The usual beef among those who dislike trends in this country's economic policies is that we will soon have a socialist system. And it does appear that with more and more economic issues coming under government supervision and outright control, socialism is the most likely outcome – not, perhaps, the soviet model but at least market or democratic socialism. These are models that socialists have conceived following the collapse of the Soviet Union and its satellites where the centrally planned, no holds barred varieties of socialism managed to destroy not just the economies but the cultures of those countries. Recovery is slow and maybe not even possible, since in its midst so many influential people wish to retain elements of the former regime, especially all the entitlements that had been promised under it but were hardly every delivered in full.
But there is another political economic system that may be on its way to wider and wider acceptance, if only by default. This is fascism.
Fascism is the system in which no specific economic theory is used to guide the rulers. Only one common factor characterizes the system, namely, arbitrary rule by a charismatic head of state. Such a head of state has nearly carte blanche so far as its policies are concerned. Examples of fascist regimes are quite abundant, mainly because at heart nearly all the so called communist countries are ruled by fascist dictators – Cuba, North Korea, the Soviet Union, etc. Yes, under Stalin and other soviet rulers the USSR really come to nothing more than fascism – "Stalinism is the most successful variant of fascism" said the late Susan Sontag and with that declaration (made at the American Workers and Artists for Solidarity rally), she created an uproar among Leftists around the world. (The reason is that a favorite refrain of Soviet socialists has always been that their egalitarian and fair system of political economy was definitely very different from the equally top-down regime of fascism.)
Now what fascism has but socialism lacks is flexibility. A fascist ruler need not adhere to any system, nor some economic blueprint. Such rulers do whatever they prefer. Their rule is entirely arbitrary. They have no restraints that require of them adherents to certain public policies. They rule by virtue of being, at least temporarily, loved by a substantial percentage of the people. Uncle Joe did, as did Fidel and does Hugo Chavez now in Venezuela. (After a while this love tends to subside and once it does, massive paranoia sets in.)
Some fascist rulers, like General Pinochet, actually favor a more or less free market capitalism economic system, at least in certain prominent segments of the economy over which they have control. Pinochet made use of some of the teachings of the Chicago School of economics – his team was labeled the Chicago Boys – although not with the approval of anyone close to the school and its leader, Professor Milton Friedman (who always denied the charge by Leftist detractors that Pinochet had his support).
As the market place gives way to more and more government control, interference, regulation, and other elements of the state command socio-economic system in many developed nations, they are beginning more and more to resemble the economies of fascist Italy and Argentina. Not quite North Korea, not yet, nor of Cuba – again, not yet. But when such regimes begin to have to cope with resistance from the population, we get their harsher versions rolled out for us.
Thus, when West Virginia Senator Jay Rockefeller recently confessed that a little bug in him was hoping for the FCC squashing Fox Cable TV News – which because it doesn't use the electromagnetic spectrum (i.e., it isn't broadcasting on the "public" or government owned airwaves) is under the FCC's jurisdiction (yet?), it brought to mind just the trend I am afraid is in evidence now. As the Senator put it, "I'm tired of the right and the left…. There's a little bug inside of me which wants to get the FCC to say to Fox and to MSNBC, 'Out. Off. End. Goodbye.'" And he added, "It would be a big favor to political discourse; to our ability to do our work here in Congress; and to the American people, to be able to talk with each other and have some faith in their government and, more importantly, in their future."
Not much could be more insidious in a free country than what this public servant wishes to make into public policy!
F. A. Hayek gained much of his fame from his 1944 book The Road to Serfdom. It is time that someone write an equally poignant book, The Road to Fascism, warning us good and hard about what may lie in our political-economic future.