The Lautenbach Plan
for Economic Recovery
by Helga Zepp-LaRouche
In a speech on Feb. 22, 1998, Helga Zepp-LaRouche, founder of the Schiller Institute, discussed Dr. Wilhelm Lautenbach's economic program for getting Germany out of the Depression of the 1930s. The full text of her speech appears in EIR's April 10, 1998 issue.
. . . I want to refer to the economic policy debate in Germany at the beginning of the 1930s. I do not make a comparison to the 1930s because I say that this crisis is like that of the '30s; it is quite different. But, I raise it, because it is connected to the question of what to do under conditions of a depression and a financial crisis.
Recently, in 1991, the transcript of a secret conference of the Friedrich List Society of 1931, was published. The issue was how to boost the economy under conditions of a world economic crisis. Among the participants in this conference was the president of the Reichsbank, Dr. Luther, and 30 leading economists and bankers.
And, a person who is not very well known, but deserves to be better known, Dr. Wilhelm Lautenbach, wrote a memorandum for this conference, the title of which was "The Possibilities of Boosting Economic Activities by Means of Investment and Expansion of Credit," in which he said, "The natural course for overcoming an economic and financial emergency is not to limit economic activity, but to increase it."
He pointed out that there are two different kinds of emergency situations. One, is war, earthquakes, other national catastrophes. And then there's a second type of crisis, which is economic and international, emergencies with international dimensions.
In such situations, it would be clear that more should be produced. But, if you only follow the laws of the market, this is not possible, because, in the second case, of a collapse of the financial system, you have a paradoxical situation, where, despite the fact that production already is collapsing, the demand is less than the supply. And this then leads to a tendency to decrease production even more.
If the government then adopts a program of deflation, it will tend to cut the deficit by cutting the state's expenditures, cutting prices and wages, restricting credit, and so forth and so on.
Lautenbach says that it is impossible to reduce taxes under these conditions, because the tax base is already reduced. And all such deflationary measures produce new and large losses of capital for the individual entrepreneur in commerce and industry. It makes them uncompetitive and insolvent, and it causes a reduction of production, and layoffs. It also leads to a deterioration of the banks.
Now, it is exactly this wrong approach which is presently taken by Maastricht, by the European Union, by the IMF, by the whole effort to package and solve this crisis, and not only in Southeast Asia, but in Russia, everywhere. This wrong idea.
The reduction of public expenditures is doubly counterproductive, since the public contracts and mass purchasing powers are further reduced. It leads to a collapse of production, and an increase of unemployment. And it is a downward spiral, which becomes worse and worse, and there is no bottom.
Therefore, Lautenbach says that the deflationary policy will inevitably lead to a complete economic and political catastrophe. But there is a paradox, because in a depression, you have unused productive capacities and unemployed labor. And therefore, the problem is very simple to solve: The state must intervene, and create new national economic demand. The only precondition is that it must be something necessary to the economy, which represents a value increase, and it must be something which would have been done anyway, if the crisis had not existed.
Now, Lautenbach says that since the long-term capital is available neither from foreign markets nor from the domestic market, how can you finance it, if the capital markets simply do not give you the ability to do this?
Well, then it has to occur through a national bank, because liquidity is just a technical question. It's just an organizational issue: Liquidity immediately exists, if it is backed up by the authority of the state. And again, these projects are not inflationary, because they represent real economic capital formation. They create real economic value. And, because they have a productive multiplier effect, the rate of production is growing at a faster rate than the rate of credit expansion.
So basically, by means of such an investment in credit policy, the disposition of supply and demand on the domestic market will be increased, and the total production, once again, has a direction and a goal. Lautenbach says, "If we neglect to undertake such a policy, we will inevitably be heading in the direction of continuing economic disintegration, and a complete disruption of our national economy, and come into a condition where, in order to avoid a catastrophe, one will be compelled to undertake a strong increase of new, short-term public debt, but that will then only be for consumptive purposes, while today we have the instruments, the means for utilizing this credit for productive tasks."
So, obviously, had the Lautenbach Plan been implemented, the economic conditions which enabled the Nazis to come to power two years later, would have been eliminated. . . .