Sunday, March 04, 2012


I'm reading Jonah Goldberg's Liberal Fascism with rapt fascination. It's been clear to me for some time that fascism, Nazism, and Communism are all manifestations of what we in the United States would call the political left, but many on the left choose to believe that the former two, at least, are somehow related to the right; left unsaid by them is how a political movement called the National Socialist Workers Party could be of the right, but I digress :-) Goldberg, in excruciating detail, shows how the American Left today are the political heirs to last century's progressive movement, a movement that, in general, was very pleased with Bolshevism in the Soviet Union and fascism in Italy.

Before today I'd never heard of Auguste Comte, but here's what Goldberg tells us about him:
...a semimystical French philosopher whose biggest claim to fame was his coinage of the word "sociology." Comte argued that humanity progressed in three stages and that in the final stage mankind would throw off Christianity and replace it with a new "religion of humanity," which married religious fervor to science and reason--even to the extent of making "saints" out of such figures as Shakespeare, Dante, and Frederick the Great. Comte believed that the age of mass industrialization and technocracy would pluck the human mind from the metaphysical realm for good, ushering in an age where pragmatic managers would improve the plight of all based upon man-made morality. He anointed himself the high priest of this atheistic, secular faith, which he called positivism.
Does that philosophy sound like anything you hear today? It sure does to me.

Anyway, as I read that I thought back to something I'd seen linked on Instapundit recently:
Nagel concluded that democracies rarely or never elect the best leaders. Their advantage over dictatorships or other forms of government is merely that they "effectively prevent lower-than-average candidates from becoming leaders."
Comte's "pragmatic managers." Technocrats. Even benevolent dictatorships (and let's not pretend that a technocracy would be anything but) are doomed to fail, especially when compared to a free market, because no one person or group of persons has access to as much information as the invisible hand of the market has. And that argument is entirely separate from the individual freedom argument, which I find even more compelling.

In modern parlance, "crowdsourcing", whether in the marketplace of products or in the marketplace of leaders, will usually provide a better result than one person's decision will.

Update, 3/6/12: "Government by expert" is incompatible with the rule of law.


Jean said...

"how a political movement called the National Socialist Workers Party could be of the right..."

The same way the Deutsche Demokratische Republik could be a Communist state, I guess. Not that I disagree with you--I'm just sayin'. The name of an organization doesn't necessarily have anything to do with its actual philosophy.

I started Goldberg's book a couple of years ago and got distracted. Really need to pick it up again...

muckdog said...

Believe me, if you mention this in a comment at a liberal blog, you will be called a neocon fascist for even mentioning the book and or Jonah.

allen (in Michigan) said...

The further advantage to representative forms is that when long-serving representative displays the unappetizing characteristics that attend the assumption that they never have to worry about re-election they quite often end up not having to worry about re-election.

As for the appeal of technocracy, that's just the "divine right of kings" updated to a more current standard.

The failure of any form of the divine right of kings, i.e. an inherent superiority that justifies not bothering with all that tiresome "election" stuff, lies in the fact that technocrats, and kings, have their own agenda and absent a periodic reminder that their agenda had better be an extension of the agenda of the people they represent they go into business for themselves.

What I found interesting about "Liberal Fascism" was the section about Mussolini and how he was viewed before the ascent of Hitler. He was pretty well thought-of and not anything like the clownish figure he came to be seen as later on. Pretty dense read, hey?

Darren said...

It's a little dense in some parts, but nothing I can't handle :-) I just picked it up again after a long absence, so I'm only about 1/3 through it.

Completely agree with all the comments above.

allen (in Michigan) said...

Just caught Jean's comments and the National Socialist Workers Party did, in fact, enact quite a bit in the way of socialist policies most notably in medical care.

In fact, the original impetus for the Holocaust is to be found in getting rid of society's undesirables who were using up valuable medical resources with no hope of ever becoming productive - "existence without life" to use the slogan generated to justify that brutal efficiency. Like most authoritarian/socialist regimes the Nazis approved policies that sound egalitarian but are in fact highly discriminatory.

One of the things that bugs me about the conservative response to socialized medicine is a failure to emphasize the fact that socialized medicine is a vehicle for assuring that a small group of people gets excellent medical care because a large group of people get lousy medical care. Further, the standard by which membership is determined is political power. That's a crucial factor because in these United States I don't get lousier medical care because Bill Gates gets better medical care but in Cuba the average Cuban gets lousier medical care because everyone with some political influence gets better medical care.