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Ed Driscoll

Non-Leftist Reality Versus Leftist Fantasy

June 3rd, 2009 - 8:03 pm

In the Cliff’s Notes to the new paperback edition of Liberal Fascism (and click here to check out one of the earliest reviews of the original edition), Jonah Goldberg writes:

If you look at how most liberals think about economics, they want big corporations and big government working in tandem with labor, universities (think industrial policy), and progressive organizations to come up with “inclusive” policies set at the national or international level. That’s not necessarily socialism — it’s corporatism. [More on that here -- Ed] When you listen to how Obama is making economic policy with “everyone at the table,” he’s describing corporatism, the economic philosophy of fascism. Government is the senior partner, but all of the other institutions are on board — so long as they agree with the government’s agenda. The people left out of this coordinated effort — the Nazis called it the Gleichschaltung — are the small businessmen, the entrepreneurs, the ideological, social, or economic mavericks who don’t want to play along. When you listen to Obama demonize Chrysler’s bondholders simply because they want their contracts enforced and the rule of law sustained, you get a sense of what I’m talking about.

A surprisingly readable AP article titled “GM latest in string of US company takeovers” rounds up just which companies have been nationalized, beginning with the days of Woodrow Wilson, whom readers of LF know plays a surprisingly prominent role in the early chapters of that book:

During World War I, the government nationalized railroads, telegraph lines and the Smith & Wesson Co. During World War II, it seized railroads, coal mines, Midwest trucking operators and many other companies including, briefly, retailer Montgomery Ward.

President Harry S. Truman tried to nationalize the steel industry in 1952 to avert a strike he claimed threatened the Korean War effort, but he was blocked by the Supreme Court.

Most nationalizations have been temporary. But at least one has endured — Amtrak rail passenger service. The National Railroad Passenger Corp. was established in 1971. Five years later, the Consolidated Rail Corporation (Conrail) was created with a federal takeover of six bankrupt rail lines. In 1987, it was privatized. [In the interim, the Staggers Act passed Congress in 1980, which immensely benefited not just Conrail's turnaround, but all US railroads. "Carter Was Indeed Better," The Rhetorican adds.--Ed]

In the financial sector, Washington seized the failing Continental Illinois Bank and Trust. The government operated it until 1994, when it was acquired by what is now Bank of America — one of many troubled banks in which the government has taken a non-controlling equity stake.

In fact, nearly 600 banks nationwide have received a total of $199.2 billion under the government’s $700 billion bailout fund, which was designed to boost their capital reserves and get banks to resume more normal lending.

In 1989, the Resolution Trust Corp. was established to deal with the savings and loan crisis. The government-owned corporation took over more than 1,000 failed S&Ls and acquired an array of bad loans and foreclosed homes. It took six years and $125 billion to clean up that crisis.

In 2001, the airport security industry was nationalized under the Transportation Security Administration as a response to the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

Under terms of a proposed bankruptcy agreement, the U.S. and Canadian governments will own nearly 75 percent of General Motors, with the U.S. holding a 60 percent controlling stake and Canada with 12.5 percent. The UAW would get a 17.5 percent stake and bondholders would end up with the remaining 10 percent. Existing stockholders would be wiped out.

President Barack Obama said Monday at the White House that the U.S. takeover is temporary. “What I have no interest in doing is running GM,” he said.

However, even if GM can emerge from bankruptcy protection in the 60-90 days it projects, it could take months or even years for it to unwind its shares, industry leaders suggest.

Go figure. More from Jonah:

I don’t think Obama wants a brutal tyranny any more than Hillary Clinton does (which is to say I don’t think he wants anything of the sort). But I do think they honestly believe that progress is best served if everyone falls in line with a national agenda, a unifying purpose, a “village” mentality expanded to include all of society. That sentiment drips from almost every liberal exhortation about everything from global warming to national service. But to point it out earns you the label of crank. As I said a minute ago about that “We’re All Fascists Now” chapter, I think people fail to understand that tyrannies — including soft, Huxleyan tyrannies — aren’t born from criminal conspiracies by evil men; they’re born by progressive groupthink. I have an abiding faith in the liberty-loving nature of the American people. But I think we are laying down the foundation for a challenge to that nature the likes of which we haven’t seen since Wilson was in office.

Mark Steyn is fond of quoting Margaret Thatcher’s aphorism that “The facts of life are conservative.” But as Shannon Love writes, “Non-Leftist Reality Versus Leftist Fantasy”, never the best of buddies (see also Union, Soviet) are sharing an increasingly uneasy coexistence these days in the US:

Leftist always claim that the economic crisis du jour indicates the failure of the free market. Embedded in the assertion is the unstated premise that if leftist ran everything, we would never have economic crises. This in turn reveals the leftist’s wildly exaggerated sense of their own understanding of the economy and everything else.

The left’s critique of Friedman in this context is especially silly because I’m pretty sure setting up giant government sponsored enterprises to buy up half the residential mortgages in the country and thereby distorting the markets assessment of risk, isn’t a plan that Friedman would have come up with.

The left doesn’t actually have an developed system of thought regarding the economy. They can’t actually explain why the real world political process will systematically make better decisions than the free-market. Instead, they simply point to any reversals in the real economy, regardless of cause, and then assert that in their imaginations, leftist politicians could have done better.

It’s hard to argue against people’s imagination. You end up with a discussion much like two D&D geeks arguing over whether a dwarf with a +10 axe could take an Elf with a vorpal sword.

Which dovetails remarkably well into this quote from a real-life gnostic wanting to hack and slash those who don’t share his religious beliefs.

Related: “New Deal Reality Check.”

Related: You bought the car company — might as well pick up the T-shirt as well in the gift shop.

Update: Found via Ronald Radosh, much more from Jonah on the above topics in USA Today.

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