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Is Barack Obama an Economic Fascist?

Susan Roesgen was outraged that someone at the Chicago tea party carried a sign that called Barack Obama a fascist. That she was so offended is a bit odd considering she didn't have any problem with someone attending an anti-Bush hurricane Katrina protest in New Orleans was wearing a pappier mache head of Bush as both the devil and Hitler.

Besides, it was not the first time anyone has used the term fascist to describe Obama's policies. Michael Ledeen at Pajamas Media also used the term to describe the increase in government control of business in his article "We're all Fascists Now," a response to Newsweek's cover story about Obama called "We're all Socialists Now":

There's a element of truth to the basic theme (although not to the headline): the 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.

Jerry Doyle agrees. He has a new article in Human Events in which he argues that Obama's actions regarding Chrysler is economic fascism:

Economic fascism can be defined as government control over the four P's: Product, Price, Profit Margin, and People. When the government controls the product created by the market, when it controls the price structure for product and company securities, when it controls how much profit particular companies can make, and when it controls the people who are hired and fired, economic freedom has been banished, and economic fascism reigns supreme.

And economic fascism reigns supreme in Barack Obama's America. Just look at the recent government handling of Chrysler. In a series of press conferences this week announcing Chrysler's bankruptcy, Obama hit on all of the four P's.

It's difficult to refute Jerry's arguments because they played out on television for everyone to see. Obama's supporters who can't bring themselves to see what he's actually doing will resent Jerry's assertion by saying that Obama's actions are not fascist but are necessary to save the US auto industry. They may try to confuse and obfuscate by finding definitions of fascism that may not match his description. But that won't change the reality that what Obama is doing looks and sounds an awful lot like fascism. The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics has a long entry about fascism. Here's a small portion:

In its day (the 1920s and 1930s), fascism was seen as the happy medium between boom-and-bust-prone liberal capitalism, with its alleged class conflict, wasteful competition, and profit-oriented egoism, and revolutionary Marxism, with its violent and socially divisive persecution of the bourgeoisie.

Does the phrase boom and bust sound familiar? Obama has used the phrase "bubble and bust" a number of times to describe what is bad about the American economy:

If new threats are spotted, he said Obama would use "regulatory oversight to prevent guys who want to make a quick buck from doing real harm to the economy. ... That is what it means to get out of the bubble-and-bust cycle."

More from the Concise Encyclopedia of Economics:

Where socialism sought totalitarian control of a society's economic processes through direct state operation of the means of production, fascism sought that control indirectly, through domination of nominally private owners. Where socialism nationalized property explicitly, fascism did so implicitly, by requiring owners to use their property in the "national interest"--that is, as the autocratic authority conceived it. (Nevertheless, a few industries were operated by the state.) Where socialism abolished all market relations outright, fascism left the appearance of market relations while planning all economic activities. Where socialism abolished money and prices, fascism controlled the monetary system and set all prices and wages politically. In doing all this, fascism denatured the marketplace. Entrepreneurship was abolished. State ministries, rather than consumers, determined what was produced and under what conditions.

This sounds much like what Barack Obama is doing right now with Chrysler and what he will do with GM, too.

Update: Major Garrett went on Brian and the Judge on Friday and talked Chrysler (after he discussed how he was dissed by the president during his last press conference). It's an interesting discussion in the context of this post, particularly Judge Napolitano's comment at the very end. From Johnny Dollar:


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Comments (33)

Well done. He could be a fa... (Below threshold)
jp2:

Well done. He could be a fascist, here are some other fringe right-wingers who agree with me. QED.

Fascist? Nah, given his ta... (Below threshold)
GarandFan:

Fascist? Nah, given his tactics over at Chrysler, Fuhrer would be a better title. I'm still waiting for the DNC to issue the Brown Shirts to their minions. Time and Newspeak can twitter on about what Michelle wears to the bonfire rallies.

Let the wingnuttery loons s... (Below threshold)
Unrepentant Democrat:

Let the wingnuttery loons start to sing now. This should be fun.

Not only Obama, but the ent... (Below threshold)
Jeff Blogworthy:

Not only Obama, but the entire Democratic party. From Beauty Queens to meteorologists to bankers to preachers - you had better toe the line, or else. Nowhere is the fascist character of leftists better illustrated than the one domain where they have near complete dominance: college campuses. Here dissenting views are merely defined "non-protected speech". The dissenters are shouted down, prohibited from speaking, and threatened with "psychiatric evaluation."

OK, so let's get rid of the... (Below threshold)

OK, so let's get rid of the politically charged labels, and just lay out the programs in detail. (I say this because, though it's faster to use the labels, clearly jp2 and others (and not all of them pro-Obama) use the labels to obscure or drive snark, rather than to illuminate.)

There are several schools of thought in economics on the proper relationship between governmental, non-governmental and quasi-governmental actors in the economy. Some of these are very widely held, and others are very uncommonly held. They include:

A) People in this school believe that the government has essentially no economic role. "Property" is raw materials and individual labor, and all that derives therefrom. "Money" consists of durable, scarce goods whose supply generally increases slowly, such as silver or gold. But really, "money" is almost meaningless, as its only role is to make exchanges simpler. (How do you get change for a pig or a computer program?) Because the government does not control the money supply, it does not have any role in the exchange of goods. In fact, why stop there. In this school, the thought goes, the government should not be able to regulate the use of labor at all, because labor is a natural right of the person (the right of how to spend their time). This restriction means that the government cannot control what may or may not be sold, how it may be sold, what it may consist of or anything else. The entire "correct" role of the government in economics, for people in this school, is the provision of neutral courts and laws and an ordered society within which they can operate. This school is very, very uncommon in modern thought, but was somewhat common at the founding of the US (though not dominant, even then).

B) People in this school believe that the government's role is to protect people from force and fraud, and to that end to provide common standards of exchange. The standards of exchange include either money of guaranteed amount and purity; "currency", which is effectively a government promise to provide money of guaranteed amount and purity; standards of weights and measures; and a legal system of neutral courts and laws where private individuals can seek justice for wrongs done to them. This is also not very common in modern political thought, though it was the dominant paradigm from the founding of the US until the early 1900s. The government's role was not to regulate in the sense of dictating, but to regulate in the sense of providing predictability.

C) People in this school believe that, fundamentally, people at large are incapable of obtaining justice in economic transactions without government involvement. The government's proper role, according to this school, is not merely to do everything in school B, but also to provide standards of behavior by and towards workers, including minimum wages and working condition rules; to ensure that pollution is controlled, that products have certain safety standards built in and so forth; to decide what may and may not be sold, and under what conditions, and how; to decide who may undertake certain occupations, not in an individual sense, but in the sense of setting standards for how one enters a certain occupation (say, a doctor or a hair stylist) and providing protection for regulated industries against unregulated competition; and to ensure the health of the financial system by direct intervention when any major industry comes close to collapse. This view began gaining prominence in the 1880s, and became the dominant economic paradigm in the US in the 1930s.

D) People in this school agree with the people in school C, except that they feel that this does not go far enough. While school C, like A and B, assumes that property is by nature private and individual, and government control of property should be limited, people in this school believe that property's proper role is the creation of a better society, and since that is also (their opinion) government's role as well, government regulation of property should be essentially unquestionable outside of the political process. To that end, the government can regulate the use of private property to the point of deciding who should own it and how they may or may not use it, though the property remains nominally private. Government, in this paradigm, picks winners and losers, and rewards or punishes accordingly, to make a more just and better ordered society. This has been a very popular school of thought in the US since LBJ, and really started gaining in popularity about three years ago.

E) People in school E would go even further. To such people, all property is justly the government's, as the government is the State is the Nation and thus is the original owner of all property. (In fact, it appears that people in this school generally believe that property rights cannot exist without government.) This school advises that the creation of a more just and better ordered society requires the government to be involved not merely in direct economic decisions, but in anything that can affect those decisions. To that end, the government allows individuals to use property, and regulates their use of it, and can terminate that use when necessary (by the government's sole determination of "necessary"). Property is real to people in this school, but is properly the subject of government control. This is still relatively uncommon in the US, but has been dominant in Europe since WWII.

F) For people in school F, property is not real. All property is created by government delineation from the mass of everything that makes up the nation, and there are no property rights per se, only terms of use granted by the government. To such people, all economic activity, and all activity that affects economic activity — and thus in fact all activity — is properly controlled by the government at the government's sole discretion. This is a very uncommon school of thought in the US, though somewhat common in Europe.

So the real question that needs to be answered is which of those economic schools, regardless of labels, we should adhere to as a nation, and why. Once we decide that, we can apply the proper labels, and if necessary erase any stigma attached to the label by prior unpleasant associations. It's pretty clear that Obama, like Bush Jr. before him, falls into school D. From FDR to Clinton, all the Presidents fell pretty squarely into school C, though FDR certainly appeared to be trying to force us towards school D. Prior to that, most Presidents fell into school B.

A is commonly known as lassez faire, and its common label is usually misapplied to B and even C.

B is commonly known as a free market. This school of thought lost its primacy beginning in the late 1800s, when it was obvious that a mostly free market was not really optimal in an industrialized society because mass production and consumption made asymmetrical information problems actually dangerous to the people at large. Upton Sinclair's "The Jungle" was the death knell of this system as a commonly-accepted school of thought in US economics, and FDR buried it pretty completely by changing the terms of the economic debate from whether government should be involved heavily in industry to how government should be involved.

C is a regulated market, commonly called capitalism. Every President from FDR to Bush Sr. was firmly in this school of thought, and Bill Clinton was forced into it (despite his apparent desire, as shown in the health care debacle, to operate according to school D) by its unpopularity.

D is commonly known as fascism. Spain and Italy are better examples than Germany, because they didn't share Hitler's racial quirks. Though they were clearly nationalistic, that is not a necessary condition of the fascist economic school of thought (though I would argue that such close association of the government with every aspect of individual livelihood inevitably leads to nationalism as a matter of course).

E is commonly called socialism or social democracy (if the underlying government structure has at least the appearance of subject involvement). Such governments are typically aristocratic, because membership in the groups allowed to enter politics is controlled, and only such groups can have any real economic influence.

F is called communism. It is indistinguishable from pure monarchy (where everything is owned by an individual sovereign); the only reason monarchies historically allowed more freedom than this was a lack of mechanisms to assert more control. Such governments are, historically, always dictatorships, either individual or oligarchic.

So yeah, Obama's economic program is fascist, as was W's for the last two years or so of his second term.


Note that each transition to more government regulation has come about because of some crisis, whether the intermediate stages of industrialization and how that disadvantaged workers and consumers relative to managers and producers, or the Great Depression, or the collapse of the housing bubble.

"Is Barack Obama an Economi... (Below threshold)
max:

"Is Barack Obama an Economic Fascist?"

I suppose that depends on whether or not he can be a fascist, a socialist, and a nazi all at the same time.

I guess it does not go with... (Below threshold)

I guess it does not go without saying, also, that every freedom is a freedom to choose. If you do not have the choice to buy a shoddy product, or to get unlicensed dental care, then that is a freedom denied you, by definition. Very few people are truly principled enough to believe in no freedoms (unless they get to be the one in control, in which case they alone, and those they favor, have freedom), or in no restriction at all on freedom. The real debate is about how much freedom should be limited, and why it should be so.

Most of us, for example, would agree that the freedom to kill a fellow should be denied, except in very limited and controlled circumstances (such as military or police in the lawful pursuit of their duties, self defense and the like). Most of us would likewise agree that the freedom to live without fear of arbitrary execution or imprisonment, and the freedom to defend one's self from an attacker, should be protected by the government.

The entire argument is over where to draw the line.

He is the Deuce of Adolf Ni... (Below threshold)
914:

He is the Deuce of Adolf Nikita Mau incarnate. In other words, he has a little horn.

Oooh the F word. Yes, its ... (Below threshold)

Oooh the F word. Yes, its here. And it's dangerous as its ever been. Time for mainstream conservatives/Republicans to begin calling it by its name. If we are afraid to speak up now, we'll be stuck with incurable malignant fascism that could destroy this country.
http://www.rightklik.net/

My goodness. I had eight ye... (Below threshold)
WildWillie:

My goodness. I had eight years of you extreme lefties calling GW Bush a liar, facist, Hitler, Big Brother, etc. You guys need a tougher skin. You lefties whine like a bunch of wussies. ww

Eh. "Fascist" is meaningles... (Below threshold)
bryanD:

Eh. "Fascist" is meaningless bleat nowadays, defined by the Jewish experience within the communist movement as defined by the USSR and Stalin: the break that culminated in the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, but begun with the purge of the Jewish founding fathers of Soviet socialism after the death of Lenin.

It's the neocons letting their roots show, the trademark epithet "Nazi" having passed into public domain years ago, and Naziism too uncomfortably a rightist phenomenon, anyway, Fascism with just a tad more workingman's cred, will do.

Slightly off topic - ... (Below threshold)
pgg:

Slightly off topic -

Hasn't Susan Roesgen been on vacation long enough? Isn't it about time for her to come and face the music?

Yes ... In the true sense o... (Below threshold)
bill-tb:

Yes ... In the true sense of the word.

Most leftards lie in the realm of Socialist to Communists.

He [Obama] is not simply an... (Below threshold)

He [Obama] is not simply an economic fascist, he is a very well rounded fascist.

It's really corporatism, no... (Below threshold)
cirby:

It's really corporatism, not fascism.

...although many fascist movements also practiced corporatism (Mussolini's Italy, for example).

Umm, cirby? "Fascist" is ex... (Below threshold)

Umm, cirby? "Fascist" is exactly and by definition what the Italians practiced, as they came up with the term. (It comes from the fasces, which is the bundle of sticks wrapped around an axe, which was a Roman symbol of authority and which Mussolini's party — NB, the National Fascist Party, IIRC — adopted also as their symbol.)

As I recall, there is not, ... (Below threshold)

As I recall, there is not, from a conservative, republican (note lower case usage here), there is not a nickel's worth of difference in practice, between a socialist, a fascist, and a communist.

There are some detail differences, for sure.

Larry,On one level... (Below threshold)

Larry,

On one level, sure. There is the Heinlein quote, for example:

"Political tags -- such as royalist, communist, democrat, populist, fascist, liberal, conservative, and so forth -- are never basic criteria. The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire. The former are idealists acting from highest motives for the greatest good of the greatest number. The latter are surly curmudgeons, suspicious and lacking in altruism. But they are more comfortable neighbors than the other sort."
-- Robert A. Heinlein

Or there is Thomas Jefferson:

"Men by their constitutions are naturally divided into two parties: 1. Those who fear and distrust the people, and wish to draw all powers from them into the hands of the higher classes. 2. Those who identify themselves with the people, have confidence in them, cherish and consider them as the most honest and safe, although not the most wise depositary of the public interests. In every country these two parties exist, and in every one where they are free to think, speak, and write, they will declare themselves. Call them, therefore, Liberals and Serviles, Jacobins and Ultras, Whigs and Tories, Republicans and Federalists, Aristocrats and Democrats, or by whatever name you please, they are the same parties still and pursue the same object. The last one of Aristocrats and Democrats is the true one expressing the essence of all." --Thomas Jefferson to Henry Lee, 1824. ME 16:73

So on that level, yes, they are essentially the same beast, and it is the one beast to which all political parties in the end belong: no one goes into politics except for the opportunities to power (whether expressed directly, or as wealth, respect or some other token). In that sense, the Democrats want to make us all slaves, and the Republicans offer to do it cheaper. But in another sense, there are significant differences, because the degree of freedom available under each type of regime, or alternately the degree of insulation from responsibility granted you by the state under each type of regime, is notably different. I would not want to live under any of the three, of course, but then I don't like the system of corporatism, the "Fordist economics," that dominated the US from the 1930s until recently, either. Does that also differ only in detail from communism? And regardless of whether the answer is yes or no, at what point of freedom do the differences exceed mere details?


Poor cirby.Medcalf... (Below threshold)
hyperbolist:

Poor cirby.

Medcalf: all Mussolinian fascists are corporatists; whereas not all corporatists are fascists, let alone the Mussolinian variety. You fail first year logic, based on comment #16 (a pretty funny misunderstanding of what cirby had to say about this stupid conversation).

And Larry Sheldon: you're either completely ignorant of 20th century history and political science or you're so batshit crazy that it's worth pointing out, just for fun. If you can't understand--or aren't aware of--the vast differences between Mussolini's Italy, Stalin's U.S.S.R., and--just to pick one socialist--Persson's Sweden--then you either don't know what you're talking about or you're using words that you don't understand. Either way it's pretty funny, though I suspect that other "conservatives" (or whatever you call yourself) might find you embarrassing. If you are willing to conflate every single non-conservatarian political model with one another, by virtue of the fact that government plays a larger role within them than you (and Ayn Rand) deem acceptable, then you aren't the sort of person who should try and carry on a public discussion about the nature and role of government.

"there is not a nickel's... (Below threshold)
914:

"there is not a nickel's worth of difference in practice, between a socialist, a fascist and a communist."

Well We got 3 for the price of 1 then.... What a bargain.

He's not really an economic... (Below threshold)
914:

He's not really an economic fascist, He's an economic idiot..

Hey, happy "Cinco de cuartr... (Below threshold)
James Cloninger:

Hey, happy "Cinco de cuartro"...or something like that:

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090504/ap_on_go_pr_wh/us_obama_cinco_de_mayo_1

Looks like the Teleprompter was drunk again.

Recommended reading on this... (Below threshold)
Arthur:

Recommended reading on this topic.

"Liberal Fascism" by Jonah Goldberg

and

"The Road to Serfdom" by Hayek.

"Serfdom" was published in 1943 and much of it reads like it was written this year.

It's as if Obama was using "Serfdom" as a How To guide.


Well, folks joke about "198... (Below threshold)
JLawson:

Well, folks joke about "1984", Arthur. It was never meant to be a How-To manual...

Um, hyperbolist, my point w... (Below threshold)

Um, hyperbolist, my point was that corporatism and fascism are the same thing. (If there was somehow a misunderstanding, then perhaps you would elucidate, rather than name calling. Speaking of, perhaps before you accuse others of failing logic 101, you should look up the term ad hominem.) The fascist economic program was corporatism, period. In fact, the whole boast about making the trains run on time was that the fascists, by their control of the industries, were able to get the industries to perform better in the public interest. This is materially the same claim that Bush was making about the government intervention in banks and other financial service companies, and that Obama is making about the government intervention in the auto industry and everything else he can manage.

max:I suppose tha... (Below threshold)
_Mike_:

max:
I suppose that depends on whether or not he can be a fascist, a socialist, and a nazi all at the same time.

YES HE CAN!

(although I don't think he's so much of a nationalist so that last doesn't really fit as well, but I'm guessing you don't understand that nazi was simply an abbreviation / composite word).

I know what an ad homine... (Below threshold)
hyperbolist:

I know what an ad hominem is. They're fun.

And corporatism and fascism aren't the same thing, Jeff. Fascism involves a strong degree of nationalism; a dictator; usually requires that some minority group be "othered"--e.g., Communists, Jews, Gypsies--and of course implements a corporatist approach to the economy. They aren't the same thing. While you could make a weak argument that Obama is a corporatist by virtue of the fact that some businesses are being nationalized, you can't make the argument that he's a fascist. You live in a democracy, although being in the politically impotent Republican/conservative minority, it might not feel like it right now.

"although I don't think he'... (Below threshold)
max:

"although I don't think he's so much of a nationalist so that last doesn't really fit as well, but I'm guessing you don't understand that nazi was simply an abbreviation / composite word."

You might want to let garandfan (comment #2) know that, smart guy.

No, don't tell him/her--bet... (Below threshold)
hyperbolist:

No, don't tell him/her--better to let him/her hole up in his/her basement-bunker to wait out the Brownshirt Revolution than have him/her running around scaring the children, shrieking about the apocalypse and what-not.

The problem with "fascist" ... (Below threshold)
fred lapides:

The problem with "fascist" is that a real fascist imposes what he want. Here, we have the congress and the govt and the president imposing. However, as is always the case: don't want the money because of what it entails, don't take it but take the consequences instead. The paragon of anti-govt control knows that he who pays the piper calls the tune. That you can't get money without any restraints--after all you and your biz caused the problem you now want fixed.Name calling is plain silly and changes nothing. DON"T TAKE MONEY and you will not have "fascist:" imposing upon you.

Fred, so should I assume th... (Below threshold)

Fred, so should I assume that you react with some horror at the rising tide of accusations that the Obama (and Bush) administration basically forced many of these companies to take government money, and are now refusing to let many of them take it back?

Hyperbolist, if you want to have fun, by all means run with the ad hominems. Just don't expect to convince anyone with them.

hyper -You live... (Below threshold)
LaMedusa:

hyper -

You live in a democracy, although being in the politically impotent Republican/conservative minority, it might not feel like it right now.

The only reason you believe we live in a democracy, is because you believe what all the history books tell you. There is a lot of good information in them, but if you dug a little deeper, you would realize we are no closer to being a democracy than Columbus was discovering America. The citizens of this country have been robbed blind for decades, by illegal taxes and most other human rights being taken away in the name of "security".

Obama is the "good guy" economic fascist who will find even more ways to tax the American people for the "common good".

Looks Like Bankers Are Loot... (Below threshold)
Paul Revere:

Looks Like Bankers Are Looting Tax Payers Money and the USA Bankrupt , Then Charging Interest To Borrow it Back to Citizens!

Offshore Bankers and Global Elitists are moving their agenda quickly, they know their servants who have infiltrated government have a short window of time to complete their agenda! When we stop them there will be trials for High Treason and prison time dealt out! We need to speed up our objectives before they get entrenched and our country is too far gone financially, banksters and elitists are trying to speed up attempting to push legislation right now with some of the most ridiculous proposed bills we have seen, all slanted to take freedom from citizens! If we don't act to end governmental terrorism, we will become slaves, our standard of living won't be worth calling living! We don't have anything to lose! Remember to support Senator Ron Paul's HR 1207 Bill to help get the Federal Reserve audited etc.! Phone your Government Reps for compliance to his bills!

Folks, this is not a battle of Left or Right, whether our government is Left or Right our leader is under the force of Elitists, they love to get you blaming left or right while they pull the strings!
If you want life and liberty, you better get to work backing Govt, Reps who are working to save your First and Second Amendment Rights as well as other of Your Ammendment Rights as time really is of the essence!




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