Socialism Is Dead; Participatory Fascism Has Triumphed

“Socialism with Chinese characteristics” = Chinese fascism
“American capitalism” = American fascism
“Post-Communism in Russia” = Russian fascism
“Scandinavian Third Way” = Scandinavian fascism
“Italian fascism” = Italian fascism
“German fascism” = German fascism
“Spanish fascism” = Spanish fascism
“European corporatism” = European fascism

Are you starting to see a pattern?

Many people continue to perceive the presence or impending advent of socialism here, there, and everywhere and to lament the prospect. But full-fledged socialism is almost extinct. Aside from North Korea, hardly any country now has socialism’s essential attributes: government ownership, management, and direct control of all the major means of production; central planning of resource allocation and income distribution; and an almost complete absence of private property rights except for very small properties and some personal items. Almost all countries on earth now permit major elements of private property, combined with extensive government intervention and regulation of private property use and extensive taxation, subsidization, and government provision of a variety of “public goods,” “welfare,” infrastructure, and many other types of goods and services.

Moreover, almost all countries have elections of public officials; hence the term I’ve used for more than 30 years (borrowed from my Ph.D. student and friend Charlotte Twight), “participatory fascism.” (Never mind that the elections are often rigged and fraudulent.) Moreover, many countries have established institutions for permitting aggrieved citizens a measure of due process in contesting the government’s treatment of their persons and property and allowing them a public voice in expressing their preferences for government action. (Never mind that this ostensible due process is largely spurious.)

This type of regime, mis amigos, is clearly the wave of the future. Unlike full-fledged socialism, which leads to totalitarian rule, mass poverty and economic decay, participatory fascism not only placates people’s wish to participate in the formal process of government decision-making but also permits private entrepreneurs enough room for maneuver that they can in some cases get rich; also enough that they can keep national output at a tolerably high level and in some cases even generate positive economic growth. Hence this system, even if it contains the seeds of its own destruction, does not destroy itself nearly as quickly as full-fledged socialism does. And meanwhile the politicians and their cronies who dominate the system smile all the way to the bank.

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Robert Higgs is Senior Fellow in Political Economy at the Independent Institute and Editor at Large of the Institute’s quarterly journal The Independent Review. He received his Ph.D. in economics from Johns Hopkins University, and he has taught at the University of Washington, Lafayette College, Seattle University, the University of Economics, Prague, and George Mason University. He has been a visiting scholar at Oxford University and Stanford University, and a fellow at the Hoover Institution and the National Science Foundation.

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H. Rearden
H. Rearden
4 years ago

The only state I know of that embraced the label fascist was Italy under the rule of Mussolini. The National Socialists were fascists but did not call themselves fascists. Those who support fascism seem to claim that what they support is socialism. Perhaps Mussolini damaged the term fascist because you are hard pressed to find someone who admits to supporting fascism even when they do support fascism.