A lengthy reaction to a friend’s post regarding Libertarian writings regarding how a “mixed economy” results in a “slide towards fascism” – seems worth sharing more broadly:
Edit: this is the article to which I am referring (taken from “The Foundation for Economic Education,” which is a Libertarian think-tank, so if that kind of site makes your skin crawl don’t follow the link.
In reaction to: “But I think there is something to be said about fascist tendencies being inevitable when you grant the State enough power to control private property.” and other such gems…
That is total silliness. According to “Libertarian principles” (I have to choke back a laugh when I say that), the State exists primarily to protect private property. And yet, it cannot do so without having ultimate decisive power over said property in order to establish ownership.
To use the term “mixed economy” as if there was some alternative is just dumb. Outside of Imperial Feudalism wherein every bit of property belongs to the emperor or king, the only thing that can exist is a mixed economy.
This is what I mean by “shallow thinking” in reference to dumb Libertarian canards. No group of people greater than 2 in number can exist without some form of agreed-upon governance (even if “agreed” means “I agree that Thrug makes the rules because Thrug will kill me in my sleep if I disagree with him”).
This isn’t just “political science” – it’s simple biology. A large group of organisms has a set of feedback loops amongst one another. There is no way around that. When looking at, let’s say, ten million organisms, those feedback loops will become rather intricate. With predictable statistical outcomes, you’ll have specialists develop that handle certain tasks better than others (such as predators, scavengers, filter-feeders, dentists, or legislators, who all require very highly-developed skillsets to work successfully).
Libertarians like to prance around pretending a major portion of the system in which they live is superfluous – large parts of government, for example. But they aren’t. To the individual they may be – but to the society as a whole, they are not.
Fascism is the result of too much focus on personal property rights with no *public oversight* (and I mean quite literally PUBLIC oversight – not just an unanswerable government agency, but literally having the public be aware of the situation) of how those rights impact others. It devolves ultimately into the concept that anything can be personal (or state) property – including other humans. And almost any property can be used as a weapon against others, with varying levels of sophistication.
The State *does* have total control over personal property. This isn’t an “it should” argument – it is a statement of fact. There is nothing that a group of people (whatever size) cannot decide to do or not do, hence the State has dictatorial powers by default. What makes a State fascist or liberal or whatever term you choose to apply, depends entirely on the restrictions emplaced upon the State as decided by its populace.
The State always tailors its self-restrictions to those in power. When too much power is accumulated by too few people – such as is the case when the cult of “personal property” gets out of hand and the ownership slides (inevitably) towards a tiny minority, you get fascism or feudalism. Government officials get bought and paid for. Police forces run unchecked. And so on.
Libertarians by and large miss the boat (John J., you appear to be one of the few who grasps this) when recognizing that “personal property” protections enshrine the power base of those very few, and enables those few to exercise or abuse their power against the rest. But that’s a feature of the Libertarian party – it’s why the Koch brothers funded its foundation back in the 70s. They expect the glitzy “freedom” phrasings in the Lib platform to be attractive to smart people who don’t have a lot of time to contemplate the long-term impact of what end up as disastrous policy decisions. They supplied a form of intellectual masturbation – low-thought, ego-stroking behavior – that pulls people in. This is why Mauro S. keeps pointing out that there are no Libertarian nations on the planet – for good reason. Because the Lib platform leads inevitably to fascism and feudalism.
Some planks of the Lib platform are worth pulling out and applying to real governance. Most are not.
What is needed to prevent a totalitarian State is direct and intimate involvement of the governed at all levels. Most in the US are too lazy for this to work. I’d like to call this “as designed”, but it’s really more like “as it happens”. To change this we need to re-install basic civics education, and probably enforce some form of public service requirement (similar to how a lot of WingNuts trumpet enforced military service, I would suggest we widen that a bit and make the military one arm of possible service – others being infrastructure work, local legislative/judicial service, community service, park service, public health, etc.). I won’t get into implementation suggestions, but I will point out that this would be an excellent “transition phase” for people finishing their public education and/or university studies, moving into the “real world” from school.
This would have the effect of getting every last citizen involved with the society and putting effort into it – building a sense of ownership in our country that is sorely absent right now. And a healthy respect for one anothers’ efforts is always a good thing.