The View From 1776

Fascism vs. Economic Liberty

Readers who object to characterizing liberal Republicans and Democrats as fascists simply don’t understand the meaning of the term.

Our debased educational system teaches students to apply the term fascist indiscriminately to any object of loathing.  I am instead using the term to describe the specific characteristics of a class of economic and political thought.

The most basic dividing line between sociopolitical outlooks in the Western world is regulation and control vs. limits and balances, collectivism vs. individualism.  American liberalism is based on the former.  Our Constitution, on the latter, expressed by Jefferson’s aphorism that the best government governs the least.

Fascism is not a unique phenomenon.  It is a logical conclusion to one of the two basic conceptions of social order.  If one believes that, without the guidance of government, most people are incapable of knowing their own best interests and of doing the right thing to further their interests, then he is already moving in the direction of Fascism, albeit with the best of intentions. 

Hence the liberal social-welfare, nanny-state, summed up by President Clinton’s press secretary Dee Dee Myers, who said that only the Federal government has the power to improve people?s lives.

Liberals believe that individual economic liberty, under the original Constitution, produces a society of greed, one in which there is too great a gap between the wealthiest and the poorest, a society in which true freedom therefore cannot exist.  Unequal distribution of income is ipso facto suppression of the poor by the rich.  For liberal icons like Michael Walzer freedom means that every individual, without regard to personal merit or productive work, has free access to all of society’s goods and services. 

To attain that end, liberal government must assume increasingly dictatorial powers to redistribute income and become the provider of people’s basic needs.

It is important to understand that all regulation-and-control forms of government are fundamentally the same, ranging from American liberalism to present-day socialism in France and Germany, as well as the Soviet Union and fascist regimes in Italy and Nazi Germany.  Since the beginning of the 19th century all of these systems have been classified as socialism, and bear the same relationship to socialism as do the many different Protestant denominations to the whole of Christianity.  There are doctrinal differences, but at bottom all varieties of socialism are the same.

Fascism can be traced to the writings of Joseph de Maistre immediately after the French Revolution.  His conception of human nature led to the conclusion that people must be constrained by government to do whatever the authorities decided was in the national interest.

Even de Maistre and French revolutionary philosophers conceded, however, that in England a very different and strikingly fruitful theory of government held sway.  Its root was in the restraints upon monarchial power that English barons imposed upon King John in 1215 with Magna Carta.  There was to be a constitutional form of government that limited royal powers and created structural balances.  The king could not arbitrarily impose taxes nor seize property to fund his campaigns; only the English people represented in Parliament could do so.  Our own Constitution came straight out of that tradition.

De Maistre’s conception led directly to all-powerful government of the sort that prevailed in his day in the feudal system of Czarist Russia.  The will of the sovereign was to be the will of the nation.

Fascism acquired its name in Italy of the 1920s after Mussolini’s Black Shirts marched on Rome, with widespread public support, and seized control of the government.  Contrary to what students are told today, Mussolini and Hitler were immensely popular, just as was our own fascist President Franklin Roosevelt.

While there was plenty of arbitrary and repressive regulation in fascist Italy and National Socialist Germany, the vast majority of the people welcomed Mussolini and Hitler as their saviors from the unsettled economic conditions following World War I.  Their popularity arose also from the intense nationalism that characterized Fascism.  Both Mussolini and Hitler repeatedly spoke of the history and traditions of the Italian and German peoples and of their aim to restore former greatness.

Mussolini and Hitler pursued nearly identical economic policies, under the rubric of state-corporatism, that were aimed at “harmonizing” the competing economic interests of private businesses, labor unions, farmers, and the fascist government.  Italian and German regulatory councils were essentially the same as the New Deal’s NRA industry-group codes of prices, production, and wages and its Agricultural Adjustment Administration, which controlled farm production and prices.

The primary divergence between the New Deal and Italian and German Fascism was their expression of nationalism.  Mussolini and Hitler believed that to protect national interests it was necessary to become as nearly self-sufficient as possible.  The question did not arise in the United States because of its vast store of natural resources and its geographic isolation.

Inherent in the fascist drive toward economic self-sufficiency was the imperative to acquire the natural resources they lacked via territorial conquest.  Amplifying that dynamic was the fascist glorification of Roman and German history and mythology and the belief that the national will was to be realized via militarism, by Bismarck’s “blood and iron.”  Hitler’s variant of fascist nationalism was the racist Holocaust.

In both President Roosevelt’s New Deal manifesto and Italian and German Fascism the populace are divided into economic classes and dealt with as groups, not as individuals.  Mussolini and Hitler were scathingly contemptuous of English individualism.  Individuals had meaning only as constituents of the national state, rather like bricks in a wall. 

President Roosevelt rejected our original constitutional individualism in his January 1944 annual message to Congress: 

?The one supreme objective for the future?can be summed up in one word: Security.?This Republic had its beginning, and grew to its present strength, under the protection of of certain inalienable rights ? among them the right of free speech, free press, free worship, trial by jury, freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures.  They were our rights to life and liberty.  As our nation has grown in size and stature, however ? as our industrial economy expanded ? these political rights proved inadequate to assure us equality in the pursuit of happiness.?

“We have accepted, so to speak, a second Bill of Rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all?Among these are: the right to a useful and remunerative job?The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation.?The right of every family to a decent home; The right to adequate medical care?The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment; The right to a good education.  All these rights spell security.?

This is fascist state-corporatism, pure and simple.  Individuals must surrender their Bill-of-Rights protections against the tyranny of the majority and entrust their futures to the President’s socialist Brain Trusters.  As Roosevelt said in his 1933 inaugural speech, ” ?if we are to go forward we must move as a trained and loyal army willing to sacrifice for the good of the common discipline, because, without such discipline, no progress is made??

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