Column on The Road to Fascism

The Road to Fascism

Tibor R. Machan


       The usual beef among those who dislike trends in this country’s
economic policies is that we will soon have a socialist system. And it
does appear that with more and more economic issues coming under
government supervision and outright control, socialism is the most
likely outcome–not, perhaps, the soviet model but at least market or
democratic socialism. These are models that socialists have conceived
following the collapse of the Soviet Union and its satellites where the
centrally planned, no holds barred varieties of socialism managed to
destroy not just the economies but the cultures of those countries.
 Recovery is slow and maybe not even possible, since in its midst so
many influential people wish to retain elements of the former regime,
especially all the entitlements that had been promised under it but were
hardly every delivered in full.


        But
there is another political economic system that may be on its way to
wider and wider acceptance, if only by default.  This is fascism.


        Fascism
is the system in which no specific economic theory is used to guide the
rulers.  Only one common factor characterizes the system, namely,
arbitrary rule by a charismatic head of state.  Such a head of state has
nearly
carte blanche
so far as its policies are concerned. Examples of fascist regimes are
quite abundant, mainly because at heart nearly all the so called
communist countries are ruled by fascist dictators–Cuba, North Korea,
the Soviet Union, etc.  Yes, under Stalin and other soviet rulers the
USSR really come to nothing more than fascism–“Stalinism is the most
successful variant of fascism” said the late Susan Sontag and with that
declaration (made at the American Workers and Artists for Solidarity
rally), she created an uproar among Leftists around the world. (The
reason is that a favorite refrain of Soviet socialists has always been
that their egalitarian and fair system of political economy was
definitely very different from the equally top-down regime of fascism.)



       Now what fascism has but socialism lacks is flexibility. A
fascist ruler need not adhere to any system, nor some economic
blueprint. Such rulers do whatever they prefer.  Their rule is entirely
arbitrary.  They have no restraints that require of them adherents to
certain public policies.  They rule by virtue of being, at least
temporarily, loved by a substantial percentage of the people.  Uncle Joe
did, as did Fidel and does Hugo Chavez now in Venezuela.  (After a
while this love tends to subside and once it does, massive paranoia sets
in.)



       Some fascist rulers, like General Pinochet, actually favor a
more or less free market capitalism economic system, at least in certain
prominent segments of the economy over which they have control.
 Pinochet made use of some of the teachings of the Chicago School of
economics–his team was labeled the Chicago Boys–although not with the
approval of anyone close to the school and its leader, Professor Milton
Friedman (who always denied the charge by Leftist detractors that
Pinochet had his support).  



       As the market place gives way to more and more government
control, interference, regulation, and other elements of the state
command socio-economic system in many developed nations, they are
beginning more and more to resemble the economies of fascist Italy and
Argentina.  Not quite North Korea, not yet, nor of Cuba–again, not yet.
 But when such regimes begin to have to cope with resistance from the
population, we get their harsher versions rolled out for us.



      Thus, when West Virginia Senator Jay Rockefeller recently
confessed that a little bug in him was hoping for the FCC squashing Fox
Cable TV News–which because it doesn’t use the electromagnetic spectrum
(i.e., it isn’t broadcasting on the “public” or government owned
airwaves) is under the FCC’s jurisdiction (yet?), it brought to mind
just the trend I am afraid is in evidence now. As the Senator put it,
“I’m tired of the right and the left…. There’s a little bug inside of
me which wants to get the FCC to say to Fox and to MSNBC, ‘Out. Off.
End. Goodbye.’” And he added, “It would be a big favor to political
discourse; to our ability to do our work here in Congress; and to the
American people, to be able to talk with each other and have some faith
in their government and, more importantly, in their future.”  


        Not much could be more insidious in a free country than what this public servant wishes to make into public policy!


       F. A. Hayek gained much of his fame from his 1944 book The Road
to Serfdom.  It is time that someone write an equally poignant book, The
Road to Fascism, warning us good and hard about what may lie in our
political-economic future.
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