Socialists, Fascists, and the Debate on Universal Healthcare
There is a lot of name calling going on in the news today. Nancy Pelosi and the mainstream media are calling conservatives who protest healthcare reform (and I use the term “reform” loosely) “nazis”. Fired up conservatives are calling Obama, Pelosi, and their supporters “socialists”. So which one is it? Are we in fact much like the Weimar Republic in the 1920’s, a faltering Republic with weak institutions being torn between feuding factions of socialists and fascists? One would like to think not.. To try to get to some sort of conclusion, I thought it would be an interesting thought experiment to define exactly what is “socialism” and what is “fascism”, and then look at the positions and ideology of today’s political parties on today’s immediate issues to see if the recent political name-calling is warranted, or if it is just over exuberant political rhetoric.
To start, let’s look at the definition of the word “socialism” from the Merriam-Webster online dictionary…
· Main Entry: so·cial·ism*
· Pronunciation: \ˈsō-shə-ˌli-zəm\
· Function: noun
· Date: 1837
1 : any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods
2 a : a system of society or group living in which there is no private property b : a system or condition of society in which the means of production are owned and controlled by the state
3 : a stage of society in Marxist theory transitional between capitalism and communism and distinguished by unequal distribution of goods and pay according to work done
Looking at definition #1, regarding “governmental ownership of the means of production and distribution of goods”, it would appear that the current administration’s take-over of both General Motors and Chrysler certainly meet the definition for “governmental ownership of the means of production”. Concerning the administration’s health care reform proposals, since “healthcare” is a service and services are a form of “goods”, any program that imposes government control of the distribution of such services would indeed qualify as socialism.
This leads to the next question, which is: “are conservatives fascists”?
As we did for socialism, first let’s look at the Merriam-Webster definition of fascism:
· Pronunciation: \ˈfa-ˌshi-zəm also ˈfa-ˌsi-\
· Function: noun
· Etymology: Italian fascismo, from fascio bundle, fasces, group, from Latin fascis bundle & fasces fasces
· Date: 1921
1 often capitalized : a political philosophy, movement, or regime (as that of the Fascisti) that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition
2 : a tendency toward or actual exercise of strong autocratic or dictatorial control (early instances of army fascism and brutality)
So are conservatives fascists, or is Nancy Pelosi out of line? Philosophically, I will argue in a later blog that both democrats and republicans have been moving this country ever closer to a hybrid form of “corporate fascism”, but for now, sticking to today’s most immediate concerns, it would appear that conservatives most definitely are NOT fascists.
Looking at definition #1, conservatives who are protesting state control over healthcare are indeed strongly opposed to “exalting the nation… above the individual” as well as a “centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader”, “ severe economic and social regimentation”, and “forcible suppression of opposition”.. Let’s examine each of these components of fascism and see which side of the healthcare debate is actually acting playing the role of “fascist”..
1). “Exalting the nation above the individual”... On healthcare, conservatives want individuals to take care of their own healthcare. This is the exact opposite of the definition of fascism. Indeed, conservatives or more generally libertarians like me are generally criticized by liberals for “exalting the individual above the nation”…
2). “Centralized autocratic government headed by dictatorial leader”.. This one is too easy. Creating a government “option” for healthcare is just one more cog in what is becoming a “centralized autocratic government headed by” what I believe to be a benign and elected but nonetheless increasingly “dictatorial leader”.
3). “Severe economic and social regimentation”… turning to the democrat view on what caused the financial crisis, it is they who blame “the lack of regulation” and the “failure of laissez-faire capitalism” for the current crisis. The answer for them, of course, is more regulation- i.e. “economic…regimentation”.
4). “Forcible suppression of opposition”… It has been recently reported that in reaction to conservative opposition to “healthcare reform”, the Obama administration has issued a statement asking for his supporters to email the White House directly to report on any “fishy” stories that might be spreading “un-truths” about his “reform” plans… This is not so much “forcible” suppression, but it is indeed political intimidation, and is definitely evidence of a dictatorial mean-streak that is and should be quite concerning to just about anyone. The “forcible” part of the “suppression of opposition” comes into play by democrat leadership asking its union thugs to attend these meetings to counter what was at least initially genuine “grass-roots” conservative opposition. Yesterday’s violence at one of these town-hall meetings is evidence of the type of political discourse these unions have inserted into the public debate.
Nancy Pelosi has been quoted as saying that the conservatives attending these town-hall meetings are “subverting the democratic process” by expressing their opposition. And, if by “subverting the democratic process” she means “exercising their constitutional rights to peaceably assemble and question their leaders”, she may well be right. Unfortunately, though, what she views as “subversion” is in fact opposition to her political philosophy and policies. As such, it is she, her party, and her president, who are exhibiting both socialist and fascist tendencies, attempting to stifle legitimate debate, to label those that oppose their views as “extremists”, and to rapidly expand the size, scope, and control of the federal government before the American people have time to realize what’s happened and what they’ve lost: Their Freedom.