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Get Out Your Godwin’s Law-O-Meter

HNN is running a symposium on Jonah Goldberg’s recent book, Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left, From Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning:

While I know a great deal about the historical period in question, I have not read Goldberg’s book, so I am not going to comment on his core proposition except to say that IMHO, I tend to find arguments that the intellectual roots of Fascism and Nazism are located exclusively on one side of the political spectrum are flatly and demonstrably wrong. Goldberg’s polemical thesis though, yields a hysterical reaction because he is jubilantly shredding the hoary (and false) assertion of the academic Left, going back to the pre-Popular Front Communist Party line of the 1930’s, that Fascism is a form of radicalized conservatism and a secret pawn of big business capitalism.

Therefore, the following series amounts to an intellectual food fight between Goldberg and (mostly) a band of clearly enraged Leftist professors. Enjoy!:

HNN Special: A Symposium on Jonah Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism

After all, who doesn’t like an intemperate, online argument about Nazs? 🙂

    9 Responses to “Get Out Your Godwin’s Law-O-Meter”

    1. historyguy99 Says:

      Thanks for the link.

      This discourse sort of confirms what Thomas Sowell argues in his latest book about the influence of experts and intellectuals on modern society.


    2. democratic core Says:

      Depends what you mean by "liberal."  IMO Keynes represents the ongoing legacy of classical liberalism in 20th Century thought.  The New Deal was definitely schizophrenic in this respect.  There were some wings of FDR’s administration, especially in its early phase, that favored policies that echoed Mussolini’s fascism, such as the NRA.  Fortunately, the Supreme Court threw that out (unanimously, I might add), and on balance, I think the New Deal did not represent a fascist agenda.  Its lasting legacies were basically consistent with the objective of establishing a regulatory framework that would enable free market capitalism to continue to work – securities regulation, banking regulation, establishment of a minimal social safety net, public spending on infrastructure.  At the end of the day, I think the Keynesians largely won out, and I see Keynesianism as the antithesis of fascism.  (Contrary to Hayek et al., I don’t think Keynesianism is socialism either, but that’s another debate – I’d just cite Judge Posner’s recent writings to suggest that pro-capitalist classical liberals should re-think Keynes).
      Of course, the true roots of fascism are cultural, not economic.  There was a danger of American fascism in the ’30s in the form of Huey Long, Father Coughlin, etc.  This was a largely cultural phenomenon, and Coughlin at least was blatantly anti-semitic.  I don’t think that FDR ever was able to connect culturally to the followers of these demagogues.   This movement used populist rhetoric and had slogans about wanting to "share the wealth" – did that make it "liberal"?  Hardly, by my way of thinking.

    3. Lexington Green Says:

      These guys are just jealous that Goldgerg’s book is selling like hotcakes.  That is what makes their tone so bitter. 

    4. Purpleslog Says:

      "IMO Keynes represents the ongoing legacy of classical liberalism in 20th Century thought. "

      The above is meant to be sarcastic, correct? Keynes was a Fabian Society member.

    5. Purpleslog Says:

      I should add,  I read the book some time ago and thought it was pretty good. Goldberg goes overboard in a few places, but mostly he is right on.

    6. democratic core Says:

      The claim that Keynes was a member of the Fabian Society is often repeated in right-wing propaganda, but I do not believe it is true.  Keynes was a lifelong member of the Liberal Party, refusing to join Labour even after the Liberal Party had faded as one of Britain’s 2 major parties.  His mentor was economist Alfred Marshall, one of the greats of classical liberal economics.  Keynes was sharply critical of Marx and Marxism in all of his writings, dismissing Marxism as based largely on a misunderstanding of Ricardo.  He is often incorrectly associated with the Fabian Society because of his friendship with members of the "Bloomsbury Set", such as Bertrand Russell and Leonard and Virginia Woolf, many of whom were also associated with the Fabians.

    7. Lexington Green Says:

      Keynes was an old-fashioned liberal.  He believed that economic stability was necessary to preserve the political foundations of a civilized society, and that the policies he advocated would prevent a collapse into anarchy and dictatorship.  He was a very successful currency speculator, a droll and ironic observer of political and economic affairs, but at bottom a person who believed that a civilized, lawful, peaceful, cosmopolitan society was what the English had inherited, that it was being lost in the aftermath of the First World War, and that it was worth taking desperate measures to preserve.
      None of the foregoing has anything to do with whether his ideas had merit.  But Keynes was not a socialist, or a Fabian or any kind of utopian.   He was a whiggish, sophisticated, Edwardian liberal.  It is interesting to speculate about what he would have thought and said had he lived longer.  
      He is quoted on the dust jacket of Hayek’s Road to Serfdom as saying:  "In my opinion it is a grand book…Morally and philosophically I find myself in agreement with virtually the whole of it: and not only in agreement with it, but in deeply moved agreement."
      Hayek and Keynes both lived in the shadow of the pre-1914 world, and wanted to preserve as much of it as possible. 

    8. Blaine Says:

      Griffin’s reply is a bit much, even if his basic point (That Goldberg’s definition of Fascism is severely lacking and that he’s engaging in the same type of revisionist history that he accuses others of doing) is completely valid. However, I found nothing "hysterical" about Paxton’s take on the book. If anything, he was quite dispassionate in his breakdown of some key errors in the book.

      That said, I read Goldberg’s book when it first came out and found it severally lacking. Anyone who’s studied Fascism, even those who have only begun to scratch the surface, know full well that it took ideas and language from both the left and the right. That’s not exactly a revelation if one ventures into the realm of academic studies on the subject. Even throwing that aside however, his book is still weighed down by an immense amount of partisan hyperbole which in the end tends to annoy me more than anything.

    9. Joey Says:

      I read "Hitlers willing Executioners" incredibly detailed, but lacking in empathy and insight.
      It put me off reading his other books.
      Most people who have studied history in school would know that fascism was an attempt to marry left and right in a form that was palatable to both, that was one of its enduring appeals. 

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