The Magazine

Who's Fascist Now?

The irony of the left's favorite epithet.

Jan 28, 2008, Vol. 13, No. 19 • By STEVEN F. HAYWARD
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This effort at balance and reasonableness may, in part, be designed to set him and the book's inflammatory title apart from the sensational, sales-oriented polemics of other conservative bestsellers of recent years. From the standpoint of the prose alone, it is notable that the wit and snark that enliven Goldberg's newspaper columns and blog posts are conspicuously missing from this sober volume. But in larger measure he has tried to diminish fascism as a mindless epithet so that readers will think harder about the deep general tendencies, both historical and philosophical, that gave rise to the phenomenon in any of its forms.

Goldberg thinks that the extreme kinds of fascism that took root in Europe never caught on in America because of an antigovernment, or antistatist, strain deeply embedded in the American character. Americans don't like to be bossed around, and would never tolerate Canadian-style health care rationing, for example. But this turns out to be the key issue of the whole book, and he unfolds it with such subtlety that casual readers will miss his treatment. Liberal fascism is not about to slam totalitarianism down on America in some Kristallnacht-style convulsion. But liberalism, "the organized pursuit of the desirable," is committed to an ever-expanding state, without any limits in principle.

The core liberal promise of delivering security and human fulfillment through state action may erode the antistatist American character with the grim effect-iveness of the drip-drip-drip of water torture, and slowly succeed in "rewriting the habits of our hearts," eventually creating "some vast North American Belgium."

"If there is ever a fascist takeover in America," Goldberg believes, "it will not come in the form of storm troopers kicking down doors but with lawyers and social workers saying, 'I'm from the government and I'm here to help.'"

Steven F. Hayward is the F.K. Weyerhaeuser fellow in law and economics at the American Enterprise Institute.