by Bruce Webb
Those of us with a passing knowledge of the development of Communism and Fascism within the larger context of the Popular Revolution vs Reaction tend to scratch our heads when people accuse Obama and his whole program of being both. After all in Europe, the historical cradle of each, the movements have seen to be the Left and Right anchors of a political spectrum that has various democratic flavors in between: Social Democrats, Liberal Democrats, Christian Democrats and the like. But that is the result of looking at his through a narrow lens focussing on who is in or out of political power and/or which party is holding the balance. There are alternative analytical schema that break this down in very different ways. To illustrate the mind-set that animates some, but by no means all, of the fervent opposition to Obama I would like to give you this from a review of Friedrich Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom
This spell-binding book is a classic in the history of liberal ideas. It was singularly responsible for launching an important debate on the relationship between political and economic freedom. It made the author a world-famous intellectual. It set a new standard for what it means to be a dissident intellectual. It warned of a new form of despotism enacted in the name of liberation. And though it appeared in 1944, it continues to have a remarkable impact. No one can consider himself well-schooled in modern political ideas without having absorbed its lessons.
What F.A. Hayek saw, and what most all his contemporaries missed, was that every step away from the free market and toward government planning represented a compromise of human freedom generally and a step toward a form of dictatorship–and this is true in all times and places. He demonstrated this against every claim that government control was really only a means of increasing social well-being. Hayek said that government planning would make society less liveable, more brutal, more despotic. Socialism in all its forms is contrary to freedom.
Nazism, he wrote, is not different in kind from Communism. Further, he showed that the very forms of government that England and America were supposedly fighting abroad were being enacted at home, if under a different guise. Further steps down this road, he said, can only end in the abolition of effective liberty for everyone.
Capitalism, he wrote, is the only system of economics compatible with human dignity, prosperity, and liberty. To the extent we move away from that system, we empower the worst people in society to manage what they do not understand.
For followers of Hayek’s tradition the enemy is statism and their bulwark, their strength is capitalism. To argue as many leftists do that opponents of health care reform or of increases in minimum wage or any other intevention by the State to improve social or economic justice are just arguing against their own material interests, and that in doing so they are just siding with the bosses fall on deaf ears. Once you have internalized the twin equations Capitalism=Freedom & Statism=Tyranny you can well understand why Movement Conservatives first rejected the Eisenhower and Rockefeller Republicans who espoused Goo-Goo approaches (‘Goo-Goo’ being an old, somewhat derisive term for the Good Government movement). For people who followed Hayek the Interstate Highway System was not an instrument for good, the fact that it was government initiated, funded and maintained made it more like a Superhighway to Serfdom.
Not all the fury being exhibited has its total roots in this Hayek-Friedman-Libertarian soil, there are clearly cultural and racial roots to much of it as well. But if you think that somewhere behind that shouting face is the committment to one of the original rallying cries of Movement Conservatism, that of Barry Goldwater in his acceptance speech in 1964: ‘I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice! And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue!
Not my own cup of tea, I kind of believe in steady pursuit of justice. I just want to point out that this is not just mindless anger, there is at least some coherentness behind it. An insurance claims rep is an agent of capitalism and so an ally of Freedom. A government health care bureaucrat is an agent of statism and so an enemy of Freedom. Making an operational argument that either one is getting between you and your doctor doesn’t cut any ice. Either you are for Freedom or against Freedom, if that comes with some personal sacrifice sobeit.