There is a new book out called Liberal Facism – I have not read it but have seen interviews with the author. I think he is right, in a way, but he used the wrong title. For many years we have assumed that the political spectrum is a linear function – with the left and the right (the liberal and the conservative) being the extremes of that line. The choice of left and right, I understand, is a matter of the seating in some early parliament – the left and right could have been reversed in usage.
It has been my thesis, for at least 40 years, that the political spectrum isn’t a straight line – it is more in the shape of the Greek capital Omega. There are various aspects to political opinion – the nature and the level of government is one of them. Democrats are normally called liberal, and Republicans conservative. But there is a misnomer there as well, I would say that the Democrats and the Republicans of the middle all have the same goals for the citizenry, but a different opinion as to how to best achieve it. There are liberals on the Republican side of the aisle, and conservatives on the Democratic side. The differentiation there is less of goal than of the open mind to new ideas (and not all new ideas are good, sometimes conserving the old is the better).
In both cases the battle is for the hearts and minds of the voting populace, there is no desire to preclude democracy (or preferably our representative republic, true democracy would be the Ross Perot suggestion of an electronic referendum on each bill before Congress, a recipe for chaos as the pendulum of public opinion shifts).
The far left and the far right, in the terms of the standard linear definition, are both fascist. Each has an absolute assurance of their own rectitude and a contempt for conflicting opinions. They each would set an elite of government in charge of the populace, and enforce it by law.
That is why I say the spectrum is in the shape of Omega rather than a line. The far left and the far right come to a center at the bottom where they agree that they should manage the people and the world – they just don’t agree which of them should do it. The author of Liberal Facism seems to say (I haven’t read it) that Hitler and Mussolini were of the left as they were socialist, we of the right would certainly deny them as colleagues as both rejected the free market economy. But that neglects the complexity of social organization. Socialism, Communism and Capitalism are simplistic misnomers. The nature of the political economy is a combination of factors. One can have a populism of either left or right – John Edwards and Ron Paul, for example. I’ll not get into the details, although I will soon put an article on my “static” pages as to the varying combinations of economics and government that are possible.
In summary, the point that the author seems to be making (from the interviews I’ve heard) has validity. His mistake is using the term Liberal to define it – facism is the extreme of either side, and liberal and conservative (without capital letters) are both honorable viewpoints.
We live in a world that is complex, and I have a faith that the majority of the population are of good will (or at reasonably so). The left of center and the right of center disagree on methods, but each seek the same goal of the best for all – the extremes believe that only their view is valid and to hell with the rest of us, they don’t want something workable, they only want to be in charge.
Of course we have the problem as to what views are extreme, since each extremist believes himself to be in the center.