Do forgive me if I reveal one of my guilty pleasures: reading Salon. It’s where the more froth-mouthed of the progressive types go to prove their chops and see if they can get a job actually being paid for their screeds. Some manage it, which explains much of the American Prospect and The New Republic. Some just manage to float ideas that don’t really work, like this oxymoron of neoliberal fascism.
An oxymoron is to jam together two or more concepts which are actually polar opposites — like military intelligence, freedom through work, or free healthcare. They’re simply things which logically cannot work nor exist.
That includes "democratic socialism," which so many say they support today. As I’ve pointed out before they actually mean social democracy (the government buys us lots of candy) rather than Leninism or Stalinism. The oxymoron is that there’s nothing democratic about those second and third forms of socialism.
So it is with fascism, which is rather more than spiffy uniforms and being beastly to everyone not of the Volk. There’s a specific set of economic policies which go along with it, followed by all who themselves claimed to be fascist. From Mussolini through Salazar and Franco to, yes, Hitler and on to such people as Stroessner in Paraguay. Uniforms and beastliness, certainly, but also an insistence that it is the national that matters, the point that an economy should, as far as is possible, be entirely self-supporting. What can be made at home should be so, and trade across borders should be kept to a minimum.
Further, government shouldn’t take over private sector business (that’s state socialism) but should most certainly direct, in detail — define what wages should be, profit margins, who makes what and even how.
It’s really not possible to mash up this set of ideas with neoliberalism. I’m a proud neoliberal myself and it’s not just the uniforms and beastly behavior of the fascists that repulses me. For at the heart of the liberal part, the neo- is just an assertion of classical liberalism — that is, social and economic freedom. That government doesn’t insist upon who does what, that we’re all able to do as we wish, and that national borders are simply administrative conveniences rather than anything important.
That is, a neoliberal is someone simply saying again those mantras of the liberal past: Government should get out of the way and allow freedom, liberty, and markets to take the strain. It’s just not possible to combine this with fascism of any form.
It is actually possible to combine it with socialism. If people wish to conduct their economic activities in communal fashion, to do it as co-ops and the like, then why not? Voluntary socialism is just the exercise of that liberty we’re trying to maximize after all. But neoliberalism and fascism are as incompatible as liberalism, neo- or not, and any form of dictatorship or state control of the society and economy.
It could be, of course, that the fascism is just being used there as an insult, but given the damage the ideology did surely no one treats it in that cavalier a fashion, do they? That would be like wearing a Che Guevara T-shirt to celebrate the successes of socialism — and no adult still does that now, do they?
Tim Worstall (@worstall) is a contributor to the Washington Examiner's Beltway Confidential blog. He is a senior fellow at the Adam Smith Institute. You can read all his pieces at The Continental Telegraph.