Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Fascism and the Frank Principle

‘I would let people gamble on the Internet, I would let adults smoke marijuana; I would let adults do a lot of things, if they choose. But allowing them total freedom to take on economic obligations that spill over into the broader society? The individual is not the only one impacted here, when bad decisions get made in the economic sphere, it causes problems.’
– U.S. Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass) Apr 23, 2009 interview with

In principle, this means that no private citizen has total freedom to take economic actions because all private economic acts have consequences that spill over into the broader society to some tiny extent. BUT, since we don’t live on individual islands, other than thinking, ALL of our actions, good and bad, are made in the economic sphere and spill over into the broader society, even the decisions to smoke marijuana (which we have to buy, thereby affecting the price, and we have to exhale, thereby affecting air quality and CO2 concentrations) and gambling on the internet (essentially taking out loans, thereby affecting interest rates and the availability of capital).

So, under the Frank Principle, we really have no liberties, no unalienable rights as human beings.

Supremacy of Government (Because We Care)
The Frank Principle means that liberty is something the government grants, giving you as much as it – the government (and Barney Frank) – thinks you should have and reducing or eliminating liberty as it – the government – sees fit. Your liberty is not your own, your rights are not inherent to your humanity, rather they are granted by the government. Since the government grants or restricts rights, no longer are “governments instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed” to protect inalienable human rights. The Frank Principle reverses the relationship humans have with their government: no longer do people create governments to protect their rights; instead government exists to GIVE people rights. Government is primary, individuals are secondary. No longer “Individual living human beings are the most important things there are” as a rights-granting government is necessarily more important.

The Frank Principle need not lead to common, or government, ownership of the means of production. The means of production – capital, factories, tools, inventories, raw materials, and the organizations that produce things – can remain in private hands. But their economic decisions, because the results of bad economic decisions spill over into the broader society, must be controlled (or at least regulated) by the political system – the government. This system of private-ownership-under-public-control, where firms that are too big to fail are saved or purchased by the government, is a public/private partnership where government takes the lead, specifies who will profit and who will lose and ensures that everything is orderly, sensible, and under rational control.

Nothing New

This way of organizing and managing production and the economy has enormous appeal – guaranteed profits for businesses that no longer have to compete in the free-market jungle, guaranteed importance (and opportunities to extort “gifts”) for government officials, and general reduction of uncertainty, mystery, incomprehensibility, and risk for everyone. It is sometimes called “Corporatism”.

The traditional term is “fascism,” in the original meaning of the term. The meaning that was applauded by FDR, the leading lights of the New Deal, American Progressive intellectuals, and Lenin himself.

Unlike Progressives, I don't call something “fascist” because I don’t like it. While for most Progressives words have only emotional content and little or no meaning, for me words have meanings: they convey thoughts and ideas, not just emotions.

“Fascism” was the name Mussolini gave to the corporatist socialist political/economic system he implemented in Italy during the 1920s. It was Mussolini’s version of socialism. I call the system I described above “fascist” because that is what it is, although “corporatist” doesn’t pack the emotional baggage while meaning essentially the same thing. Look it up. Read what Mussolini had to say about the system, learn how it worked. The racism and militarism and violence were artifacts of German and (to a lesser extent) Italian cultural history, ancillary to the core political-economic system. Corporatism need not be ugly in the way of Nazi Germany, or Italy after it allied itself with Hitler.

Is Barney Frank a fascist? I expect the notion would offend him. Besides, he probably doesn’t know enough about fascism to form an accurate opinion. Is President Obama a fascist? Again, his ignorance of history would indicate he wouldn’t consider his policies fascist. Both of them, and their allies and supporters, seem to think they dreamed up this great idea, corporatism, on their own. Since they aren’t racist or militaristic or planning to take over other countries they would be offended to be called “fascist” because that is all they know about fascism.

But in relation to economics and individual liberty, the ideas and policies they promote are straight out of Mussolini’s handbook. And antithetical to individual liberty.

P.S. Lest anyone think this is a partisan screed, I fully recognize that the corporatist policies began under the Bush Administration with the financial bailouts of failed companies. I don't care who violates our liberties, I will criticize the violation.

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