This episode features a lecture by historian and author Anthony Gregory from 2013. He discusses the modern evils of fascism and communism, their commonalities and differences, and their continuing significance today. Purchase books by Anthony Gregory on Amazon here.Open This Content
One objection I frequently see against libertarianism is that it’s “too extreme”. “There needs to be a balance between the extremes of libertarianism and fascism” (as illustrated by “border enforcement” and so forth).
This misses the reality.
(Of course, the act of governing others won’t be referred to as fascism. Statists aren’t that self-aware or honest. They’ll call it “rule of law” or will conflate political government with society. You can use whatever substitute terms you wish, as long as you keep this in mind.)
The extreme ends of the spectrum are not libertarianism and fascism– the extremes are nihilism and fascism. Libertarianism is the healthy balance which avoids both of the toxic extremes. It’s the only way to avoid ruin.
Libertarianism is not “extreme” unless your wish is to watch the world burn; unless you want to kill off everyone with your chosen politics. If you choose something other than libertarianism you are choosing one of the deadly extremes. You are choosing to be extreme in defense of something indefensible.Open This Content
“Tonight, we renew our resolve that America will never be a socialist country,” US president Donald Trump announced in his State of the Union address in February. His base, as he had hoped, cheered him on in setting himself up as foil to Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
In the three months since, though, Trump has doubled down on his own socialist policy proposals. On trade and immigration, he’s 21st-century America’s most strident — or most empowered, anyway — advocate of an indispensable tenet of state socialism: Central planning of the economy by the government.
Trump wants the government to control what you buy and who you buy it from. Thus, his “trade wars” with Canada, Mexico, the European Union, and China, powered by tariffs intended to advantage “Made in America” goods (and their politically connected makers) over others.
Now he’s announced a plan for “merit-based” government control of immigration under which bureaucrats in Washington decide how many, and which, immigrants the American economy “needs,” instead of leaving such decisions to markets and individuals.
In the past I’ve bemoaned the fact that “socialism” has come to mean such different things to so many different people. From its 19th century definition of “worker ownership of the means of production,” it’s been continually re-defined to characterize everything from Marxist-Leninist totalitarianism to a more all-embracing “democratic socialist” welfare state powered by heavy taxation on “the rich.”
That’s a pretty broad net. But except among anarchist socialists, state control of the economy is the axis on which all versions of socialism turn, and Trump is clearly all-in on the idea.
He even lends a socialist cast to the excuses he makes for his economic policies. He continually positions himself as protecting workers from the “dog-eat-dog” competition of capitalism (while avoiding using that word negatively). By adding an emphasis on political borders to those excuses, he changes the discussion from “labor versus capital” to “American labor versus foreign capital.”
That approach is nothing new. See Stalin’s “socialism in one country,” for example, or the marriage between central economic planning and nationalism characterizing the fascism of Mussolini and Hitler.
America’s Republican president campaigns against socialism while attempting to implement it. Meanwhile, America’s progressives campaign for socialism while attempting to thwart actual worker ownership of the means of production (e.g. the “gig economy”). Talk about cognitive dissonance!
Notice what’s missing from the discussion on both major “sides”: Freedom.
Freedom to move within and across political borders.
Freedom to trade within and across political borders.
Freedom to plan our own lives and live them instead of turning that power, and that responsibility, over to the state.
Neither major political party even convincingly pretends to care about those fundamental human rights anymore.
The entire public discussion revolves around what the politicians should “allow” or “forbid” the rest of us to do next, based on an unquestioning assumption of their moral authority to make such decisions for us.
Unless we break that cycle, we’re on our way into the next Dark Age.Open This Content
One of the chief reasons why almost every regime in the world has converged to a system of participatory fascism is that this system creates or retains a great variety of institutionalized opportunities for the state’s victims—who compose the great majority of the people—to challenge the state’s exactions and to “make their voices heard,” thereby gaining the impression that the rulers are not simply oppressing and exploiting them unilaterally but involving them in an essential way in the making and enforcement of rules.
These opportunities help to allay public resentment and anger, assuring people that they have had “their day in court,” and thereby serve to prop up the regime and its ongoing exploitation. These official avenues of protest and resistance are, however, rarely of any real avail. The oppressed citizens and other residents are protesting the actions of legislatures, government executives, bureaucracies, and courts run by the very people who are engaged in the oppression and plunder. The opportunities for voicing feedback are, in effect, ways in which people are allowed to request that the slave master stop beating them or reduce the severity of the beating. Rarely do the petitioners win, and even when they do, the costs of making their appeals, especially through the legal system, guarantee that they will be impoverished in the process.
Heads you lose, tails you lose. I promise you that in making the foregoing statements, I am speaking not only from my scholarly engagement with the matter but also from my personal experience, some of which grinds on seemingly endlessly even as I tap out this cri de coeur.Open This Content
It’s a powerful thing to name your enemies. By naming them, you can keep always in front of you what you’re up against.
So I figure I ought to take a page from Arya Stark’s playbook and start keeping tabs on my list of enemies.
Some of my enemies are emotions: despair, terror, vindictiveness, arrogance, numbness.
Some of my enemies are philosophies: authoritarianism, statism, socialism, fascism, anti-human religiosity, sexism, racism.
Some of my enemies are habits: procrastination, stagnation, indebtedness, dishonesty, lateness, failed promises, conformity.
Some of my enemies are attitudes: contempt, subservience, helplessness, status-seeking.
You’ll notice there are no people on this list. That’s because all people are capable of change – all people are capable of being my friends, or at least of not being evil.
If I’m going to choose enemies, I also might as well pick ones that I’m never going to fully defeat. A good long battle will make me strong for a good long time, and a big-enough enemy is a good motivation for a struggle which will take a lifetime.
Another grace of my particular enemies list is that it makes my choice of tactics simpler.
With enemies like procrastination, I can know that any action I take toward a creative goal is a victory- and any procrastination is itself a defeat.
With enemies like despair, I can know that giving up would be the only form of failure.
With enemies like authoritarianism and statism, I can remind myself that I can only win by respecting the freedom of others. The way of power isn’t open to me.
Finally, I think I’ll find that listing out these enemies will make it far harder for me to subconsciously slip into treating them as friends. If I remind myself routinely that vindictiveness is an enemy, it won’t find any hospitality in my heart.Open This Content
Those who fight for economic egalitarianism and against income inequality are attempting to do the impossible by government force. Not only do they want income levels coercively flattened, but they also hope that more and more of their fellow human beings will share their ideals. In essence, they hope to build a race of “New Men” and “New Women” and they aren’t opposed to using state violence to do it. Are these aspirations any different than Communism’s or Fascism’s “New Man” campaigns? What about Nazi Germany’s campaigns for racial hygiene? Distinctions without a difference, perhaps? While they may have slightly different ends, their means of choice are likewise predicated on the belief that government may be used to threaten or attack those who prefer to live their lives and use their property in their own chosen, peaceful ways. Think about it. And that’s today’s two cents.Open This Content