Thanks to Scott for the link to Friedrich Hayek’s “The Road to Serfdom.” I encourage anyone who is not familiar with it to read or at least take a look at the related YouTube videos. Thank God for YouTube.
His main thesis was new to me, although something that was always in the back of my mind. I had always thought that when taken to extremes communism and fascism ended in essentially the same result. Hitler and Stalin had very similar regimes (one party rule, dictatorship, secret police state, loss of individual liberty, government control of everything, mass genocide), even though they were based on two opposing ideologies.
Hayek’s thesis is (If I may be so bold as to paraphrase) that any collectivist model of government, no matter how well intentioned or whatever it is called, will in the end result in tyranny of the rulers, and hence, serfdom for the masses.
It always seemed odd to me that there is a certain mainstream perception of the difference between fascism and communism. Fascism is pure evil. It conjures visions of Darth Vader and Storm Troopers. It is to be feared and despised. Yet, somehow, communism is pretty bad, but has some redeeming qualities. It’s based on the noble goal of equality. Cuba is a poor country. That is bad. But, they get free healthcare! That is enlightenment. I have not seen the movie, but I understand that is the basic thrust of Michael Moore’s Sicko. And of course, he is nominated for an Academy Award. He will win, of course, too.
I decided to do some quick research on fascism, so I went to Wikipedia. The Wiki entry on fascism is quite thorough and well-cited. Here are a few interesting snippets pertaining to economics:
“Their [fascist] policies manifested as a radical extension of government control over the economy without wholesale expropriation of the means of production. Fascist governments nationalized some key industries, managed their currencies and made some massive state investments. They also introduced price controls, wage controls and other types of economic planning measures. Fascist governments instituted state-regulated allocation of resources, especially in the financial and raw materials sectors.”
"Other than nationalization of certain industries, private property was allowed, but property rights and private initiative were contingent upon service to the state."
Historian Gaetano Salvemini argued in 1936 that fascism makes taxpayers responsible to private enterprise, because "the State pays for the blunders of private enterprise... Profit is private and individual. Loss is public and social."
According to sociologist Stanislav Andreski, fascist economics "foreshadowed most of the fundamental features of the economic system of Western European countries today: the radical extension of government control over the economy without a wholesale expropriation of the capitalists but with a good dose of nationalisation, price control, incomes policy, managed currency, massive state investment, attempts at overall planning (less effectual than the Fascist because of the weakness of authority).
Ah, there are those socialist mommy-state laws I was looking for.
“Fascism is a more subtle form of government ownership than socialism. While socialism is a system in which the government owns and controls the means of production, fascism is a system in which government leaves nominal ownership of the means of production in the hands of private individuals but exercises control by means of regulatory legislation and reaps most of the profit by means of heavy taxation. The owners nonetheless bear all of the risks involved in entrepreneurship.”
One could argue that the US is blindly marching down both roads of fascism and socialism simultaneously. Recent events do not bode well. Hayek would argue that this will ultimately lead in tyranny. I would have to agree.