Summary: On 2/27/08 I got a call from Brendan Steinhauser, Director, Federal and State Campaigns at FreedomWorks. He was soliciting my participation in one of their initiatives (I don't recall which). I responded that I subscribe to keep up with what the fascists are doing. He sent e-mail suggesting I read the book, Liberal Fascism. I replied to his e-mail and two at "FreedomWorks" sent e-mail responses. All this and my comments on their e-mails are below.
Links to sections of this page:
What is "FreedomWorks"?
"FreedomWorks" sent a suggestion that I'd enjoy the book, Liberal Fascism
What is Fascism?
My Response to the suggestion that I read Liberal Fascism
E-mails responding to my comments
Kristopher Rawls e-mail responding to my comments
Comments on Kristopher Rawls's e-mail
Brendan Steinhauser's e-mail responding to my comments
Comments on Brendan Steinhauser's e-mail
What is "FreedomWorks"?
Above all, it's a misnomer. This is right-wing extremist, Dick Armey's libertarian organization. Their website proclaims that
... the national project our Founders began is under attack by the social engineers and the freedom-haters.
Today, FreedomWorks fights to preserve and restore Americas liberty by promoting lower taxes, a limited government, and greater economic freedom. ...
The "freedom-haters" are, of course, liberals like me. Only, like all economic "conservatives" and libertarians, they know nothing about true freedom.
At Explaining Liberal Principles I note that
True freedom is about more than the ability to take action; it's more accurately about the ability to take effective action. Libertarians and economic "conservatives" would rather have someone who wants to exit a room be free to run into walls than be truly free and able to find the door.
See also Freedom! What's that mean? 8/16/06
While there's a "uncontested core" of belief about "freedom," the conservative and liberal views of freedom are vastly different. Conservatives believe in the unlimited freedom of employers and corporations to make money through the "free market" and "free trade." Liberals believe in a balance between the freedom to make money and the freedom of individuals to have a job and earn a decent wage. A major difference is the view of causality: "system as effect" vs. "system as cause."
So I don't "hate freedom." I know that freedom requires the balancing of individual and collective concerns. Libertarians and others on the economic "right" don't believe there is such a thing as the "collective".
People of a "conservative" ideology are captive to a more insidious form of bondage: They are prisoners of their own thinking.
"FreedomWorks" sent a suggestion that I'd enjoy the book, Liberal Fascism
Back to the call. I responded that I only subscribe to their e-mails so I can keep up with what the fascists are doing.
He followed up by sending me an e-mail with the subject: "I thought you would enjoy this book" by Jonah Goldberg on Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left, From Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning.
|Cover of the book Liberal Fascism|
What is Fascism?
Fascism defined at wordiq.com [site no longer active]:
... refers to the right-wing authoritarian political movement which ruled Italy from 1922 to 1943 under the leadership of Benito Mussolini. The word fascism (uncapitalized) has come to mean any political stance or system of government resembling Mussolini's ...
Besides totalitarianism, a key distinguishing feature of fascism is that it uses a mass movement to attack the organizations of the working class: parties of the left and trade unions. Thus Fritzsche and others describe fascism as a militant form of right-wing populism. This mobilization strategy involves Corporatism, Corporativism, or the Corporative State, all terms that refer to state action to partner with key business leaders, often in ways chosen to minimize the power of labor unions. [bolding/italics added]
Mussolini, for example, capitalized on fear of an imminent Socialist revolution, finding ways to unite Labor and Capital, to Labor's ultimate detriment. In 1926 he created the National Council of Corporations, divided into guilds of employers and employees, tasked with managing 22 sectors of the economy. The guilds subsumed both labor unions and management, but were heavily weighted in favor of the corporations and their owners. The moneyed classes in return helped him change the country's laws to raise his stature from a coalition leader to a supreme commander.
Fascism is visciously anti-liberal. It's become clear that the extremist "right", which has been increasing in control of government through the Republican Bush years has led us down the path to fascism.
Naomi Wolf's book, The End of America: Letters of Warning to a Young Patriot (2007), explains that, despite democracy, dictators like Mussolini and Hitler rose to have absolute power. This happened gradually with most people being unaware of the "fascist shift." She explains that this is happening now in the U.S. She describes the ten changes needed to move a country from democracy to fascism and the similarities with what "conservatives" have done.
This isn't happening because "liberals," must less "leftists," are in charge. They aren't.
There's a widespread recognition that Republicans and other "conservatives" are driving the "fascist shift." So their goal is to modify, dilute. and muddy the meaning of the word, fascism, just as they've done with the word "liberal" over the past three decades. First, they've associated fascism with Islam by way of Islamofascism, which has nothing to do with corporations. Now they're attempting to associate fascism with liberals, who oppose the rise of corporate power. They're incredibly Orwellian in their robbing words of meaning.
Wonderful quotes at Jonahs Fascism:
When I use a word, Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, it means just what I choose it to mean neither more nor less.
The question is, said Alice, whether you can make words mean so many different things.
The question is, said Humpty Dumpty, which is to be master thats all.
Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There, ch. 6 (1871)
The tactic of the "right" is to pervert the concept of democracy to mean "dictatorship." How's that? Well, by making it into a "tyranny of the majority." The fact is that "conservatives" have not believed in democracy from the get go. See The Conservative Mind.
As an example of their thinking,
There you have it. In an America of radical individualism, any call to do something for the "common good" is taken to be fascist. JFK's statement was not meant, as in fascist Italy, to demand subservience to the state, but to suggest contributions to the common good. But altruism is heresy to the libertarian belief that "greed is good" and that greed alone is sufficient to produce a prosperous and just society.
My response to this suggestion follows, along with responses in full from two at "FreedomWorks" and with my additional comments on what they wrote. Read for yourself and decide where you come down.
My Response to the suggestion that I read Liberal Fascism
Date: Wed, 27 Feb 2008 13:05:45 -0700
To: "Brendan Steinhauser"
From: Bob Powell
Subject: Re: I thought you would enjoy this book
Thanks for the link. It's good to keep aware of "FreedomWorks" idiocy.
You display total ignorance of what Fascism is: combined corporate and government power. And that's where those like you have taken us. See the chart in this section:Capitalism, Socialism, & Dictatorship. Liberals do not support corporate control of government.
We do understand the need for government: Explaining Liberal Principles. You do not understand how the world works, which makes you quite literally irrational and insane. See also Response to a Conservative.
Of course, libertarians and those who call themselves "economic conservatives" perceive any government control as dictatorial. In fact you do not believe in democracy at all: The Conservative Mind.
You and your Fascist Libertarian Menace are more dangerous than the Communist Menace ever was.
In the second review at Amazon there's this:
Since neo-liberalism, with its insistence on unfettered global trade and minimal government regulation of economic and social life, merely restates 19th-century laissez-faire, it is in fact the only contemporary political philosophy that significantly pre-dates both socialism and fascism. Unlike modern liberalism or modern conservatism, it shares not even a remote family resemblance with them. That is the only sense I can make of his overall argument.
But a final word of advice. If you want to denigrate the Democrats' health care plans or Al Gore's environmental activism, try the word "socialism." That is tried and tested American abuse. "Fascism" will merely baffle Americans -- and rightly so.
On the "trade" issue, see The Trade Deficit and the Fallacy of Composition, 5/04/05. The Fallacy of Composition: When we act as if what is true for a part is true for the whole. At times, individually logical actions can be collectively irrational.
Laissez-faire "conservative" economics has failed. The US is in the process of failing as the Soviet Union failed and will within the next year or so. See The Death of the Middle Class. Congratulations on what 27 years of conservative economic idiocy have wrought. See here that Greenspan agrees that Clinton was an economic libertarian.
The reviewer above is correct about "socialism," but note there are two kinds of socialism ... and you represent the worst kind. There are two kinds of redistribution because there are two sides of the ledger: income and costs.
Redistribution of income: This is directly observable. Money is transferred from the rich to the poor. This is what's generally recognized as socialism. Some of this is necessary to correct for the dynamic known as path dependence, with which most of us are familiar from playing Monopoly ... this game illustrates how the world works.
Redistribution of costs: These are indirect and more difficult to observe. Costs are distributed widely onto the public. When costs are lower it increases profits. This is the "cost-side socialism" of unregulated capitalism that allows what are known as "negative externalities." This cost redistribution far outweighs the redistribution of income and it will be the death of capitalism (and perhaps of the planet itself due to pollution).
Educate yourself on the Corporate and Conservative Nanny State:
The Conservative Nanny State - How the Wealthy Use the Government to Stay Rich and Get Richer by Dean Baker
Free lunch : how the wealthiest Americans enrich themselves at government expense (and stick you with the bill) by David C. Johnston
E-mails responding to my comments
First, here are some links on the book:
All this talk made no contact no matter how hard we tried by Spencer Ackerman 12/26/07
Thom Hartmann - Is There Liberal Fascism? Jan 08
Jonah Goldberg's 'Liberal Facism' Brings Historical Revisionism to Comical New Heights by Brad Reed, AlterNet. 1/11/08
Jonah Goldberg's Bizarro History by David Neiwert, 1/8/08
The methodology of Liberal Fascism by David Neiwert, 1/13/08
Calling Out Jonah Goldberg by David Neiwert 1/17/08
Responding to Jonah by Dave Neiwert, 1/24/08
Jonahs Fascism by Scott Horton 2/17/08
Reclaiming The Issues: Islamic Or Republican Fascism? 8/28/06
I love getting e-mails from these guys. (I responded to a DLC Democrat at The Death of the Middle Class.) It provides a window into truly dysfunctional thinking ... and their Alice in Wonderland perspective on "reality."
They really are quite insane. This may sound harsh, but when a person's view of reality is so greatly distorted that it reaches the level of a mental disorder, it's appropriate. The root of that insanity is that they don't believe this: The whole is greater than the sum of the parts.
This isn't just a saying, it's reality. Systems have what's known as "emergent properties" -- properties of the whole that are not properties of the parts. Your mind is an emergent property of the network neurons and cells in your brain; it's not a property of the individual neurons and cells. More at Primacy of the Whole.
When they ignore this reality, they ignore the need, when systems effects make it necessary, for government to manage the whole. Individual, logical actions alone can lead to system failure. It's not either individual decisions or collective decisions; it's both-and. Explaining Liberal Principles describes important areas where systems effects make government (collective decisions) necessary.
As a courtesy, I've removed their e-mail addresses from this web page. If you'd like to send them a personal note, contact me and, individually, I'll give you the e-mail address for either of them.
I'll be happy to post any responses they might care to provide.
Note: Both e-mails are exactly as sent. The first is all one spewing-forth paragraph, which makes for laborious reading.
Kristopher Rawls's e-mail on my Response
Date: Mon, 3 Mar 2008 12:48:08 -0500
From: "Kristopher Rawls"
To: Bob Powell
I'm actually going to take time out of my work schedule to respond to as many as your claims as possible. You have a fundamental misunderstanding of anything economic and extend principles of system efficiency to human emotional attribution and thus attribution error. You claim to have "practical solutions" (despite generalized view of humanity; the crux of any collectivist argument) and offer no hard policy initiatives. Perhaps your physics degree didn't require regressive logic but you have become quite prolific at insulting dissenting view points through ironic claims of ignorance as well as through fear mongering given your hyperbolic claims that American capitalism is crumbling all around us (despite no real economic indicators of this). Also, stop comparing libertarianism and conservatism as the same political schemes. Your generalizations on republican "corporate fascist" and economic libertarians are insulting to anyone with half a sense of political affiliations and shows that you use the groups interchangeably to serve your own argument rather than keep logical consistency. Your analysis of free trade is just plain wrong (ANY economist could tell you why and I'd be willing to explain it to you) and again generalizes motivations of politicians as the intellectual underpinning of a free economic system. You have a systematic misunderstanding of why government is inefficient and ignore market incentives and consumership in order to give a false structure of government necessity. Accordingly, you designate libertarians effectively as anarchist and ignore externality and order preservation as the main efficient tenets of a libertarian government. Your arguments that "conservative economics" has failed is baffling to say the least. Unless you're literally making up figures (as you see fit to redefine "fascism" to your political whims) what about the last 20 years of economic growth (including under Mr. Clinton) would give you any credibility for this claim? If you wish to take on our organization, that is your prerogative, but to take on the entire intellectual economic community is by your definition "insanity." You seem to offer credible "revelations" on political thinking, again under the delusion that everyone should be as enlightened as you, while in reality presenting a pseudo-scholarly claptrap of arguments mostly based in ideology (the weakest structure of argument). You no doubt are a very bright man despite your dissociative analysis of humanity and impressive will to ignore fact in favor of principle, but none the less you've offered no credible evidence or empirical systems to base ANY of your claims. I've read article after article and have found little more than wide generalizations about the libertarian psyche and conservative minimalism with no real analysis of the intellectual claims of the left. This again suggests a misunderstanding of what an economic system entails and begs to question your prejudice towards dissenting claims. Perhaps the largest laugh I had (which I thank you for) came from your analysis of the externality of redistribution of costs. Hilarious as it is, it offered the greatest insight into your general misunderstanding of any basic economic reasoning, which is typical for idealist such as yourself. I'd be glad to cite articles about this if you wish, but I doubt you'll find time to read them between rants. I've read both Baker and Johnson's books and understand the concept of "subsidized" tax structures for the upper and upper middle class. These are arguments (like most of your own) that attempt to justify government as fundamentally entitled to one's assets which although is illegal, is also one of the greatest fundamental problems with modern liberal thought. Its difficult to single out issues and not generalize argument in the same way you did and so to remedy this I'll give you a standing offer to pick an issue for debate (preferably after you brush up on your Econ 101 http://www.amazon.com/Economics-Dummies-Sean-Masaki-Flynn/dp/0764557262) and I'll respond to your articles with as much detail and analysis as my time will permit. At our organization we welcome dissent, we welcome different viewpoints, but we do not welcome disrespect and bigotry. If you keep an even head we can have an intellectual conversation without the need for your personal attacks and ridiculous (despite amusing) generalizations. If not then I'll you to continue your hate mongering and "intellectual research" and ask you to keep from contacting us any longer.
Comments on Kristopher Rawls's e-mail
Well, there you have it. What a diatribe. Here are a few observations (taking time out of my busy schedule) on what he wrote.
- On my "generalized view of humanity; the crux of any collectivist argument."
Any mention that there are collective considerations leads to the charge that one is a "collectivist." Again, it's not either-or; it's both-and. This need for balance is explained at What's This Site About?
- On my "hyperbolic claims that American capitalism is crumbling all around us (despite no real economic indicators of this)."
Amazing ignorance. Just look around. The US economy is at the end of the beginning of the end. The three main reasons: 1) lack of effective regulation to prevent speculation ... the source of one economic bubble after another. Now we're "bubbled out" and the collapse is upon us. 2) The externalization (socialization) of the costs of growth that's led to massive infrastructure backlogs (see Growth Facts of Life) and pollution ... and higher taxes to address them. 3) Trade policy that's undermining the economy (see The Trade Deficit and the Fallacy of Composition).
This is the "freedom" to which "FreedomWorks" brings us.
- On "stop comparing libertarianism and conservatism as the same political schemes." On economics, they are the same. See where they are at Capitalism, Socialism, & Dictatorship.
On how my "analysis of free trade is just plain wrong (ANY economist could tell you why and I'd be willing to explain it to you)."
Oh, my. I provide a point-by-point rebuttal of every right-wing argument for what they call "free trade." Their arguments are the ones that are "just plain wrong" and there's no hope of explaining it to them.
He should read Bad Samaritans: The Myth of Free Trade and the Secret History of Capitalism by Ha-Joon Chang. A quick example of "just plain wrong", just like "FreedomWorks": U.S. Chamber of Commerce - Everything is OK ... talk about delusional.
- On "despite your dissociative analysis of humanity and impressive will to ignore fact in favor of principle".
The systems view is the exact opposite of "dissociative analysis." With systems thinking one takes into account both facts and systems principles (examining how influences propagate through the system to influence behavior).
On what "dissociative analysis" is, here's the paragraph on Ethnic Groups in the Foreward of Abrahamic Faiths, Ethnicity and Ethnic Conflicts (Cultural Heritage and Contemporary Change. Series I, Culture and Values, Vol. 7).
"As each social group has its own self-under-standing and identity, understanding and responding to ethnic groups becomes essential. Here the focus shifts from the individual as the subject of empirical observation and dissociative analysis, to a peoples culture as a distinctive grasp of the meaning of life and a commitment to a distinctive mode of its realization. This implies a set of values as a preferential ordering between possible goods, and a set of virtues as developed capabilities for acting according to those values. As values and virtues develop from generation to generation they create a culture and, as this is handed on to sub-sequent generations, a tradition. This constitutes the self-under-standing both of persons and of peoples, and indeed of ethnicities as local groups which share a culture."
- On how "you've offered no credible evidence or empirical systems to base ANY of your claims. I've read article after article and have found little more than wide generalizations about the libertarian psyche and conservative minimalism with no real analysis of the intellectual claims of the left."
I'm extremely specific, include lots of data, and reveal the logic behind my reasoning. As examples, see A Systems Thinking Perspective on Manufacturing & Trade Policy, Why Offshoring is Economically Unsustainable, How the U.S. Subsidizes Offshoring of Jobs, Denver Post 'Trade' Deception, Are Poverty Wages for Ag Workers Necessary? No., and Employment & Unemployment. I provide specific rebuttals of standard right-wing arguments at Explaining Liberal Principles. This e-mail makes claims, not logical argument.
- On how "the largest laugh I had (which I thank you for) came from your analysis of the externality of redistribution of costs" and on my "general misunderstanding of any basic economic reasoning ...".
I understand the "basic economic reasoning" of Economics 101, but that's not how the world works. A "free market God" does not solve all systems "wicked messes." For examples of how Econ 101 (The Invisible Hand) fails, see Invisible Hand Drops Ball & Economics 101.
On other systemic failures, see The Tangle of Growth, What's the impact of Federal Reserve policy on wages?, So who are the real leeches and parasites?, What about the U.S. being the "place for real opportunity?", and Book Review: Myths, Lies, and Downright Stupidity: Get Out the Shovel--Why Everything You Know is Wrong.
"Free market" ideology is blind to overriding "command and control" interference by the Federal Reserve, to the effects of the adverse selection dynamic, to negative externalities, to posiitve externalities, and to the market failures caused by long delays, inelasticities (Farm Policy Failure), and the lack of regulation to prevent monopoly and market manipulation (Enron-style in CA).
- On my "hate mongering."
OK, so pointing out how the arguments of the economic right are irrational, not based in reality, and therefore insane is "hate mongering"? Pointing out that their ideological blinders prevent them from seeing vital aspects of reality encroches significantly into the realm of insanity is not simply a "personal attack."
After all, they shouldn't mind. Extremist right-wingers have characterized liberals as ignorant, evil, and un-American for decades. They just don't like it when it's made clear that the opposite is the case.
Those who promote policies that destroy the US economy, ensure poverty and potholes, and lead to 47 million people without health insurance (here's why) deserve no respect. They must be opposed.
- On "ridiculous (despite amusing) generalizations."
These comments are hardly specific ... they're full of "generalizations."
Brendan Steinhauser's e-mail on my Response
Subject: RE: I thought you would enjoy this book
Date: Mon, 3 Mar 2008 17:22:06 -0500
From: "Brendan Steinhauser"
To: "Bob Powell"
Hi Bob. Sorry for the delayed response. I've been on the road teaching college students how to organize for limited government. I will respond very succinctly by saying that we believe that the government should be much, much smaller. Politicians should have less power, not more. This means we are diametrically opposed to statism in the form of communism, socialism or fascism. We oppose big government, which these three systems represent. F.A. Hayek wrote "The Road to Serfdom" because he feared the power and growth of the government. As supporters of Hayek and other Austrian economists, we fear the collusion of big government with big business, or big labor. Tim Carney, a libertarian, wrote a great book about the problems that come about when big business uses big government to get its way.
Insane? Hardly. Irrational? Not likely.
Limited government, more freedom, lower taxes, less spending, individual choice in the market. These are the things FreedomWorks stands for. Fascism is a product of the left, not the right. I'm sorry to burst your bubble.
Director, Federal and State Campaigns
601 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
North Building, Suite 700
Washington, D.C. 20004-2601
(202) 942-7612 phone
(202) 379-6583 cell
(202) 942-7649 fax
Comments on Brendan Steinhauser's e-mail
Not to worry, Brendan; no bubble burst.
It's a hollow statement to assert that "we fear the collusion of big government with big business, or big labor." That's because everything "FreedomWorks" recommends fosters "big business us[ing] big government to get its way" and is anti-labor.
When "FreedomWorks" invokes "limited government" and "more freedom", it really means limiting government's ability to prevent corporations from doing whatever they please ... that's "economic freedom" ... regardless of the negative impacts on citizens.
When it invokes "freedom", it means the "free market" of "one dollar, one vote", not "one-man, one-vote" democracy. It perverts the concept of democracy to mean tyranny. For them, it's all about "individual choice in the market" ... as if that "free market God" solves everything. It does not.
The issue isn't "big" or "small" government, but government in pursuit of real freedom ... effective action to improve the lives of Americans (see Explaining Liberal Principles). Even if they wanted to, they, like Machiavelli, don't believe it's even possible; see Government Dysfunction and Command and Control.
For example, they hate "personal injury lawyers", but never complain about the corporate lawyers who appeal verdicts until those injured die. They cite that "America's civil justice system is the world's most expensive", but get the causality wrong. It's weak regulation that MAKES the corporate malfeasance so prevalent. They believe there must be limited, if any, accountability. It's not "frivolous lawsuits" that are the problem; it's "frivolous appeals." One reason the civil justice system is so expensive is that corporations drag out appeals and increase the costs.
They promote the ability of corporations to have the right to externalize costs onto the public to increase profits. That redistribution of costs, the "socialism of the right," is the "freedom" they desire.
They want freedom for "unions of capital" called corporations, but oppose the freedom to form "unions of individuals" ... they must, of course, be banned. They love it that the Federal Reserve assures the supply of labor exceeds demand, which assures wages are driven toward zero. By ignoring that manipulation they can attempt to maintain that unions "interfere" in the "free market" for labor, which does not exist.
Even the very idea of a "market" for labor is questionable. Markets are appropriate for commodities. Market forces are appropriate for dealing with an excess of supply over demand for widgets. Excess widgets are discarded or sold at fire sale prices, perhaps the factories are torn down. Alternatively, marketing and advertising are used to increase demand.
Applying the same principle to the labor market means that excess workers would be either killed or paid a wage so low that they cannot live on it, which also leads to death ... exactly what's happening. Considering "values," that's immoral. Treating people according to "market principles," as commodities to be bought and sold, is evil (harmful; injurious).
Somehow unions are "antifreedom" even though they are democracies and corporations are dictatorships (even the so-called owners have very weak control) that are not bound to have allegience to the national interest ... they are now transnational.
Google: site:freedomworks.org deregulation. You get 198 hits. They love deregulation ... The US should lead the world in deregulation. What a panacea. But a "deregulated market" is a "lawless market", which is exactly what they want. Well, not exactly; they do want laws that limit corporate accountability. Weak government assures they won't be prosecuted because corporate money and influence can control government.
They oppose punitive damages for corporate malfeasance; but juries heard all the evidence and made determined the awards ... trust them? ... heck no!
Their denial that there's "cost-side socialism" shows they need remedial lessons in accounting. The profit equation has two terms:
Profit = Income - Expense
There are two ways to increase profits.
- Limit redistribution of income despite the reality of path dependence and negative externalities that impose costs on the public. Such redistribution is the "socialism of the left" fought tooth and nail by "conservatives."
- Redistribute costs onto the public to decrease expenses. That redistribution is the "socialism of the right" promoted aggressively by "conservatives."
Corporations have become experts at this. They agressively fight regulations to prevent such regulation. And then, when caught causing injuries, deaths, and costs to the public, the assert, "Well, gee, we complied with all existing regulations." This would be a joke,, if it weren't so tragic.
"FreedomWorks" and others on the "economic right" should admit the real agenda they pursue when they turn a blind eye to economic realities caused by systems effects. To describe what they ignore, I've created a new page, Invisible Hand Drops Ball & Economics 101, to highlight the effects of their myopia.