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Book review: Does liberalism equal fascism?

Conservatives are used to leftists calling them fascists. In his new book, Liberal Fascism, Jonah Goldberg reveals that the true fascists in our midst just might be on the left side of the political spectrum. In an interview with Western Standard radio, Goldberg discussed his book and also delved more deeply into matters of political philosophy. This review is based not only on Liberal Fascism, but also on the answers its author gave in response to some concerns the interviewers had with his book.

Terrence Watson - March 5, 2008

And in Nazi Germany, the road to heaven led straight through Auschwitz.

In contrast, Goldberg argued, conservatives used to believe that, “You cannot change the fundamental metaphysics of reality…Human problems are permanent fixtures.” Government cannot change the “crooked timber of humanity.” Whether its aim is to eliminate poverty or eliminate sin, the law cannot get around our fallen nature. Government cannot make us better, let alone perfect.

According to Goldberg, what the recognition of fundamental human imperfectability amounts to in practice is that no one ought to have too much power over others. A strong, written constitution should define our basic rights and prohibit slavery, but authority over other matters should be delegated to a more local level.

This still doesn’t mean that much is gained by labeling modern liberalism a form of fascism because both share the impulse to bring about a heaven on earth. As anyone should admit, liberal heaven--which, as we decided in the interview, is probably like San Francisco--is quite different from the typical fascist utopia. To liberals, that difference makes all the difference, and this gives them good reason to reject the fascist label.

At the same time, we can and must continue to point out the “totalitarian impulse” wherever we find it, whether it takes the form of compassionate conservatism or hate speech legislation. And we should cautiously resist the lure of politicians who demand we give them more control of our lives--for our own good, of course.

Despite the misleading title, and the warranted criticism Goldberg might receive on account of it, Liberal Fascism is a stark and much-needed reminder that the threat to liberty does not exclusively come from the left or the right, but from those who wish to use the power of the state to correct our crooked nature. And these busybodies can be found among both modern progressive liberals and compassionate conservatives.

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