James Leroy Wilson's blog

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Are Liberals Still More Fascist Than Conservatives?

Eight years too late. That was my thought when I first heard that Jonah Goldberg has written a book on Liberal Fascism. I haven't read it, but it receives a devastating review by Austin W. Bramwell at, of all places, The American Conservative.

Eight years ago, I thought I was a conservative, but that's because I thought conservatives stood for federalism, free markets, and a realist foreign policy. Therefore, bitter throughout the Clinton Presidency, I would have enthusiastically cheered a book like Liberal Fascism. Now, my attitude is that the pot is calling the kettle black.

Nevertheless, I do think it's worthwhile to point out the fascist tendencies of what passes for liberalism and conservatism these days. From personal behavior, to policing, to business regulation and subsidies, to war, both "movement conservatives" and liberals have values that initially came to the fore in Mussolini's Italy. Moreover, Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt, and Harry Truman are heroes to both liberals and conservatives, and what these Presidents had in common was a fervent nationalism and desire for global domination - the very things we criticize in fascism.

Fascism is now conflated with Nazism, and the greatest sin of Nazism was racism in general and anti-Semitism in particular. So when one accuses another of being a fascist, it is implied that the accused is a bigot also. But I wonder how Mussolini would be viewed by Establishment historians had he never become allies with Hitler. Under the veneer of democracy, many fascist-style policies have gained mainstream moral legitimacy in the U.S. since 1933: social welfare, corporatism, militarism, governmental concern with health and physical fitness, centralized control of education. On the (even more) sinister side, people these days who were once appalled that FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover was wiretapping Martin Luther King's phones, now believe the feds should have the power to do that to anybody in the name of the "War on Terror."

Since 2001, those on the right who object the most to fascist-style policies have been expelled from the "movement" because they're "unpatriotic." And most of them would be more inclined to call Bush Conservatives (of which Goldberg is one) as more fascist than anyone on the Left.

This is why Goldberg's book is eight years too late. Many people, particularly paleoconservatives on the right and libertarians both Left and Right, may have once thought the "liberal" Democratic position was actually far more fascist than the Republican position. But that feeling evaporated sometime between the signing of the Patriot Act and the invasion of Iraq, and today the Democrats are, if anything, viewed as the "lesser of two evils." Goldberg has lost a significant share of his audience right off the bat. A negative review in the paleo American Conservative pretty much proves the point.

And even among "movement" conservatives, Huckabee would ban smoking, and McCain is obsessed with steroids and regulating political speech. Giuliani's record in New York hardly suggests he has an anti-fascist "live and let live" philosophy. How, then, can Goldberg take potshots at the anti-tobacco, anti-fast food liberals without alienating supporters of "conservative" Presidential candidates with similar goals?

Perhaps Goldberg's publisher is counting on his readers to be something less than bright. That may well be true.


  1. Anonymous12:13 AM PST

    Good stuff.

    I broached this topic on Freedom Democrats back in June of last year


  2. Socialism, Marxism Fascists,unions, Democratic Party ect., ect.... authortarians in disguise, the King by another name....are not liberals or examples of liberalism. You insult John Loke, Thomas Jefferson and me when you write this psyco babble.....

  3. August,

    The word "liberalism" has been misused and abused in England for 150 years now, and at least 75 years in the U.S. Does everyone who uses it in the modern sense ALWAYS have to clarify what real liberalism is? All I was doing was speaking of liberalism in the sense that Goldberg, Bramwell, and most people use the word today.

    Furthermore, you may think this post sucks, but "psycho babble?" I don't think it means what you think it means. It never crossed my mind that I was offering psychological insights or using psychological cliches and buzz-words.

  4. Anonymous12:26 PM PST

    As We Go Marching
    by John T. Flynn (1944)

    PDF at Mises.org

    On fascism, US fascism under FDR, Italian under Benito, and German under Adolph. Long ago.

    But ya' prolly already know of it. Still, it's good for all to consider.


  5. Part of the problem is differentiating rhetoric from reality, words from actions. Politicians, regardless of their ideology can say lots things, invoke particular phrases and revolutionary sloganeering to make themselves appear as everything to everyone. I haven't read the book, but it sounds like it rehashes simplistic arguments that don't look at social forces and social movements.