Thursday, April 29, 2010

My Ignorant “Fascism” Rant

“…could we please not exploit the emotional elements of words like fascism and slavery? I find it an insult to think that I could be manipulated in any such way. I find it very hard to believe that intelligent grown men such as you seem to be drawn into your own somewhat childish conspiracy theories.”

This was written to me (and a friend) in an email by a progressive who took issue with a statement I made that progressives are leading us on a path toward fascism. This rebuttal was also made by an educated man who wants you to think that he is taking the intellectual high road, that he does not jump to conclusions and resort to conspiracy theories, that he is too high minded to stoop to the use of emotional phrases in order to scare and manipulate people (progressives never do that). Indeed, I must be a pretty ignorant person to be ranting the way I am.

This progressive thinks that his criticism exposes me and my friend as uncouth and ignorant, conspiracy theorists without intellectual training who merely jump to conclusions for the sake of insulting our opponents, but who have no education and no credibility. Anyone who argues that progressives are shadow fascists is a person not welcomed into intellectual discussions among the elite who know better. So anyone in the Tea Parties should be dismissed out of hand because they claim that fascism is the system of our government. What ignorant dolts we are.

But are the warnings that fascism is coming really the rantings of an ignorant person? Or are they a warning based on solid historical analysis that identifies the fundamental premises of the progressives and the movement of ideas through out history? In fact, philosophical analysis, if done properly can teach us alot and can help us avoid the mistakes of the past. What about intelligent books such as “Liberal Fascism” by Jonah Goldberg or the classic scholarly work, “The Ominous Parallels” by Dr. Leonard Peikoff? In fact, scholars were warning about our fascist tendencies even during the early Roosevelt Presidency (a time when progressives were praising fascism) and some very intelligent economists, such as Ludwig von Mises and others, had said as much in their writings decades ago. Why do the progressives want to get rid of this “fascist” charge?

Certainly, the word is charged emotionally. When you hear the word “fascist”, you think of Adolph Hitler and his genocides, you think of Mussolini and his fascist dictatorship and the atrocities committed during World War II. You think of other dictatorships such as in Spain, Iraq, Cuba and Venezuela and you think about a group of people that historians have made, because they rightly deserved it, into the most evil and hateful men in history. Don’t you even think about connecting these men to today’s progressives who only want to establish a fair balance between economic regulations and freedom. Nope, that’s not them.

But some progressives are ignorant of history themselves. They don't understand their own place in the past, their own contributions to the decline of liberty. They think that progressivism is just as good as Americanism, in fact, better, more intelligent, more scientific and more benign than those who somehow still think that capitalism is the best system for people. They are brilliant, intelligent people who somehow have never noticed that at one time progressives fostered some of the most heinous ideas. Euthanasia, eugenics and racial purity are progressive ideas that history has forced them to disavow. Progressives could not be about that. They just want to make society better and they have intelligent ways to do that. Well, we'll get to that.

In fact, I’ve been called ignorant so many times for bringing up the words fascist and Hitler that you’d think there is a method to the criticism. It is part of the Alinsky strategy of ridiculing one’s opponent. If you can convince people that an opponent is hateful, racist, evil, vengeful…any of the terrible things that ignorant people do, well, then you’ve eliminated what may otherwise be a strong opponent.

So, let’s look at history. I will try to condense many centuries of thought and debate into just a few words so we can see the essentials and come to an understanding of why the charge of “fascist” against the progressives is indeed, a valid one made by intelligent people who just happen to understand history.

The overall goal of progressives has been to establish government control over society where the government regulates all private and business activity for the sake of “the common good.” Some more honest progressives of the past have thought that government could indefinitely maintain a balance between private and public interests and that this system does not have to lead to dictatorship...even though, because of those evil men, it has led to dictatorship in the past. Though this progressive goal of a mixed economy is often tinged with kind words about doing good for people who otherwise would die, the basic premise of the progressives is the false view that capitalism is ineffective at solving “social” problems, that capitalism, being based on private self-interest, is not able to advance collective interests. We can discuss these issues forever but the basic truth is that, no matter how nice they appear to be, all progressives believe that capitalism fails, that it is exploitive, that it cannot meet the needs of people, and that profit is evil, or at the very least, it needs to be regulated for the sake of the greater good. I, and many others, have elsewhere taken on the fallacies and lies that these views represent. What is important here is that progressives and their coercive measures against private individuals fall within the general principle of “statism”; the idea that the state is the principal component of society that should regulate private activities for the sake of the “public good.”

The rationale for the takeover of private activity was first propagated by some ancient Greeks. The Greeks held that democracy was ineffective during war and that a strong central control was necessary to get a city through an emergency of this kind. This required the establishment of a “tyrant” (who controlled everything) and the suspension of all freedoms until the war had been won. At that point, the city could once again reestablish democratic rule. This is the genesis of our modern day “tyrannies”.

Yet, even some of the Greeks wondered why people wanted to return to democracy when the “tyranny” had been so efficient. Couldn’t a tyranny work during peacetime? In fact, Plato’s recommended “Republic” was a tyranny of the philosophers where the most intelligent men controlled and planned all elements of society in order to advance a common and greater good. Plato’s ideas were forged out of the anger and despair he felt over seeing his beloved mentor and teacher Socrates drink the hemlock at the behest of “the people” who voted that he should die. Plato’s work has served as a blueprint for dictatorships ever since it was written so many centuries ago.

Later, as time went on, through the influence of philosophers such as Hegel and Nietzsche among others, the idea that dictatorship might be a better way of solving social problems during peace time began to gain support. In order to advance this idea, the supporters of “tyranny” began to attack democratic rule as inefficient and wasteful and they idealized the strong leaders who possessed a unique speaking ability that motivated large numbers of people to work together for collective goals. The idea of “collective goals” was a myth, of course. There is no such thing as a collective, there are only individuals. Collectivism always requires that force (or ostracism) be imposed upon people who refuse to go along. But this didn’t matter to the collectivists who saw the idea as a way of corralling human beings and forcing them to work toward what they considered to be the good (which many times was nothing more than their personal enrichment).

The result was the idea that “power” in the hands of a few was the most efficient way to advance civilization. It was thought that powerful leaders had the knowledge and the courage necessary to identify the “social” goals upon which a society should be based. An outgrowth of these ideas was the establishment of social systems called dictatorships. At one time, the term “dictatorship” was considered the latest trend, a new advanced way to get things done in a world with so many problems. This was not too long ago. Of course, it doesn't take a scholar to realize what the people had talked themselves into; they opened the door for scoundrels like Hitler and Mussolini who pretended to be those "strong men".

Because of the arguments of the philosophers about the value of a “dictatorship”, the bulk of university scholars, intellectuals and even the masters of the arts became vocal supporters of dictatorship. A tremendous propaganda machine was built up that made this movement toward a more powerful government inevitable. This was the birth of the progressive movement. All the greatest minds were talking of the glorious future that could be had if the progressives could just get rid of the inefficient ideas of the past such as individual rights, capitalism, profit, etc. and mimick the political ideas of Mussolini and other brilliant leaders from Europe.

Throughout the various periods of progressive propaganda, parliamentary societies loosely based upon democratic controls over power, began to be criticized as weak and ineffectual. They could not accomplish the lofty goals that were possible under tyrannies, it was thought. The progressives argued that selfishness had been let loose by democratic governments; the good of society as a whole was being ignored for the sake of “petty” profits.

Mussolini was considered a genius because he came up with an entirely new way to create efficiencies in society. In early propaganda, fascism was the coming new way. The progressives argued that it would be so efficient that it would replace capitalism. It would, they thought, create a society that was even more efficient because it would eliminate the elements of capitalism that were wasteful. Mussolini was a master at “making the trains run on time”. How did he do it? By means of establishing government bureaucracies of very "competent" men who made sure “social” goals had precedence for all individuals and businesses.

A strong leader like Mussolini was a man who could excite the passions of the people and, by decree and regulation, ensure that businesses were making good products that the government approved. In short, a fascist system is one where private property is in the hands of the business owners but is regulated by the government, presumably to ensure that such property (factories and machines) is used to advance the goals of the collective as defined by the leader.

Capitalism on the other hand, was seen as a system of waste and fraud. Businessmen, it was thought, only cared about profit. They were considered to be scoundrels who did not care about quality…they were just out for the buck, and they didn’t care about the greater good, about social goals, about ensuring that the people were well served. Because capitalists took profits, those profits were considered wasteful and it was thought the government could better use those profits to establish social services rather than have that money spent by the lustful and materialistic tycoons.

As it turned out the lofty goals of the dictators turned into the need for total power. In order to accomplish the common good they had to ridicule, disenfranchise and murder those who would oppose them; and they had to control the means of production in order to build the armaments necessary to gain new territories; in order to “save” the people against its enemies. And the economic decline caused by their regulations became so obvious that they had to propagandize even more violently against capitalism in order to cover their own tracks – it was not long before prosecutions, imprisonment and purges became necessary. The idea that only a dictator could run an efficient peace time society became the idea that only a dictator could eliminate the so-called enemies that were thwarting progress – including internal enemies. Throughout this period, there was near unanimous support for fascism among intellectuals and journalists. They argued that before the dictator could establish universal medical care, income re-distribution, an improvement of the race, and other benefits, the masses had to dutifully sacrifice for the nation in war.

The crowning monument to dictatorship was the 20th Century where millions of people were killed because, presumably, they did not adequately contribute to the goals of the collective. After this bloodbath, the progressives scurried into the depths and waited. Over time, they emerged with new colors (blue instead of red), but without changing a single basic premise. They still believed capitalism was evil, but they stopped overtly challenging it; they chose to seek “a balance” between private interests and public interests. They still believed in collectivism, but talked only about “the people”, the tribe, the group, etc. They still believed in a strong central control, but only discussed democratic action to achieve a better future. They still believed in a strong leader and focused their efforts on “Presidential Power”. They still hated individual rights but started talking about entitlements paid for by the government (the taxpayer). And instead of advocating violent revolution, they became "liberals", people who worked within the system to bring about the same goals as violent revolution, eventual, incrementally instituted, collective action (dictatorship). The progressives grew more powerful merely by changing their language, eliminating the use of their old propaganda terms, and by divorcing themselves from all the negatives associated with their now dead child, dictatorship. And, in an even more brazen twist, they began calling their political enemies “fascists”. Yes, they are so intelligent that they must call their opponents by the very name that they once considered to be the beacon of a shiny bright future for man.

Today’s progressives are operating within the tradition of this movement toward a more powerful government. Over a century ago, many progressives bought into the ideas that promoted fascism. Where Mussolini, through masterful political moves, gained control of the means of production, today the progressives engage in masterful political moves such as backroom meetings, political payoffs, promises of jobs, bashing capitalism and shakedowns of businessmen. Although they’ve educated many Americans to think that fascism was about racism and accomplishing evil intentions through treachery and force, at one time they praised Mussolini’s fascism and sold it to people as a great idea. In America, some progressives even praised Hitler before his military violations and his genocide were known about.

What was so good about fascism that it would make early progressives call it their own? Why did they once use language that glorified dictatorship, collectivism, statism and other coercive “isms” in the past…and why do they now refuse to use those words to describe themselves? They still believe that you can establish a just society by means of force imposed on individuals. They still think that collectivism and re-distribution of income are the only ways to foster the collective goals that have never been accomplished by their coercive means. In their very small minds, they do not realize that their intentions can never be accomplished by the means they advocate. They have lost the connection between their thoughts and reality. But more importantly, they believe in fascist ideas because they know (consciously or sub-consciously) that coercion is the only way that they can gain control of peoples' lives, the only way that they can establish their dictatorship. They’ve just don’t call it dictatorship; they call it "democracy".

Today, what was once fascism is now “the government/business alliance” that is being fostered, promoted, and put into place by progressives. All current government takeovers and bailouts are derivatives of this fascist principle. Cap and Trade, Health Care, the automotive takeover, financial regulations, card check, extra-constitutional czars...all of these moves by the current administration are government control and management over private businesses; fascism. The fact is, today’s progressives believe in the same body of fundamental ideas as the fascists, the same goals, the same methods and the same anti-capitalism as Mussolini and his fascists. Except today they don’t call it fascism. They call it service to society.

They call it “change”.

Of course, many progressives today, consider themselves much more refined and educated than men in the past and they tell us they understand that dictatorship can lead to wars and genocide and they assure us that they are not at all in favor of such un-civilized behavior. Draw a conclusion about anything and they'll ask you for the study that proves it and since there is no study, just your considered and educated judgment, well, they're too educated to ever draw their own conclusions. Hume has told them there is no connection between fact and judgment. It's all a matter of consensus and there is no consensus among progressive intellectuals that fascism is related to progressivism. Today progressivism is not about fascism, they tell us gently. It is about striking a balance (emphasis on “balance”) between private action and public action, establishing a fair mix of interventionist policies and free markets that can be maintained indefinitely without ever plunging society into the depths of barbarism and plunder and murder – not ever again. They are really just good guys trying to make things better. Don't you feel better?

Fascism hidden beneath protestations of love for mankind is still fascism by any other name. And fascism has always had one fatal problem. It has never and will never work. Fascism is the refuge of the pragmatist, the progressive and the neo-conservative who all claim to be after the “common good” but who practice methods that achieve destruction. The economic controls fostered by fascism distort the operations of otherwise free markets. These distortions cause economic pain to people and these problems necessitate more controls to fix the problems created by previous controls. Fascists seldom remove controls…they always increase controls that, with each iteration, become more powerful and more onerous over time. At the end of the fascist state is economic collapse and, you guessed it, dictatorship.

Why is this so? A fascist state, like that which we have today, as it destroys more freedom incrementally, drags society into increased levels of immorality, hatred of values, envy, group warfare (as different groups vie to be favored by government), graft, corruption, racism, theft, shakedowns, bailouts, czars with extra-constitutional powers, until, like the Roman Empire, the productive people are gone. Society becomes a mixture of those who live in poverty with the leaders who live in opulence (remember the dark ages that followed the collapse of Rome). Do you wonder why Mussolini was hanged by the very same people who once worshipped his magnificent charismatic control over them?

So, the question to ask is, are the people who warn us that we are on a road to fascism, really just a bunch of uneducated idiots who use such charges for emotional political effect? Or are they screaming out that disaster is coming if we continue on the same path as the fascists in the past?

What do you think?

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