*Can It Happen Here?: Authoritarianism in America*

That is a forthcoming volume edited by Cass Sunstein.  The contributors include Cass, myself, Timur Kuran, Duncan Watts, Martha Minow, Bruce Ackerman, Jack Goldsmith, Geoffrey Stone, and Noah Feldman, among others.  Self-recommending, if anything ever was…

My essay, by the way, says no, it cannot happen here.  Counterintuitively, American government is too bureaucratized and too feminized to be captured and turned toward old-style fascism.  I encourage you to pre-order.


Trump forgive you if you're wrong.

I wonder about black people's opinion about "can it happen here?" I think they would punch Tyler in the face no?

Slavery and Jim Crow, abhorrent though they were in their own rights, were not fascism.

Well, depends on how you view that whole Aryan superior race thing through the lens of how one examines one form of fascism, especially since that dedicated band of racists felt that the U.S. was quite the inspiration. Like this - 'On March 20, 1924, the Virginia General Assembly passed two laws that had arisen out of contemporary concerns about eugenics and race: SB 219, titled "The Racial Integrity Act" and SB 281, "An ACT to provide for the sexual sterilization of inmates of State institutions in certain cases", henceforth referred to as "The Sterilization Act". The Racial Integrity Act of 1924 was one of a series of laws designed to prevent interracial relationships.

The Racial Integrity Act required that a racial description of every person be recorded at birth and divided society into only two classifications: white and colored (essentially all other, which included numerous American Indians). It defined race by the "one-drop rule", defining as "colored" persons with any African or Native American ancestry. It also expanded the scope of Virginia's ban on interracial marriage (anti-miscegenation law) by criminalizing all marriages between white persons and non-white persons. In 1967 the law was overturned by the United States Supreme Court in its ruling on Loving v. Virginia.

The Sterilization Act provided for compulsory sterilization of persons deemed to be "feebleminded," including the "insane, idiotic, imbecile, or epileptic."

These two laws were Virginia's implementation of Harry Laughlin's "Model Eugenical Sterilization Law", published two years earlier in 1922. The Sterilization Act was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in the case Buck v. Bell 274 U.S. 200 (1927). This had appealed the order for compulsory sterilization of Carrie Buck, who was an inmate in the Virginia State Colony for Epileptics and Feebleminded, and her daughter and mother.

Together these laws implemented the practice of "scientific eugenics" in Virginia.' https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Racial_Integrity_Act_of_1924

Do note the date.

But there is little question that the man that coined the term and headed the first fascist state was not all that interested in eugenics.

I think these discussions waste too much time nitpicking the definition of "fascism" and ignoring realities.

I think Captain Obvious is correct.

Arguably, they were worse, at least for black people.

I think people keep looking for authoritarianism in all the stereotypical visages. Authoritarianism in America will not be Trumpian. Trump is no Senator Palpatine. Hillary wanted to be, but she was terrible at it.

To what degree has it happened already in the US? I remember being struck by the massacre at Waco: kill whom you wish - women and children too - and little sign of anyone paying for the deed.

I was also impressed by the casual way everyone seemed to treat the FBI's murder of their witness to the lives of the Boston Bombers. Or that nice Mr Schumer's prediction that President Trump couldn't possibly bring discipline to the US Securitate because they'd bring him down if he tried. At least I infer that that's what he meant by:

“Let me tell you, you take on the intelligence community, they have six ways from Sunday at getting back at you,” Schumer told MSNBC's Rachel Maddow.

“So even for a practical, supposedly hard-nosed businessman, he’s being really dumb to do this.”

The Waco residents were recorded spreading gasoline around their compound before the final raid set the whole thing ablaze. The gov't's decisions were bad but they were not a desire to kill everyone inside but to bring the siege to a quick end (after it had already gone on a long time). If you spread gas all over your house and then get into a firefight with someone, you aren't exactly blameless.

"FBI’s murder of their witness " we seem to have the problem that Black Lives Matters has with many of the cases they highlight. The cop says he was under attack and it's pretty difficult to prove outside all reasonable doubt that he wasn't. It doesn't seem beyond plausible that someone who was aligned on some level with a jihadi might want to go out in his own 'suicide by cop' final stand.

"Or that nice Mr Schumer’s prediction that President Trump couldn’t possibly bring discipline to the US Securitate because they’d bring him down if he tried."

Exactly what 'discipline' is Trump trying to bring to the security agencies? I don't read the statement as meaning the CIA really runs foreign policy and the President is just a mouthpiece who will be removed if he tries to think for himself. I read the statement as you have to know what you're doing and act intelligently or else those who do will make you look like a fool. Trump looks like a fool because he clearly doesn't know what he is doing and more importantly doesn't really care to know.

This apple turnover is as hot as magma if I squeeze it a boiling hot stream of apple will shoot out. Could go your way could go my way.

"The Waco residents were recorded spreading gasoline around their compound before the final raid set the whole thing ablaze" Do you have a good source for that claim? Im not saying you are wrong, but im a bit skeptical is all.

While you are right that its difficult to prove that the FBI werent under attack, IIRC, there were 3 police there, the guy was unarmed and had been talking to the police for like an hour before he was shot to death. If that doesnt at least raise an eyebrow or two, then i think dearieme's point has been made: kill who you like, no questions will be asked.

He could have also pointed to the other government massacre at Waco: Mow down as many bikers as you like, its not like anyone will punish you for a few dozen murders.

The Waco residents were using kerosene lamps. When the tank came into the building, it knocked over the lamps. It had the same practical effects as if they had spread gasoline about.

except in the first instance they are intentionally trying to kill themselves, in the second, they are simply trying to survive the government siege and were killed by the government.

Yes, agreed. The feds had cut the power to the place, so they switched to kerosene lamps. There is little doubt that the building burned so quickly such that there had to be accelerates present. That is not in dispute, the lamps were found in the wreckage. The claim that they spread gasoline around, for which there is no conclusive evidence such acts occurred, conveniently fits as an excuse for the Feds when we see that the flames spread so quickly. Other causes of the flames spreading so quickly are conveniently ignored.

Waco was such a disaster from the start. If the ATF had really wanted Koresh, they could have just gotten a warrant and arrested him when he was away from the compound. But, they wanted a flashy bust right before their budget was up for review.


The holes and gas grenades were punched into the sides of the building in the early morning. Fire did not break out until 6 hours later but when it did 3 different fires broke out almost simultaneously. Recordings from inside the compound are ambiguous but can be read as purposefully starting the fires (i.e. "I want a fire...keep that fire going...also "Surviving Branch Davidians testified that Coleman fuel had been poured, and fire experts in Danforth's report agree "without question" that people inside the complex had started multiple accelerated fires").


"While you are right that its difficult to prove that the FBI werent under attack, IIRC, there were 3 police there, the guy was unarmed and had been talking to the police for like an hour before he was shot to death."

I agree it's bizaar but then again say he was just sitting there quietly answer questions. One guy decided to just shoot him and the other two covered it up for what reason? Or did he somehow know some type of ultimate secret for which he must have been silenced (but the gov't choose such an awkward shooting rather than, say, a staged suicide?). Truth is often stranger than fiction and more likely than not I would suspect the FBI story is true. Perhaps they didn't absolutely need to shoot him but then they were armed and if he lunged at one of them then there was the possibility he could have taken one of their weapons.

Per https://news.vice.com/article/fbi-agent-who-killed-boston-bombing-suspects-friend-was-twice-accused-of-police-brutality

"According to McFarlane and Cinelli, who was in the room, Todashev struck McFarlane’s head with a table and then brandished a metal broomstick at Cinelli. They said that Todashev ignored an order to stop and was lunging toward Cinelli when McFarlane fired the first volley. Todashev then recovered his footing and lunged again, prompting the final 3 or 4 shots."

Needless to say the shooting caused a diplomatic frackus with Russia as well as suits from his father and the ACLU. More likely than not the FBI probably did not want it to have happened.

Todashev had just confessed to helping murder 3 men so it's not like he had no particular motive to suddenly turn on the FBI agents

Not to re-litigate the Waco seige, which was FUBAR from the start, and just focusing on the fire; the same Wikipedia source you cite has multiple cited documents with differing conclusions as to who started the fire, or which at least attest to the fact that it is indeterminate.

"I read the statement as you have to know what you’re doing and act intelligently or else those who do will make you look like a fool."

That is an absurd reading of a statement that clearly implies a special ability of the intelligence community to return fire.

That 'ability to return fire' is not magical or special. It's the ability anyone who knows their job well has when confronted with a boss who doesn't have any clue.

Authoritarianism in America won't be waving a flag or bearing a cross
Look for hybrid of Josef Stalin, Nurse Ratched & Matt Yglesias.https://shar.es/1BjA1F

What a clown. Speaking of authoritarian, very Kim Jong Il like here: http://www.cnbc.com/2017/06/28/trump-org-fakes-time-magazine-issues-for-golf-resorts.html

Can you imagine what some of you folks would say if Obama pulled this crap?

I think with Hillary losing the election we really dodged a bullet this time to be honest.

I'm a long way away... but it looks very much to me like a case of 'out of the frying pan into the fire". But, hey, as you burn, you can always say, at least it's not Hilary taking us down... i hope it makes it better for you

We have a president who at least respects the constitution and doesn't setup insecure, easily hackable E-Mail servers with which to conduct state Business.

No, he has his son-in-law ask the Russians for the use of their secure facilities instead.

Assuming a seemingly bewildered Kisylak was telling the truth to his Moscow superiors - 'Jared Kushner, Mr Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser, was revealed to have proposed setting up the secret line in a meeting with Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador, at Trump Tower in December.

The back channel was intended to connect Michael Flynn, who was at the meeting and later became Mr Trump's first National Security Adviser, with Russian military leaders, the Associated Press reported. It came as the nascent Trump administration was developing its Syria policy before his inauguration. The communications would have used Russian diplomatic facilities and bypassed the US intelligence services.

Such a system was never established and after Rex Tillerson became Secretary of State the idea was reportedly dropped as Mr Trump's team decided to communicate with Moscow through more official channels.

The discussion of a back channel involving Mr Kushner was first revealed by the Washington Post late on Friday. US officials reportedly learned about it by monitoring Russian communications. Mr Kislyak was said to have been "taken aback" by Mr Kushner's proposal.' http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/05/27/jared-kushner-discussed-back-channel-talking-russia-syria/

Fire, frying pan - the only reason the American government learned of this back channel is by spying on the Russians, by the way. Naughty American intelligence agencies treating the Russians as if they did not have America's best interests at heart. Either candidate is pretty much the same, though in distinctive fashion, when it comes to communication security involving government (one assumes, though can never be certain with Mr. not quite completely up to date with his security and legal paperwork Flynn) business.

Oh come on, did he not lay it on thick enough for you?

Of course he did - but I love repeating all of the truly entertaining facts concerning Trump, using even the slightest excuse.

Like this, from calculatedrisk - 'For fun, here is a graph comparing S&P500 returns (ex-dividends) under Presidents Trump and Obama:

At this point, the S&P500 is up 7.5% under Mr. Trump compared to up 11.9% under Mr. Obama for the same number of market days.'

Here is the graphics link - https://4.bp.blogspot.com/-G2zxbra6hr0/WVEfITpRCOI/AAAAAAAArgc/5JWJB61cqK0Kh1tXGnsjKm1VsN-cA6u5QCLcBGAs/s1600/SP500ObamaTrump.JPG

Seems important to have more than one channel for candid talks with the Russians, if only because of just how many pitfalls there are to avoid: Baltics, Ukraine, Syrian (sorry, "Syrian" airspace), etc.

Not to mention having a channel where you can say, paraphrasing Obama, "cut it out with the damned hacking, or we will respond."

It is simply outrageous that an incoming President's staff would seek to negotiate with foreign powers like all previous incoming administrations, while doing so on a channel that partisans in the current administration are unable to eavesdrop and selectively leak to partisans in the media. Outrageous.

Just in case someone missed the snark first time around.

Besides, that e-mail server thing applies to the Bush Administration, not a no longer likely (or even possible, in my opinion) Clinton administration - 'During the 2007 Congressional investigation of the dismissal of eight U.S. attorneys, it was discovered that administration officials had been using a private Internet domain, called gwb43.com, owned by and hosted on an email server run by the Republican National Committee, for various official communications. The domain name is an abbreviation for "George W. Bush, 43rd" President of the United States. The use of this email domain became public when it was discovered that J. Scott Jennings, the White House's deputy director of political affairs, was using a gwb43.com email address to discuss the firing of the U.S. attorney for Arkansas. Communications by federal employees were also found on georgewbush.com (registered to "Bush-Cheney '04, Inc.") and rnchq.org (registered to "Republican National Committee"). Congressional requests for administration documents while investigating the dismissals of the U.S. attorneys required the Bush administration to reveal that not all internal White House emails were available. Conducting governmental business in this manner is a possible violation of the Presidential Records Act of 1978. Over 5 million emails may have been lost.] Greg Palast claims to have come up with 500 of the Karl Rove emails, leading to damaging allegations. In 2009, it was announced that as many as 22 million emails may have been lost.' https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bush_White_House_email_controversy

Not everything is snark - history is so easily ignored when talking about administrations using private e-mail servers to conduct government business.

Most of the commentariat around here is quite capable of believing that Hillary still ought to be locked up over her security management, and that Trump should get a medal for his.

'that Trump should get a medal for his'

With some lovely Cyrillic flourishes, no doubt.

Good God.

After all this time, and that Hillary took her work home with her is your best evidence of Fascism.

I'm with the Australian. This is some weird psychology. Trump does X, "well, Hillary would have done X+2!" And if that doesn't work, to to the well yet again on "emails."

Was that a joke? Sorry, too close to other "serious" answers above. Fooled me.

They see me trollin'....

Really??? Hahahahaaaaaahaha!

What is your evidence that Trump respects the Constitution? "But Hillary" is not an answer.

"What is your evidence that Trump respects the Constitution? “But Hillary” is not an answer."

I don't know if Trump really respects the Constitution. However, it's clear that Hillary was a really smart lawyer, who surrounded her self with other smart people. And she used her teams expertise to thwart the spirit of the Constitution. The email server was clear violation of the spirit of the nations National Security laws. Almost any person of less prestige than Hillary Clinton would have been forced to resign over the issue and would have probably had to either make a plea bargain or have ended up in jail.

Hillary Clinton knew how to work the system and had the contact to ensure that everything she did was just enough in the grey area of the law to get away with it. If she could get away with this as Secretary of State, she could get away with anything as POTUS. The US dodged a bullet by electing Donald Trump. He's a mostly harmless fool. Hillary Clinton was neither harmless nor a fool.

So you are going to go seriously with "email?"

lol. In retrospect that was less than a hill of beans. It was not even a diet conscious serving of beans. Hillary used email in her role as Secretary of State. No one ever successfully attacked her in her role as SOC. So like the pathetic (and usually Russian) trolls that they were, they attacked her on where she kept her handbag. I mean emails.

"No one ever successfully attacked her in her role as SOC."

That's some whitewashing of history. She was pretty successfully rebuked for the fiasco at the Libyan consulate.

"So you are going to go seriously with “email?”"

You keep trying to make light of a serious issue. Who won the 2016 election again? Hmmm, it seems like it was somebody besides Hillary Clinton....

Between the email scandal and the fiasco in Libya Hillary Clinton lost the election. She lost it to Donald Trump. He's probably the second worst major party candidate in 30 years. He was clearly a poor candidate the entire election cycle. He was the dream Republican candidate from the Democrat perspective. And yet she managed to slip under that bar.

Benghazi? You seriously need some new material. It falls in the category of a series of unfortunate events, but it hardly centered on Clinton.


Wingnuts man, what can we do?

"Wingnuts man, what can we do?"


Who is that?

Trump Davidian?

We have a president who makes W. Bush look competent, LBJ look like a nice guy, Nixon look honest, Reagan look like an intellectual, Carter look successful, and both JFK and Clinton like faithful husbands.

Outstanding comment.

We certainly did dodge the Hillary bullet, and we all thank Donald Trump for beating her in the groundbreakingly historic 2016 election.

Tyler would never accuse her of being "too feminized," that's for sure.

Thank Putin.

Yes, we get it, you read fake news. You probably believe the Trump Dossier.

Actually, I only have to believe Trump.


So why is it that Trump believes there was "meddling" in his election AND wants to give Russian compounds back?

There is plenty of trouble in what Trump has said over the last 6 months. The Russians interfered, but they are still his buddies. What the heck is up with that?

Hillary may or may not have been a good president (I'm leaning toward "mediocre at best", a Democratic W. Bush at worst). Portraying her as some sort of fascist is just ludicrous.

"too feminized" ! - I can only assume you don't know many women, then.

My experience is the urge for authoritarianism is stronger there.

I too am curious what is meant by a feminized bureaucracy. I suspect that it is not (merely) the portion that is women.

It's the theory that women like to (and tend to) do things by consensus, whereas men like to gather around an alpha-leader and follow orders.

Woman like to circle around the alpha male and phook him.

Tyler means compassionate when he writes feminized.

My experience is that women like more formal formal rules and regulations than men; but they are not particularly enthusiastic by strong leaders, "state of exception", "to make an omelet we have to break some eggs", etc.

Maybe women from whatever country you are from. Brazilian women believe in victory. When the war situation was developing not necessarily to Brazil's advantage, there were rumors about Brazil making oeace with Paraguay. A Brazilian woman, who had sent her seven sons to war (one of them eventually became Brazil's first president), said she would have all her sons buried in Paraguay rather than see them again without honor. "Come back with your shield, or on it.”, as the Ancient Greek women would say. Regarding vision, there is no difference between Brazilian men and women (and seriously I feel rather puzzled seeing how many American adult men - well, it is the internet, so they can be dogs for all I know - still seem to believe women have cooties): both believe in the final victory of the Brazilian people.

@Thiago: in official history 100% of people support war, even the archetypal mother of seven sons.

In Brazil, from the humblest slave to the Emperor, everyone supported taking the the war to a successful conclusion. Our forefathers aimed at victory at all costs—victory in spite of all terror—victory, however long and hard the road may be, for without victory there could be no survival. Our forefathers were fighting for the survival of Brazil's state and they were ready to pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of Brazil's war effort - even "the the archetypal mother of seven sons." Before being fathers or mothers, brothers or sister, sons or daughters, we are Brazilians.

This is the war with Paraguay you are talking about? Substantially less than the "the survival of Brazil's state" was at stake in that one.

The Paraguayan agressor attacked Brazil suddenly and deliberately and murdered Brazilian soldiers even after the Empire of Brazil helped the Paraguayan regime to arm itself. The Paraguayan leader, the tyrant López, intended to be the Napoleon of South America and bring all the subcontinent under his control, creating a dark age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of a perverted science. Brazil spent the 1860s changing ita neighbours regimes to protect itself from being besieged by hostile anti-Brazilian governments. There is no possible doubt that our forefathers were figjting for their survival.

"This is the war with Paraguay you are talking about? Substantially less than the “the survival of Brazil’s state” was at stake in that one."

TR, is kind of like a 40 year old has been reminiscing about how awesome his high school football games were.

"TR, is kind of like a 40 year old has been reminiscing about how awesome his high school football games were."

No, I am not.

Thiago, do have a recommendation for a novel or two of historical fiction on Brazil?

Sorry for just noticing it now.
I would start with anything Erico Verissimo wrote taking place at the South. Then I would read O Chalaça about our first Emperor and his right hand man. I am not sure it was translated, I remember it made a big splash in Brazil a few years ago. Machado de Assis wrote in the end of the Empire and the bwginning of our Republic, his romances mainly take place at that part of our history. So, now, they are historical fiction. The poem book Romanceiro da Inconfidência about an anti-Portuguese uprising is beautiful. I do not know if "Corações Sujos" ("Dirty Hearts") has been translated to English. It is a journalism work about the internment of Japanese after WW II. A fictional film was inspired on it. I, the Supreme gives gou the Paraguayan side. I never read the graphic novel Adeus, Chamigo Brasileiro, but I am told it is an interesting look at the war. Galvez, o Imperador is a good book about how Acre became a Brazilian state. A comic vision of Brazilian history can be seen in books like Terra Papagalis and Xadrez, Truco e Outrs Guerras. Lima Barreto wrote about his own rime, but nowadays it is history. His book Memórias do Escrivão Isaías de Caminha was partly inspired in an anti-vaccination riot in Rio de Janeiro and his book Triste Fim de Policarpo Quaresma was inspired in the monarchist Navy Rebellion. Agosto by Rubem Fonseca deals with, among other things, former dictator Vargas' suicide. At the top of the mind, ir is all I can recall now. PS: I am told Ana Mria Gonçalves' Um Defeito de Cor is great, but I haven't read it yet.

Weren't the Founders all men who were big on setting up rules like, y'know, the Constitution? Seems pretty deontological to me.

I too was surprised at the claims that some how "too bureaucratized and too feminized" in and of themselves provide any type of protection. Clearly most successful authoritarian regiems are highly bureaucratic an more than a few studies I believe have shown that women are at least as capible, if not more, of being highly authroitarian. Wasn't there a term a while back about Feminazi or something like that?

The bureaucrats and women will save us. Just another attempt by Tyler to signal he's down with the program.

Agreed. Where has feminized government ever been a bulwark against authoritarianism? Ask the women of Sparta where they stood on individualism and liberty.

'American government is too bureaucratized and too feminized to be captured and turned toward old-style fascism'

Wow - but then, there was this group who thought their nation had become unable to attain true glory unless radical measures were taken to restore the nation. Removing the parasites and degenerates and union members and the social democrats and the socialists and the communists that had acquired power after the nation had been stabbed in the back.

I'm confident that there are more Americans than currently imagined who are fired with their vision to overturn a government which is too bureaucratized and too feminized, not capture it. A triumph of the will is what they hope for, not accommodation.

Cass Sunstein isn't exactly the most self-aware intellectual:


Another Cass Classic:

"Could Bowling Leagues and the PTA Breed Nazis?"


And then's there Cass's all time great:

"However, our main policy idea is that government should engage in cognitive infiltration of the groups that produce conspiracy theories ..."


I love the “well-motivated” government assumption. How can he say this after 2003? What an idiot!

Indeed, the biggest problem we have is Alex Jones is the victim of 'cognitive infiltration'. I read the post and to be honest it's basically just public relations. Counter conspiracy speech with debunking speech both by yourself and surrogates aligned with you.

I read "Nudge...". Gahbage! There is an ass in Cass - he is exactly the kind of arrogant, condescending, self-appointed "expert" we tried to get rid of in the last election. We are not done yet.

Historically, fascism is the response of the elite to populism. The fascists try to "nudge" the people with the threat of state violence. Nothing new here ...

fascism is the response of the elite to populism.

If you run down the list of inter-war fascist movements, I don't think you're going to find one that remotely resembles that description. The Czech, Finnish, and Norwegian parties were led by men of accomplishment in some sphere. The first and last were pretty inconsequential and the Finnish party of modest significance.

"too feminized" I thought there was a recent article posted to MR which purported to find that 46-ish% (I don't recall the exact number) of females identify as being far left.

In my estimation females are therefore more likely to adopt a "creationist' rather than 'spontaneous order' interpretation of the economy.

Surely a revealed bias in favour of central planning would suggest an authoritarian (as opposed to libertarian) political philosophy?

This isn't a 'gotcha moment', frankly I am not one to condemn another over word selection.

TC can you elaborate on how the feminization of American politics provides a bulwark against authoritarianism?

Maybe (since Fascism seems to be the boogey of the hour) he thinks women tend to be less swayed by the "vivere pericolosamente" way of thinking. They (maybe the argument goes) are more cautious and won't favor the kind of brutal (and "heartless") changes a regime based on war glorificarion and strenght cult needs to take root. Maybe he means the American state has been too much dedicated to "nice", "feminine", "nurturing" endearvous such as, say, welfare, healthcare, consummer protection, environmental protection and education to be in the Fascism business.

Two points for Thiago's statement that Mr. Cowen was referring to how America has become a breading ground for the "niceness," "nurturing" and "everybody wins/participation trophy" mindset - especially in the Millennial generation and younger (and this is coming from a Millennial).

"America has become a breading ground for the “niceness,” “nurturing” and “everybody wins/participation trophy” mindset"

In politics doesn't this play out as more centralization and less free market dynamism?

It seems to me that an 'everybody wins mindset' could be more accurately described as a 'nobody wins nobody loses mindset'. Again, I would suggest this is indicative of authoritarianism, although I'm not a fan of the phrase - perhaps we are seeing a trend towards "equality authoritarianism".

Again it seems to me that those "nurturing forces" are more likely to lead to authoritarianism than libertarianism.

I love "well-motivated" government assumption. How can he say this after 2003? What an idiot!

Can it happen here? If it does, how will we know? That's the problem with questions like that: it's not as though the Pope will announce that it has happened in America. It's much more likely that we will look back in time and realize it already happened here and we didn't even know it. It's the many small things, the cumulative effect of which is that it happened here. Indeed, one can observe many small things that have happened and conclude that it has already happened here. People adapt to change by shifting their point of reference. What may have seemed outrageous in the past becomes ordinary in the present.

First there was the Patriot Act.

First there was the New York Times Sulzberger laying eggs of Vietnam. I've made my peace with eggs.

*Did It Happen Here?: Authoritarianism in America during World War II*

Interesting question. Japanese concentration-camps seem to suggest that it did happen here, but others would say that you can't have war without putting the slants in camps.

The truth must lie somewhere in the middle - clearly the best thing would have been to intern only half.

Only non-citizens were interned, American citizens were merely relocated.

Not true, American citizens of Japanese ancestry who had been living on the West Coast were interned as well. Some who were able to find sponsors willing to set them up with housing and a job in places like New York, Chicago and Denver where political leaders were not opposed to receiving Japanese-Americans were allowed to relocate. The rest stayed in camps. See http://encyclopedia.densho.org/Resettlement/

Krauts were interned as well: http://www.traces.org/germaninternees.html

Japanese internment was unjust, absolutely, but calling them "concentration camps" in hyperbole. They were not starved, beaten, and shoved into gas chambers and crematoria.

”It Can’t Happen here" was the title of a song on Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention's Freak Out LP.

My interpretation was that there were a lot of people in the USA at that time who would have liked a fascist country, although they didn't necessarily believe it was "fascist". They just wanted some of the cool things that fascist countries had, like governments that get things done, take care of it's own, law & order, family values, everyone knows his/her place and stays in it, is "the greatest country in the world and history" and so on like that.

Just saying.

Not to mention victoriously glorious war, which was not happening in Vietnam. Probably due to all those back stabbing soldier spitting hippy freak commie pinko long hairs.

Doesn't China have an authoritarian system? Why is fascism the only point of reference here? Fascism seems fairly different from East Asian authoritarianism (e.g. China, Singapore). Arguably that is even less likely, but it seems odd not to mention it.

The bureaucracy is left wing, so it would be more likely that the authoritarian would be left wing too.

My essay, by the way, says no, it cannot happen here. Counterintuitively, American government is too bureaucratized and too feminized to be captured and turned toward old-style fascism.

Fascism was a discrete historical phenomenon and died with the Nazi regime. The Italians tried it, and promptly fell on their faces with it. The State just does not occupy the same mental space in people's minds as it did in the 1920's and 1930's. Conservatives have their churches, their college football, their families, their idealized Constitution. Liberals are socialists and want to enforce thoughtcrime, but they are out-numbered and out-gunned from any serious capture and application of State power at a level that a Hitler or Mussolini would deem "fascist."

Meant to be a stand-alone comment.

Was it also meant to be pretty bad? Because you succeeded on that front!

Are you a fascist?

He's just a cuck like us!

When you're really accomplished, you take up stalking on the internet.

I'd like to get on your stalk if you know what I mean *WINK

Oh good, it's a cuck party! You bring the chips, I'll bring the BBC.

and promptly fell on their faces with it.

Their military performance during the war was poor. I don't know that Italy's economic performance over the period running from 1922 to 1940 was substandard.

As in any Italian war. Italians will be Italians.

The bureaucrats adhere to the ideology of their own self-interest. An authoritarian ruler is just fine with them as long as they keep getting their paychecks. Vichy France was a good example.

Fascism- any kind of authoritarianism, really- requires getting the military and the media pulling for the same ideological extreme. This is not likely in the US.

+1, the military in the US show no signs of being interested in getting into politics. And most of the media is Left wing and reflexively distrusts the military.

On the other hand if you had some kind of Leftwing authoritarianism that started taking to the streets and physically attacking the Right or anyone who stood with them and the local police forces were incapable of handling the violence, then the military might be forced to step in. However, the modern US is a long way removed from that kind of presence. We haven't seen anything similar since WW2, when FDR rounded up Japanese Americans and put them in camps and threatened to pack the Supreme Court if they didn't give in to his populist legislation.

The military is about as pozzed as any other institution at this point.

Are you seriously using "pozzed" to mean "left-wing"? Holy shit you right wingers are weird.

Isn't it left wing authoritarianism which we should be concerned with?

See speech laws in Canada, EU for examples.

That's silly. Canada and the EU are market democracies with strong institutions themselves. They may have slightly different rules compared to the US, but they are not Vietnam.

Free market democracies, bub. And don't leave out "free" again.

Tyler of course is wrong that it can't happen here. Yes US government is too bureacratized, and more importantly the US has too independent of a judicial system, for a single aberration of a president to turn the country authoritarian. But successive presidents could certainly do it, by stacking the supreme court with sympathizers and then purging the upper levels of the bureaucracy. The thing with Trump is, while his views and campaigning style are very similar to historical fascist leaders, unlike most of them he was brought to power very quickly by television without much organizing groundwork on his part and without much party/movement organizational skills. So for now it is a very uneven match, but if he wins reelection and packs the supreme court he'll do far more damage. To be fair, he has also so far shown no interest in organizing his fans to physically intimidate political opponents, which is very unlike a true fascist.

Somehow I doubt packing the court with originalist legal scholars is a waypoint on the road to serfdom. Moving power back to the legislature vs. federal agencies is ... the exact opposite? As is increased federalism.

He's an idiot and a buffoon. Think Berlusconi not Mussolini.

"He’s an idiot and a buffoon. Think Berlusconi not Mussolini."

Exactly correct.

That "US institutions are strong" is a straightforward reading of current events. That should give us some comfort.

We have the mini-drama that the far right now calls Constitutionalists the Deep State, but that shows their containment more than anything else.

Still, there are some open issues, to put it mildly. Not least a President beholden to a foreign power, trying to grant favors to that power, even as he faults others for not blocking that foreign power? Messy.



I have yet to see anything that demonstrates that Trump is beholden to Russia. This is not to say he wasn't pleased that Podesta was dumb enough to be easily hacked.

"the far right now calls Constitutionalists the Deep State"

"Not least a President beholden to a foreign power, trying to grant favors to that power,"

What a schmuck.

On the topic of whether the American slavery system was a kind of fascism, I'd have to say no those are two different kinds of evil. The KKK certainly is a fascist organization, and though it never got many of its member into political power it nonetheless was very big and influential especially in the 20s and 30s, far more so than most people today know.

Of course.. for whites dudes its not so bad :)

The KKK certainly is a fascist organization, and though it never got many of its member into political power..

Its members and sympathizers largely ran the southern states for more that half a century.

Its members and sympathizers largely ran the southern states for more that half a century.

It did not exist between 1877 and 1915. It was a tiny organization prior to 1920. a small (and disreputable) organization after 1930, and a collection of tiny (and very disreputable) organizations after 1949. So, no.

"Its members and sympathizers largely ran the southern states for more that half a century."

That's not even close to the truth.

From Wiki:

"By the 1920s, most of its members lived in the Midwest and West. Nearly one in five of the eligible Indiana population were members.[111] It had a national base by 1925. In the South, where the great majority of whites were Democrats, the Klansmen were Democrats. In the rest of the country, the membership comprised both Republicans and Democrats, as well as independents."

Year Membership
1920 4,000,000 [152]
1924 6,000,000
1930 30,000


Do you guys seriously claim that southern politicians of the era were not even Klan sympathizers? Or that racist violence was uncommon. Get a clue.

"Disreputable," or not its aims were widely supported.

And I have been told (falsely, but still), possibly by some of you, that the only reason the decent people in the south allowed segregation was fear of Klan terror.

" The KKK certainly is a fascist organization"

More proof that the term "fascist" has come to mean "a bad person that I don't like".

"It is thus necessary that the individual should come to realize that his own ego is of no importance in comparison with the existence of his nation; that the position of the individual ego is conditioned solely by the interests of the nation as a whole ... that above all the unity of a nation's spirit and will are worth far more than the freedom of the spirit and will of an individual. .... This state of mind, which subordinates the interests of the ego to the conservation of the community, is really the first premise for every truly human culture .... we understand only the individual's capacity to make sacrifices for the community, for his fellow man."

Adolph Hitler, 1933

Ask not what your country can do for you...

A claque of law professors seek to instruct us about 'authoritarianism', which, of course, does not include the manhandling of state and local government by power-drunk judges. More bilge from the press agents for The Regime. The moderator fancies it is 'self-recommending'. What does that tell us about the moderator?

Power drunk judges manhandle my wife too but she seems to like it ;)

I'd be pleased to have an affair with a judge.

Not published until February? Amazon tells how many pages it is, so I assume it is done or nearly done. Why so long?

Don't they realize how far down the road to fascism Putin will have us by then?

According to Kurt Goedel, it could very well happen here: https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2010183

Contributors include...ME...


Since Sept 11, I would say America isn't what it used to be. Definitely feels less free overall at places like the airport and large venues, along with increased surveillance, email monitoring, over-reacting to anything and anyone that looks suspicious, and people are more cautious about discussing certain topics. Facism or authoritarianism? No.

Don't get squishy on us. Diversity, Liberty, or Equality. Choose one.

It's not an either or question. You can have all three. Liberty or the right to do whatever you want without harming others, is the most important. Equality as equal protection under the law or consistent application of laws as a minimal government function. Finally, diversity, which should not be forced on institutions, but as freedom to associate with others. Personally, I like a diversity of viewpoints, which is not usually found on college campuses.

Liberty, or the right to have what you need to do what you want. Equality, or the right to have the same income as everyone else. Diversity, or the right to have supralegal rights commensurate to your phenotypical divergence from the modal citizen.

Of course Tyler has nothing to say about the recent German laws, eliminating any sense of privacy and not merely restricting freedom of speech (that was accomplished long ago) but threatening billion dollar fines aiganst websites which refuse to act as the state's thought police. No, that wouldn't raise his status!

The Mercatus crew doesn't much care about the injuries to the institutional culture of higher education, or to the episodic abuse of dissenters in places like Canada and Sweden.


Don't you mean Cuck? I hope so, I love cucks! Cuck a doodle doo!

Those are "good intentions," not "authoritarianism."

I recommend the book "Liberal Fascism" by Jonah Goldberg.

Trump is small beer. Wilson locked up the candidate of the Socialist Party (Eugene Debbs) for no other crime but opposing US entry in the First World War. And check out his "Palmer Raids."

Shall we discuss FDR putting over 100,000 residents into concentration camps? Press censorship? Government reading the mail? How about the NERA, which Hitler himself could have proposed?

Shall we discuss the scientific racism and eugenics movement supported by Progressives a century ago, programs which Hitler used for inspiration?

And why not conclude with the Title Nine inquisition the Obama Administration launched by coercion of colleges, in which the Bill of Rights is kicked to the curb as so much trash. Or we could look at Obama's use a pen and phone to rule by decree. And if you won't bake a cake for a gay wedding, why your religious liberty is expendable!

We have been on the Road to Fascism for a century. The anti-fascist party is starting a bit late. I don't mind a late party, but will the party end the second a Democrat fascist enters the White House?

"Wilson locked up the candidate of the Socialist Party (Eugene Debbs) for no other crime but opposing US entry in the First World War. And check out his “Palmer Raids.”
Shall we discuss FDR putting over 100,000 residents into concentration camps? Press censorship? Government reading the mail?"
Yep, everyone remembers how strongly Republicans complained about those tyrannical acts... on zome other universe. Fascism is the very narure of the American regime.

One Republican opposed Japanese Internment, Colorado Governo Ralph Carr. See his Wikipedia entry:

"They are as loyal to American institutions as you and I. Many of the have been born here - are American citizens, with no connection or feeling of loyalty toward the customs and philosophies of Italy, Germany and Japan.... I am not talking on behalf of Japanese, of Italians, or of Germans as such when I say this. I am talking to ... all American people whether their status be white, brown or black and regardless of the birthplaces of their grandfathers when I say that if a majority may deprive a minority of its freedom, contrary to the terms of the Constitution today, then you as a monority may be subjected to the same ill-will of the majority tomorrow."

Fair enough. So did Socialist Norman Thomas. As a group, though, Republicans raised less of a issue about internment than, say, when they thought Roosevel had sent a Navy ship rescue his dog.

I do not recommend Goldberg's book.

He starts out well enough conceding that fascism is hard to define and has degenerated into nothing more than a vague slur. But he then proceeds to unironically redirect the slur towards liberals (reminiscent of the classic "Dems are the real racists" line), and then buttresses this insult with 500 pages of exhaustive, excruciating, and completely pointless research and superficial philosopher name-dropping.

Do you know who else was into organic farming? That's right. Hitler. Take that, liberals!

Recommending Jonah Goldberg revelas you have about a 2-digit IQ. He's absolutely nothing more than a political hack trying to score points for Team Red. The Points about Wilson and FDR are completely true but no party has a monopoly on authoritarian impulses. I'm sure Goldberg spilled a lot of ink justifing `GWB Administration torture and detentions. Probably doesn't see anything wrong with government the idea of government domestic spying either - like many people on this blog infact.

I went to the Museum of Terror (dedicated to secret police of the Hungarian Facist and Communist Regimes) in Budapest about 3 years ago and I remember seeing "Liberal Fascism" promently displayed in the giftshop. Not hard to see why it was there given the kind of people who have been running Hungary in recent years. It's all just hackery and slurring people, Goldberg and all those like him have ZERO Problem with the tactics, they just don't like it when the other side wields them.

I like how I made a typo as I was accusing you of having a 2-digit IQ RAH!

If your only history book was Goldberg, that's a problem.

If your only history book is Howard Zinn's a People's History, that's also a problem.

He's just pointing out that the Left isn't immune from the sins of authoritarianism either.

Not comparable to Horward Zinn, Goldberg's book is purely there to smear anyone to the left of him. Johan Golberg is a partisan hack and nothing else. Don't Play this false equivalencey bullshit.
A history book written from a right-leaning perspective is one thing, this is not what Jonah Goldberg is about.

If your only history book is Howard Zinn's that's a problem.
If ANY of your history books are by Jonah Goldberg that's a problem.

I also haven't read A People's History of the United States but I have a pretty damn good Feeling Zinn attacks all the things that "B. B." listed up there as being part of Goldberg's book. So what does Jonah have to offer besides partisan hackery?

Agian Johan Goldberg has ZERO problems with any of these authoritarian tactics, ZERO problems as Long as they are used by his team. If you had a Republican president trying to throw someone in prision for opposing a war you wouldn't hear a PEEP out of Jonah - except to defend the actions and call the war opposer a traitor.

"false equivalence" is a catch phrase you picked up from Mediamatters. embarassing.

Thomas wins the prize: a picture of my Weiner!

The biggest flaw in the summation posted here is that of assuming feminism or feminine qualities preclude authoritarianism and/or individual liberty reductions. Even if we don't consider the many examples from history, a primary component of motherhood is establishing laws, restricting freedoms and autocratic rule, e.g., "if you live in my house you will follow my rules," "because I said so," "do as I say," It is not a great leap to transpose these diktat to a bureaucratic and autocratic society.

"Counterintuitively, American government is too bureaucratized and too feminized to be captured and turned toward old-style fascism."

If so little stands between the US and fascism than bureaucratization and feminization, then why are these held in such scorn?

If the topic here is kinds of anti-democratic forces, I don't see Nancy MacLean's "Democracy In Chains" mentioned anywhere. Critically important book.

Plus, we've come pretty far toward a failed democracy already (congratulations, libertarians):

Blaming libertarians for anything having to do with democracy is... completely moronic. We're democratically powerless.

Wonder if you really mean "electorally" powerless? Can't tell.
But taking advantage of a populace that's distracted, uninformed & divided by racial & cultural resentment, to undermine democracy by a thousand forms of administrative & legal subterfuge? That IS the project of the right. And it's been working very well. Dark money has not been powerless, and right now the Koch network is threatening the Senate R's balking at the "Better Care Act" with primary challenges, and telling guys like Heller (R-NV) that the checkbook is closed until they get their tax cuts. If you want to think "libertarians" are not part of that project, you're unbelieveably mistaken, & maybe just unaware of the funding sources for ALEC, State Policy Network, Heritage, AEI, CATO, Mercatus, Breitbart, and on & on. Could probably name 150 similar organizations, all coordinated, funded by billionaires, who are not powerless. And they are ideologically libertarian, and anti-democratically very powerful.

"But taking advantage of a populace that’s distracted, uninformed & divided by racial & cultural resentment, to undermine democracy by a thousand forms of administrative & legal subterfuge? That IS the project of the right. And it’s been working very well. Dark money has not been powerless, and right now the Koch network is threatening the Senate R’s..."

I haven't seen any persuasive evidence that the EVAL Right has undermined American republican democracy. Or that the EVIL Left has either. This comment strikes me as a typical Partisan conspiracy theory. It's certainly not a rational, well constructed argument.

Jwatts - you literally do not know what you're talking about.

" taking advantage of a populace that’s distracted, uninformed & divided by racial & cultural resentment, to undermine democracy"

How does such a populace effectively embrace democracy even without the thousand forms of administrative & legal subterfuge? Perhaps the Satanic messages of the Koch brothers, delivered through their Ozian flying monkeys, could be banned entirely and the people exposed only to the propaganda you favor, Joseph Goebbels Jr.

Comments for this post are closed