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A Definition of Fascism

Countering the Myth that Fascism is a Conservative Ideology

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Fascism is a political term applied to a dictatorial government with an economic system that emphasizes heavy-handed government intervention and society of revolutionary nationalism. In American politics, the term is often dumped into the "right-wing" spectrum of ideologies, but in reality has very little in common with conservative or right-wing thinking. Instead, it is a term typically thrown around to attack an individual as extreme, without any real consideration of the actual meaning. Here, we will compare the four main tenets of fascism and compare them to American political thinking.

 

Centralized Authority

At the core, fascism is a totalitarian system with a centralized authority. A dictatorial regime often has unlimited powers to accomplish the goals of the state. This top-down approach seeks to control both social and economic behavior. American conservatives oppose centralized authority and a powerful executive branch and this first tenet is much more similar to liberal ideologies like socialism and communism that require a strong centralized force. Quite the opposite, conservatives support a system of federalism - or state's rights - that enables many different cultures and ideologies to thrive independently within a single nation. Conservatism does not aim to seek out and eliminate different ways of life. While a strong national totalitarian system seeks a forced-unified approach, conservatism supports a society where different groups of people can form different communities that fit their lifestyles. Under conservatism, both states that favor limited government and individual rights can exist next to states that wish to control the lives of citizens. And citizens are free to move from one community to another. This decentralized approach allows cities like New York to enact the nanny-state policies they enjoy while other cities can choose to do the opposite.

Centralized Economic Control

Economic systems are typically the most defining element of political ideologies. Conservatives favor free market capitalism, a system in which private individuals own and control their businesses. Liberals tend to oppose capitalism and lean towards socialism, where property is more evenly distributed and a strong central authority oversees economic activity. Fascism is sometimes considered a hybrid of the two as individuals are allowed to own property and businesses, but the centralized government uses it's authority to determine how the property is used and how the businesses are operated. This is usually done in a manner that promotes the national authority.

In reality, there is nothing free-market about fascism and the true similarities - primarily the authoritarian control - is similar to liberal ideologies. Perhaps a good example of fascism in practice in the United States is Obamacare. The healthcare industry was a quasi-capitalist system pre-Obamacare. Given the government control and regulations in the industry, and was far from a free-market form of capitalism. With Obamacare, private insurance companies were still allowed to exist and were mostly still "privately owned and operated" but the new law dictated nearly every manner in which they could operate. The companies were forbidden from offering certain policies and forced to offer others. The end-goal of Obamacare was always single-payer socialism, but it has made a stop at government control over private ownership fascism.

Social Suppression

Fascism also relies on a heavy-handed approach to force conformity to the social and economic policies of the state and violence is often a means. Conservatives already oppose a centralized state and would therefor have no reason to violently try to force others to follow the nationalist agenda of the state. The general consensus of right-wing conservatives is free association within free markets within a free society. If a group of people want to form a commune and live, work, and hate capitalism together, more power to them. We don't care. We won't protest them. We won't hang out at their commune demanding they participate in capitalism.

But look at the Occupy Wall Street movements. Look at the people who protest big-chain retailers for their wages and "predatory" pricing. Look at the riots held demanding national support of a specific agenda items. Such activities are rarely carried out on the right. If conservatives don't like the way a business or entity operates, we simply don't shop there and don't apply for jobs there. It's quite simple, really. 

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