Saturday, July 5, 2014

Liberal Fascism

It's instructive what happens when someone starts to connect the dots and question the narrative, in this case the "Fascism is on the Right" narrative. I had heard this one so much I thought maybe there was some truth to it.  I had never heard, in college or anywhere else, anything as nuanced and complicated as historian Robert Paxton decides to elucidate here in his review of Jonah Goldberg's Liberal Fascism:
Goldberg likes to put things into rigid boxes: right and left, conservative and liberal, fascist and non-fascist. He doesn’t leave room for such complexities as convergences, middle grounds, or evolution over time. . . . The very mention of a “Third Way” puts one instantly into the fascist box. [Is "reaching across the aisle" a third way, or are there only two ways?] . . . Fascism – a political latecomer that adapted anti-socialism to a mass electorate, using means that often owed nothing to conservatism – drew on both right and left, and tried to transcend that bitter division in a purified, invigorated, expansionist national community. A sensitive analysis of what fascism drew from all quarters of the political spectrum would be a valuable project.
Paxton mourns the loss of an opportunity for Goldberg to complicate this subject.  Well, there have been ample opportunities for liberals in the political discourse to describe national socialism and fascism as things that don't fit on either the right or left.  Suddenly, it's Goldberg's responsibility to create a third box.
For example, “Liberals . . . claim” that free-market economics is fascist (p. 22). Could we please have a few examples of “liberals” who say this?
Ummmm.  Did the last ten years not just happen?  Somehow Paxton thinks that liberal pundits and bloggers are typically as erudite as he is.  Here is what I've gleaned from the leftosphere over the last ten years, very similar though intensified from the ten years before that:
Hitler was on the Right.  Hitler loved corporations.  Fascism is corporation friendly. Capitalism equals cronyism.  These freedoms that allow corporations to use invested money to hire people to make products -- it's not about economic liberty.  Anything that supports the right for individuals to wield their economic liberty corporately is really just a smokescreen for those who want to distribute the wealth from poor people to rich people.  We can't make the marketplace fair without giving government carte blanche control over corporations.  Free-market capitalism is radical conservatism.  Fascism is radical conservatism.  Connect the dots.
As more and more Gen Xers found themselves "informed" by Michael Moore, they echoed notions like these.  But it isn't limited to the young soundbitten Obama-ites.  These notions are reflected in the responses to the Citizens United case, and reflected by Ginsberg in her objections to the Hobby Lobby ruling, and in think pieces and NY Times op eds based on the non sequitur slogan "corporations aren't people."

Look across all the backlash to the Hobby Lobby decision.  Liberals want everyone to believe that as soon as you incorporate, your liberties should be up for grabs: the right to follow your conscience in a direction liberals don't approve of, the right to safeguard your identity from political enemies like Hillary Clinton (e.g. Citizens United case), etc.  The only right you should ever retain is the right to do business exactly as the government tells you to.  Because "corporations aren't people", the Constitution doesn't protect you once you incorporate.
. . . ["fascism" and "liberalism"] are two of the most problematical words in the political lexicon. To his credit, Goldberg is aware that the term “liberal” has been corrupted in contemporary American usage. It ought to mean (and still means in the rest of the world) a principled opposition to state interference in the economy [note: fascism is adamantly opposed to this principle], from Adam Smith to Ronald Reagan. Goldberg . . .  has capitulated to the sloppy current American usage by which “liberal” means, usually pejoratively nowadays, any and all of the various components of the Left, from anarchists and Marxists to moderate Democrats.
This use of Liberalism isn't a result of sloppiness.  It is a term intentionally commandeered by the Left to mask their Progressivism under a guise of Libertarianism.  When Hillary Clinton distances herself from the term "Liberal" it isn't because the term is sloppy but because during the Reagan era progressive "liberalism" had been largely discredited and leftists found that over the years the public had forgotten any negative connotations in the term "progressive."  Any "sloppiness" was intentional.  "Classic liberalism" is rather in line with the 'republicanism' of our Founders, and progressivism was anti-liberal in the original sense--which is why progressives were originally enamored with Mussolini and  Hitler and continue to be enamored with socialist dictators.

The following statement should thoroughly discredit Paxton, and exemplifies why we should be skeptical of the claims of academics who have been the vanguard for distancing fascism from progressivism:
Liberal Fascism is an oxymoron, of course. A fascism that means no harm is a contradiction in terms. Authentic fascists intend to harm those whom they define as the nation’s internal and external enemies. Someone who doesn’t intend to harm his or her enemies, and who doesn’t relish doing it violently, isn’t really fascist.
Doesn't relish it? As long as you put on a sad face at bulldozing a compound in Waco, Texas as an unfortunate necessity, it isn't really fascist.  It's not fascist if you mean well.  If you assume powers that aren't really granted to you by the Constitution to by pass the will of the people, it isn't fascist as long as you are a good person. If you deliberately stock the Supreme Court to undermine the economic liberty of citizens, to place their welfare entirely within reach of a benevolent central government, it isn't fascist because you are trying to make the world a more just place.  If your program involves using the power of the State to imprison for noncooperation with progressive agenda, it isn't really a violent use of force, and couldn't be fascist.  If you force people to undergo sterilizations (viz-a-viz 20th century Progressives), it isn't fascism if it's for the public good.  If you voice too loudly the "right to revolution" that was embraced (with lip service) even by Abraham Lincoln, and by those who came before him, you just might fit the current description of terrorism and be eligible for "indefinite detention."  (And it will be so much more easy to jail these trouble makers once we repeal that outdated 2nd Amendment.)

Just to be clear, when Sean Penn endorses jailing citizens who are critical of a "benevolent" dictator, that is fascist, right?  When Woody Allen endorses giving progressive leaders dictatorial powers (Chancellor Obama?) that is fascist, yes?  (Talk about holding your liberty cheap.)  The use of lawsuits to cow individuals and corporations (such as gun stores) into certain progressive agenda (e.g. making loans likely to produce a housing bubble) is fascist, yes?  The use of the IRS to intimidate citizens from criticizing and reforming progressive government is fascist, yes?  The use of the DOJ to passively endorse Brownshirt, er, I mean, Black Panther intimidation of voters is fascist, yes?  No, if the Obama administration chooses to "punish their enemies," it's only fascist if they relish that punishment. Lois Lerner is only fascist if she relishes getting away with power abuse.  

Fascism was certainly presented by fascists as an alternative to Marxist socialism, and so Mussolini marketed fascism as a right-of-center totalitarianism, an alternative to leftwing totalitarianism that would avoid the chaos of the French Revolution and Bolshevik Revolution.  Government would not assume ownership of the means of production. Government officials would simply have ultimate say (getting rid of those pesky property rights) over what was good for the economy, intruding only when certain too-big-to-fail industries weren't working in the best interest of the public good:
The corporate State considers that private enterprise in the sphere of production is the most effective and usefu [sic] instrument in the interest of the nation. In view of the fact that private organisation of production is a function of national concern, the organiser of the enterprise is responsible to the State for the direction given to production. . . . State intervention in economic production arises only when private initiative is lacking or insufficient, or when the political interests of the State are involved. This intervention may take the form of control, assistance or direct management.  --Mussolini, 1935
This is rather like the nationalization of Israel's healthcare industry, in which the "private" companies were recently found to be tricking immigrant women into taking contraceptives they didn't want.  In a state founded by a mixture of merchants and radical communists, this centralized collectivist control of industry in Israel is not surprising, and neither is inevitable commandeering of private enterprise for population control, er, I mean, national healthcare interests.  It also brings to mind the nationalizing of America's banking (run by quasi-governmental entities neither political party wants to help Ron Paul audit), diseased with graft, corruption, political intimidation and intrigue.  Why is it so hard to audit the Federal Reserve?  Why is it so easy for the IRS to cover the digital tracks of their improprieties?

If you'll pay attention, Paxton accuses (or defends?) Mussolini as someone that really didn't interfere too much with nationalized business, having more or less turned "CEOs" into his business czars. Whenever you hear academics or politicians describe fascists as friendly to Big Business, realize that they are trying to play down the assumption of absolute control through destruction of property rights and inalienable economic rights. Question why they are doing it.  And question whether they mean a friendliness fundamentally different from Barack Obama's bail-out-and-control relationship with Wall Street and Big Business.

When Mussolini asserted he was against liberalism, he is referring to "classical liberalism" or libertarianism, as Paxton means "liberalism."  Inalienable individual rights constitute the "liberalism" that fascism is intrinsically and adamantly opposed to, not the progressive liberalism of today (which, if anything, is a just useful means to progressing towards fascism).  If there is anything that fascism borrows from conservative thinking, it is the idea that a simple majoritarian rule is chaotic and destructive.

Disabused of this fanciful utopianism, instead of a representative republic (as in the American Constitution) that protects the minority against the majority be governmental restraints, fascism turns toward "authoritarian democracy" which is eerily like the government the last Constitutional professor (Woodrow Wilson) wanted to give us.  Woodrow Wilson was a typical 20th century progressive who envisioned an omnipotent elite group that would assume any powers necessary to bring about the "will of the people," inventing ad hoc regulations not written by the people's representatives.  Did Wilson, brilliant academic that he was, foresee any necessity in keeping the growing regulatory apparatus of the ruling elite from actively shaping the opinions of the populace to steer them toward the legislation and judicial findings they should want?  No.  Wilson did not believe in separation of powers or checks and balances.  (In short, he believed in a radical deconstruction of the Constitution, as did Franklin Roosevelt.)

Recall that modern "public" (i.e. government) education grew from the same coercive Reconstructionist nationalism that Progressivism grew out of.  With the post-Civil War South utterly beaten into submission, neither the 10th Amendment nor a strict reading of Constitutional powers posed much threat to the Henry Clay Whigs in the new National Republican coalition, but the children of the subjugated South and the children of the mass-imported immigrants needed to be told how to think now.  In the 1960s, the ability of the government to steer the next generation's thinking away from their parents' thinking would be indispensable to the Progressives now referring to themselves ironically as "Liberals."

Ed Brayton is a man who stopped being a comedian because his jokes were too intelligent to be understood by the common American, or so he claims.  So he's turned to blogging, and one of his several listed accomplishments (in the leftwing bubbleverse) is making fun of Chuck Norris.  In one post, after praising Thomas Sowell for differentiating between textbook socialism and fascism, he condemns Sowell for conflating fascist intrusion with well-intentioned policies.  Since Brayton doesn't bother to differentiate between legitimate and illegitimate intrusion into economic affairs, one presumes that his brand of "freethinking" doesn't recognize fascism until it marches in with jackboots and says something that progressives might confuse with a conservative ideas.  For Brayton, forcing corporations to violate their owners' conscience and religious values is presumably no different from keeping corporations from dumping toxic waste or committing fraud.  Which begs the question: What actually forces government to draw the line?  If creative "empathetic" judicial interpretations can gut the restraining power of the Constitution, what checks the NSA, the IRS, the Federal Reserve, the IPAB, our debt-escalating Congress, the BATF, the corrupt DOJ, or even the current Nixonian executive order dispenser-in-chief?

Note: The above "meme" is no doubt based on the similar Sarah Palin "meme" which has a cross photoshopped into Palin's hand (the mention of "cross" is also an addition to the original misquote). The above photo has the advantage that it relies on WYSIWYG images from the Obama photo op machine.  Some versions of this carry over the "1835" anachronism (neither Lewis nor 'fascism' per se was around in 1835) from the Palin meme. As far as I can determine, the only Lewis quote that comes close is “. . . the worst Fascists were they who disowned the word ‘Fascism’ and preached enslavement to Capitalism under the style of Constitutional and Traditional Native American Liberty.” (Was Lewis one of those mysterious capitalism-as-fascism progressives Paxton wants identified?)  One of the greater ironies is that when Wilson-Clinton progressivism first came on the scene it was very nationalistic--the New Left morphed it into an imperialistic attitude toward American culture in the name of fairness and multiculturalism. Progressivism was reborn as "liberalism" with its totalitarian homogeneity reformed to "respect for every culture except that of American conservatives."

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