series of newspaper columns that appeared in the Dearborn Independent in 1920 and 1921. Reprinted in four volumes at his expense, the compilation is entitled, THE INTERNATIONAL JEW: The World’s Foremost Problem.

One presumes Ford would not have approved of or abetted Hitler’s ‘final solution’ to this foremost problem. But he would hand out copies of the book, inscribed, ‘From your friend, Henry Ford.’

Now comes . . . IBM and the Holocaust: The Strategic Alliance Between Nazi Germany and America’s Most Powerful Corporation . . . by Edwin Black. I just listened to an abridged version on my audible.com MP3 player. (Audible gives me two books a month for $10, so it cost me $5, delivered, versus $26 for the book or cassette.)

Wow.

I’m not suggesting that IBM of the 1930s and 1940s bears much relation to IBM (“The Solutions Company”) today, or that the medal Hitler awarded Thomas J. Watson – richly deserved and proudly received – should be held against the company now. Nor do I think reparations should be sought or class-action suits filed. (And neither, so far as I know, does the author.)

But IBM and the Holocaust is very much worth reading. It reminds us that, where money is involved, pillars of the community may turn a blind eye, or worse. Business is business. It’s government’s job, not ours, some business folk feel, to set limits, draw boundaries, close loopholes. Our job is to make money, whoever the customer may be and whatever the consequences. Indeed, if we can keep government from setting those limits or closing those loopholes – or if we can find new loopholes – that’s just smart business.

Those who believe government regulation is all bad, government bureaucrats all dead weight, and an unfettered market the solution to all the world’s problems, might read IBM and the Holocaust with this in mind.

Or as Jay Leno recently joked, “I guess the Republican theory is you don’t have to test for salmonella because the arsenic in the drinking water will kill the germs.”

 

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