How Far Along the Road to Fascism Has the United States Traveled?

The Ludwig von Mises Institute recently published an excerpt from “As We Go Marching” by John T. Flynn. From the Mises Institute blurb about this book:

John T. Flynn’s classic work from 1944 on how wartime planning brought fascism to America. In some ways, this is the finest and most mature of all his works. It was written in wartime and his points were profoundly cutting. After all, the U.S. was supposedly fighting the total state abroad, but meanwhile at home was drafting people, controlling all prices and wages, rationing all goods, and enforcing a wicked central plan through massive government coercion.

The article referred to above is from Chapter 10 of Flynn’s book. Here is the relevant passage:
First let us state our definition of fascism. It is, put briefly, a system of social organization in which the political state is a dictatorship supported by a political elite and in which the economic society is an autarchic capitalism, enclosed and planned, in which the government assumes responsibility for creating adequate purchasing power through the instrumentality of national debt and in which militarism is adopted as a great economic project for creating work as well as a great romantic project in the service of the imperialist state.

Broken down, it includes these devices:

A government whose powers are unrestrained.

A leader who is a dictator, absolute in power but responsible to the party which is a preferred elite.

An economic system in which production and distribution are carried on by private owners but in accordance with plans made by the state directly or under its immediate supervision.

These plans involve control of all the instruments of production and distribution through great government bureaus which have the power to make regulations or directives with the force of law.

They involve also the comprehensive integration of government and private finances, under which investment is directed and regimented by the government, so that while ownership is private and production is carried on by private owners there is a type of socialization of investment, of the financial aspects of production. By this means the state, which by law and by regulation can exercise a powerful control over industry, can enormously expand and complete that control by assuming the role of banker and partner.

They involve also the device of creating streams of purchasing power by federal government borrowing and spending as a permanent institution.

As a necessary consequence of all this, militarism becomes an inevitable part of the system since it provides the easiest means of draining great numbers annually from the labor market and of creating a tremendous industry for the production of arms for defense, which industry is supported wholly by government borrowing and spending.

Imperialism becomes an essential element of such a system where that is possible — particularly in the strong states, since the whole fascist system, despite its promises of abundance, necessitates great financial and personal sacrifices, which people cannot be induced to make in the interest of the ordinary objectives of civil life and which they will submit to only when they are presented with some national crusade or adventure on the heroic model touching deeply the springs of chauvinistic pride, interest, and feeling.

Where these elements are found, there is fascism, by whatever name the system is called. And it now becomes our task to look very briefly into our own society and to see to what extent the seeds of this system are present here and to what degree they are being cultivated and by whom.

When one considers present day America, one is instantly struck by many similarities with Flynn’s definition of a fascist society. When conservatives criticize Obama and democrats as being socialist, they are only partially correct. Too often they are using the term socialist to refer to a soft communist. The communist branch of socialism has been so thoroughly discredited that it is a non issue in American politics. Unfortunately, it is the fascist branch of socialism that we must be concerned about. Also, conservatives are in the position of those who throw rocks in glass houses. Their views on foreign policy and military spending conform very closely with Flynn’s last two points.

Briefly, let us note the broad difference between the communist and fascist branches of socialism. Communists seek to have the government expropriate private property and run the society directly via one enormous state owned entity. Fascists seek to maintain private property in the hands of the citizens but then effectively expropriate them via a web of taxes, regulations, subsidies, and restrictions. In other words, fascists seek to control society indirectly. From a theoretical view and from actual experience, fascism is a far more efficient form of socialism than communism. Also, in the US, the national temperament is far more conducive for fascism than communism.

Now, I certainly do not assert that the US is a fascist state. However, the US is certainly so far along the road to fascism that we should all be alarmed.

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