David Henderson of EconLog thinks so; that is, he thinks we’ve become the subjects of a fascist regime:
[President Obama] has already, in less than 100 days, moved the U.S. economy further towards fascism. Sean Hannity and other critics keep criticizing Obama for his socialist leanings. But the more accurate term for many of his measures, especially in the financial markets and the auto market, is fascism.
Where socialism sought totalitarian control of a society’s economic processes through direct state operation of the means of production, fascism sought that control indirectly, through domination of nominally private owners. Where socialism nationalized property explicitly, fascism did so implicitly, by requiring owners to use their property in the “national interest”–that is, as the autocratic authority conceived it. (Nevertheless, a few industries were operated by the state.) Where socialism abolished all market relations outright, fascism left the appearance of market relations while planning all economic activities. Where socialism abolished money and prices, fascism controlled the monetary system and set all prices and wages politically. In doing all this, fascism denatured the marketplace. Entrepreneurship was abolished. State ministries, rather than consumers, determined what was produced and under what conditions.
I agree wholeheartedly with Henderson and Richman. But I must say that Obama’s latest moves only confirm our long drift to fascism, which is a particular form of statism. As I wrote about 18 months ago:
We were, for decades, poised on the brink of the abyss of statism, which is outright state control of most social and economic institutions (e.g., medicine, notably but far from exclusively). I have concluded that we have gone over the brink and slid, silently and docilely, into the abyss.
Statism may be reached either as an extension of communitarianism or via post-statist anarchy or near-anarchy, as in Stalin’s Russia, Hitler’s Germany, and Mao’s China. We have come to statism via communitarianism, which leads inevitably to statism because the appetite for largesse is insatiable, as is the desire (in certain circles) to foster “social (or cosmic) justice.”
I was once optimistic that our transition to all-out statism would lead, in turn, to overthrow of statism:
[S]tatism is an easier target for reform than communitarianism. The high price of statism becomes obvious to more voters as more facets of economic and personal behavior are controlled by the state. In other words, statism’s inherent weakness is that it creates more enemies than communitarianism.
That weakness becomes libertarians’ opportunity. Persistent, reasoned eloquence in the cause of liberty may, at last, slow the rise of statism and hasten its rollback. And who knows, perhaps libertarianism will gain adherents as the rollback gains momentum.
My optimism has vanished, as I have come to understand that politicians their enablers (voters and contributors) are profoundly irrational. They prefer statism to liberty, regardless of what they say. They (most of them) mean to be benign, but statism is not benign. Statism may seem benign — as it does to Europeans, for example — but it is dehumanizing, impoverishing, and — at bottom — destructive of the social fabric upon which liberty depends.
Megan McArdle takes exception to David Henderson’s observations. She writes:
How is this helpful? Has clarifying the distinction between fascism and socialism really added to most peoples’ understanding of what the Obama administration is doing? All this does is drag the specter of Hitler into the conversation. And the problem with Hitler was not his industrial policy–I mean, okay, fine, Hitler’s industrial policy bad, right, but I could forgive him for that, you know? The thing that really bothers me about Hitler was the genocide. And I’m about as sure as I can be that Obama has no plans to round up millions of people, put them in camps, and find various creative ways to torture them to death.
If he does, look, I take it all back. Use the F-word freely. Hell, I’ll hide you in our spare bedroom when the state police squads come looking for you. But until then, can we stick to less inflammatory terms? Surely creative and intelligent adults can find ways to critique Obama without pointing out that Hitler was also a very effective speaker.
It is helpful. Anything that might cause Americans to reject Obama’s policies is helpful. If it takes scaring them by invoking the F-word, I’m all for it. After all, it is fair to say that Obama is a fascist (e.g. this and this), just as it is fair to say that FDR was one, in spades. (Does “Obama youth” ring a bell?)
Fascism is a bad thing. Therefore, why should anyone refrain from calling a fascist a fascist, when the target is a fascist? Leftists and outraged adolescents (much the same thing) like to pin the fascist label on libertarians and conservatives, but in doing so they merely demonstrate their petulance and ignorance of the word’s meaning.
Yes, Hitler was malign compared with Obama, but that doesn’t make Obama benign. In fact, Obama’s policies with respect to embryonic stem-cell research and abortion are steps in the direction of Hitlerian eugenics. If you don’t agree, read this post and all the posts listed at the end of it, plus these:
Singer Said It
The Case against Genetic Engineering
A “Person” or a “Life”?
A Wrong-Headed Take on Abortion