Liberal Fascism by Jonah Goldberg, Part III

Read Part I, Part II. Buy the book.

Last time, President Wilson had just shown the country his vision of the future.

And what a vision it was! Full of progressive strong-arming, brow-beating, and law-shaping done in the name of, and for the good of, the “people;” individuals be damned.

After Wilson, an interlude. But soon came FDR with his CCCP1, Blue Eagles, and, of course, bands of merry experts. These folks were determined to use their intellectual abilities to create new laws, rules, regulations, and agencies that would Solve Our Problems. Every idea was good, even those ideas that contradicted the other ideas.

What mattered was movement and the philosophy that government is always the answer. These attitudes have been with us ever since.

How about Kennedy? Truly it can be said that he was a great hero unto himself. Living in a Camelot just as indisputable as Malory’s, he was cut down in his prime by a loony communist’s bullet. But while alive, he never wasted a crisis.

Johnson retaliated against the “hate” that had struck down his boss by creating his Great Society, the start of government-sponsored race discrimination. Goldwater had the temerity to challenge Johnson, an obviously insane move. In fact, an “ad in the New York Times reported that 1,189 psychiatrists had diagnosed him as not ‘psychologically fit’ to be president.” An intellectual reporter at NPR intimated Goldwater was a Nazi sympathizer.2

We even meet a now-tenured terrorist who palled around with a different now-tenured terrorist who palled around with Obama. Hillary shows up for more than her due, but Goldberg wrote before The One was made known to the world. The ascension of Obama is covered in the new Afterword. But that’s the past. What brave new world awaits?

The old saying is true. Give a woman a fish—and she’ll demand tartar sauce. Plus she’ll sidle back the next day looking for steak. This goes double if she’s told she can only receive the fish if she isn’t working, or that the more kids she has, the more free fish she’ll receive.

Welfare is just the best known in the legion of examples of the Law of Unintended Consequences.

Giving without asking anything in return made worse the situation welfare was meant to fix. Nearly everybody now sees this. But compassion fogs the mind, and new forms of welfare sprout up like weeds. Food stamps, rent control, subsidies for nearly everything. Progressives say, “If we stop the largess, people will suffer immediately.”

This is true; weaning is painful. But it is also true that more will suffer by their increased dependence on government. Or, as all evidence has shown, fewer will suffer when self-reliance is the watchword. Of course, nobody is arguing—I am not—that helping hands should never be offered; just that they should not become ingrained and inter-generational.

Perhaps guilt over the ill effects of welfare is why liberals are such strong supporters of abortion? More abortions among welfare recipients means, after all, fewer welfare recipients.

The strongest argument against excessive, increasing, and, of course, well meaning, regulation has always been that it results in an arms race. Once the government constructs a regulatory wall, businesses will hire lobbyists to climb it. Only the strongest can scale it! And once they’re over, they’ll work with the government bureaucrats to brick the wall higher, sloshing on ample amounts of money-mortar to make it impregnable.

Not only that, but lawyers, draped in Old Glory, will man the balustrades and mercilessly litigate entrepreneurs who manage to make the top. Right in the gut!

This happens in a small way in your hotel room, in which is found a placard on which is pictured a beaver cavorting in crystal-blue water next to the words, “Don’t wash your towels, it saves the environment”. The hotel does this to save money while appearing to pay obeisance to our current secular religion. This is step one.

Step two. The hotel makes a donation to a busybody, who passes a Green Lodgings bill, saying, “People do not need clean towels. I judge them to be excessive. Plus, towels should be laundered only in approved ways: this 387-page document describes the regulation.” The hotel and laundry executives will join the politician on the podium, hands raised in victory.

Business has become more expensive for small competitors. The rich will have grown richer.

What’s to come? Salt and transfat bans, refuse limits, taxes on soda pop and pizza, limits on driving, rules on who can say what and when. Each new rule will nibble a piece of freedom so small, you’ll hardly miss it.

This is why Goldberg suggests the coming fascism will arrive with a smiley face. Experts will have done the worrying and made the choices for you. Since they are experts and they love you—how can you argue with a PhD with a huge heart?—there will be no point in making decisions for yourself. You will be looked after.

Read Part I, Part II

And don’t miss this Dialog on Health Care: Who’s Responsible?

1 Civilian Conservation Corps Patrols; 2 p. 233.

13 Comments

  1. Matt:
    Heaven’s as if today’s weather in Massachusetts and the healthcare summit were not enough.
    I was listening to bits and pieces of the summit – small bits was all my blood pressure could stand – and I have to say it was offensive. Both sides spent their time posturing while the major issues in the room went unaddressed. They know what the main issues. At core, the main issues are essentially the ones you have highlighted in your 3 part review of Goldberg. We have a healthcare crisis because in large measure people have expectations that they cannot afford. The notion that unlimited healthcare is a right is not economically sustainable without putting the entire economy under government control. It is like allowing everyone to believe that they are entitled to a BMW or a college education.

    The problem of “pre-existing” conditions is a perfect example. There is a real bind of individuals declining to pay for health insurance until they have a problem, thereby risk/cost shifting to those who buy adequate insurance. To solve the problem you have to (a) decline treatment/decline coverage; and/or (b) force people to buy insurance, subsidizing premiums if necessary; and/or (c) have others pay for the treatment through taxes or inflated premiums and/or (d) claw back the full cost of any treatment after that treatment has been rendered. I hold little hope that the summit will make progress on this basic problem. Progressives see only (b) and (c) as “fair”.

    We already have a huge list of unfunded an under-funded entitlements. I have little time for Ayn Rand’s romanticism, but her John Gault has a point.

  2. Katie,

    Like we’ve talked about before, everybody now also “deserves” a “degree.” I found this article on the site you linked.

    Paul Buckland failed 18 out of 60 second-year students on an archeology course at Bournemouth University, believing many of the papers to be ‘of poor quality’.

    When 16 candidates took a resit, he failed all but two of them.

    But senior dons intervened to claim his marking had been too harsh and raised the students’ marks up to six percentage points, moving several from a ‘clear fail’ to a ‘potential pass’ if marks in other areas were high enough.

    He was ousted after this, but sued and won. He said, “If you don’t make a stand somewhere, you might as well start selling the degrees on eBay because that’s all they’ll be worth.”

    The larger percentage of kids that go, the, let’s say, softer the courses must become.

  3. Matt:
    I was going to go on a riff about the spelling of “archaeology” but then I discovered that both forms are acceptable (in the US). Who knew?
    I hasten to add that Bournemouth University is a new university and is ranked pretty low on current league tables and is nowhere as a research university (94 out of 106).
    The other thought I had is that in the UK funding is linked to heads and completion rates – it wouldn’t do to lose that Government money.

  4. on the subject of declining standards, I saw this one the other day…

    http://news.yahoo.com/s/csm/20100222/cm_csm/282154

    Students are also more demanding than they used to be. They have a sense of entitlement. A few will tell you bluntly that they want good grades because they’re “paying for them.” Even the more diplomatic ones often seem to think the faculty should satisfy them, not the other way around. Despite the cliché, they don’t understand “no.” To many, it means “not now,” or “let’s negotiate.”

  5. Progressive is regressively feudal. Authoritarianism does not creep, it gallops. Freedom isn’t free, but lunch at the government soup kitchen is. The Club of Rome is the new Church of Rome. Obama wants us all to bow before royalty, as do his bent followers. Let us bow.

    See me saith Zarathustra. Behold the free man, the son of slaves, erect, proud, unyielding, arms outstretched, unrepentant, unbowed.

    Give me men to match my mountains, women to match my rivers, children wild and free as the wind.

    Instead we starve and look at one another short of breath, walking quickly in our drab winter coats, wearing smells from laboratories, eating out of industrial cans, facing a dying nation, a moving paper fantasy, listening for the new told lies, obsequious, obtuse, scuttling across the pavement, formulated, numbered, rapt and attentive to tedious argument of insidious intent.

    Sacrilege? I’d strike the sun if it insulted me.

    All my life long I have been a kind of butt for the dull arrows, of doddering fortune-tellers! No, Teiresias. If your birds, if the great harpy eagles of Zeus himself should rip my heart still beating from my chest and carry it bit by bit to heaven, I… will… not… yield!

  6. Bernie says:
    25 February 2010 at 5:23 pm


    The other thought I had is that in the UK funding is linked to heads and completion rates – it wouldn’t do to lose that Government money.

    Community colleges now educate more people in the U.S., post K-12, than do four-year colleges and universities. They receive state/local money based on completion and head count. The head count isn’t even a head count, but might include students in incredibly watered-down and dysfunctional concurrent enrollment programs at high schools. The administrators at the school where I currently work, but resigned from last week, love to say “you have to work with the students you have.”

    Look out U.S. higher education.

  7. The old saying is true. Give a woman a fish—and she’ll demand tartar sauce. Plus she’ll sidle back the next day looking for steak…

    Not only tartar sauce but also this paragraph disagrees with me. Thankfully I have a strong stomach.

  8. From Ludwig von Mises, Human Action, A Treatise on Economics, page 66/67: my emphasis.

    There are no such things as a historical method of economics or a discipline of institutional economics. There is economics and there is economic history. The two must never be confused. All theorems of economics are necessarily valid in every instance in which all the assumptions presupposed are given. Of course, they have no practical significant in situations where these conditions are not present. The theorems referring to indirect exchange are applicable to conditions where there is no indirect exchange. But this does not impair their validity.

    The issue has been obfuscated by the endeavors of governments and powerful pressure groups to disparage economics and to defame the economists. Despots and democratic majorities are drunk with power. They must reluctantly admit that they are subject to the laws of nature. But they reject the very notion of economic law. Are they not the supreme legislators? Don’t they have the power to crush every opponent? No war lord is prone to acknowledge any limits other than those imposed on him by a superior armed force. Servile scribblers are always ready to foster such complacency by expounding the appropriate doctrines. They call their garbled presumptions “historical economics.” In fact, economic history is a long record of government policies that failed because they were designed with a bold disregard for the laws of economics.

    It is impossible to understand the history of economic thought if one does not pay attention to the fact that economics as such is a challenge to the conceit of those in power. An economist can never be a favorite of autocrats and demagogues. With them he is always the mischief-maker, and the more they are inwardly convinced that his objections are well-founded, the more they hate him.

    Hmmm. I posted this once, but nothing showed up. Apologies if this shows up doubled.

    Basically: we aren’t dealing with the law of unintended consequences, but rather one of willful and negligent ignorance, negligent because it really isn’t that hard to understand how markets work.

    You can lead a socialist to market, but you can’t make him think…

  9. “What’s to come? Salt and transfat bans, refuse limits, taxes on soda pop and pizza, limits on driving, rules on who can say what and when. Each new rule will nibble a piece of freedom so small, you’ll hardly miss it.”

    I’m in the UK refuse limits already apply in many places with chipped wheelie bins & scales to measure the weight of refuse built into the hoppers to empty said wheelie bins.

    As regards education. Back in the ’50s, I had one good teacher who saw potential unrealised, (Mrs. Golightly). She downgraded me to the ‘B’ stream for a week. I certainly bucked my ideas up after that, at least until I left primary school.

    When I turned 11, I was 1 year late for the 11 plus exam to determine which stream of education I would enter. I was determined to be ‘secondary modern’ material rather than Grammar school. When asked why, the headmaster, (Mr. Jewett), said that “David would undoubtedly sail through an 11+ exam, but he personally did not consider me to be grammar school material & that was the end of that”.

    When I came to secondary education, I & my parents were told that I would be put forward for the GCSE qualification. When my father protested that that was worthless, the headmaster, (Mr. Morley), accepted my fathers protestations & said I would be put forward for GCE O-Level. Mr. Morley was of the, every child deserves a prize persuasion.

    Eventually, exams arrived. No GCE! GCSE grade 1 which, whilst officially a GCE pass were totally worthless!

    Another year wasted!

    Sorry but I’m pissed off with a lot of this crap!

    Snip at will.

    DaveE.

  10. http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/history/document/document_20070723.shtml

    Document uncovers details of a planned coup in the USA in 1933 by right-wing American businessmen.

    The coup was aimed at toppling President Franklin D Roosevelt with the help of half-a-million war veterans. The plotters, who were alleged to involve some of the most famous families in America, (owners of Heinz, Birds Eye, Goodtea, Maxwell Hse & George Bush’s Grandfather, Prescott) believed that their country should adopt the policies of Hitler and Mussolini to beat the great depression.

    Mike Thomson investigates why so little is known about this biggest ever peacetime threat to American democracy.

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