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America’s March Toward Mussolini-Style Corporatism

Quin Hillyer of the American Spectator has a thoughtful article on America’s march toward Mussolini-style corporatism that began under President Bush and accelerated dramatically under President Obama. (John Fund of the Wall Street Journal yesterday cited my earlier comparison of the Bush-Obama policies with those of the Italian dictator.)

Hillyer’s piece, Il Duce, Redux? begins with these seven paragraphs:

Trying to handle the crisis, the Fascist government nationalized the holdings of large banks which had accrued significant industrial securities. The government also issued new securities to provide a source of credit for the banks and began enlisting the help of various cartels…. The government offered recognition and support to these organizations in exchange for promises that they would manipulate prices in accordance with government priorities. A number of mixed entities were formed… whose purpose it was to bring together representatives of the government and of the major businesses.… This economic model based on a partnership between government and business was soon extended to the political sphere, in what came to be known as corporatism.… The Fascists began to impose significant tariffs and other trade barriers.… Various banking and industrial companies were financially supported by the state.… [The national leader] created the [New Governmental Entity]….[which soon] controlled 20% of [the nation’s] industry through government-linked companies.… [The national leader] also adopted a Keynesian policy of government spending on public works to stimulate the economy.… Public works spending tripled to overtake defense spending as the largest item of government expenditure.

As much as that description sounds like U.S. government policy begun under George W. Bush and now greatly expanding under Barack Obama, the above passage of course describes the economics of fascist Italy in the 1930s, as summed up by Wikipedia. (A quick Google search produces plenty of similar summaries of “economic fascism.”) Furthermore, “The Fascist conception of life,” Mussolini wrote, “stresses the importance of the State and accepts the individual only in so far as his interests coincide with the State. It is opposed to classical liberalism [which] denied the State in the name of the individual; Fascism reasserts the rights of the State as expressing the real essence of the individual.”

Obama came close to those same sentiments in his most recent press conference: “But one of the most important lessons to learn from this crisis is that our economy only works if we recognize that we’re all in this together, that we all have responsibilities to each other and to our country…. We’ll recover from this recession, but it will take time, it will take patience, and it will take an understanding that, when we all work together, when each of us looks beyond our own short-term interest to the wider set of obligations we have toward each other, that’s when we succeed, that’s when we prosper, and that’s what is needed right now.”

Just as Mussolini did (in slightly different words), Obama repeatedly talks about using government to “leverage” private investment for the greater good. And now, as of this week, he actually dared to force a private corporation, General Motors, to fire its CEO. Meanwhile, his close ally Barney Frank introduced a bill to give the Treasury Secretary the power to set all salary levels for all employees of any companies in which the government has a capital stake.  

As George Will has written, Congress has delegated so much economic authority to the Treasury, the Fed, and the president that the Constitution itself has almost certainly been shredded in the panic.

Meanwhile, in Congress’s rush to pass a huge expansion of “national service” programs, almost exactly as outlined by Obama in a 2007 speech, few congressman likely realized that the details included “campuses” with “superintendents” of uniformed youth, formed into “cadres,” and indoctrinated even in math and science classes in the ideals of “service learning” financed through a “social innovation fund” funneled through favored “community organizations.” (ACORN, anyone?) Even elementary school students would be recruited for these government-sponsored efforts.

As the Washington Examiner editorialized, it all sounds like a “creepy authoritarianism” on the loose. (See these examples just from last year’s campaign.) […]