Liberal Fascism

Things I Wish I Knew Before I Read the Book Dept, Cont’d

From a reader:

Dear Mr. Goldberg,

I thoroughly enjoyed Liberal Fascism.  I feel it filled a gaping hole in my history education – a hole of which I had only the vaguest sense before reading the book.  Like many of your other readers, I have been hyper-conscious to examples of liberal fascism since I first flipped the mustachioed smiling face.  In a related way, I have noticed other arguments which are consistent with your thesis.  Recently, while reading “The Screwtape Letters” by C. S. Lewis, I came across one such example. 

In “The Screwtape Letters”, in case you are not familiar, Lewis creates a fictional correspondence between two demons, Screwtape (the mentor) and Wormwood (his protégé), to provide insight into the various traps which can cause one to fall.  In an addendum to the letters, Lewis relates a toast given by Screwtape which he says the following when describing how demons had met the challenges of causing men to fall in the post-enlightenment world of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries:

Hidden in the heart of this striving for Liberty there was also a deep hatred of personal freedom. That invaluable man Rousseau first revealed it. In his perfect democracy, only the state religion is permitted, slavery is restored, and the individual is told that he has really willed (though he didn’t know it) whatever the Government tells him to do. From that starting point, via Hegel (another indispensable propagandist on our side), we easily contrived both the Nazi and the Communist state. Even in England we were pretty successful. I heard the other day that in that country a man could not, without a permit, cut down his own tree with his own axe, make it into planks with his own saw, and use the planks to build a toolshed in his own garden.

Thinking this was a good one-paragraph summary of the interconnectedness of Rousseauean ideology, the horrors of the twentieth century, and the modern nanny state, I thought I’d share it with you.

Thanks for your good work on the book, and I look forward to more in the future.

Man, I love that quote.  

Jonah Goldberg, a senior editor of National Review and the author of Suicide of the West, holds the Asness Chair in Applied Liberty at the American Enterprise Institute.

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