The Fascist Bargain


Given the news these days (and the paucity of posting around here; it’ll pick up before the paperback comes out, I promise), as well as Newt Gingrich’s recent endorsement,  I thought some excerpts from the economics chapter might be worthwhile (you might also check this column, or my cover story in the latest issue). For instance, here’s the bit explaining what I call the fascist bargain between big business and government:

Many liberals are correct when they bemoan the collusion of government
and corporations. They even have a point when they decry special
deals for Halliburton or Archer Daniels Midland as proof of
creeping fascism. What they misunderstand completely is that this is
the system they set up. This is the system they want. This is the system
they mobilize and march for.

Debates about economics these days generally enjoy a climate of
bipartisan asininity. Democrats want to “rein in” corporations, while
Republicans claim to be “pro-business.” The problem is that being
“pro-business” is hardly the same thing as being pro–free market,
while “reining in” corporations breeds precisely the climate liberals
decry as fascistic.

The fascist bargain goes something like this. The state says to the
industrialist, “You may stay in business and own your factories. In
the spirit of cooperation and unity, we will even guarantee you profits
and a lack of serious competition. In exchange, we expect you to
agree with—and help implement—our political agenda.” The moral
and economic content of the agenda depends on the nature of the
regime. The left looked at German business’s support for the Nazi
war machine and leaped to the conclusion that business always supports
war. They did the same with American business after World
War I, arguing that because arms manufacturers benefited from the
war, the armaments industry was therefore responsible for it.

It’s fine to say that incestuous relationships between corporations
and governments are fascistic. The problem comes when you claim
that such arrangements are inherently right-wing.9 If the collusion of
big business and government is right-wing, then FDR was a rightwinger.
If corporatism and propagandistic militarism are fascist, then
Woodrow Wilson was a fascist and so were the New Dealers. If you
understand the right-wing or conservative position to be that of those
who argue for free markets, competition, property rights, and the
other political values inscribed in the original intent of the American
founding fathers, then big business in Fascist Italy, Nazi Germany,
and New Deal America was not right-wing; it was left-wing, and it
was fascistic. What’s more, it still is.


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