The bills on this question also pondered the question of how the intended levy on household goods to benefit the needy would be staggered. In the process, people proceeded, for example, from an estimate of wealth at pre-war purchasing prices. It is obvious that herein lies a source of countless quarrels. These quarrels will be all the more bitter and the feeling of unjust treatment all the more intense if the issue revolves around whether the threshold for the levy has or has not been crossed. For example, according to one draft known to us, a person subject to the levy would have to contribute 5% for household goods valued up to 5,000 Marks, but 10% for household goods valued at 5,000-10,000 Marks.
Incidentally, these sorts of rates suggest that the outcome of such a levy itself would be very disappointing, even to its most ardent supporters. For the great mass of the German population probably falls into the lowest category, and if it were to actually hand over 5% of its household goods, this would still be an entirely unsatisfactory amount of help for a mass of 25 million people, or even more, and the administration and distribution of this help would cause a lot more work than it is worth.
Finally, resettlers, those bombed out of their homes, and other suffering people must bear in mind that in the event of a compulsory levy, they would not receive items of good usability, but mostly items that are already as good as useless. Much of it would break during transport or be seriously damaged. It does not require a lot of imagination to picture all of this in detail, but evidently the legislators who hatch such plans possess only a very limited power of imagination and a limited knowledge of practical life – or else they have gotten it into their heads to throw this bone of contention to the German people in any case, in order to divert its attention from more important things.
That is not a bad plan. To an impoverished grandmother, the cooking pot she hopes to get from such a law – or is afraid to lose – is much more important than the question of whether some company chief is to remain in complete or partial possession of his authority over parts of German industry. By beginning the “socialization” process with vital everyday items for the working masses, the hope is to thoroughly spoil the masses’ taste for interventions in company business. The advocates of the “socialization of items of daily use” also know full well that a levy in kind on household goods faces insurmountable obstacles if it is to be implemented with some hope of practical results. They wish for precisely these difficulties so they can say: “There you see what happens if one attempts even minor interferences in private property!”
The only sensible way out of the current misery is the continuation of friendly neighborly help on a voluntary basis and the quickest and largest possible efforts on behalf of new production. For the Soviet Occupation Zone, Marshal Sokolovsky’s order has shown that this new production will not be long in coming. Even if only the most urgent needs can be met at first – and here one must not limit oneself schematically to resettlers and the bombed-out – this path will lead more surely to the goal than demagogic laws with which the reaction hopes to further deepen the division of the workers.
Source: “Lastenausgleich durch Naturalausgabe? Ein Zankapfel als Ablenkungsmanöver der Reaktion” [“The Equalization of Burdens through Restitution in Kind? A Bone of Contention as a Diversionary Tactic of the Reactionary Contingent”], Tägliche Rundschau, no. 39, February 15, 1947; reprinted in Udo Wengst, Geschichte der Sozialpolitik in Deutschland, Bd. 2/2: 1945-1949: Die Zeit der Besatzungszonen. Sozialpolitik zwischen Kriegsende und der Gründung zweier deutscher Staaten. Dokumente [The History of Social Policy in Germany, Vol. 2/2: 1945-1949. The Era of the Occupation Zones. Social Policy between the End of the War and the Founding of Two German States. Documents]. Baden-Baden: Nomos, 2001, no. 132, pp. 285-87.
Translation: Thomas Dunlap