Highway to Hitler

55 Pages Posted: 26 May 2014

See all articles by Nico Voigtländer

Nico Voigtländer

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - Anderson School of Management; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

Hans-Joachim Voth

University of Zurich - UBS International Center of Economics in Society; Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

Date Written: May 2014

Abstract

Can autocracies win electoral support by showcasing economic competence? We analyze a famous case – the building of the Autobahn network in Nazi Germany. Using newly collected data, we show that highway construction was effective in boosting popular support, helping to entrench the Nazi dictatorship. Direct economic benefits such as declining unemployment near construction sites are unlikely to explain the increase in pro-Nazi votes. In addition, Nazi propaganda used the Autobahn as a powerful symbol of successful economic policy, putting an effective end to austerity – so that many Germans credited the Nazi regime for the economic recovery. In line with this interpretation, we show that support for the Nazis increased even more where highway construction coincided with greater radio availability – a major source of propaganda. The effect of highways was also significantly stronger in politically unstable states of the Weimar Republic. Our results suggest that infrastructure spending can raise support for autocracy when voters are led to associate it with visible economic progress and an end to political instability.

Suggested Citation

Voigtländer, Nico and Voth, Hans-Joachim, Highway to Hitler (May 2014). NBER Working Paper No. w20150. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2441781

Nico Voigtländer (Contact Author)

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - Anderson School of Management ( email )

110 Westwood Plaza
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1481
United States
+1-310-794 6382 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://www.anderson.ucla.edu/faculty/nico.v/

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR) ( email )

London
United Kingdom

Hans-Joachim Voth

University of Zurich - UBS International Center of Economics in Society ( email )

Raemistrasse 71
Zuerich, 8006
Switzerland

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

London
United Kingdom

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