Friday, June 11, 2010

Liberal Fascism

What is fascism? To most people it is just something "bad" that had something to do with World War II. This might make for good rhetoric and name calling, but it doesn't tell us much of anything about it. In Liberal Fascism, Jonah Goldberg attempts to provide a definition by analyzing the history of Italian fascism and some of the key tenants. Communists helped to paint fascism as an evil right-wing ideology. However, it would be better described as "right-wing socialism". Instead he sees fascism as the opposite of libertarianism. Regulation, Compassionate Conservatism, and Progressiveness are all forms of fascism.

In tracing the history of fascism, Goldberg points out that many leading intellectuals (and leftists) supported many of the early European fascist ideals. Fascism is a "Secular religion" that does not require complete adherence. Many people adopt "fascist principles" with the desire to help others. Many of the core tenants that are associated with fascism had their roots in the progressive movement of the early twentieth century. The World War I propaganda machine in the US heavily stifled free speech and imprisoned political deserters. Hitler's Germany was at the forefront of progressive policies, including health regulations and welfare. During World War II, the United States actively discriminated and isolated racial groups. The progressives in both places sought to find a greater role for the state, often at the expense of families. The actions and ideology of the German Aryans is similar to that of racial minorities in the US. (In both cases, they see others (Jews or whites) overrepresented in key roles in "their" community.)

Nazism and Italian Fascism are ultimately looked down upon today because they lost the war. Had they won, we would likely be studying the many great political advances of those systems, while trying to brush aside the malfeasance committed. Even communism seems to have a greater degree of intellectual approval, which may be in part due to the Russians being on the winning side of World War II. The core dogmas of the Nazis and fascists are quite similar to those of the American progressives (from which modern liberals descend.)

The author attempts to refute a "liberal dogma" that conservatives do bad things, while any bad done by liberals is merely a "societal problem" of the time. He does this in a very painstaking fashion, pointing out negatives for just about every major figure of the 20th and 21st century left. At times this is interesting, but he seems to go on well after his point has been made. There is also a lack of balance, with the author providing a one-sided portrait in an attempt to counteract the opposite one-sided portrait.

Government regulation is seen as a tool to help empower the corporatist state. Regulations, even when enacted with the best of intentions, often serve to help the entrenched powers, while often raising the barrier to entry for newcomers. The author points out many of the problems with the current political system. However, little is put out in the way of solutions.

It is a shame that he spends so much time "ranting on liberals", because there are some good points in here. However, they are obscured by some of his "rants." At one time he criticizes FDR for being a liberal-fascist-progressive, then he turns around and criticizes him for not being an ideologue. (According to the other we would always seek two opposing groups and have them find a middle ground.) Liberal policies on health care, food and the environment are declared bad because the Nazis had similar policies. And, way to much time is devoted to bashing Hillary Clinton.

The author claims (fairly persuasively) that liberals are the heirs to the "fascist/progressive" movement of the early twentieth century, while at the same time they tend to use "fascist" to demean any conservative opposition to liberal policies. He objects to the growth of government and "statism" that takes over roles traditional proscribed to families and community. Even when groups attempt to enlarge government to help others there are always "unintended consequences". Unfortunately, he confuses some "traditions" with core values and fails to offer much in the area of solutions.

No comments:

Post a Comment