There is a recently published book by Jonah Goldberg entitled “Liberal Fascism” that attempts to define the term, as well as, somewhat provocatively, admonish the political left that the “right wing” has no monopoly on fascism. The book, which is scrupulously researched, describes the economic and political history of fascism, making the case that (1) European fascism was originally a left-wing, socialist, populist movement, and (2) the American counterparts of the European fascists were the progressives.
The hardest thing for most readers to get past – and I’ve read most of the online reviews of this book – is that fascism is typically equated with anti-semitism, militarism, dictatorship, demogaugery, genocide; all those phenomena associated with the extreme right wing.
But as Goldberg patiently explains, over and over, while one variant of fascism may have embodied all of this evil, it doesn’t change the fact that the modern political left has the same intellectual roots as Europe’s fascists who emerged in parallel with American progressives about 100 years ago.
Here is Goldberg’s definition of fascism: “Fascism is a religion of the state. It assumes the organic unity of the body politic and longs for a national leader attuned to the will of the people. It is totalitarian in that it views everything as political and holds that any action by the state is justified to achieve the common good. It takes responsibility for all aspects of life, including our health and well-being, and seeks to impose uniformity of thought and action, whether by force or through regulation and social pressure. Everything, including the economy and religion, must be aligned with its objectives. Any rival identity is part of the ‘problem’ and therefore defined as the enemy. I will argue that contemporary American liberalism embodies all of these aspects of fascism.”
Recently, in my current home town of Sacramento, California, a pioneering philanthropist named Charles Goethe, who founded the local university and donated large tracts of land for parks and schools, has had his name systematically expunged from history. Notwithstanding his social consciousness and generosity, Goethe believed in eugenics. But the well-meaning people who are busily demonizing Goethe today are ignoring the fact that Goethe, who was born in 1875, was a progressive, and virtually all progressives believed in eugenics. And they were the intellectual counterparts of the European fascists.
A few years ago I saw a German language version of the movie Titanic, released in late 1943. Watching the movie, I was struck by how obviously the plot was slanted to demonize wealthy profiteers; the villians were well-heeled capitalists of the whose desire to make a few extra dollars of profit spelled doom for the passengers on the Titanic. This was dissonant to me – weren’t the fascists right wing? Weren’t they the ultimate capitalists? This is a common misconception. The Nazis were socialists – national socialists, but socialists nonetheless. They believed in a partnership of government and industry for the purported benefit of the working man. And their economic model was ominously similar to what is being solidified today in America – as much by unwitting liberals as by errant conservatives. Neither wing has a monopoly on their enabling behaviors to create this “third way” economic model – known variously as corporatism, socialism, or economic fascism.
Just as fascism is a widely debated, widely misunderstood term, liberal is also a word that has two meanings. Goldberg describes how the terms “liberal” and “conservative” acquired their modern definitions: “In the past, liberalism had referred to political and economic liberty as understood by enlightenment thinkers like John Locke and Adam Smith. For them, the ultimate desideratum was maximum individual freedom under the benign protection of a minimalist state. The progressives, led by Dewey, subtly changed the meaning of this term, importing the Prussian version of liberalism as the alleviation of material and educational poverty… for progressives liberty no longer meant freedom from tyranny, but freedom from want… classical liberals were now routinely called conservatives, while devotees of social control were called liberals.”
There is far too much to this important book to summarize in a brief column. But the relevance of “Liberal Fascism” to environmentalism bears mention. As Goldberg writes: “The most tangible fascistic ingredient [of environmentalism] is that it is an invaluable ‘crisis mechanism.’ Al Gore constantly insists that global warming is the defining crisis of our time. Skeptics are called traitors, Holocaust deniers, tools of the ‘carbon interests’… the beauty of global warming is that it touches everything we do – what we eat, what we wear, where we go. Our ‘carbon footprint’ is the measure of man.”
We have repeatedly warned that there is no “denial industry,” indeed the measures being advocated to supposedly combat global warming are the biggest gift to the “corporatists” in the history of the world (read “The Alarm Industry”). The powerful vested interests that constitute the “alarm industry” are the ones who, ironically, anyone who truly believes in human rights should be worried about.
It really doesn’t matter if they fall under the ideals of true conservatism, classical liberalism, libertarianism, or even enlighted conventional liberalism – the values of individual freedom, free markets, private property, and limited government are under attack. The “green” fascism of environmental extremists, who are being given cover and credibility by corporatist interests, is the current incarnation of this dangerous ideology that mingles statism and populism in equal and potent measures. Goldberg’s book should be read, with an open mind, by every voter in America.