President Obama has done something far more serious. He has already, in less than 100 days, moved the U.S. economy further towards fascism. Sean Hannity and other critics keep criticizing Obama for his socialist leanings. But the more accurate term for many of his measures, especially in the financial markets and the auto market, is fascism.
Where socialism sought totalitarian control of a society's economic processes through direct state operation of the means of production, fascism sought that control indirectly, through domination of nominally private owners. Where socialism nationalized property explicitly, fascism did so implicitly, by requiring owners to use their property in the "national interest""“that is, as the autocratic authority conceived it. (Nevertheless, a few industries were operated by the state.) Where socialism abolished all market relations outright, fascism left the appearance of market relations while planning all economic activities. Where socialism abolished money and prices, fascism controlled the monetary system and set all prices and wages politically. In doing all this, fascism denatured the marketplace. Entrepreneurship was abolished. State ministries, rather than consumers, determined what was produced and under what conditions.
How is this helpful? Has clarifying the distinction between fascism and socialism really added to most peoples' understanding of what the Obama administration is doing? All this does is drag the specter of Hitler into the conversation. And the problem with Hitler was not his industrial policy"“I mean, okay, fine, Hitler's industrial policy bad, right, but I could forgive him for that, you know? The thing that really bothers me about Hitler was the genocide. And I'm about as sure as I can be that Obama has no plans to round up millions of people, put them in camps, and find various creative ways to torture them to death.
I'm confused. It appears to me that McArdle, and not Henderson, was the one who introduced rounding up people in camps into the discussion. In fact, the prototype example of fascism, in Italy, never went in the genocide direction. Genocide per se was not a defining feature of fascism, any more than it was in communism. In both cases genocide was the result of handing immense unchecked power to a small group of people. And I am not clear why, after Stalin and the Kmer Rouge, McArdle thinks that fascism is any more loaded with genocide associations than socialism.
To avoid this whole confusion, I usually use the term "Mussolini-style fascism" since we do seem blinded and incapable of looking past Hitler whenever that word fascism is mentioned. But I think the discussion of Mussolini-style fascism is as least as relevant as the frequent discussions on McArdle's other sites of the causes of the Great Depression. While Italy adopted the model before the Depression, many nations considered emulating it as a response to the Depression. I think the evidence is fairly clear that FDR was an admirer of certain aspects of this model, and his National Industrial Recovery Act emulated many mechanisms at the core of Mussolini's model.
I actually think the Henderson is correct - Mussolini style fascism, and the modern European corporate state, are may be better analogs to describe where this Administration is heading than socialism.