Saturday, February 14, 2009

Maybe I'm Wrong

Maybe where we're headed isn't socialism.

[T]he state is getting more and more deeply involved in business, even taking controlling interests in some private companies. And the state is even trying to “make policy” for private companies they do not control, but merely “help” with “infusions of capital,” as in the recent call for salary caps for certain CEOs. So state power is growing at the expense of corporations.

But that’s not socialism. Socialism rests on a firm theoretical bedrock: the abolition of private property. I haven’t heard anyone this side of Barney Frank calling for any such thing. What is happening now–and Newsweek is honest enough to say so down in the body of the article–is an expansion of the state’s role, an increase in public/private joint ventures and partnerships, and much more state regulation of business. Yes, it’s very “European,” and some of the Europeans even call it “social democracy,” but it isn’t.

It’s fascism. Nobody calls it by its proper name, for two basic reasons: first, because “fascism” has long since lost its actual, historical, content; it’s been a pure epithet for many decades. Lots of the people writing about current events like what Obama et. al. are doing, and wouldn’t want to stigmatize it with that “f” epithet.

Second, not one person in a thousand knows what fascist political economy was. Yet during the great economic crisis of the 1930s, fascism was widely regarded as a possible solution, indeed as the only acceptable solution to a spasm that had shaken the entire First World, and beyond. It was hailed as a “third way” between two failed systems (communism and capitalism), retaining the best of each. Private property was preserved, as the role of the state was expanded. This was necessary because the Great Depression was defined as a crisis “of the system,” not just a glitch “in the system.” And so Mussolini created the “Corporate State,” in which, in theory at least, the big national enterprises were entrusted to state ownership (or substantial state ownership) and of course state management. Some of the big “Corporations” lasted a very long time; indeed some have only very recently been privatized, and the state still holds important chunks–so-called “golden shares”–in some of them.


Sound like anything you've seen recently?

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

The whole point of this book was to warn of the inevitable (?) consequences when government assumes too large of a role in the economy of a nation.

allen (in Michigan) said...

And as long as Anonymous is recommending books, I'll throw in a conditional plug for "Liberal Fascism" by Jonah Goldberg. Not his usual, breezy smartaleckiness but some pretty serious going. Early on he makes a pretty strong case for fascism not being quite so securely defined as is widely made out.

So the answer would be "no", it's still socialism or rather a move towards a reduction in individual autonomy which is the same thing.

Ellen K said...

Let's see, fascist government, charismatic leader, blind followers, the perceived need for limiting free speech in the media, dissolution of private corporations that produce needed commodities, setting up of closed military bases for civilian housing....why am I suddenly shivering?

Ellen K said...

PS. It's funny. I took a Philosophy course back in 1976. The guy who taught it was a raving liberal-one of the ones who saved the Big Thicket wilderness region in East Texas. He discussed governments often and his contention was that Europe would return to a fascist reign of government within the next 50 years. He also said that unless Americans paid attention, that those who were blind syncophants of the European style would follow. I wonder if this guy is still alive. I wish I could remember his whole name. His first name was Jim.....