Has Fascism Come to America?

We’ve been taught that fascism is a foreign-born ideology that spawned the political aspirations of Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler. In reality, fascism has had a long history in America and has been resurrected by people who believe that power guided by good intentions can do no harm. They are ignorant of history and human nature.

To use Hegel’s phrase, “the [modern] State is god walking on earth.” All the attributes of God are imputed to the State, including security. William L. Shirer, in The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, writes that Otto Von Bismarck’s policies gradually made the German people “value security over political freedom and caused them to see in the State, however conservative, a benefactor and a protector.”1 In a footnote, Shirer writes: “Between 1883 and 1889 Bismarck put through a program for social security far beyond anything known in other countries at the time. It included compulsory insurance for workers against old age, sickness, accident and incapacity, and though it was organized by the State it was financed by employers and employees.” Sound familiar?

Hitler took full advantage of the German state of mind and Bismarck’s early progress in turning the nation into a model of socialist reform. Hitler remarks in Mein Kampf, “I studied Bismarck’s socialist legislation in its intention, struggle and success.”2 It was Hitler’s social security policies and promises that got him elected to office.

Hitler was not alone in his admiration of Bismarck. FDR borrowed Bismarck’s socialist agenda and created what is now known as the Social Security System. Bismarck said that “the State must take the matter in hand, since the State can most easily supply the requisite funds. It must provide them not as alms but in fulfillment of the workers’ right to look to the State where their own good will can achieve nothing more.”3 Roosevelt and his admirers agreed. P. J. O’Brien, writing in Forward with Roosevelt, links Bismarck’s social policies with those of Roosevelt: “[The quotation by Bismarck] might have been lifted out of a speech by President Roosevelt in 1936, but the Iron Chancellor uttered it in 1871.”4

Some people understood the implications of what Roosevelt was attempting to do. “Roosevelt was branded as an agent of the Reds [Communists] for voicing similar opinions.”5 The State became the savior of the people, and the social policies of the New Deal became holy writ. Our nation, contrary to leftist social spenders, is not reaping the excesses of the Reagan‑Bush years. We are reaping the whirlwind of the massive interventionism of New Deal liberalism that even Conservatives are afraid to criticize for fear of being thrown out of office.

In Edward Bellamy’s widely read socialist fantasy novel Looking Backward, 2000–1887, a Rip Van Winkle character goes to sleep in the year 1887 and awakens in the year 2000 to discover a changed world. His twenty‑first century companions explain to him how the utopia that astonishes him emerged in the 1930s from the hell of the 1880s. “That utopia involved the promise of security ‘from cradle to grave’ — the first use of the that phrase we have come across — as well as detailed government planning, including compulsory national service by all persons over an extended period.”6 Bellamy’s fiction became much of the world’s reality in twentieth‑century socialism. Bellamy managed to mix the perversions of socialism, secularism, and New Age philosophy into one impossible world.

Consider Woodrow Wilson (1856–1924). His two political heroes were Abraham Lincoln and Bismarck. What Wilson admired about Lincoln was his “ability to impose his will on the entire country. Lincoln was a centralizer, a modernizer who used his power to forge a new, united nation. . . . Wilson admired Lincoln’s means — suspension of habeas corpus, the draft, and the campaigns of the radical Republicans after the war — far more than he liked his ends.”7 Wilson “loved, craved, and in a sense glorified power.”8 In the hands of good people, it is believed, power is incorruptible. In his book Congressional Government, Wilson admitted, “I cannot imagine power as a thing negative and not positive.”9 Of course, he believed that with his good intentions, the use of unbridled power was a good thing for everyone. Power is often most dangerous in the hands of those who want to do “good,” because they believe their intentions to help the less fortunate are righteous and just and therefore nearly any means can be used to achieve them.

In J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, the power of the ring is not something to be desired even by good people. The goal is to destroy it. When Boromir fails to avoid the ring’s power, he dies. Even Gandalf and the elves shun the power of the ring. Tolkien is doubtful that any person has the ability to resist the temptation of absolute power promised by the ring, even if that power is used for good. That is one of the great themes of the series.

There is no panic in the Obama administration as the nation watches the Stock Market’s freefall. His advisors believe they can legislate the nation out of the crisis because they have the good intentions and power to do so. In years past it might have taken months before markets responded to legislation and economic policy, and it might have taken years to see the full effect of bad policies. This is no longer the case. No one is buying the “stimulus” as sound economic policy. How will the new fascists respond? That’s a question I’m afraid to answer.

  1. William L. Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1960), 96, note. []
  2. Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, 96, note. []
  3. Quoted in P. J. O’Brien, Forward with Roosevelt (Chicago: John C. Winston Co., 1936), 84. []
  4. O’Brien, Forward with Roosevelt, 85. []
  5. O’Brien, Forward with Roosevelt, 85. []
  6. Milton and Rose Friedman, Free to Choose (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1980), 93. []
  7. [1]Jonah Goldberg, Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left from Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning (New York: Random House, 2007), 84. []
  8. Walter McDougall, Promised Land, Crusader State: The American Encounter with the World Since 1776 (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997), 128. Quoted in Goldberg, Liberal Fascism, 84. []
  9. Woodrow Wilson, Constitutional Government in the United States (New Brunswick, New Jersey: Transaction Publishers, [1908] 2002), 105–106. []