Jonah Goldberg’s “Liberal Fascism”

In his first chapter Goldberg amply shows the precarious meaning of “fascism”. I have indeed wondered what people meant by the word. Little seems left of the word today except its negative connotations. At the end of the first chapter Goldberg defines it for the purposes at hand as a political system that aspires to provide all inspiration, manage all activities. For many fascism was to supplant religion. In particular that a state is authorized to compel not only actions, but beliefs.

I think that is a bit strong; most political movements hope for broad agreement with their goals.

I am surprised at the descriptions of enthusiasm for war during the Wilson era. But then the surprise for me came with the Vietnam war where dissension was very visible. I suspect that our WW I experience is more typical than that of Vietnam.

What about prohibition, largely a conservative virtue? It is not even in the index. I wish Goldberg would contrast his view of fascism with central planning. A bit later he does in a backhanded way. Whereas communism dismantles corporations, fascism aspires merely to co-opt them.

Is the goal of this book anything beyond expunging a word? Was there indeed ever a useful meaning to the word?

I am sympathetic with the author; I am not a joiner. I am turned off by someone wanting me to want what they want. I am willing to go out of my way to accommodate the fact that they and I want different things. Too often they are unwilling to reciprocate.

I did appreciate Goldberg’s description of Mussolini’s M.O. which I take to be “Lets get organized; I’ll tell you what to do.”

I had heard rumors about president Wilson’s WW II administration. Many of the quotes are indeed alarming but I worry about selection bias. Such a large collection, even if biased, paints a picture.

To Goldberg’s credit he often, or perhaps usually describes the policies of the fascists in ways that they would not object to. Unlike most conservative writers, he tries to get into the head of the liberal.