Bryan Caplan  

Fun History Fact of the Day

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From my former student Jeremy Horpedahl:

Lists of elections decided by one vote are often circulated in the popular press and by government election officials (interestingly, often directed at children). Most of the commonly cited examples are either completely wrong or are for very small electorates (e.g. legislatures), or both. The oft-cited claim that "one vote gave Adolf Hitler leadership of the Nazi Party" is a clear example of this: Hitler was not elected by one vote, but rather had only one vote against him (553 to 1), probably the Ron Paul of the Nazi Party if you can imagine that. And furthermore, this was in an electorate of just 554 persons.
I'd never heard that Hitler was elected by one vote, but now I'm ready to jump all over anyone who says he was.

P.S. With apologies to Ron, does anyone know who this "Ron Paul of the Nazi Party" was?

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COMMENTS (8 to date)
TGGP writes:

From my meager knowledge the faction of the Nazi party less keen on Hitler were, like the Trotskyites of Russia or the Red Guard in China, more radical enthusiasts of revolution. So perhaps it was a good thing? I recall reading in William Weir's Decisive Battles that Ludendorff was so in love with war that Hitler thought he was too crazy, and he came close to power at points.

Nacim writes:

My 7th grade Civics teacher gave us a list of elections that were supposedly decided by one vote. The Hitler example was one of them. I was so moved by this factoid that I went on to write a terribly written essay about how I wish I had a time machine coupled with the ability to change that one vote.

Oh public school.

Lord writes:

In fact the party never won majority in an election. He did win one vote though, literally one vote, when the president appointed him chancellor. Under emergency powers, that provided all the control he needed.

J writes:

[Comment deleted for supplying false email address. To restore this comment, email the Ed.]

ed writes:

In a dictatorship, everything is decided by one vote.

darban writes:


" The people who vote decide nothing; the people who count the vote decide everything. "

-- {Iosif Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili}(Joseph Stalin)

Maniakes writes:

In one of Terry Pratchett's Diskworld novels, there's a comment along the lines of "Ankh-Morpork operated on a system of One Man, One Vote. Lord Vetinari was The Man, and he had The Vote."

Ken Robinson writes:


To answer your question, the vote against Hitler came from Rudolf Posch, a librarian who seems to have made little other contribution to history.

Hitler was already the de facto leader of the party by this time (July 1921). This particular vote was to give him "dictatorial" powers over the party, which he used to great effect, sadly .


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