Liberal Fascism by Jonah Goldberg

GOLDBERG: Hey, Glenn, it’s great to be here.

GLENN: Are you in New York?

GOLDBERG: I am indeed.

GLENN: So you are on set with me tonight?

GOLDBERG: That is the plan.

GLENN: I want to talk to you a little bit and have kind of a conversation that I don’t think that they’ve had over on Fox and I know it made them very uncomfortable over at CNN and that is the progressive movement and the links to fascism.

GOLDBERG: Right.

GLENN: Are you — Jonah, when we first — when you wrote the book Liberal Fascism, I don’t think that you were necessarily saying, "Oh, look, fascism is coming our way." But you were saying fascism with a happy face in a lot of different ways. But as I took your book as a springboard and started to dive into history, what the parallels that I see between FDR and Woodrow Wilson who I said yesterday was an SOB, I hate that guy.

GOLDBERG: Oh, yeah.

GLENN: When you really start to — you’ll see the parallels of what’s happening now and it isn’t good.

GOLDBERG: No, look. The basic point about — my basic point about the progressives in the book is that progressivism was a deeply kindred movement to the various ideologies that were spreading through Europe. They had the same thinkers, the same heroes, the philosophical father of progressivism in America was William James. Mussolini considered Williams James one of the three most important philosophers in his life. They borrowed ideas from one another. There was a huge cross-pollenization between Europe and America during the progressive period and if you get rid of the labels, today we use the word "Progressive" to mean the opposite of fascist. Progressive just means good the way fascist just means bad. And so "Oh, it’s a progressive coffee shop; it must have good coffee. Ooh, it’s progressive music, you’ve got to listen to the words." All it means is good. And if you get rid of the labels and you look at what the progressives actually believed and what fascists actually believed, they are pretty much the same thing. The fascist were racist, imperialist, eugenicist, to totalitarians that believed the government should get into every nook and cranny of our lives, same thing with the fascists. And what I don’t say that today, you know, progressivism is Hitlerism. You know, Hitler was different than Mussolini. Germany was different than Italy. These ideas are much more broad than the cartoon characters we get from Hollywood, but what I do say is that the fundamental assumptions inherent to progressivism were fascistic, they had deep ties with fascism, they endure through today, and the assumptions about the role of government, the role of society and the relationship between the two that the progressives held and the progressives, self-described progressives hold today and those of fascists are eerily similar and not by accident and that we should — you know, it takes no courage. We’ve been trained in this culture to say anything we don’t like is fascist. Every time the left see s someone in the military uniform, you know, they wet their pants and cry fascist, and that is easy. What takes real courage to point to the things enthusiasm consider good, progressive, healthy, you know, forward-thinking and say, "My God, what could this lead to." And when you look around, when you look around the country today and the intellectual leap today and you look at the ideas being promulgated on everything from environmentalism to, you know, education all the way down that are being touted as these progressive reforms, they involve expanding the scope and size of government and getting everybody on the same ideological page in a way that is eerily similar to the 1920s and 1930s in Europe, including obviously what you talk about a lot on the economy. You know, the government and business are now getting in bed together in a way not seen since the 1930s, and everyone has to be on the same page, everyone has to agree Barack Obama’s sort of rhetorical approach to politics. You know, he had a press conference last week where he said, I’m open to solutions from either side of the ideological spectrum, conservatives, Democrats, Republicans. But we do know one thing, only government can get us out of this. And what he’s doing is basically pre-empting anybody who disagrees, anybody who champions free market or freedom from the conversation. And I think that is a very similar thing to what FDR did.


GLENN: Well, here’s the scary thing that I — I mean, I’m reading The Road to Serfdom. Have you read that?

GOLDBERG: Oh, sure.

GLENN: I’m reading the Road to Serfdom and in it he says — sometimes things just stick out at me, and this stuck out, and that is fascism does not come from capitalism. Capitalism does not give birth to fascism. Capitalism can give birth to socialism which gives way to communism or fascism. You need to have this big controlling government and all of the governmental controls in there and then have it fail for someone — exactly what happened with Putin. Communism failed. So then it went and it looked like it was going to go into chaos and that’s when the strong leader comes forward, when the people are afraid, and they say, "I will solve the problem for you."

GOLDBERG: That’s right. And Hayek talks at great length about these experts, this idea that if we just get the smartest people in government, they will know how to run everything and that has been — that is still the even during liberal conceit, that it just takes the smart guys in government, in power and they can plan everything.

GLENN: Which is exactly why I have been saying you can’t — because again with the treasury secretary, what are they saying? "He’s the smartest guy. He’s the only guy with an answer. He’s the one who can get us out of this." It doesn’t matter what his morals are. It doesn’t matter what his ethics are. He’s the smartest guy in the room. And I’ve been saying, stop going for the smartest guy in the room if you don’t trust him ethically. You can’t do that. And this is exactly what the progressives have done in the past and what they seem to be doing now.

How many times are we going to listen to these experts on the economy when they have gotten it wrong every step of the way? How long are we going to listen to the experts, the people who know more than we do in Washington who have designed this system and it’s failing?

GOLDBERG: That’s right. I think, you know, the fundamental — well, one of the fundamental insights we get from Hayek, this fatal conceit, the title of one of his great books, this idea that if you just have the smartest guys in the room that you can manage an incredibly diverse, complicated society with just — by looking through your green eye shades. And this drove me crazy during the campaign. You know, there was all this obsession about Barack Obama’s plan versus John McCain’s plan, all this kind of stuff. Look, I have one child. She’s 5 years old. She can’t read. She has no money. I am literally the boss of her. I have a plan every weekend about what we’re going to do together, and she foils me every time. And yet we’re supposed to believe that someone is going to have a plan to come in to run one of our thousands of governments in this country. You know, we have state and local and various other governments. We have three branches of government. So we’re going to have one guy, the president, who runs one of the branches of our federal government is somehow going to have a plan that is going to accommodate how a construction company in rural — in suburban Cleveland is going to operate, how a hospital in Los Angeles is going to operate, how a soup kitchen in New York is going to operate. The reality is that you have to leave these sorts of decisions up to the people who know what is going on right in front of their nose.

GLENN: But Jonah, every time it doesn’t work. The answer is always because — exactly what leads you from socialism or communism to fascism. There just wasn’t enough control.

GOLDBERG: That’s right.

GLENN: They just have to have more control.

GOLDBERG: The logic, if I can just get a little more, I’ll be so happy. If I get a little more control, then all of a sudden everything will click into place.