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Defining Corporatism and Examples in America

Defining Corporatism

Corporatism is a relatively new term for me and perhaps some of you readers as well. Wikipedia defines corporatism as “a practice whereby a state, through the process of licensing and regulating officially-incorporated social, religious, economic, or popular organizations, effectively co-opts their leadership or circumscribes their ability to challenge state authority by establishing the state as the source of their legitimacy, as well as sometimes running them, either directly or indirectly through corporations.”

Not a bad definition, but let me put it in a little plainer English. Corporatism is the collusion of big corporations and big government. Democrats call it right-wing when corporations exert undue influence on government. Republicans call it left-wing when government exert undue influence on corporations. But whether it comes from the right or from the left, corporatism stinks of progressivism and fascism.

Examples of Corporatism in America

Jonah Goldberg provides numerous examples of corporatism in his book, Liberal Fascism. In each case of corporatism, government power and influence grows while individual freedom shrinks. Corporatism gives more power to government and corportate bureaucrats and does so under the guise of helping the little people. Here are just a few examples:

  • During FDR’s administration, corporatism reached new heights as the government began imposing strict regulations on business. “The New Dealers invited one industry after another to write the codes under which they would be regulated…It was not only inevitable but intended for big business to get bigger and the little guy to get screwed…In business after business, the little guy was crushed or at least severely disadvantaged in the name of ‘efficiency’ and ‘progress.'” (p. 293)
  • In this same time period, “the meatpacking conglomerates knew that federal inspection would become a marketing tool for their products and, eventually, a minimum standard. Small firms and butchers who’d earned the trust of consumers would be forced to endure onerous compliance costs, while large firms not only could absorb the costs more easily but would be able to claim their products were superior to uncertified meats.” (p. 291)
  • A more recent example of corporatism is the ‘Big Tobacco’ settlement with the government. “Why would the tobacco companies agree to a settlement that cost them so much money and that forced them to take out ads disparaging their own product and pay for educational efforts to dissuade children from ever becoming their customers? The reason, quite simple, is that it was int heir interests. The tobacco companies not only had their lawsuits settled; they bought government approval of a new illegal cartel. ‘Big Tobacco’ raised prices above costs imposed by the settlement, guaranteeing a tidy profit. Smaller companies who did not agree to the settlement are still forced to make large escrow payments…The government in effect enforces a system by which small businesses are crushed in order to maintain the high profits of ‘Big Tobacco.'” (p. 308)
  • So-called campaign finance reform laws, such as the McCain-Finegold bill passed a few years ago, are also corporatist in nature. “Speech regulations in turn give an unfair advantage to some very big business–media conglomerates, movie studios, and such–to express their political views in ways exempt from government censorship…The New York Times is pro-choice and supports pro-choice candidates–openly on its editorial pages, more subtly in its news pages. Pro-life groups need to pay to get their views across, but such paid advertising is heavily regulated, thanks to McCain, at exactly the moment it might influence people–that is, near Election Day.” (p. 313)
  • Efforts to force private companies to produce “environmentally friendly” products, like efforts Obama is proposing to force car makers to produce “green” cars, is also corporatist because it imposes “technologies the government was smart enough to pick even though the market wasn’t.” (p. 342)

Corporatism on the Rise

With the bailouts of financial giants (like Citi Bank), insurance companies (like AIG), automakers, and home mortgage companies (Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac), it is becoming increasingly more difficult to tell where the private sector ends and government begins. Many companies that were once proudly free-market can suddenly find themselves making arguments in favor of protectionism and corporatism.

Some companies have fought the onslaught of government but it seems to be a losing battle. Take the example of Wal-Mart and Microsoft, again quoting from Jonah Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism. “For years both Wal-Mart and Microsoft boasted that they had no interest in Washington. Microsoft’s chief, Bill Gates…had one lonely lobbyist hanging around the nation’s capital. Gates changed his mind when the government nearly destroyed his company. The Senate Judiciary Committee invited him to Washington, D.C., to atone for his success, and the senators, in the words of the New York Times, ‘took a kind of giddy delight in making the wealthiest man in America squirm in his seat.’ In response, Gates hired an army of consultants, lobbyists, and lawyers to fight off the government. In the 2000 presidential election, Wal-Mart ranked 771st in direct contributions to federal politicians. In the intervening years, unions and regulators began to drool over the enormous target the mega-retailer had become. In 2004 Wal-Mart ranked as the single largest corporate politcal action committee.” (p. 303-304)

Corporatism, A Word You’ll Be Hearing More Often

Hillary Clinton, a high-profile member of Barack Obama’s new cabinet, has long been a fan of corporatist fusion of big government and big business. In her book, It Takes A Village, she states her belief that “socially minded corporate philosophies are the avenue to future prosperity and social stability.” Clinton further lauds the fact that “a number of our most powerful telecommunications and computer companies have joined forces with the government.”

I have long thought that the left’s stance regarding business was to have government regulate it to within a inch of its life. And while that is often the effect, I now see that they don’t want to kill business, they want to harness it for their own political purposes. And with liberal Democrats controlling both the executive and legislative branches of the federal government now, we can all, unfortunately, look forward to a lot more of the kind of socialism inherent in corporatism.

What is Fascism?

(Note: This is the next in my series of articles inspired by Jonah Goldberg’s book, Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left, From Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning. Click here to see my review of Liberal Fascism)

The most notable examples of fascism are Hitler’s Nazi Germany and Mussolini’s Italy during the same era. Most people think fascism was defeated during World Ward II and scarcely exists in the world today. But according to Jonah Goldberg in his book Liberal Fascism, fascism is alive an well today and is in fact thriving in one of America’s major political movements.

Fascism Difficult to Define
The first step in demonstrating that fascist policies are thriving in America is to define fascism, a harder step than you might think. Most people tend to equate fascism with Hitler and Nazi Germany, and consequently equate fascism with evil, racist, barbaric, capable of executing the Holocaust, and bent on World domination. Most people, even politicians and pundits, put little further thought into it. But fascism was fascism long before the Holocaust, and though Hitler’s Nazi Germany may have been all of those evil things, such a simplistic definition of fascism prevents us from fully examining its rise and from preventing its future domination of the political landscape.

George Orwell noted in his 1946 essay, Politics and the English Language, “The word fascism has now no meaning except so far as it signifies ‘something not desirable.'” Stanley G.Payne, considered by many to be the leading living scholar of fascism, wrote in 1995, “fascism remains probably the vaguest of the major political terms.”

Fascism Dubbed Right-Wing by the Far Left
Fascism is only right-wing in the sense that it is right of far left socialism and communism. Jonah Goldberg says, “From the beginning, fascism was dubbed as right-wing not because it necessarily was right-wing but because the communist left thought this was the best way to punish apostasy.” You see, Nazism and Fascism was right-wing socialism, but still socialism. Goldberg further states, “What I am mainly trying to do is to dismantle the granitelike assumption in our political culture that American conservatism is an offshoot or cousin of fascism…Many of the ideas and impulses that inform what we call liberalism come to us through an intellectual tradition [progressivism] that led directly to fascism.”

Italian Fascism Strikingly Similar to Modern Liberalism
Mussolini was a life-long socialist. His first job was as an editor of a socialist newspaper called “Avanti” (Forward). Said Mussolini, “I am and always will be a socialist.” During his execution at the hands of a band of communists, Mussolini’s mistress allegedly dove in front of her lover and shouted “Long live Mussolini! Long live Socialism!” Here are some highlights from Mussolini’s Fascist party platform (notice how objectively left-wing these points are):

  • Expropriating land from owners and giving them to farmers’ cooperatives.
  • The obligation of the state to build “rigidly secular” schools.
  • “A large progressive tax on capital that would amount to a one-time partial expropriation of all riches.”
  • “The seizure of all goods belonging to religious congregations.”
  • The “sequestration of 85% of all war profits” by the government.
  • The nationalization of all arms and explosives industries.

Hitler Was No Conservative
“To suggest that Hitler was a conservative in any sense related to American conservatism is lunacy. American conservatives seek to preserve both traditional values and the classical liberal creed [personal freedom or today’s libertarianism] enshrined in the Constitution. American conservatism straddles these two distinct but overlapping libertarian and traditionalist strains, whereas Hitler despised both.” Here are some of the tenets of Hitler’s Nazi party (again, very left-wing socialist in nature):

  • Providing a guaranteed livelihood for all citizens
  • The nationalization of trusts
  • Expanded old-age pensions
  • “Communalization of department stores”
  • Requiring businesses to share profits with laborers
  • Click here to see the full Nazi Party Platform

American Liberalism: An Embarrassing Family Resemblance to Fascism
As you can see above, though liberalism “is hardly identical to her uglier relations [fascism], she nonetheless carries an embarrassing family resemblance that few will admit to recognize.” Jonah Goldberg further says that, “Fascism, properly understood, is not a phenomenon of the right at all. Instead, it is, and always has been, a phenomenon of the left. This fact–an inconvenient truth if there ever was one.”

Jonah Goldberg says what unites liberalism and fascism is “the need for an all-powerful state to coordinate society at the national or global level.” Such was the case with FDR’s New Deal; even left-wing historians grudgingly admit that “many of his ideas and policies were indistinguishable from fascism.” Said Rexford Guy Tugwell, an influential member of FDR’s Brain Trust, of Italian Fascism, “It’s the cleanest, neatest, most efficiently operating piece of social machinery I’ve ever seen. It makes me envious.”

H. G. Wells minted the term liberal fascism. Like many other progressive of the early 1900s, Wells was envious of the supposed success of the Italian Fascists and the Communist Russians, and was anxious for such political thought to take root in America. He said, “I’m asking for a Liberal Fascisti, for enlightened Nazis.” What he wanted fascism with a smile on its face, which explains the cover of Jonah Goldberg’s book.

Modern Liberal Fascism
Goldberg goes on to further explain how modern liberal constituent groups, such as environmentalists, employ fascist tactics. “Environmentalism gives license to the sort of moral bullying and intrusion that, were it couched in terms of traditional morality, liberals would immediately denounce as fascist.”

Fascism is nationalistic and militaristic in nature. And we see both of these tendencies from today’s liberal left. Maxine Waters, Democrat Congresswoman from California, just last year threatened to nationalize the U.S. oil industry (this link takes you to the YouTube video of it). And liberals show their militarist nature when all of their causes tend to be “wars” and constant crisis: the war on poverty, the war on drugs, the current economic “crisis”, the global warming “crisis”, etc.

Beware of Liberals Eroding Our Freedoms
Now that we have come to an understanding of what fascism is and its prevalence in American society today, let’s stand up and defeat it. The threat may not be coming in the form of tanks and armies of brown shirts; it may be a far friendly fascism as Goldberg indicates. “If there is ever a fascist takeover in America, it will come not in the form of storm troopers kicking down doors but with lawyers and social workers saying, ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.'” Richard Weaver made a similar statement years ago: “The past shows unvaryingly that when a people’s freedom disappears, it goes not with a bang, but in silence amid the comfort of being cared for. That is the dire peril in the present trend toward statism.”

Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left

Book Review: Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left, From Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning by Jonah Goldberg
Grade: A+, 5 Stars, A Ten, whatever the scoring system, this is a great book.

There is so much to say about this outstanding book, I’m not sure where to begin. There is no way I can put everything I want to say in one post, so I plan to dedicate the next several blog posts to topics and learnings from this book.

The premise of the book is that conservatives have long been unfairly derided by liberals as fascists. The more conservative you are, according to liberal logic (or illogic), the closer you are to being a fascist. This is because liberals equate fascism with racism, warmongering and just about any other evil you can think of, and anyone who wants to stop liberals from achieving their political goals, like conservatives, must be just as bad as fascists. The truth of the matter, though, as revealed my Mr. Goldberg, is that it is liberals, and not conservatives, that resort to fascist methods to achieve their political goals. It is liberals, and not conservatives, that have political roots in the Progressive movement which also gave rise to fascism.

I will go into more detail defining what is fascism in a future post, but for now suffice it to say that fascism is a polar opposite to conservatism and much more closely akin to socialism and modern American liberalism. The Nazi party, perhaps the best example of fascism, was the National Socialist German Workers’ Party; hardly a right-wing organization. And Mussolini, the Italian example of fascism, was a life-long socialist; he was perhaps to the political right communism, but far left of American conservatism.

As the title of the book indicates, this is an expose on American liberals, their mind and methods. For me, every chapter was a real eye-opener. I learned much I never knew before, particularly about the Progressive movement of the early 20th century. And when I wasn’t learning new things, Mr. Goldberg was shedding new light on things I thought I already knew, like the fascist tactics of Woodrow Wilson during World War I.

This book should be required reading for every American. If we are to resist the onslaught of so-called progressive ideas from the American left, we must know their playbook and this book reveals liberals for what they really are and what they really want: an all-powerful government that reaches into every corner of our lives and replaces God with the religion of the state.

Here’s a great interview of Jonah Goldberg on the Glenn Beck TV program: