I read Jonah Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism when it first came out in 2008, but now that it is part of the Tea Party canon, I thought I’d try to go through it again. Besides which, I’ve posted numerous times on here about many of the issues Goldberg discusses in it, so it may be useful to go over it again.
There are two major errors I can recall just by skimming through it, both of which undermine some of its rather interesting observations:
- Goldberg puts too much stock in labels. So, those who called themselves “Progressive” in the early 1900s are of the same “family tree” (to use Goldberg’s metaphor) with those who do so today. The most fundamental instance of this problem is Goldberg’s oft-repeated use of the standard “Right vs. Left” dichotomy across both time and cultures; as in the chapter “Adolf Hitler: Man of the Left”. This is a mistake for reasons which I explain here, and I think it undermines the entire thesis to an extent.
- The issue of Nationalism and how it relates to Fascist movements is one which Goldberg does not spend enough time examining. This is a very dangerous thing to do, considering that what we classically think of as “Fascism” (Mussolini, Hitler) is very nationalistic, which, if Liberals are supposed to be Fascists, does not mesh well with the common Conservative idea that Liberals are anti-American. (When asked about this in an interview, Goldberg responded: “I just would want to emphasize that that ultra-nationalism comes with an economic program of socialism. There’s no such thing as a society undergoing a bout of ultra-nationalism that remains a liberal free-market economy. The two things go together…Today’s liberalism, there’s a strong dose of cosmopolitanism to it, which is very much like the H.G. Wells “Liberal Fascism” I was talking about … These trans-national elites, the Davos crowd who really want to get beyond issues of sovereignty…I think that is much more of the threat coming from establishment liberalism today, but I do think there is a lot of nationalism there too.”)
Still, these issues aside, it makes for an interesting read. Perhaps I’ll post more in-depth points later.