May 22, 2009
Corporatism comes to AmericaBy Lee Cary
Some members of the Republican National Committee have recently wondered aloud what others of us wonder privately. What name do we give to the direction in which Democrats and the Obama administration are taking America?
In 20th Century Italy and Germany, particularly during 1933-1945, fascism merged the self-interests of despotic, single-party rulers with large corporations for whom big war offered big profits. Mussolini called it Corporatism.
In 1937, when thoughtful people were examining the major economic systems queuing up to fight another world war, British philosopher E.B. Ashton wrote,
(Sounds like the new U.S. auto industry, does it not? Of course, as we're told, it's just temporary.)
Despite whiffs of commonality between fascist economic behavior back then, and what's happening here now, fascism as a current descriptor is off-limits -- at least for the time being. The word carries too many horrific images of barbaric terror brought by despots wielding weapons provided by the industrialists of fascist economies.
In comparison, socialism, particularly as it leans more heavily on an anti-capitalist mentality than did fascism, is more often used by opponents of the current trend.
Stalin's extreme expression of socialism, communism, carries a body-count reputation nearly as odious as Hitler's Nazi Germany. But post-war Western European applications softened the word so as to make it less ominous to most, and even respectable among the liberal left. (How the definition of "liberal" shifted 180 degrees from its original meaning is a topic for another time.)
The U.S. government's role today in the banking and automobile industries sure looks, walks, and quacks like socialism, as Ford Motor Company is about to become the last free-enterprise American car company.
So just what are the key indicators of socialism? Albert Einstein offered several.
Einstein escaped a Europe about to plunge into a conflagration that engaged the big three -isms of the 20th Century: socialism, fascism and capitalism. Interestingly, he sought refuge in the bastion of capitalism, the United States. Then ironically, after the war, he declared capitalism a failed system that needed to be replaced by socialism.
That last line in Einstein's quote sounds like an abstract of President Obama's Notre Dame speech.
The antidote to the evils of capitalism is, according to the socialist, the "planned economy" wherein the central planners, omnipotent in discerning "the needs of the community," direct the consumptions of society.
Socialism offers to cure what the two professorial authors of the book de jure in the White House define as the "downside of capitalism."
So there it is. A truly happy home -- a metaphor the authors use -- brought to us by the central planners of the federal government who know better than we do what we need. Enlightened public servants that they are, they'll do our consumption planning for us.
That sounds like a welcome rescue to consumers duped by the evils of capitalism, until we remember that these central planners are descendants of the ones who, over a series of administrations, brought us the War on Drugs (How's that going?), the War on Poverty, Medicare (Chocking on fraud), No Child Left Behind, Aid to Dependent Children (That enabled dependent adults), Public Housing (Like the failed Chicago Housing Authority), Social Security (That recently mailed over 10,000 checks to dead people), the Securities & Exchange Commission (Sleeping watchdogs), the Fed (Long led by Alan, The Grand Wizard, Greenspan), Veterans Administration Hospitals, the Pre-9/11 "intelligence community" (That missed the flights), FEMA in Katrina (Still parking thousands of unused mobile homes at the Hope, Arkansas airport), border (in)security, the Vietnam War, Amtrak (Never on track), and a public debt beyond comprehension. And eventually into bankruptcy, a la Cal-ee-four-knee-ah.
These and others failures of bureaucratic central planners represent the patterned under-achievements of our government's effort to copy the old Soviet Union's Gosplan (State Plan).
Today, we've adopted the USSR's Gosbank (State Bank). Our Gosbank has two main branches: the Fed that prints and distributes money; and the U.S. Treasury that manages the banking industry. Commissars Bernanke and Geithner as the super-central planners.
Meanwhile, the consumer -- once king in the capitalist system -- becomes the benefactor of the wisdom of the bureaucrat to whom, according to Marx, "the world is a mere object to be manipulated by him."
So, what's our future to be? Expanding collaboration between big business (With GE's Immelt as the poster boy) and bigger government moving in tandem toward a kinder-and-gentler fascism?
Or, with its central planning and collective ownership, is socialism the goal?
However we name it, it most definitely is not free-market capitalist economy where,
With each passing day of the Obama administration, the battle of individualism versus collectivism is further engaged. Many of us pushing back against the trend are finding it hard to label where we're headed as a nation. Here's why.
Obama is borrowing the worst elements from the two greatest economic catastrophes of the 20th Century: fascism and socialism. Consequently, we're moving further away, every day, from the most successful economic system in the history of humankind: capitalism.
Meanwhile, a widely economically illiterate population, lulled into complacency by the affluence brought by capitalism, has forgotten the lessons of the past as the fall of the Berlin Wall fades away in our collective rearview mirror. Slow to awakening to the change underway, it will be a fait accompli by the time our alarms go off.