Misconstruing Mussolini

I’ve been reviewing the history of fascism recently, because the Republic of Iran has many structural features in common with fascism and I think the history of fascism in Europe holds lessons about its future. And recently I ran across a quote beloved of American leftists in an email signature:

From Benito Mussolini: “Fascism should more properly be called corporatism, since it is the merger of state and corporate power.”

This quote is often misconstrued nowadays by leftists who view profit-making corporations under capitalism (especially multinational corporations) as instruments of the devil. They love the implied image of capitalist fat-cats and fascist dictators conspiring in gilded opulence. Alas for them that this quote actually doesn’t imply anything like that; the terminological ground under it has shifted.

The “corporatism” Mussolini to which was referring had, actually, nothing to do with corporations, joint-stock or otherwise (in the 1920s the word “corporation” did not yet have its modern sense, either in English or Italian). His use of the word had to do with a feature of fascist theory forgotten by almost everybody but specialist historians.

In fascist theory, “corporations” were bodies like unions, craft guilds, professional societies, and grange associations. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corporatism for discussion; see especially the section “Italian fascist corporativism”.

What Mussolini was actually enunciating was a sort of organic statism in which the state would bless or admit representatives of various “corporations” into its governing councils — and no, that didn’t mean Fiat or Beretta but (say) the Abruzzo Building Trades Association, or the Society of University Professors.

While corporations-in-the-modern sense were not outright excluded from being legitimized “corporations” in the fascist sense, neither did they have any special status or power in the system. Actually, it was rather the reverse…

It’s worth remembering that the founders of fascism were mainly Leninists like Mussolini with a sprinkling of anarcho-syndicalists (George Sorel being the best known of those). Actual fascism retained the founders’ doctrinal hostility to what modern leftists would call “corporate power”, never renouncing its state-socialist roots and being (in fact) hostile to all centers of power other than the state itself.

The modern idea that German and Italian fascism were conservative or pro-business ideologies is essentially a fantasy constructed by pro-Soviet propagandists during and after World War II. In fact, classical fascism never wandered very far from its left-wing origins; corporatism can be seen as an elaboration of the theoretical role of worker’s soviets in Leninist theory.

102 thoughts on “Misconstruing Mussolini

  1. It’s the classic confusion of economic and political power. One is power to trade freely with voluntary participants which is earned through production of the wealth. The other is the power of destruction where the final argument is a gun.

    The big confusion goes further in the modern mixed economies where improper government corrupts business by allowing any and all groups including corporations (in the modern sense) to solicit use of the governmental gun to point at their competitors or really anyone they wish.

  2. Apart from all this, I bet Mussolini deliberately left the meaning of his ‘corporatism’ vague – so that he could get the support of BOTH kinds of corporations if need be.

    Hitler’s NSDAP did something similar before coming to power. He embraced the working class and at the same time sought favours from the rich and powerful on his quest for power.

    We have to remember that most dictators are master politicians first – ideologues only for the purposes of propaganda.

  3. If you haven’t done that yet, I highly recommend reading “liberal fascism” by Jonah Goldberg, truly an enlightening and hilarious book.

  4. Where the problem is how to construct Mussolini right, because he have promised pretty much everything for everybody and the opposite of everything too. His history is a long Machiavellian maneouvering for power without sticking to any principles.

    At least in popular politics. There are a few writings of him left that tend to point out some sort of a philosophy: basically, he believed in relativism and in the Nietzschean will-to-power both on the personal and national level. On the personal level, it’s OK to say and do anything that lets one gain power, it’s OK to promise a “Manchaster state” to the capitalists and then social programs for the Socialists, it’s all OK as long as it helps in gaining power. On the national level, it’s war, conquest and the creation of an empire.

    In the Diuturna, he wrote:

    “Everything I have said and done is these last years is relativism, by intuition. From the fact that all ideologies are of equal value, that all ideologies are mere fictions, the modern relativist infers that everybody has the right to create for himself his own ideology, and to attempt to enforce it with all the energy of which he is capable. If relativism signifies contempt for fixed categories, and men who claim to be the bearers of an objective immortal truth, then there is nothing more relativistic than fascism.”

    That’s probably as close to the real ideas of Mussolini as it gets.

    (And I need to add one thing: Fascism is often misconstructed as “radical Conservatism”. However, _nothing_ could be more un-Conservative, than the above quote. so it’s clearly wrong.)

    Corporatism: Mussolini at one time was an anarcho-syndicalist. As I understand it, was originally based on the idea of a syndicalist way to manage businesses, unlike in genuine a.s., not just by workers, but by owners, workers, and the representatives of the state jointly.

    “Corporate” (lat. corporatus) basically means “bodified”, “embodied”, an administrative body, and a “stato corporativo” is not the same as a “corporazione” except in that regard that both are ruled by administrative bodies representing.

  5. I take your point that Mussolini’s corporations are not the profit-seeking businesses to which the term attaches today. However, I’m not sure I fully appreciate the difference between Mussolini’s corporations and what are today called special interests or lobby groups. If further seems to me that the power wielded by those special interest lobbies, in the US especially but also in other western nations, could arguably be called ‘a merger between state and corporate power.’ I don’t think it’s facism, but neither do I think it’s healthy for democracy.

  6. Hi Eric,
    If you take a look at http://answers.google.com/answers/threadview?id=280606 and http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Talk:Benito_Mussolini you’ll find that there is considerable doubt that Mussolini ever said this.

    Also, the OED lists the modern usage:
    4b: Frequently used in the titles of incorporated companies, e.g. the London Assurance Corporation, Irish Land C., Oriental Bank C., Peruvian C., etc.

    and dates its usage back to the early 1800s.

    What was your source for saying that the modern meaning in English and Italian didn’t come into use until after the 1920s?

    I know this is just nitpicking — thanks for bringing this all up; I always assumed fascism was right-wing economically. Very interesting.

  7. In response to Alistair and Eric both, I’d suggest that the word “corporation” at the time of Mussolini’s (alleged) statement carried both meanings fairly prominently. The important distinction being that the definition and connotations described by our host have been largely lost and forgotten, as he says, much like the grange associations mentioned. It seems that the important point to be learned about fascism is that it was a strategy designed for the government to embrace and co-opt any body, commercial or other, wielding power amongst the populace. Sun Tzu would have smiled, I’m sure, under the “keep your friends close and your enemies closer” banner.

  8. Alistair: being economically “right-wing” is ambiguous as well. In the modern sense, it could mean the spouting of free-market platitudes while actually endorsing the close association of corporations and the state (much like we have in the U.S. today). In this sense, most Democrats and Republicans are “right-wing economically” today (just ask anyone outside of the U.S.).

    The other sense of “right-wing economics” is a belief in true free-market principles, without the intervention of the state. In this version, there would be no special status for certain favored corporations. This does not exist anywhere (that I’m aware of) today and is promoted by libertarians. Republicans (and some Democrats) will often use the language of free-market principles while not actually supporting them.

    The idea that facists were “right-wing” is actually an idea promoted by leftists that believed that their version of socialism was the “correct” one. The only thing facism was to the right of economically was socialism. It is still a far-left ideology, economically speaking.

  9. Fascism is “right-wing” — remember that right-wing = non-Stalinist according to Stalin.

    Stalin called Leon Trotsky, a fellow communist, a “right-winger” and a “fascist” after Trotsky was an enemy of the state. The Stalinists…today’s Democratic Party and the MSM…continue this tradition.

    If any leftist or MSM talks about “right-wing” they mean “evil people to hate.” It’s that simple. Look at the BNP in the UK…totally leftist and socialist (of the nationalist variety). But not politically correct i.e. pro-Labour Party. Hence they are enemies of the state too, and “right-wing” even though the BNP is completely against capitalism, libertarianism, conservatism, etc.

  10. Eric, you seem to be summing up what David Neiwert wrote here; are you familiar with his writing? He did quite a bit on the history and nature of fascism in response to Jonah Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism.

    Alistair R: I always assumed fascism was right-wing economically. Very interesting.

    I thought that fascism was more about the acquisition and centralization of vicious power, rather than any particular economic program (though of course centralization of power can be reflected in economics, whether through central state planning or state-backed oligarchs). I’m thinking here of Mussolini saying, “The democrats of Il Mondo want to know our program? It is to break the bones of the democrats of Il Mondo.”

  11. >What was your source for saying that the modern meaning in English and Italian didn’t come into use until after the 1920s?

    Perhaps I should have said “modern restricted” meaning. Today, when we speak of “corporations”, we we mean almost exclusively joint-stock for-profit incorporated bodies; privately held corporations are exceptions at the edge of the word’s semantic field and organizations like unions or craft guilds aren’t included at all.

  12. >Eric, you seem to be summing up what David Neiwert wrote here; are you familiar with his writing?

    No. I only agree with half his case, because the Nazis did in fact remain state-socialist in ideology until the party was destroyed at the end of WWII.

  13. >owever, I’m not sure I fully appreciate the difference between Mussolini’s corporations and what are today called special interests or lobby groups.

    There isn’t much difference. I’ve written before that the post-New-Deal system in the U.S. has some disturbing parallels with fascism; the degree to which special-interest groups and the machinery of government have co-opted each other is precisely what I had in mind.

  14. >If you haven’t done that yet, I highly recommend reading “liberal fascism” by Jonah Goldberg, truly an enlightening and hilarious book.

    Haven’t read it. But Goldberg is a sharp thinker; I have found nothing to disagree with in the summaries of the book’s case I’ve seen.

  15. These distinctions seem almost irrelevant from the principled pure libertarian stand that we call “voluntaryism” ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voluntaryist ). From that stand point, all use of coercion is wrong, period. So whether it is a private corporation in its modern sense or an union or a special interest group of some sort if they use in ANY way the government for ANY of its interests they are considered as at least partly “merged with the state”.

    State capitalism can hardly result in anything other than fascism, in both senses of the word.

  16. In fact, classical fascism never wandered very far from its left-wing roots; corporatism can be seen as an elaboration of the theoretical role of worker’s soviets in Leninist theory.

    You are choosing to construe populism as leftist when it is not, not unlike the brown shirts that believed the “Socialist” part of National Socialist that were conveniently murdered when Hitler no longer had a use for them after they helped frame the Communists for the Reichstag fire. Remember, both Mussolini and Hitler were not above lying to the populace to gain what they wanted, absolute power.

  17. Actually, there is much more evidence for the affinity between Mussolini and socialism [and American progressivism] than given here, and not just in economics, but also in other features of fascism that we find less pleasant. But if this post has been useful to Alistair R and a few others, that is good.

    A few criticisms, roughly in order of increasing importance:

    1st, Mussolini cannot be called a Leninist because he departed from orthodox Marxism before Lenin did.

    2nd, Corporatism, Mussolini-style, is not necessarily bad for big corporations: it helps them enforce cartels or even monopolies; it is, however, bad for the free market.

    3rd, the use of the words “left-wing” and “right-wing” in their modern sense is anachronistic when talking about Mussolini: he had no problem claiming to be “right-wing” AND radically opposed to classical [laissez-faire] liberalism, so modern American conservatism was actually “left-wing” to him.
    OTOH Marxist socialism was not universally considered “left-wing” until the 1930s — and then only because it was opposed to fascism, and Mussolini had declared fascism to be “right-wing” so you do the math.

  18. Yes, “corporation” is one of those words that has become much narrower over time, in common understanding if not definition. I imagine that since incorporated businesses put it in their name (and advertise that name a lot) and other organizations don’t, the general understanding has specialized. One of the few holdovers of the more general sense is in the suburbs: if outside the city boundaries, you are in an “unincorporated area”.

  19. Actually, corporatism is 1) is neither unique to fascism nor a requirement for a fascist regime, 2) can be associated with either left wing or right wing systems, 3) can be associated with either democratic or undemocratic systems.

    So why all the emphasis on corporatism as the key to understanding fascism? Because of the conflation with what many people think of when they hear the word “corporation.” So the focus on corporatism began with left wing bashing of business corporations and capitalism in general. Now the emphasis on corporatism is being fueled by right wing attacks on the left and socialism, based on the premise that corporatism is necessarily left wing and socialist. But as the above facts make clear, both of these brands of arguments are triply bogus. It’s just polemicizing in the service of a partisan ideological agenda, and has nothing to do with real scholarship on fascism. So both Jonah Goldberg and Chris Hedges, and their compadres on both sides of the aisle, should shut their damn yappers when it comes to corporatism.

  20. First, in Iran there are only one party. The two men that went to elections are from the same party, and have the same leader. This movement is not going to change anything unless ayatollah is removed(and this is not going to happen).

    This has very little to do with fascism, unless you consider Hitler regime fascism(the same thing), like the left does.

    Hitler was different from Mussolini and Franco.

    Mussolini was a member of the italian communist party, and went out because he wanted to became independent from URSS to create a national-socialist party.

    Hitler created his own party and used the new media(radio) to convince people that he was going to do everything they wanted (he talked to mine workers and convinced them, talked to shop dealers and convinced them, talked to everybody and said: I will help you)He got to be democratically elected and said: I need full power to solve the problems, the rest is history: This has a lot to do with what happened in Persia when a democratically elected movement was used to destroy democracy, but this was many years ago.

    Franco was a general of the military of Spain that defended the republic more than four times from communist that tried to do a revolution a la URSS(if you are interested google for “1934 revolution” or Asturias revolution. He was only one general of the ones that revolve against the republic, in fact he was not the most important at the start of the movement. He revolved three days later than Mola. He had nothing to do with socialist-communism, in fact they were its biggest enemies, but let the falangist(national-socialist)rule the post-war as a thank you for the help in war(falangist were to right what communist were to left, the most extremist of all) .

    It’s interesting how in Europe to call someone “fascist” has become an insult but “communist” not. If you live in USA I think you don’t really know what “left” means.

  21. > One of the few holdovers of the more general sense is in the suburbs: if outside the city boundaries, you are in an “unincorporated area”.

    I’ve been told that unincorporated areas are extremely rare in the northeast US.

    I had a girlfriend who was surprised when my answer to “what town are we in?” was “none”. Apparently MA and NY are completely incorporated. I’d have guessed that the federal parks weren’t part of cities and maybe the state ones as well.

  22. I’ve heard that Mussolini was inspired by Lenin in the first place. The historical facts I know from the other-side-of-the-wall literature support your conclusions.

  23. These distinctions seem almost irrelevant from the principled pure libertarian stand that we call “voluntaryism”

    Or “anarcho-capitalism,” which is the same idea — abolish the government, but keep private property, each homestead being basically self-deterministic.

    One thing I found interesting in your Wikipedia article:

    The educational voluntaryists wanted free trade in education, just as they supported free trade in corn or cotton. Their concern “for liberty can scarcely be exaggerated.” They believed that “government would employ education for its own ends” (teaching habits of obedience and indoctrination), and that government-controlled schools would ultimately teach children to rely on the State for all things.

    Looks like they were right.

    Anyway, steering back on topic, wasn’t it Plato’s Republic that ultimately concluded that the end result of a republican form of government is corruption and — ultimately — fascism?

  24. I don’t think it’s a “restricted meaning”: corporate and corporation more or less always supposed to mean different things, just as (stato) corporativo and corporazione means different things in the original, and it’s simply a linguistic laziness that we often say corporate when we should say corporation.

    BTW, a quote:

    “Everything I have said and done is these last years is relativism, by intuition. From the fact that all ideologies are of equal value, that all ideologies are mere fictions, the modern relativist infers that everybody has the right to create for himself his own ideology, and to attempt to enforce it with all the energy of which he is capable. If relativism signifies contempt for fixed categories, and men who claim to be the bearers of an objective immortal truth, then there is nothing more relativistic than fascism. ”

    (Mussolini in Diuturna)

    Just how could anyone consider this guy right-wing in _any_ sense of the word?

  25. “wasn’t it Plato’s Republic that ultimately concluded that the end result of a republican form of government is corruption and — ultimately — fascism”

    No, he predicted tyranny in a way that it actually happened in Athens and Rome, however, I’m not sure tyranny in the old sense is exactly the same as fascism in the modern sense. Fascism is at the core the embodiment of a death wish, an over-exaggeration of what Nietzsche called the spirit of tragedy, the totalization of this spirit of the tragedy into a tyranny, while you can’t really see the same principle working in “normal” tyrannies of the classical age. It’s not by chance that certain elements of fascist/nazi art are reused in the “goth” subculture: both have this death wish/tragical aspect, the “goth” one without the tyrannical methods, of course. Add a “goth” to a classical tyrant and only then you get something like fascism.

  26. >>owever, I’m not sure I fully appreciate the difference between Mussolini’s corporations and what are today >>called special interests or lobby groups.

    >There isn’t much difference.

    I see much difference, in fact, the total opposite. Special interest groups are trying to influence the state for their purposes, while M.’s stato corporativo was based on the idea of the state controlling the firms for the interests of the state. It’s really simple: the idea was to maximize production in order to maximize military readiness. M. announced the idea of maximized production right after the WWI, when he still was a socialist journalist and nobody ever heard of fascism yet.

  27. “But Goldberg is a sharp thinker”

    Are you sure? This, for example, is total and utter bullshit, http://liberalfascism.nationalreview.com/post/?q=NWM0NjgzODBhMDcxMGIzNTY1OTJjYjI1NjFhN2ZhMTA= because what really happened was not a battle between individualism and collectivism, but rather the wrong kind of individualism which tends to foster collectivism vs. the good kind of individualism which tends to foster (more or less, but not always) voluntary community spirit. This guy explains why: http://darwincatholic.blogspot.com/2008/07/obligation-vs-individualism.html (ignore the religious bits, the whole argument makes perfect sense without them).

  28. >because what really happened was not a battle between individualism and collectivism, but rather the wrong kind of individualism which tends to foster collectivism vs. the good kind of individualism which tends to foster (more or less, but not always) voluntary community spirit.

    Sorry, but I agree with Goldberg’s construction and not yours. You’re talking as if there is no collectivist element in the political traditions descended from Rousseau. That’s nonsense.

  29. Eric, how do you feel about the fact that many right-wing pundits would see this as you agreeing that liberals are nazis?

  30. More Orcinus– an overview of research into fascism, with a conclusion that it’s essentially emotional rather than ideological.

    “Fascism demands racial, ethnic, or cultural unity and the collective rebirth of a nation while seeking to purge demonized enemies that are often scapegoated as subversive and parasitic. Fascism is a form of authoritarian ultra-nationalism that glorifies action, violence, and a militarized culture. Fascism can exist as an ideology, a mass movement, or a form of state government. Fascism attacks both liberal democratic pluralism and left-wing revolutionary movements while proposing a totalitarian version of populist mass politics. Fascism parasitizes other ideologies, juggles many internal tensions and contradictions, and produces chameleon-like adaptations based on the specific historic symbols, icons, slogans, traditions, myths, and heroes of the society it wishes to mobilize. — Chip Berlet”

    It isn’t surprising if the result is very far from a free market, but a few businesses manage to bribe their way into monopolies.

  31. >Eric, how do you feel about the fact that many right-wing pundits would see this as you agreeing that liberals are nazis?

    Unpreturbed. I consider all forms of collectivism to lead to the same abattoir by a road signposted “EVERYTHING FOR THE STATE; NOTHING WITHOUT THE STATE; THE STATE IS ALL.”. The difference is that Nazis go that route with their eyes open, while left-liberals do it with their eyes shut.

  32. Who are these specialist historians? Can you supply some citations or names at least? If no one but them knows these things, how did you come upon the knowledge? Please provide supporting documents.

  33. I think a reason for a lot of further confusion on the question of “what is fascism” comes from the fact that it is an ultra-Herderian movement. You can think of the fundamental cultural debate as being between Hegel (all cultures are the same, we are all destined to enter the sunlit uplands of the future as a universal humanity) and Herder (each Volk is distinct, are *not* the same, and history is a struggle between them). Marx is Hegelian socialism…hence the Internationale, Workers of the World, Unite!, etc..

    Fascism is Hegelian (hence *national* socialism). In each of the fascist regimes, the Party tried to accentuate what was *distinctive* about the Volk, and magnify it to ludicrous proportions. Since each Volk was different, this took on very different garb in different places. Japan invented a pseudo-mythical samurai past, and imagined that *all* Japanese would follow a sort of bushido. The Phalangists of Spain became hyper-Catholic. Mussolini attempted to revive the glory of Rome, bulldozing much of the medieval city to expose more marble totems, and dreaming of a Mediterranean empire. Hitler tried to revive a memory (largely based on 19th cent. Germ Romanticism) of a Germanic romantic warrior people in opposition to the soft Romanic cultures to the west and the knuckle-dragging Slavs to the east, drawing heavily on people like Werner Sombart who had divided the world into Hero cultures (like Germany) and Merchant cultures (like Britain, America, and the Jews) along with a timeless and virulent form of anti-Semitism which had been a chronic feature of German life since the crusades. In practice, these all looked quite different, but that was the *point*. Each of these movements was trying to accentuate that which made their culture different.

    One can even push this hypothesis further. What was Stalinism if not Russian Herderism/Fascism? Stalin took the place of the old Tsar-Patriarch, Father of all the Russias. Yes, it was Marxist and universalist in theory, but in practice Churchill was right-the key was the Russian national interest.

    Perhaps most interestingly, when the same impulse came to Britain and America, you got an accentuation of what the British and Americans saw as *their* distinctive traditions, which had, of course, been associated with Classical Liberalism. So what you got was a hulking statism in a bizarre co-existence with a hyper-patriotism that trumpeted liberty…the effect of which was largely to blunt the drive for yet greater statism.

    If you’ve read this rambling post this far, you’re wondering whether I have a point vis-a-vis Iran. I do. I completely agree with ESR here-this is definitely a Fascist-Herderian regime by this token. This is why pushing against any sort of Iranian pride (say on the nuclear program) has been the only thing that gives this government legitimacy, and why the protesters are so canny-they are disputing the right of the clerics to represent Iranian hyper-identity. This is why they are so vehemently claiming the mantle of the revolution. They are disputing the idea that the Mullahs are the embodiment of Iranian-ness. They are hitting fascism at its weakest point-if the Party does not have claim to being the embodiment of Ur-Persian-ness, it has no legitimacy.

    So, yes, we need to be helping the Iranian people in every way we can, but we need to make sure that everything keeps an Iranian face. The accusations of the establishment that this is “foreign meddling” are ringing hollow-it needs to stay that way. This revolution needs to become global without losing its very Iranian face.

  34. “This quote is often misconstrued nowadays by leftists who view profit-making corporations under capitalism (especially multinational corporations) as instruments of the devil.”

    Interesting. I’m a “leftist” and still I’ve never stumbled upon this quote in the context you mention. Have you got any sources to refer to where alleged “leftists” use this quote as you claim they so often do?
    And by the way, the meaning of corporatism is pretty well covered in any literature on fascism or even basic history books or encyclopedias. I guess that reading those kind of books makes most of us “specialist historians”.

  35. “You’re talking as if there is no collectivist element in the political traditions descended from Rousseau. That’s nonsense.”

    I’m that collectivism is based on a misunderstood idea of individualism: of the individual conceived as standing alone, without any relations, like obligations, or other sorts of relations to other individuals. Collectivisms always visualize the individual as standing alone, with relations to no other but the state. Prediction 1: totalitarianisms always tried to strip people of such relations or personal obligations to other people, f.e. glorifying a student who betrayed his father to the state. Prediction 2: less-total (liberal) collectivisms tend to provide services to outcompete such personal obligations (such as caring for elderly parents, such as helping the poor in the local community, such as actively incentiving divorces via welfare schemes etc.), and are often even explicit about doing so: we take care people so that you can afford not to care and you can spend all your time on pursuing your own personal desires, without being hindered by obligations to other people. Prediction 3: try to hitch-hike in Sweden :) Prediction 4: the stuff observed by Tocqueville in Memoirs on Pauperism.

    Similary, the good kind of individualism always goes hand in hand with an emphasis on personal relations and obligations and imagines society not only composed of individuals, but of individuals and their relations. This is the sort of individualism that tends to work to reduce the power of the state. Prediction: anti-statist sentiment tends to be bigger in areas, regions, countries or even counties where local charities are fairly prevalent.

  36. >Modern communists of Russia are in fact fascists:

    The most significant difference is that fascists tend to have snappier uniforms, This has been true for many years.

  37. Eric, can you please replace “are still alive” with something more neutral?

  38. It’s funny that nobody seems to agree on what facism even means. The only common thread seems to be Facism: Totalitarian governments that Stalin didn’t like.

  39. “The modern idea that German and Italian fascism were conservative or pro-business ideologies is essentially a fantasy constructed by pro-Soviet propagandists during and after World War II. In fact, classical fascism never wandered very far from its left-wing origins; …”

    Yes, it took heavy and ongoing propaganda to blanket the world with such disinformation about their closest rival. It lingers on today despite so much counter-evidence, starting with the unsubtle hint in the Nazi’s official name of The National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP).

  40. I won’t do the smartass “TFTFY”, but, ESR, isn’t this really what you meant?

    The difference is that Nazis go that route with their eyes open, while left-liberals and right-conservatives do it with their eyes shut.

    To my mind, both the left and the right are pursuing a statist/collectivist agenda. Those on the right here in the U.S. pay lip service to capitalism, free trade and small government, yet what did the Republicans do for 8 years? They taxed the crap out of everybody, took more and more of liberties away from us, all the while pursuing a theocratic state and pandering to special interests.

    Sorry, but I can’t stand either party in our “two-party system” that we don’t actually have. I guess you can say I’m just disgruntled and fed up with the whole mess that is our government.

  41. RE: Fascism: Totalitarian governments that Stalin didn’t like

    Leon Trotsky was considered “right-wing.” He was also called a “fascist” by Stalin before he became intimate with an ice pick.

    Perhaps it’s this…Fascism = Anyone LESS totalitarian than Stalin, i.e. Hitler, Franco, George Bush, Thomas Jefferson, Ron Paul…

  42. >>misunderstood idea of individualism: of the individual conceived as standing alone, without any relations, like obligations, or other sorts of relations to other individuals.

    Straw man. Nobody supporting individual liberty has ever claimed otherwise. You have presented a straw man, which means your premise is bullshit.

  43. >To my mind, both the left and the right are pursuing a statist/collectivist agenda.

    Well, yes. But the person to whom I was talking didn’t bring in conservatives.

  44. >Who are these specialist historians? Can you supply some citations or names at least? If no one but them knows these things, how did you come upon the knowledge? Please provide supporting documents.

    My first clue about this came from William Shirer’s The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, still very much worth reading. Shirer didn’t cover Italian fascism in detail, however, and his book has other flaws. I learned more from reading about the life of Gabriele D’Annunzio and the corporatist charter of Fiume; good sources for the former, and a copy of the latter, are available by googling.

  45. Another book I remember reading in college is The Birth of Fascist Ideology: From Cultural Rebellion to Political Revolution by Zeev Sternhell; The interesting thing is that Sternhell seems to point to fascism growing from tribal nationalism and Sorelian revisionist Marxism in France and then spreading to Italy to become Mussolinian fascism.

    .

  46. >Have you got any sources to refer to where alleged “leftists” use this quote as you claim they so often do?

    I’ve run across it several times as a signature quote in mailing list traffic. One time I tried to explain the actual history; the person who had misused the quote grew quite truculent about it and spewed a bunch of left-wing duckspeak at me. I had been hoping for better but wasn’t really surprised.

  47. >fascism growing from tribal nationalism and Sorelian revisionist Marxism in France and then spreading to Italy to become Mussolinian fascism.

    Fair summary of the roots there. The process of “spreading to Italy” involved as key figures the Italian poet/aviator/adventurer Gabriele D’Annunzio and the Leninist political agitator Mussolini. Essentially what Mussolini did was to replace Marxian class analysis with blood-and-soil tribalism, leaving the rest of Marxist-Leninist political economics and the Leninist theory of power pretty much intact.

  48. Yeah, Sternhell covers D’Annunzio’s role, among other things, in Mussolini’s synthesis of nationalism and Marxist/Lennist socialism. That’s what made me think of it. Very good book, if a bit controversial, especially in France. :) Since someone wanted to know about the ‘specialist historians,’ I thought I’d point out them to that.

  49. >>To my mind, both the left and the right are pursuing a statist/collectivist agenda. Those on the right here in the U.S. pay lip service to capitalism, free trade and small government, yet what did the Republicans do for 8 years? They taxed the crap out of everybody, took more and more of liberties away from us, all the while pursuing a theocratic state and pandering to special interests.<<

    First, portions of your statement about what Republicans did the last eight years is distorted and in some cases, completely non-factual, though I’ll grant there were some definite steps toward greater statism.

    Second, please don’t conflate “the right” with Republicans in office, who these days have an uneasy relationship at best with true conservatism (aka classical liberalsim). Many elected Republicans are at least mildly statist; some are barely distinguishable from their counterparts on the left.

  50. >true conservatism (aka classical liberalsim)

    These are different animals, which is why I don’t identify with conservatives. You should get your history straight.

  51. > >Eric, how do you feel about the fact that many right-wing pundits would see this as you agreeing that liberals are nazis?

    If liberals are in fact nazis, why would it be wrong to so characterize them?

    Or, is it that right-wing pundits can’t be seen to be correct?

    Wouldn’t it be easier and better for the left to just stop being nazis? And if it won’t ….

    > Unpreturbed. I consider all forms of collectivism to lead to the same abattoir by a road signposted “EVERYTHING FOR THE STATE; NOTHING WITHOUT THE STATE; THE STATE IS ALL.”. The difference is that Nazis go that route with their eyes open, while left-liberals do it with their eyes shut.

    “eyes shut” suggests more passivity than their actions demonstrate. The reality is pretty much split between yelling “it’s going to be different this time” and “but we’re good people”.

  52. First, portions of your statement about what Republicans did the last eight years is distorted and in some cases, completely non-factual, though I’ll grant there were some definite steps toward greater statism.

    Please show how anything I said was non-factual or distorted. First off, the Bush “tax cuts” ultimately resulted in and are resulting in taxpayers paying more money in taxes. Even if you ignore his cutting of federal money to states, no matter how you view it, Bush and the Republican party increased the federal deficit through the roof through exhorbitant spending, while essentially forcing states to raise taxes. Someone has to pay for that oppulent spending, and it ends up being you and I.

  53. Who is raising taxes at this very moment? Bush? From his ranch in Texas? “Forcing” the States to raise taxes! What a hoot! Spending was “through the roof”? Where is it now? Through the solar system? Bush was like a carny ripping off some kid at the county fair…crooked with his graft, but relatively harmless to the gangsters currently in office.

  54. Spending was “through the roof”? Where is it now?

    In all his pal’s pockets. How many of the billions of dollars spent towards the “war effort” went to to no-bid contracts for George’s and Dick’s friends?

    I’m not saying I like the gangsters in office either. I’m inclined to agree with esr that the best government is no government. There’s no such thing as “small government.” It’s no government or statism. There’s nothing in between.

  55. >>There’s nothing in between.

    Sadly, there are levels of pain and suffering. For all your hatred of Geogie and Dicky, ‘you ain’t seen nuthin yet’ with Barry.

  56. > It’s no government or statism. There’s nothing in between.

    That is ridiculous! Are you seriously suggesting that the statism in the USA is not much different than the statism in China or Burma? There is certainly a difference; of course there are degrees of statism. I’d much rather live under Thomas Jefferson than Barak Obama. And I’m much rather live under Barak Obama than Mao Zedong or Pol Pot. Wouldn’t you?

  57. I happen to be studying corporatism at the graduate level right now. Happily, I can provide a few citations.

    The following article is the seminal work in the field:

    Schmitter, Phillippe. 1974. “Still the Century of Corporatism?” Review of Politics, Vol. 36, No. 1: 85-131.

    Also see:

    Lehmbruch, Gerhard, and Philippe Schmitter, eds. 1982. Patterns of Corporatist Policy-Making. Sage Publications.

    Linz, Juan. 2000. Totalitarian and Authoritarian Regimes. Lynne Reinner Publishers.

    Katzenstein, Peter. 1985. Small States in World Markets: Industrial Policy in Europe. Cornell University Press.

    Hall, Peter, and David Soskice. 2001. Varieties of Capitalism. Oxford University Press.

    Hart, Jeffrey. 1992. Rival Capitalists. Cornell University Press.

    Of these, I would say that the Linz is most important in general, but the Katzenstein is most important for understanding modern policy discussions, particularly the leftist infatuation with the Scandinavian countries.

  58. > Bush and the Republican party increased the federal deficit through the roof through exhorbitant spending, while essentially forcing states to raise taxes.

    How, exactly, did Bush force states to raise taxes?

  59. > First off, the Bush “tax cuts” ultimately resulted in and are resulting in taxpayers paying more money in taxes.

    That’s because taxable income increased more percentage-wise than the decrease in tax-rates.

    I’d much rather pay 10% on a $1M than 15% on $100K, even though $100k (10% of $1M) is significantly larger than $15k (15% of $100k).

    The bush tax cuts, which made the system more progressive, did take too many people off the tax roll.

    However, tax revenue is falling off the cliff under Obama; see http://newsbusters.org/blogs/tom-blumer/2009/06/30/june-federal-receipts-dive-continues-does-media-near-silence . Since the rates haven’t changed, that change means that taxable income is falling off the cliff.

  60. >>These are different animals, which is why I don’t identify with conservatives.<<

    What would be your definitions of 1) a modern American conservative and 2) a classical liberal? How are they different?

  61. >What would be your definitions of 1) a modern American conservative and 2) a classical liberal? How are they different?

    So, which kind of “modern American conservative” do you mean? The kind that rants about gay marriage being “unnatural”, or the kind that wants to lower your taxes and shrink the government?

    A “conservative” is a person whose political and personal identity is tied to conserving a particular social order, a particular set of value commitments and power relationships. Only one of the above kinds fits that description. I bet you can figure out which.

  62. The most significant difference is that fascists tend to have snappier uniforms, This has been true for many years.

    Actually, the uniforms represent a significant difference. The Nazis thought of soldiers as the ideal sort of human being. The Communists thought of workers as the ideal, which was more practical. They were better at getting allies, and didn’t initiate big wars that they were extremely likely to lose.

    The Communists did more damage over the long run because they weren’t on a path of fast self-destructive burn-out.

  63. >>> A “conservative” is a person whose political and personal identity is tied to conserving a particular social order, a particular set of value commitments and power relationships. Only one of the above kinds fits that description. I bet you can figure out which.

    Ah, but not always. Sometimes conservatives do not wish to simply conserve the social order but to change it to something better, something that they see as, for lack of a better term, “progressive.” School vouchers being the obvious example.

    When conservatives seem themselves living in a world that is increasingly liberal, they cannot help but want to change it, and not just preserve it.

    And btw, gay marriage is unnatural. Marriage has not been defined that way for 5000 years of human civilization. But of course, we moderns think we know better.

  64. >Ah, but not always. Sometimes conservatives do not wish to simply conserve the social order but to change it to something better

    Something that hasn’t been tried before, or something that has and to which they wish to return?

    In the latter case, it’s still conservatism. In the former case, not.

    >And btw, gay marriage is unnatural. Marriage has not been defined that way for 5000 years of human civilization.

    Wrong. You need to learn more anthropology. There have been cultures – not many, because the dominant behaviors of pre-modern homosexuals were pederastic and pedophilic, but some – with institutions closely analogous to “gay marriage”.

  65. OK.

    School vouchers, have we tried that before? Maybe with the GI bill after wwII, but not at the grade and high school level. In this case it is the liberals who are the reactionaries, unwilling to buck the teacher’s union (and screwing over kids in crummy schools, who are disproportionately poor and black). President Obama recently canceled a voucher program in Washington, D.C.

    How about the flat tax, favored by many of us on the right? To my knowledge we have never tried that before.

    How about opposing affirmative action? This is in support of Dr. King’s vision of judging people by “the content of their character, not the color of their skin,” as opposed to a racial spoils system.

  66. >School vouchers, have we tried that before?

    Yes, it’s called “private schools”.

    >How about the flat tax, favored by many of us on the right?

    Surprise! The original income taxes, both in the U.S. and England, were flat.

    >How about opposing affirmative action?

    I don’t in fact think this is a conservative position, but a classical-liberal one.

    For reasons of historical accident, American “conservatives” have inherited a random and rather incoherent jumble of positions, some of which are classical-liberal in origin and style and not conservative at all.

  67. As an Italian, I remind you that the Italian word “corporation” has a very different ring in Italian than it has in English.

    “Corporazione” was the word used in Medieval Italy for “guild”. Mussolini’s use of the word was part of a more general attempt to establish a continuity with the more glorious periods of Italian history. Compare the use of “gau” and “gauleiter” in Nazi Germany, also medieval words.

    So for instance, artisan’s guild or blacksmith’s guild translates into Italian as corporazione degli artigiani, corporazione dei fabbri.

    So “corporatismo” actually means “guildism”.

    Even today, even if the word “corporazione” is occasionally used in a sense that matches the English “corporation”, in common speak we tend to talk about “great enterprises” or “multinationals” rather than “corporations” We certainly don’t have the ubiquitous adjective “corporate” which in English seems to apply to anything capitalistic.

  68. One would think the libertarian solution to “gay marriage” would be to remove the State from recognizing ANY marriage…

    but that would take away the pleasure of using the State to rub something in the faces of the “fundies” and “squares”…

    Scratch a conservative-hater, and find a statist.

  69. And indeed, that is the preferred solution of most libertarians. But I see no prospect of that actually happening, despite some conservatives such as ramesh ponnuru endorsing it. Therfore, in support of equal privileges, some of us will support state extension of marriage privileges to gay couples as better than the only realistic alternative. It doesn’t extend state power, since the state already has claimed the authority to provide special legal priveleges, but it does reduce the arbitrary nature of that particular power.

    You may want to check your logic when you invent motives for other people to justify your own assumptions. Yes, this statement is somewhat ironic. Unlike your insinuations about libertarians it is at least partially supported by your statements.

  70. “A “conservative” is a person whose political and personal identity is tied to conserving a particular social order, a particular set of value commitments and power relationships”

    Well, that’s one way to put it. If this adjective is supposed to describe something purely political, it might even be true, but why should an intelligent person be interested in something purely political? However, if it is supposed to describe something intellectual or philosophial, this description doesn’t stand. Then it’s more like conserving or even re-inventing certain older ideas, even, Pre-Enlightenment, Pre-Modern ideas. Which, interestingly, enough, look like Post-Modern ideas. City Journal, The New Criterion, PoMoCon blog at First Things, The Salisbury Review, Social Affairs Unit, New English Review (all googleable) and amateur but amazingly intelligent attempts like the Rethink blog at http://www.ashokkarra.com/posts-by-subject/ define the intellectual, philosophical aspect of Conservatism. And this is the only aspect that an intelligent person should see as interesting, IMHO. There is no point to be interested in actual politics, like parties, politicians and so on.

  71. >“A “conservative” is a person whose political and personal identity is tied to conserving a particular social order,

    That might be its etymology, but it isn’t really fully descriptive of its idiomatic usage. Typically, conservative means someone who advocates so called “right wing” positions. This is based on the common trivialization of the political spectrum into one dimension of left or right. Left means a person advocating liberal social positions, and statism to solve economic issues, and right means a person advocating statism involvement in social issues, and liberal positions on economic issues. That is a very broad brush, and the connection (or rather inverse connection) between the two is not obvious. However, these are more tribal identities rather than necessarily rationally arrived at positions. (I think I previously commented on the rationality of adopting tribal political positions given the high personal cost of determining good public policy, verses the low personal benefits from doing so.)

    Truth is this is a simplification anyway. What I describe is more the theory. However, in practice nearly all politicians want to interfere in both social and economic matters, they are both just about as bad as each other. Who was more statist, Bush or Clinton? Anyone got a quarter?

  72. >That might be its etymology, but it isn’t really fully descriptive of its idiomatic usage

    What you’re saying here is another way of approaching what I pointed out: For reasons of historical accident, American “conservatives” have inherited a random and rather incoherent jumble of positions, some of which are classical-liberal in origin and style and not conservative at all.

    What you’re saying is that “conservative” is used as a tribe sign. Yes. I am not a conservative by that definition, either.

  73. this is me stepping into a minefield.

    Actual fascism retained the founders’ doctrinal hostility to what modern leftists would call “corporate power” … classical fascism never wandered very far from its left-wing origins

    it’s my perception that politically, richard stallman can be generally described as left-leaning. if that’s true, is there a parallel here with the complaint that the GPL is autocratic in nature?

    being nothing more than a dilettante in the free-software world, i apologize if i’m misrepresenting anyone’s position. the thought occurred to me this morning when this thread came to mind while (re)reading chapter 2 of “the art of unix programming,” to wit:

    The BSD people, who remembered that they had been writing freely redistributable and modifiable software years before RMS’s manifesto, rejected GNU’s claim to historical and ideological primacy. They specifically objected to the infectious or “viral” property of the GPL, holding out the BSD license as being “more free” because it placed fewer restrictions on the reuse of code.

  74. >it’s my perception that politically, richard stallman can be generally described as left-leaning.

    Yes,

    >if that’s true, is there a parallel here with the complaint that the GPL is autocratic in nature?

    In my opinion, that would be reaching pretty far. Richard’s thinking doesn’t resemble fascism at all. It does resemble a fuzzy, somewhat de-natured volk-Marxism, so there is a distant kinship there, but making too much of that would be a mistake. There are better reasons to deprecate the GPL, some of which I have blogged about.

  75. > the complaint that the GPL is autocratic in nature?

    I am not an open source person, however, I must say this sort of thing does get my dander up a little. Stallman cannot be autocratic, because to be autocratic you need an army. Stallman doesn’t say “do what I want or I will kill you and your family”, rather he says, “You can use this very useful piece of software as long as you follow these rules.” Stallman offers a benefit to you if you do what he wants, Mousollini offers a bullet if you don’t do what he wants. Private citizens cannot be autocrats. There is no similarity whatsoever.

  76. i never said a word about stallman being an autocrat; i merely suggested that the GPL is autocratic in its provisions. but i think neither an army nor the threat of death is required for the establishment of autocracy, merely the wielding of power in an authoritarian fashion. comparing stallman to a fascist wasn’t the direction i meant to go.

    i think, jessicaboxer, that we’re interpreting RMS in somewhat different ways. yes, he’s offering up very useful software and requiring only adherence to a well-defined set of requirements. but he also pitches those requirements as ensuring freedom, whereas i’m more inclined to define that term as “a lack of restrictions” more closely embodied by the BSD or MIT licenses. i think it’s therefore somewhat disingenuous to proclaim GPL-licensed software the apotheosis of liberty.

    ESR’s analysis of the RMS philosophy as fuzzy marxism seems close to the mark, as it seems to utilize some of the hallmarks of applied marxism. i’m not sure i would care to buy into a charismatic leader whose message seems in part to consist of “here is freedom as i’ve defined it. adhere to these provisions or GTFO.” i also get a sense that in some circles, this is considered rightthink.

    and finally, i know these issues have been debated longer and harder by people with more at stake. these are just observations from an outsider that i’m sure have been stated before.

  77. >It’s the classic confusion of economic and political power. One is power to trade freely with voluntary participants which is earned through production of the wealth. The other is the power of destruction where the final argument is a gun.

    There seems to be a very common belief in “economic coercion” as something that’s real and morally up there (or down there) with force and fraud. And just as it’s appropriate to respond to fraud with force, so it’s appropriate to respond to “economic coercion” with force.

    (It may even be hard-wired in humans. My own emotions tell me that it’s a real thing, even as my reason tells me that its an illusion.)

    To re-tool the old joke:

    MAN: Will you sleep with me for a million dollars?

    WOMAN: Are you trying to set up that old chestnut?

    MAN: No, it’s a serious offer. [Shows briefcase full of money.] I’m very rich, you’re very beautiful, and I’m willing to pay you a million dollars for a night of glorious sex.

    WOMAN: Rape! Rape! Rape!

    MAN: What?

    WOMAN: Rape! You’re using your million dollars to force me to have sex with you!

    MAN: What? All you have to do is say ‘No.’

    WOMAN: You don’t understand, ’cause you’re rich. It’s a million dollars! It’s an offer I can’t refuse! It’s economic coercion being used to force me to have sex with you. Rape! Rape! Rape!

  78. >”here is freedom as i’ve defined it. adhere to these provisions or GTFO.” [...] in some circles, this is considered rightthink.

    Correct. Or, rather, left-think. People with left-wing political commitments are observably more willing to buy this.

    >i know these issues have been debated longer and harder by people with more at stake

    Given what you have been writing, you probably don’t know something most of my readers do; that I have in the past been a principal figure in this debate.

  79. Or, rather, left-think. People with left-wing political commitments are observably more willing to buy this.

    people with left-wing commitments are seem to be more willing to buy into the notion of rightthink in general — i.e., it’s not OK to express certain thoughts, especially if they’re politically unpopular. (i know you’ve addressed this notion in the past on this blog.) there has been a good amount of this sentiment expressed recently here in the golden state in regards to the same-sex marriage matter.

    Given what you have been writing, you probably don’t know something most of my readers do; that I have in the past been a principal figure in this debate.

    i’ve read enough of your books and this blog to be able to glean that fact and extrapolate what your stance likely is, but i don’t know specifics beyond that. as i said, i’m well aware that i’m late to this party and that people have been stumbling home drunkenly from it for what i make out to be considerably longer than a decade, probably closer to two.

  80. Actually, such a thing as abuse of economic power is something that can really exist. The problem is not whether it is good or bad or even exists, the problem is that usually it is the lesser evil.

    It is possible to give money for sex to a starving woman which she will accept but then will loathe herself for years, and from that one can conclude that in the long run she is worse off. Generally, people are not always acting from “enlightened self-interest”, people tend to be rational in the long run but often act on short-run impulses and regret them later on.

    The political problem is not that the abuse of economic power can exist. Of course it can, just like one can abuse his/her sex appeal etc. Generally, from the moral point of view there are few things a good person is not supposed to do, even though it involves no coercion. This is not the political problem.

    The political problem is twofolds.

    1. To prevent abusing economic power you usually must use coercive/violent power and this is, or can be, usually more dangerous. A realist/pessimist would rather put up with the abuse of economic power as it is less dangerous than the means to prevent it.

    2. A society must somehow maintain cohesion, a certain kind of common values, a little bit of uniformity. It might sound uncomfortable but the problem is every kind of social action including business presupposes some amount of trust, and trust requires some amount of similarity. Read Fukuyama. Really do. He got it exactly right.

    Economic power usually serves as the maintainer of a basic, loose level of similarity/uniformity/community cohesion and in this sense it is really useful.

    Or one could put it the other way around: coercive means to reduce economic power lead to too much individualism in the sense of not having to care about what others think bout you (because their economic power affects you less), and thus can lead to increased atomism, alienation, autonomism and egoism. Thus, it is a second argument why it is better to tolerate economic power than to suppress it.

    But don’t deny that it exist.. Of course it does. It could only not exist with perfectly rational people who always act in the short run the same way they would in the long run and thus never regret anything.

  81. “Who was more statist, Bush or Clinton?”

    Political philosophies or worldviews have little to do with actual politicians, the relationship is rather indirect: the philosophical ideas of the yesterday get diluted and turned into primitive slogans by the journalists, which _somewhat_ affects the preferences the voters, which, in turn, _somewhat_ affects popularity-hunting politicians.

    Generally a popular politician cannot be nowhere near a pure representative of any political worldview.

    Thus, it is bette to consider Liberalism, Conservatism or Libertarianism as philosophical, intellectual exercises that one pursues for the joy of learning, understanding things, discovering how things work or should work, and not to care much about any sort of politician. I think an intelligent person should never be a supporter of any party and I’m not even sure he/she is supposed to vote at all, perhap

  82. s not, or perhaps for the perceived lesser evil, but without any enthusiasism.

  83. >WOMAN: Rape! You’re using your million dollars to force me to have sex with you!

    Actually, reading your little vignette reminded me of a news story from a few years ago (sorry, I am too lazy to look up the link.) Basically, a woman in Germany was on public welfare. The rule is that you are obliged to take any job you are offered or else you loose your welfare. Well this woman was offered a job as a prostitute in a brothel. (Prostitution is, apparently, legal in Germany.) The welfare people apparently considered enforcing it, until the woman used the press to make them back off.

  84. Here is a riddle from Erik von Kühnelt-Leddihn, which can help you determine whether you are philosophically left-wing or right wing, which might or might not correlate with your view about actual politics.

    There are two cities. A cruel tyrant rules City A, with frequent murder of innocents and other sorts of violent oppression. City B is largely democratic, and in City B, the whole city, as a mob, wants to lynch one innocent person.

    Every civilized person agrees that both situations are bad, but which one is worse?

    Left-wing answer: City A is worse, because in A, many people suffer, in B, only one person.

    Right-wing answer: City B is worse, and there are multiple explanations for that:

    1) Aristotelean, pragmatic: in City A, the citizens are probably good people, at least, there is no evidence for the opposite. There is only one bad guy, the tyrant. All they need to do is to topple the tyrant and they can live happily ever after. In City B, the people all have a bad character, because someone who wants to lynch an innocent cannot be a good person. In a city comprised of violent, aggressive people you cannot create a good society, it is inevitable, that they will always get bad people in power. Thus, this focuses on the character of the citizenry.

    2. Buddhist. Generally, karma. In City A, only the tyrant makes bad karma for himself, in City B, everybody.

    3. Christian. Generally, in City A, the people suffer, in City B, they are sinners, and sin is worse than suffering.

    These three of course correlate. Karma and sin both are ways to say something about character. Conservative, right-wing means a focus on character. Liberalism, left-wing means the disregard of character.

    This example also shows the limitedness of Libertarianism. All you can deduce from it is that both are bad, but we’ve known that already, every decent persons knows that, it is not a big discovery.

  85. >This example also shows the limitedness of Libertarianism.

    Blah, these trivial, grossly simplified examples drive me nuts. They are like crossword puzzles: fun to solve, but pointless in any really useful way.

    Tyranny and democracy are essentially the same, with different practical applications. In Tyranny the tyranny is wielded by a small number, in democracy, a larger number. Both are the very antithesis of freedom — the ability for others to use force to make you do something you don’t want to do (within the limits of what you have a legitimate right to control.)

    (Often Churchill is quoted as saying the democracy is the worst form of government, except all the others. Well Churchill was wrong. In 1776 a new form of government was brought forth, it is called liberty, constrained by limited government. The American Constitution is extremely undemocratic.)

    The libertarian answer to your question is simply this: you give one single example of the faults of city B, and tell nothing else of its character. How can one judge the state of a city from one single example? To put it another way — there is not good answer here because there is not enough information to judge, as is always the case with grossly simplified examples.

  86. But in a true democaracy with a rule of law, the people don’t go around executing that one person. The police don’t let them act like that, and that person gets their day in court for whatever it is that they have done. The example says the person is innocent, if so why does everyone want to kill this person? What is the backstory? There is a lot here that is unsaid.

    Democracy is not the same as mob rule.

    And being a libertarian is simply to remove oneself from the world of practical politics. The practical thing to do would be to join in one of the two parties and try to push it in the direction you want it to go. Doing this third party stuff gets you nowhere.

    And JessicaBoxer, tyranny and democracy are not the same thing. Churchill’s England was better than Hitler’s Germany, and North Korea is far, far worse than South Korea. Simply the fact that a free society has a free press, and a tyranny will not, makes a huge difference. So does having a separation of powers, where one arm of government can block what another arm is trying to do.

    Happy 4th of July, everybody. May the spirit of ’76 live on in all our hearts.

  87. > Democracy is not the same as mob rule.

    Actually, democracy means precisely that, by way of etymology anyways.

    > And JessicaBoxer, tyranny and democracy are not the same thing. Churchill’s England was better than Hitler’s Germany,

    Sure, but Cromwell’s England was better than Robespierre’s France. Which is to say tyranny is not black and white — but is a dimensional rather than a binary metric. Democracy is the ability of one group to impose its will on another group, and that is, in my book, tyranny. Nonetheless, this is recognized in most political systems by diluting the tyranny of democracy in various ways. For example, most democracies are representative, and many democracies make it very difficult to pass certain kinds of laws. These reduce the degree of tyranny involved in the democracy for sure.

    >And being a libertarian is simply to remove oneself from the world of practical politics.
    >The practical thing to do would be to join in one of the two parties and try to push
    > it in the direction you want it to go. Doing this third party stuff gets you nowhere.

    Which party would you recommend joining? If you think that we can ride an elephant or a donkey to liberty, then it is you sir who has removed yourself from the world of practical politics. Of course you are correct in your assessment of the poor chances of electoral success for the LP USA, however, a political party serves more purposes than simply winning elections. And there are many routes to move in the aforementioned direction that play outside of the realm of politics. After all, isn’t the very essence of the libertarian philosophy to solve problems without the coercive force of government?

    > Happy 4th of July, everybody. May the spirit of ‘76 live on in all our hearts.

    That spirit being what Darren? Armed revolt against the tyranny of the British crown? A tyranny that was a hangnail compared to the cancer we endue from our own democracy. Armed tyranny by a group of armed militia, who represented much less than a plurality of the population? Armed revolt against a King who asked nothing more than sufficient tax revenue to support his troops in America? Men who put their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor on the line to bring down a tyranny that we would today pass through congress on a voice vote.

    Personally I think George III was a piker compared to Obama.

    I honor Washington, Jefferson, Franklin, Adams because they were truly remarkable, and their energies have redounded to many people beyond our shores. Where are those guys today, when we really need them?

  88. >>> Sure, but Cromwell’s England was better than Robespierre’s France. Which is to say tyranny is not black and white — but is a dimensional rather than a binary metric. Democracy is the ability of one group to impose its will on another group, and that is, in my book, tyranny.

    Look the system is not perfect, but comparing to other systems that exist out there in the world, I’ll take it. I don’t think that tyranny is the larger group imposing it’s will on the smaller group. Rather tyranny is one a-hole at the top imposing his will on everybody, and not giving a crap what any group, large or small, desires. That guy in North Korea basically rules by decree.

    I’ll agree that we have allowed ourselves to go too far down the statist road. If our founding fathers were here, they would probably be kicking our asses, wondering why we let this stuff go on.

  89. > That guy in North Korea basically rules by decree.

    Sure, but the guy in Venezuela rules largely by decree, but is definitely nervous about what the masses think. The guy in Iran is undoubtedly very nervous right now. The guy in Pakistan is in deep trouble.

    What’s more, the guy in Washington, right now anyway, seems to be ruling by decree also.

    You can argue about words till you loose your mind, call it whatever you want, but democracy is deeply oppressive.

    >If our founding fathers were here, they would probably be kicking
    > our asses, wondering why we let this stuff go on.

    More likely they would be cleaning their muskets.

  90. “To put it another way — there is not good answer here because there is not enough information to judge, as is always the case with grossly simplified example.”

    True enough. But the purpose of such simplified examples is rather just to point out the error in automatically choosing the popular answer, the one that looks almost obvious from a “modern” point of view, which is the answer that the first is always worse because the number of people suffering is more. Thus, suspending judgement, waiting for further information is as good an answer as choosing the second answer, the point here is just to demonstrate why not to automatically choose the first answer.

    On the limitedness of Libetarianism: what I wished to demonstrate a bit was that it can be reduced to that violence is bad, but I think all civilized people know that already. Knowing that violence is bad, the million dollar question is always how to reduce the total quantity of violence in the long run, and not just how to avoid it right now. This is the first step and already this one I see as something under-discussed in L. circles. The second question, and this was what I wanted to demonstrate, is what kind of character of the people tends to reduce violence in the long run and what institutions can educate and incentive the people towards developing that sort of character. Again, it is under-discussed in L. circles. The third question is that perhaps even small amounts of present violence for forming a better character could prevent more violence in the long run, although, this is a territory to tread into with extreme trepidation, with extreme cautiousness, and it’s not something to experiment with.

  91. Shenpen writes:
    > what I wished to demonstrate a bit was that it can be reduced to
    > that violence is bad, but I think all civilized people know that already.

    Well color me uncivilized then. I don’t think that violence is always bad. On the contrary, I can think of many good uses of violence. I suspect ESR’s plan to purchase new weapons is to increase the amount of violence he can direct toward Iranian agents. But perhaps I am wrong. Perhaps he is purchasing them as gifts that he can give to them as a token of his good will, and his honest desire to parley with them, and give a full airing to the issues on both sides.

    I find your characterization of libertarianism very strange indeed. Libertarians are advocates of liberty, not a lack of violence. We are George Washington, not John Lennon. The goal of libertarians is to increase the amount of liberty in the world (and in their own personal world in particular), and so I find that your questions are based on an entirely flawed premise, and consequently, not readily answerable.

    ESR says: Your suspicion is correct. And, Shenpen, I entirely agree with her second paragraph. Your interpretation of libertarianism is beyond merely strained; it can only be described as “tortured”.

  92. >Well color me uncivilized then.

    I’m reminded of the Campbell editorial “Tribesman, Barbarian, Citizen.” Extrapolation predicts a fourth state whose members would appear to be Barbarians to the Citizen, just as the Citizen appears to be a Tribesman to the Barbarian.

    (And googling up the editorial, I’m reminded that Campbell predicted this as well: “As a rough guess, it’s highly probable that the next stage of cultural evolution will appear, to us, to be Barbarism, and be a horrible, degenerate, loathsome system indeed.”)

    Well color me uncivilized then, indeed.

  93. OK, I didn’t write clearly enough, I meant the initiation or the threat of initation of violence. But it’s too long and I thought everybody understands it correctly even if I use the shorter form…

  94. Re:”I always assumed fascism was right-wing economically.” Hmm …

    How is this for starters:

    “We are enemies, deadly enemies, of today’s capitalist economic system with its exploitation of the economically weak, its unfair wage system, its immoral way of judging the worth of human beings in terms of their wealth and their money.” — Nazi ideologist Gregor Strasser

    You really do need to read “Liberal Fascism”. You can also search booktv.org to watch the author talking about the book. Once you’ve read a few left-wing critiques of the work (many of those critiques have been echoed here), then read the author’s rebuttal to the critics, here: http://article.nationalreview.com/?q=ZGRhYzUyY2QyMDVmMTc1ZDY0Y2ZlNjE1ZThlMzU3M2E

    To get to the bottom of what “corporatism” meant to the early 20th century fascists, read: “Italian Fascism: An Interpretation” from The Journal for Historical Review, 1983.
    http://www.ihr.org/jhr/v04/v04p–5_Whisker.html Also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Manifesto_of_the_Fascist_Struggle

    Re: “So both Jonah Goldberg and Chris Hedges, and their compadres on both sides of the aisle, should shut their damn yappers when it comes to corporatism.”

    I don’t think so. IMO Goldberg makes a compelling case; he takes the broader view of “corporatism” in the original sense of the word as understood by the early fascists. I.e., everything is INcorporated into the state. There is the state and nothing but the state. The individual will is totally subordinate to the will of the state. The will of the state is embodied in some elite oligarchy of brilliant technocrats and/or some exquisitely intuitive and charismatic supreme leader – a man of action who can get things done. To put it into Platonic terminology – a group of benign Philosopher Kings who will rule over the hoi polloi to create an orderly and just society.

    Fascism had great disdain for the slow-paced sausage-making of democratic politics. In a hurried rush of progress to the great utopian tomorrow, all that democratic machinery must be cast aside in order get things done. Go read http://www.oswaldmosley.com for a clear exposition of this.

    It is undeniable that the early American Progressive movement shared this notion. Woodrow Wilson and H.G. Wells clearly articulated these very sentiments time and again. Wilson was openly contemptuous of the U.S. Constitution for this very reason. Goldberg’s point is that Progressivism and early Fascism have very much in common: corporatism, a disdain for the existing order, and a will to make hurried progress without the disruption of democratic dissent.

    The American Founding Fathers purposely designed a system of government that would make change difficult and costly via a balancing act of competing interests. So when progressives – or anyone else of any political stripe – tries to rush thru 1000+ page bills that no one has read, reorganize major sectors of the existing economic and social system, take on (T)rillions dollars of additional debt, appoint activist judges who strongly believe the Constitution is something to be freely reinterpreted from the bench, and then silence and bully critics … well, then you ought to be at least a little bit worried.

    YMMV

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