(Cross-posted from RedState, because I’ve been getting a lot of questions about it, and because we wanted to decorate HUMAN EVENTS with a few horror stories for Halloween.)
I’m going to use a loaded word in this post, so I want to get it out of the way right up front. That word is fascism.
We all know it’s bad – just about the worst thing a government can become, although I can think of a few million victims of communism who might argue the point, if we could use a Ouija board to contact them. But it’s very difficult to define fascism with precision. It’s not the same thing as Nazism, although they are obviously related.
The fascist movements of the Twentieth Century started with a lot of big promises, and ended with bloody wars and genocide. The big promises mostly concerned the superior wisdom of the State and its planners, who were better at managing industrial production than private citizens. They weren’t looking to make industry the outright property of the State, as communists did, but the core idea – buried beneath all the layers of militarism, violence, and hatred – was to make a small group of genius government planners the senior partners in every business venture. This way, the power of industry would be harnessed for the social good of all.
Of course, it would be necessary to restrict the freedoms of the people, to ensure that everyone complied with the central authority’s elaborate plans. The most important people were absorbed into the great ruling Party, blurring the lines between government and industry… but those lines still existed, as any of the Little Partners quickly discovered, if they didn’t fall in line with official policy. As for the common people, well, they obviously didn’t know what was best for them. How ridiculous, to suppose that working men could match the genius of the State’s top scientists and economists! The fascists wanted to keep the engines of industry humming below decks, but there would be no doubt who stood at the helm. And it wasn’t just the arbitrary rule of a single charismatic dictator, not at first. The “best and brightest” were always around him. The dictator was Chairman of the Board in a great corporation of brilliant minds.
The promise of successful national management was a key part of fascism’s appeal, mixed with surging national pride, which enabled fascist control by allowing the State to portray itself as the avatar of popular will. The government became synonymous with the nation – nothing makes a fascist angrier than efforts to distinguish between the two. Those who met the demands of the State and its dictator were making sacrifices for the good of the nation. Who could say no to such demands? (Traitors, that’s who!)
Many other terrible accessories were bolted and welded onto this basic framework, to create the bloodstained war machines we all know from our history books. It always turned sour, and feral, with horrifying speed. But the ensuing decades have seen many efforts to rescue and rehabilitate the core ideals of fascism. That promise of national unity, combined purpose, the State as the luminous avatar of its People, personal greed subordinated to the greater good, political squabbles swept aside by a mighty call for obedience… The idea still has a potent romantic appeal to statist thinkers. They are in love with the idea that they can make it work, at long last, without any of the hatred and oppression that turned fascism into one horror show after another. Of course, they never, ever use the word “fascism” to describe the ideology they’re trying to rehabilitate; they prefer the many less fearsome terms associated with collectivism, with some of the edgier fellows willing to say a good word for communist theory. They’ll be the good and wise people who can breathe benevolent life into the past century’s dream of technocratic control. They are the ones they’ve been waiting for.
They’re missing the reason fascism goes wrong, the reason it’s rotten from the core, no matter who tries to get it running, or why. We are in the middle of another lesson in the reason fascist State control of private industry always gets ugly. It’s because the Little Partners are always expected to shoulder the blame for failure. They, along with disobedient citizens, become the scapegoats for failure. The Senior Partners in government are rarely willing to admit they made any mistakes at all, let alone criminal fraud, and they’ll never concede that their plans were flawed from inception, because that would be a devastating critique of their invulnerable ideology. There are no Bad Ideas, just the occasional bit of sloppy execution… and that’s mostly the fault of the Little Partners entrusted by the ruling class to carry out its grand designs, combined with “sabotage” from the citizens and representatives who didn’t embrace the program.
Error cannot be admitted by the ruling class, because that would jeopardize their hold on power. The people might turn against them, which is a particular danger where voting is still permitted. You’ll notice the acolytes of the super-State are very quick to insist their “achievements” are no longer subject to dissolution through voting. They speak of the “settled law of the land” when they plant their flag on ground they are unwilling to concede. That’s another way of saying you unruly peasants are no longer permitted to dissent, disobey, or even vote for a different course of action. That’s the literal meaning of “settled law of the land,” is it not? (Of course, the ruling class and the central Party reserve the power to change or ignore any law they dislike, or find inconvenient. For them, nothing is “settled,” ever.)
The Little Partners are taking it on the chin again. The hot new spin from Democrats about the failure of ObamaCare is that it’s all the fault of those rotten, greedy insurance companies. Top White House adviser Valerie Jarrett set up the talking point on Twitter, and it has now been repeated, in one form or another, by every faithful servant of the Party: “FACT: Nothing in ObamaCare forces people out of their health plans. No change is required unless insurance companies change existing plans.”
I’m sorry to be so blunt. I know this is atomic-bomb language I’m using. But that is fascism, or at least its economic theory, distilled to its very essence. ObamaCare imposes huge new mandatory costs upon insurance companies. Obama’s Department of Health and Human Services promulgated regulations that force insurance companies to “change existing plans.” The rules were deliberately set up in such a way that most insurance plans fall into the regulatory trap automatically as they age. HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has discretion over these regulations, but she will not exercise it, and President Obama will not ask her to.
What Jarrett is saying is that these disloyal insurance companies are obeying the law, but thwarting the will of our great and benevolent leader. They could have chosen to accept gigantic losses and sold the new, mandate-inflated insurance policies at the old prices. They could have made that sacrifice for the State, and the people it represents, and perhaps appealed for bailouts from the limitless Treasury when their business models became unsustainable. And because they did not do those things, you are supposed to hate the Little Partners, while holding the central planners blameless.
We’ve also seen a rash of stories over the last few days, in which the mainstream media finally acknowledged what conservatives have been saying all along: Barack Obama lied when he promised – repeatedly, explicitly, and without qualification – that everyone could keep their health care plans, if they liked them. It is clear that Obama knew he was lying when he said this – it wasn’t just a slip of the tongue or a mistaken belief on his part. House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer admitted the same thing today, hilariously claiming that the bill of goods sold to the American people was “accurate” but “not precise enough.” But yes, it was a total lie, and Hoyer knew a lot of people were going to lose their insurance plans.
The spin from frantic Democrats boils down to saying these lies were necessary, for the good of the American people. They had to be misled onto the proper path. They don’t really know what’s good for them. The White House has begun sneering that all the plans getting canceled were such rubbish that people were foolish to want them, but fortunately Barack Obama and his team of geniuses knew better. Now that enough lies have been told to get President Obama re-elected, and squeeze him past the recent congressional threats to repeal or defund ObamaCare, he can relax and be a bit more honest. He just had to use a bit of fertilizer to make the flower of “transition” bloom. The ranking Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee, Sander Levin of Michigan, actually dismissed the millions of “so-called cancellation notices” Americans have been receiving, saying we should think of them as tools to “help people transition to a new policy.”
That’s not a cancellation notice in your mailbox! It’s an invitation to transition, which you cannot refuse. Yes, it’s positively Orwellian. George Orwell knew exactly what he was talking about.
If a private company pulled this kind of nonsense, they’d be sued for fraud. But that’s the point: fraud is not a crime for the State. There is no one to prosecute it. Congress holds endless hearings, but no one – no one – is held accountable or punished. Consequences at the ballot box are uncertain, and in any event would probably do little to curtail Barack Obama’s power, or deprive him of the rich rewards waiting for him after he leaves office. The ideology behind ObamaCare is poised to profit from its failure by demanding even more power and money for single-payer socialized medicine, provided they can get through these last bumpy months, when resistance from the people is still a significant concern. Fraud is a crime only the Little Partners can be charged with.
For the rest of us, there is only obedience. The permissible level of disobedience and dissent falls rapidly when government expands, until it reaches the point where even verbal dissent is unacceptable, because it rouses passions that interfere with orderly State control. The ruling class, meanwhile, demands ever more vigorous demonstrations of loyalty from its dependents – many of whom are very, very wealthy. That involves conjuring up lots of enemies for the people to rally against. History has shown this to be a process that just gets worse and worse, until it gets… well, you know.
I will never understand why anyone thinks even the smallest dose of that poison could produce healthy benefits. We’re being told that President Obama lied to us for our own good, it’s too late to do anything about it now, and even those strongly opposed to ObamaCare must now pitch in to fix it. We must obey not only the letter of the law, but the will of the State. What sort of government makes such demands of its citizens? Has this story ever had a happy ending?
Update: From the Weekly Standard comes a story entitled “White House Intimidates Insurance Companies Not to Publicly Criticize ObamaCare.”
“What is going on is, behind the scenes attempt by the White House to at least keep insurerers from publicly criticizing what is happening on this Affordable Care Act rollout. Basically, if you speak out, if you are quoted, you’re going to get a call from the White House, pressure to be quiet,” reports CNN.
“Several sources tell me and my colleague Chris Frates that insurance executives are being told to keep quiet. [The head of] a consulting firm for big insurance and an out spoken critic of Obamacare says he is getting calls from these executives who want him to speak out, Anderson, for them about the problems because they feel defenseless against the White House PR team. … the White House is exerting massive pressure on the industry, including the trade associations, to keep quiet. Sources telling us they fear White House retribution.”
Many of the Little Partners eagerly support the fascist compact, because they look at the untold riches their government partners can throw around – dispensing billions as readily as you or I might pay our dinner tab – and they want a piece of the action. But this is how it always ends up. The State has enormous official power to harass and control its Little Partners, but it has even more formidable unofficial resources, creating a sphere of power that exists entirely beyond the law. Remember what Obama and his team did to the creditors of General Motors back in 2009?
Update: And here we have Sean Penn, a reliable barometer of the New Fascism, suggesting that President Obama should use executive orders to commit his political adversaries to mental hospitals. That’s traditionally more of a communist tactic than fascist, but Penn wears his jackboots proudly, and keeps them extra-shiny. This isn’t the first time he’s suggested herding dissidents into a camp of some kind, and of course he’s very comfortable with the use of violence to settle arguments.