Feb 032008

I suppose I should have had something to say about Jonah Goldberg’s book by now, given that “leftwing fascism” is a blog category here and I and have been using that term for a decade or two. But I haven’t yet read Liberal Fascism. I’ve heard of it, but haven’t read it.

I haven’t used that category much, either. I suppose it’s because there are times when I’d rather make fun of leftwingism than slap a label on it, though I have nothing against either.

However, I do have a comment about Richard Bernstein’s review at the International Herald Tribune titled, Are American liberals “nice fascists”? It’s actually a pretty good review, but it ends like this:

And it might even be the case, as Goldberg contends, that Clinton, in her willingness to “insert the state deep into family life” in order to assure the well-being of children is “in perfect accord with similar efforts by totalitarians of the past.” But that doesn’t make Hillary a fascist or a totalitarian, or, for that matter, wrong.

I’m afraid Bernstein is wrong here. Such a willingness on the part of Hillary very much suggests a totalitarian fascist tendency. If “deep into family life” is not getting the state involved in pretty close to total control, I’m not sure what is.

And who has ever heard Hillary express any concern about keeping government’s control within prescribed limits?

In the end, Goldberg’s point that the fascist label has been used by some liberals to defame almost anything they don’t like is a valid one. So is his contention that American conservatism has no connection or similarity to European fascism – even if some American conservatives were not especially alarmed by Hitlerian racism or, for that matter, American Jim Crow.

But he should have stopped there.

To go on to label American liberals “nice fascists” isn’t exactly a smear, but it’s not exactly helpful to public discourse either. Then again, if Goldberg had stopped short of doing that, the chances are a book called “Liberal Fascism” wouldn’t have made it onto the best-seller list.

On the contrary, that label IS helpful to public discourse, and Bernstein’s review proved it. It gets us talking again about the idea of there being proper limits to government power.