No, American fascism can’t happen here

Politico is running an excerpt from my essay in the new Cass Sunstein book.  Here is one opening bit:

My argument is pretty simple: American fascism cannot happen anymore because the American government is so large and unwieldy. It is simply too hard for the fascists, or for that matter other radical groups, to seize control of. No matter who is elected, the fascists cannot control the bureaucracy, they cannot control all the branches of American government, they cannot control the judiciary, they cannot control semi-independent institutions such as the Federal Reserve, and they cannot control what is sometimes called “the deep state.” The net result is they simply can’t control enough of the modern state to steer it in a fascist direction.

…Surely it ought to give us pause that the major instances of Western fascism came right after a time when government was relatively small, and not too long after the heyday of classical liberalism in Europe, namely the late 19th century. No, I am not blaming classical liberalism for Nazism, but it is simply a fact that it is easier to take over a smaller and simpler state than it is to commandeer one of today’s sprawling bureaucracies.

…the greater focus of the night watchman state, for all its virtues, is part of the reason why it is easy to take over. There is a clearly defined center of power and a clearly defined set of lines of authority; furthermore, the main activity of the state is to enforce property rights through violence or the threat of violence. That means such a state will predominantly comprise policemen, soldiers, possibly border authorities, Coast Guard employees and others in related support services. The culture and ethos of such a state is likely to be relatively masculine and also relatively martial and tolerant of a certain amount of risk, and indeed violence. The state will be full of people who are used to the idea of applying force to achieve social ends, even if, under night watchman assumptions, those deployments of force are for the most part justified.

Do read the whole thing, the article has points of interest, and the essay in the book even more.


Stephen Miller is still in the white house though
and fascists have a louder voice than ever before in the GOP... and the GOP is big enough to control (or to reduce to nothing) america's institutions

There is a substantial difference between a [proto-]fascist in government and a fascist government.

Just as worrisome as facists like Miller and Trump and Thomas Homan rising to high office and power is the meekness of the rest of the national Republican party in the face of their policies and attempted policies.

To be generous, the people who thought "authoritarianism" was "derangement" - while they were wrong - were balances against it too. They weren't gung-ho.

There weren't millions marching with torches in the night demanding extra-legal whatever. They (except for that idiot Nunes, and a little weak congressional resistance) have let the checks and balances hold.

I think Obama proved this wrong. In 8 years he weaponized government against the citizens. Until I see some perp walks and FBI, DOJ, State Dept., IRS people going to jail I would have to say tthe fascists are winning.

Ok, so how did Obama "weaponize government" against you?

+1 And those fascists are now calling Trump, the guy who has spent most of his tenure removing government from our lives, a fascist. It's always projection from these guys. (Not all progressives, just the fringes who've lost the control they thought they'd have forever)

Funny definition of fascism you have there.

Do you have a story of "how Obama fascism sent me to prison and shot my dog" TMC?

Because what I see is a couple idiots exchanging a token without meaning.

And to be fair, it started before Obama. The EPA and FDA and dozens of other agencies do not need SWAT teams.

You know, I knew it would be the EPA. If we can't get DDT in our corn flakes that's fascism!

I remember the IRS threatening a raid on an insurance company a few years ago because they wanted medical data on a suspect and the company wouldn't reply. The IRS was going to go in and pull all their server. The insurance company didn't even mind giving data on a suspect. The IRS wanted ALL of their data, on millions of people.

Meanwhile, a President telling cops to seize guns without warrant, that's just what a "strong leader" would do, am I right?

Banning DDT probably killed more people than Stalin or Mao, not sure how that's helping your argument.

"a President telling cops to seize guns without warrant"

Nothing I've said would indicate that. You have voices in your head.

The conservative DDT fantasy is not based in fact, but the Trump quote is.

Why does fantasy underpin so much of modern right politics?

Yes, I know the quote, but, still, nothing I've said indicates I approve of or support that. Trump knows he has the latitude to play to the fascist gun grabbers and his base base knows he's just playing the rubes.

Buddy, if you believe that, you are the tube.

How about a President ordering government agents to round up people who don't have certain papers, physically separate them from their spouses and children, and then ship them to a foreign country? Is that fascist enough for you?

OneGuy is a Russian sock puppet.

Listening to the left complain about “take the gun now, due process later”, when they’ve been pushing “no fly, no buy” for over a year is almost painful in how dishonest these scumbags are. The no fly list has no due process either. Did you guys forget that you were proposing that like 2 days ago?

Thomas picks a random plan, and one I have never supported, and attributes it to "the left." Ah, but looking into it:

"A new Quinnipiac University poll released Thursday [June 2016] found that 86 percent of registered voters back such "no fly, no buy" gun legislation, compared with 12 percent that don't. And of those voters in households with a gun, 83 percent still back the proposal, versus 14 percent that don't."

Keep that grip on reality.

(There are serious issues with judicial classification for background checks, but spittle covered comments about "scumbags" are not them.)

How about a President ordering government agents to round up people who don’t have certain papers, physically separate them from their spouses and children, and then ship them to a foreign country? Is that fascist enough for you?

If you don't want that to happen to you, you can (1) stay home or (2) immigrate according to procedures established in law. Consequences are something people with an adolescent mentality rail against.

@Art: you also need to be over 16 or so for that not to happen to you. Because the people she's talking about were little kids with no say in the matter. You're as wrong on this issue as anyone has ever been wrong about anything, Art.

"“A new Quinnipiac University poll released Thursday [June 2016] found that 86 percent of registered voters back such “no fly, no buy” gun legislation, compared with 12 percent that don’t. And of those voters in households with a gun, 83 percent still back the proposal, versus 14 percent that don’t.”"

The average person isn't aware of how the system works. They don't know there's no due process. The professional left was, and supported it anyway.

Trump's statements are just an attempt to appeal to swing voters. I'm not bothered by them at all.

Tanturn, you are trying to use a position I don't have to defend a statement you don't even support. How bent is that?

"government agents to round up people who don’t have certain papers"

So, like every country, and every US president. Hazel doesn't make the distinction of the DACAs here. It sounds like all illegal immigrants.

stay home

This IS their home. If you've grown up in America, Mexico isn't your "home" any more than Japan is mine.

My point is about the left, I could care less about your personal opinions. I accept Trump's occasional non-serious statements as being necessary to appeal to swing voters. Demanding total purity is the road to political irrelevance. But you know that, which is why you are trying to use this as a wedge.

I think you are lost, Tanturn. You made some claim about the "professional left" but that is not in evidence. What is it, Fox News meme of the day?

What we have in evidence is a poll, with extremely high agreement (83:14), and you are using that to say Trump's "whether they had the right or not" doesn't matter .. to you.

That doesn't make any kind of sense.

"A no fly list is just like cops making up their own rules! Yay."

"How about a President ordering government agents to round up people who don’t have certain papers, physically separate them from their spouses and children"

That is what happens when you break the law. Should we celebrate lawbreakers?

"and then ship them to a foreign country?"

LOL! Seriously! You do realize that they were without exception all born in that country and are citizens of that country! DUH! It would be sending them home. That would be the humane thing to do and of course the legal and constitutional thing to do.

Re: I think Obama proved this wrong. In 8 years he weaponized government against the citizens.

Always nice to hear from a alternate universe. Ah the wonders of the Internet..

This IS their home. If you’ve grown up in America, Mexico isn’t your “home” any more than Japan is mine.

No, it is not. Nor was it the home of the people who spirited them over the border. You're not contending you grew up in Saskatoon in the home of a Japanese national in Canada illegally, so quit it with the manipulative analogies.

"Stephen Miller is still in the white house though and fascists have a louder voice than ever before in the GOP… and the GOP is big enough to control (or to reduce to nothing) america’s institutions"

There are about 511,000 elected offices in the US. The GOP is estimated to hold 55-60%. The governor of Massachusetts, which overall is only 30% GOP, has recently been Mitt Romney and Charlie Baker. Add in NJ Chris Christie, and those three have more influence in the GOP than Miller.

If we had the more rational approval voting system, Romney and Baker would probably get my approval, even though I have significant policy differences. They are both small letter republicans and democrats. It is that factor that make Romney and Baker so unacceptable to those with "facist" bent. While the "racist leaners" in the GOP purged those like Romney and Baker as RINOs, that happened ONLY AFTER THEY WERE NO LONGER ELECTED. E.g. Christine Todd Whitman.

And the 60th vote for Obamacare was Arlen Specter who won GOP primaries over three decades plus, and never won a Democratic primary, but won every election with Democratic votes. How many laws has Miller been key to passage?

There are about 511,000 elected offices in the US.

Try again. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports there are 59,000 legislators and 30,000 judges in the United States (and many of the latter are appointed).


"The 85,006 governments in the United States in 1992 had 513,200 elected officials"

Should it really be lower today?

I don't get your argument. Sure, the government can't be radicalized if the bureaucracy is not on board, but the bureaucracy is a lot smaller than the electorate. If a fascist could make a convincing appeal to the electorate why couldn't they make a convincing appeal to the bureaucracy?

Isn't the simpler truth just that fascism can't arise here because we have strong democratic norms built into our culture over the course of centuries? Germany in the 20s was a brand new democratic state. The people didn't care for democracy and Hitler was not particularly coy about wanting to get rid of it. If the American people decide that they really want to vote away their political rights and establish a dictatorship then I don't think the bureaucracy can stop them.

I like the argument quoted above, though it depends on an assumption as you say, that a fascist takeover would be attempted by a few.

We are fortunate that there are few real authoritarians around right now.

Yesterday Trump said Florida cops should have taken Nikolas Cruz's guns "whether they had the right or not." That is naive authoritarianism right there.

We are lucky that he doesn't have a mob, let alone a million, backing it.

"... fascism cannot happen anymore because the American government is so large and unwieldy."

TC's weak speculation here is not about ideology and group cohesion, but merely about physical/administrative span-of-control in a very large human organization. It's similar to Hayek's anti-socialist premise that central-planning can never work because the planners are physically incapable of ever collecting/analyzing necessary economic data in real time.

However, USSR was certainly a huge interventionist government that lasted quite a while; Red China the same.

"Fascism" term is used very loosely here. Fascism is just a variation of collectivism and coercive government intervention in markets. State-Capitalism, corporatism, and mercantilism are similar concepts. American government at all levels... already massively intervenes in the economy/markets and has done so for over a century. There's no sign that the government intervention-ability is diminishing, nor that Americans & government bureaucrats are fed up with it.

511,000 elected officials, plus many more appointed, plus, so many employees who are serving rule of law as defined by 50 plus constitutions and charters, not a cult of personality.

The Deep State is defined by those who follow the Supreme Law of the Land, not orders from men and women who think they are elite rulers who are the law.

Germany in the 20s was a brand new democratic state.

Electoral institutions were introduced in the German states and the Hapsburg dominions in the 1850s. They'd been operating for 60 years by the end of the 1st World War. Some of the German states had universal (if unequal) male suffrage throughout and such was generalized by 1907. What changed in 1918-20 was the introduction of new electoral systems (fairer, after a fashion, but also dysfunctional), the introduction of cabinet responsibility to the legislature, and the end of the monarchies. None of these changes was wholly salutary and the implosion of Germany's political order during the period running from 1930 to 1933 can be attributed in part to poor political architecture.

There is more to a democratic state than electoral institutions. For instance, lack of an absolute monarchy.

you don't vote for kings. democratic electoral institutions prohibit absolute monarchs, by definition. try again

Read my post again.

If you vote for parliament, but the executive power only depends of the king and not of the parliament, it is not a democracy.

The Hapsburg dominions were not, after 1857, and absolute monarchy. Neither were any of the consequential German states other than Hanover.

These of the kind of buffoonish arguments that make you such a useful idiot for the Left and the Democrat party. Try harder, please.

Right - this is a common mistake made regarding the fall of the Kaiser and the Weimar transition. It would be more correct to say that Weimar Germany lacked experience with a federal republic, but that's not the same as lacking democratic experience.
And - I would still put that lack of federal republic experience well below any number of larger factors... indeed, it's surprising an economist fails to recognize the ebb and flow of German economic fortunes and lay it side-by-side with the popularity/electoral fortunes of radical elements on the left and right. The 1928 federal elections yielded less than 3% of the vote to the Nazis (10% to the KPD).
One needn't BE an economist to note what happened between the 1928 election and the 1930/1932 elections, but an economist should certainly recognize it as a prime factor.

More to the point where are the incentives for the bureaucracy to resist the general slide versus the incentives of the bureaucracy to either ignore or tacitly support the slide?

With Obama, the bureaucracy did not so much support the slide, as it found them already lubed up and on a toboggan.

Why does a fascist need to convince the bureacracy? They just arrest them and replace them with members from their own private army/backing organization that helped them to gain power. Fascists doesn't mean "boorish person I don't like who uses the democratic process as intended."

So is this more or less an argument in favor of large, unwieldy government, insofar as it insulates against fascist takeover?

Reagan was weak on fascism!?

Reagan was defeated by the Clean Air and Water Acts and the Nixon EPA Congress authorized.

After appointing Justice Gorsuch's mother to dismantle the EPA, Reagan was forced to restore the EPA by returning it's Nixon appointed founder, Ruckelshaus.

Gorsuch was proud of restoring the right of business to harm and kill people without consequence, but people take We the People seriously, and reject the argument "corporations are People too" overwhelmingly.

Fascism is best defined as We the Corporatiions.

Note, conservatives claim that the solution is torts, not regulations. But the EPA administers the Superfund which was created in law based on torts implementing "polluter pays". But Gorsuch, both of them, sees torts to implement polluter pays as fascist, as do most conservatives who have taken over the GOP.

By being opposed to both regulation of and torts against corporations, the GOP has taken on the We the Corporations economic aspect of the fascists.

Re: Reagan was defeated by the Clean Air and Water Acts and the Nixon EPA Congress authorized.

Defeated how? He achieved his two main goals in office: he cut taxes significantly and set the defeat of the Soviet Union in motion. A lot of people project on Reagan things they wish he could have done, and in some cases that he said some positive words about doing-- but he never made those things a major priority and so was willing to horse trade on them to get his Two Big Things done.

What utter baloney. When someone tries to restrain the growth of any aspect of government, they are "harming and killing people without consequence" and are, of course, fascists. Well, government agencies, including useful and important ones such as the EPA, sometimes grow too big and powerful and need to be put on a diet. That's what Reagan and Anne Gorsuch did. (And Nixon and Ruckleshaus were no liberals.)

'My argument is pretty simple:'

And amazingly simple minded. What makes you think any 'radical group' that seizes power will care in the least about the judiciary, for example?

You seem to have an extremely limited view of what a 'radical' ideology would care about, or what it would not simply sweep aside - seriously, they cannot abolish the Fed? And the reason being what, that would upset the Wall Street?

Somebody is being amazingly complacent - maybe he should read a book about what happens to complacent classes who cannot see beyond their bubble.

Your only good post, well done.

Yes, easily the best thing you've ever posted here. People born and raised in a protective bubble that they've never left just don't understand how totalitarians act...

+1, without doubt best prior

This reminds of a scene in that excellent BBC/HBO film "Conspiracy", about the Wannsee Conference...

Where Colin Firth/Wilhelm Stuckart bemoans all the legal/judicial problems that the final solution will create - divorces, estate law, need for death certificates, etc "clogging the courts for years!" -- and Kenneth Branagh/Reinhard Heydrich reminds him not-so-gently that he's really missing the point.

I feel bad at laughing at this, but yeah. There does seem to be a certain mindset in a significant proportion of administrators that something is "impossible" because current procedures don't allow for it.

This analysis depends on which side the fascism is coming from. The heavily Democratic federal bureaucracy isn't opposing Trump because he's a fascist; it's doing so because he's a Republican (just as it's done in varying degrees to other Republican presidents). Imagine instead the Democrats in charge of the political branches long enough to appoint enough Justices to win two rulings: 1) reversing Citizens United to permit political control of political speech, and 2) an equal-protection holding that non-citizens have a right to vote in state and local elections. With the bureaucracy (and the media, and the universities) falling into line, effective checks on power become a lot harder to see.

Tom Tancredo, is that you?

Creating loopholes with the intent to facilitate hiding the origins of large sums of monies intended for propaganda and political manipulation is bad for democracy.

If there is to be some notion that rich people buying elections is "democratic" in some manner, the public at least deserves to know WHO is doing the buying. (Which wouldn't tell us anything about who may be pulling their strings, but that's an altogether different question.)

Citizens United was about creating legal ways to buy elections without anyone being able to legally disclose who it was.

Sticking a schoolteacher / serial grad school dropout in the prime minister's chair ain't so great for democracy either. Neither is having social policy dictated by appellate judges.

You could focus on policy more than people.

Every head of state, by definition, was once something "less" than what they are.

Every head of state, by definition, was once something “less” than what they are.

You fancy this is a response? His sustained employment history extended from age 24 to age 31 and consisted of a quite common-and-garden middle class job with weak operational measures of competence. Other projects he had he abandoned, but somehow Liberal Party sachems got the idea to put a random n'er do well in parliament. The rest is history.

Of our post-war presidents, you've got one flag-rank military officer who directed the largest land invasion in history, a naval engineer who'd run an agribusiness concern and a state government; a combat veteran who'd built his own business, sat in the federal legislature, and held several positions in the federal executive; a quondam fighter pilot who'd run two businesses and a state government; a man with a long career in entertainment, public relations, and trade unionism who'd also run a state government; another combat veteran with a variegated history as a farmer, small merchant, local government executive, and member of Congress; and another man who'd superintended a business with 22,000 employees and $9.5 bn in annual revenue. Our undercard includes a state governor, two men with a long history in Congress which included stints as caucus leader, and a combat veteran / navy commander.

We've had one real vapid tyro, and he cadged approval ratings around about 80% among Eurotrash publics, because some people are just shallow.

Hmmmm...How many Presidents have been internet cuckolds like you?

Ha Art! You're forgetting about John Kerry, the greatest President we never had!

Obama was younger than most, so perhaps some allowance needs to be made for his age in this comparison?

Obama was younger than most, so perhaps some allowance needs to be made for his age in this comparison?

Why make allowances? A political party with a healthy and operational peer review function would not have run Barack Obama for Congress, much less the Presidency. Keep in mind that prior to 2004, Obama had faced one competitive election, a primary for a seat in Congress in which he was thoroughly thrashed by Bobby Rush. In 12 years as a legislator, he never established himself as an expert in any class of issues. He was on the faculty of the University of Chicago for 12 years and published no one scholarly paper during that time. Prorating part-time work, he practiced law for less than four years. His only history in the business world was a two year stint working as a copy editor for a company which produced corporate newsletters under contract; it's the most serious job he ever had.

In making allowances, please note Donald Trump at age 47 had been running his own business for 19 years, George Bush the Younger, was the managing partner of the Texas Rangers, Bilge Clinton had 14 years as Governor of Arkansas under his belt, George Bush the Elder had made his pile in the oil business, served time in Congress, and held a diplomatic post; Ronald Reagan had 26 years in the entertainment business and 5 years in charge of the Screen Actors Guild under his belt, Jimmy Carter had resigned from the Navy, turned the family business over to his brother to run while embarking on a 3d career in politics, and had taken office as Governor of Georgia; Gerald Ford had his military service, seven years in law practice, and 11 years in Congress under his belt; Lyndon Johnson was the Senate Majority Leader, &c.

I don't know why Art keeps making this point about Obama. He was a teaching fellow at Chicago. Teaching fellows are not expected to publish academic articles. The only reason to publish them is if you want to be on the tenure track which he was offered and refused. Also he was working as a state legislator, doing his teaching, working for a law firm, serving as a director on various organizations and raising his family simultaneously. It is hard enough to do well at just one of those jobs. As for his competence, he was a self-made millionaire and published author before he got elected. That is a reasonable record of success.

He was a lecturer on salary, not a 'teaching fellow'. A 'teaching fellow' is Harvardblather for what's called a TA at other universities.

That he published nothing is of a piece with the rest of his professional life, where he behaved in analogous fashion.

While we're at it, he completed law school in 1991 but wasn't hired by a firm until 1993. He was 'of counsel' at that firm after 1996. He only entered the legislature in 1997. His first child wasn't born until 1998. The legislature didn't meet at all from mid-June to the end of October during Obama's time and only met about 30% time during the period running from the beginning of November to the end of March. Don't delve into his board memberships. Recalling the Chicago Annenberg Challenge doesn't help your argument.

Trying to spin the Citizens United decision as only about disclosure and not suppression is completely false, of course, but also a little bit silly. The decision is easily accessible to any interested reader.

They were already allowed to spend infinite funds. That's not suppression.

The difference is that now billions can be funded without any ability to know where the money came from.

CU was about HRC wanting the federal government to prevent private citizens from releasing a documentary critical of her. Of course it’s been sold as something else to the daft. Maduro would be proud.

"the heavily Democratic federal bureaucracy" Really? The Military is not a hotbed of Democrats. The national security and intelligence agencies are not hotbeds of Democrats. The rank and file employees of the Departments of Homeland Security, Justice, the Treasury, Commerce, Agriculture all swing towards Republicans. Others, like State, Interior, Energy, Veterans' Affairs, and Transportation are deeply polarized form top to bottom politically due to the historical swings in the administration from one party to the other. Yes, there is probably a strong Democratic base in HHS, Education, and HUD, but this does not compensate for the overwhelmingly Republican character of the Military, Intelligence, Security and Economic areas of the government.

The national security and intelligence agencies are not hotbeds of Democrats.

I'll wager Peter Sztrok and Andrew McCabe were promoted within the ranks because they were useful to certain political types. Ditto Lois Lerner.

Then why does Washington, DC vote 90%+ Democratic? Not 60%, 90%?

"The heavily Democratic federal bureaucracy isn’t opposing Trump because he’s a fascist; it’s doing so because he’s a Republican"

They opposed Obama because he was a Republican? Or do you think the military establishment immediately embraced gays, trans, the justice establishment immediately checked with the Aclu, Amnesty Intl, etc, on all their decisions, and DHS opened the gates and granted amnesty to 99% of refugees, treating every non-citizen according to the Bill of Rights without regard for citizenship because the Bill of Rights was never for citizens.

Do you understand that the Constitution focused on persons, not citizens? We the People was not We the Citizens. The Roman Republic was the model. Every subject of the Roman Republic had rights, at least in principle, and everyone of them could earn citizenship based on service to the republic. Just as the Republic was not perfect, and thus devolved into essentially fascist Empire, the US republic was understood to be imperfect. Thus the principle was for select mature representatives chosen from select, mature persons, the citizens, would government in intentional conflict forcing consensus.

Citizenship in the US was absolutely not based on birth, heritage, blood, and thus was totally contrary to monarchy, and the Nazis, the white nationalists, Trump.

It is ironic that the GOP destroyed the founding concept of citizenship creating an inherent conflict in the Constitution that embraced immigration as the most viable defense against European powers.

For those who claim obamacare is unconstitutional, where in the enumerated powers are the authority to build walls to keep out immigrants using taxes, to bar immigrants, to restrict migration in general, to restrict the Bill or Rights to only citizens?

Had Citizens United been decided otherwise political speech would have been just free as it is today: no one would be arrested or fined for the content of their speech in any public venue. (Private venues would remain free to censor what is said done in their confines). Citizens United was never about speech, it was about money, and used the Orwellian formula "speech=money". Citizens United affirmed oligarchy-- a very bad government form-- and made some animals a bit more equal than others.

It takes money to express speech. CU affirmed Hillary Clinton couldn’t prevent conservatives from coming together to publish a documentary critical of her. It affirmed the opposite of oligarchy. But hey, repeal CU and jail CNN and NPR reporters for their donations in kind, masquerading as journalism.

Re: It takes money to express speech.

Really? I must have missed the royalties I should have gotten for all my blog comments! Can you tell me where I can apply for that?

Since Cowen makes the analogy to Germany, I will point out that in Germany in the 1920s Germans lined up on the far left (communists) as well as on the far right (Nazis), and the far right used the potential threat from the far left as justification for extreme actions. Something similar is happening today in America, although the far left is not identified as communist but as cultural Marxism. But the threat felt by the far right is no less real *the way of life has been challenged), a threat that may not be real but is believed to be real, with politicians like Trump fanning the flames. Historical analogies are usually off the mark, so I haven't been losing sleep about this one (I have other reasons for losing sleep!). Bret Stephens is my guide for advising when we are in deep trouble and I need to start storing canned foods and ammunition. Here is the link to today's column:

"far right (Nazis)" were far left. They were a socialist party. I'd put anarchists at the far right position.

"Socialist" in the German political party context in the 1930s didn't mean the left. That's the problem with words taken out of context.

The fight in Germany was between the 'international left' (ie communist) and the National left, or National Socialism. Both philosophies embraced state control of the economy, vast social benefits for the people, free education, free health care, retirement care, etc. The difference was that the Nazis thought only good Aryan Germans should get those social benefits, while the Communists wanted the world to have it. The only other real difference was that Nazis allowed the means of production to remain in private hands, while the Communists appropriated it for the state, But the Nazis still exerted control over production and distribution of goods.

The left has spent a century trying to distance itself from Fascism, but they are both varieties of statism, with the state promising a large social safety net for the people if only they give up their freedom.

This ignores the fact that at the same time - the British, both in Labour AND Tory form - were also pursuing the same social benefit ends. Indeed, it was the Kaiser that originally instituted a national pension system and state-sponsored healthcare system, and none other than Winston Churchill (pre-WWI) who spoke admiringly of it.
As for "exerted control" over the Krupps, the Farbens, et al - I guess by "exerted control" you mean that they made it extremely lucrative to secure armaments contracts?
Bidding for contracts in the 1930s was extraordinarily fierce and competitive - Junkers, Dornier, Fock-Wulfe, Arado, etc were constantly trying to outdo each other with design submissions, and quite quickly learned Hitler LOVED bigger and bigger (to virtually ridiculous ends). MAN, MNH, Porsche, Daimler, etc likewise did the same with tanks and such.
The Nazis stayed out of the boardrooms - they really couldn't care less, especially so long as production runs stayed on schedule. And no arm-twisting was necessary to induce participation.

This is silly - the main enemy of nazis (besides the Jews) are the communists, and after that the SPD (remember who, in the parliament, voted "yes" and "no" to the full powers to Hitler). Since the end of the 20s, the nazis went to the election with joint lists with the DNVP (the filomonarchist party of the Prussian aristocracy, heir of the conservative parties of the Imperial Germany), the quintessential "right-wing" party.

And the more silly part is the "I’d put anarchists at the far right position" - the anarchists who fought alongside with Communist, Socialists and Republicans in Spain against the catholic-monarchist Franco? Or (since we are talking about Germany) the German and Dutch anarchists, who were basically fellow-travellers of the "council communists" (the hard line of German communist movement, who break with Lenine in 1921 because he - Lenine - was to moderate for their taste)?

Indeed - you can go back to the early, chaotic days of post-WWI weimar and look no further than the freikorps that crushed various socialist and communist elements that had taken control of various local governments. It's a mistake to view Weimar through an American, binary lens.
To be perfectly honest, while I'd agree that if one HAS to make a binary choice, placing the Nazis on the right is the "least bad" choice - I don't particularly think it's exactly correct to do that, either. Whether the blackshirts in Italy or the brownshirts in Germany - I think it's usually best to see them more as a stew picking up disaffected from all points of a 3D spectrum.
The Nazis did have committed socialists early on - the Strassers, early Goebbels... and they also included conservative Prussian blue bloods (Goering)... and rural traditionalists (Himmler)...

This could the proverbial European arrogance of my side, but I suspect that the reason why the meme "nazis were far-left" is so popular in USA is, because several factors (the British constitutional heritage; being a country created in new lands, without - at least outside the South - a feudal/aristocratic tradition; being a state created by a revolution, and against the King; the good shoot of Aaron Burr; etc.), the USA does not have anything really similar to the traditional continental, throne-and-altar, authoritarian, anti-democratic and anti-capitalist conservatism, or even the british High Tories.

Fascism is different from traditional continental conservatism (the coup attempts against Hitler and the coup against Mussolini were made by the conservatives, after all) but is similar enough (both are authoritarian and openly anti-democratic*; valuing "elites", "hierarchy", "strong leaders" and "great men"; defending organic unity between social classes and despising both free-market capitalism and marxist class struggle; etc.) to be intuitively seen as part of the family.

In contrast, US conservatism is probably more similar to classical liberalism than to continental conservatism, making it a very different animal from fascism.

* contrast with communist, who like to pretend that they are the true democrats.

"the main enemy of nazis (besides the Jews) are the communists"

Well they were competing for the same people.

The Nazi's enemies were also the decomratic western world, and it's US supporters before the war were the left. I agree they don't fit nicely into either spot, but the left does seem to be close.

"Well they were competing for the same people."

For what I know, not much - the base of the Communists and of the SPD was the blue-collar, wage-labour, working class; the base of the Nazis was the white-collar workers, the self-employed and small businessman, and the farmers; Nazis were competing more with the liberal parties (the DDP and the DVP, the ancestors of modern FDP), who had a similar support base (all are parties of the secular middle-classes).

"The Nazi’s enemies were also the decomratic western world"

Again, for what I know, the goal of the nazis was the expansion to the East - it was in the west that was the Lebensrau - "the vital space"; this mean first, make a deal with Poland to attack the democratic Checoslovakia, after that make a deal with USSR to attack the "fascist" Poland, and after that to attack the communist USSR. The war on the West (against France and UK, and some other countries that almost did not fought back) was, I think, more a reactive measure (they declared war to us, than we have to strike them first) - note that in the East was attempts of colonization by german settlers, big annexations, etc. In the West, the german forces simply put some local as "high commander".

"it was in the west that was the Lebensrau"; I mean, "in the east"

You're right in #69 below (new visitor here, I guess the nesting only goes so deep, so more in response to your point in #69... and you can tell I'm an American because I giggle when typing 69 :-)) --

Though, in modern typical American usage - I think you give the purveyors of the meme too much credit... it's mostly just hackneyed, analysis-free factoids hurled like crude dirt clods. I.e., "Nazi, National socialist = Lefties!". You can add to that other meaningless claptrap - Hitler was a vegetarian... most vegetarians are liberals, ah-ha! Or Hitler loved animals... or whatever.

A big chunk of this comes from our nation's (guffaw) - eminent thinkers on such matters... Glenn Beck and his chalkboards, Jonah Goldberg and his moronic "Liberal Fascism" book from ~20 years ago, etc. You'll find further elements of it equating biological evolution/darwinism with hackneyed 'social darwinism' (another big thing with Hitler)... early 20th century/late 19th century eugenics purveyors in the states being (cap D, party) Democrats, and so were the Nazis, etc. It's all just a childish exercise in spotting shapes that can be matched to support a pre-conceived preference ("theory" gives it too much credit).

In any case, I think your analysis is quite spot-on... I'm just saying that the rise of the meme in the US doesn't bother with any sort of deep thought on the matter. It's empty sloganeering without any deep thought.

"in the 1920s Germans lined up on the far left (communists) as well as on the far right (Nazis)": this is not correct at all. Taking the election of 1928 as an example, the Communist party only took 10.9% of the vote while the Nazis, in the first election following their ban in 1925, took 2.6%. The largest party was the Social Democratic Party with 29.8%, followed by the (National Conservative) German National People's Party with 14.2% and the (mainly Catholic) Centre Party with 12.1.

Look for 1924 - the anti-regime parties (German National People's Party + Communist Party of Germany + National Socialist Freedom Movement + German Social Party) had 39.6%. If we add also the German People's Party and the Independent Social Democratic Party , 49,6%,_May_1924

It is misleading to speak of this as a group of "anti-regime" parties. While they were not members of the governing parties, only the KPD and Nazis of these could be described as opposed to the constitutional order. And, as the German saying goes, "there is no coalition in the opposition."

I think that GNPP was also against the Weimar Republic; and the the GPP and the ISD were at least ambigous (but I could retire the GPP, because they are in the government at 1924).

Interesting read. I don't disagree with the argument. I think the size of the administrative state may be a key factor that some analyses overlook.

But I don't think American fascism has ever been a serious concern among political scientists. Their concern, rather, is political instability and the move toward an illiberal democracy. The erosion of democratic norms and traditions is one problem. We see Trump and many of his supporters reveling in every norm violation.

Internal disunity, both at the elite and mass levels, is another issue. We have two polarized parties that represent distinct ideological and cultural tribes. The consequence: a gridlocked Congress that can't fulfill its basic duties, such as passing a budget. Forget about it addressing the country's problems. There's just too much disagreement to act.

Constitutional hardball is a third concern. We lack a clear legal road map for ending standoffs between and within branches of government. As long as both sides are willing to go for broke ( or to play chicken), there's nothing in the Constitution that helps solve or ease the confrontation. Under normal circumstances, democratic norms would check such behavior -- as would a largely moderate electorate that expects government to function reasonably well. But we have neither in great measure. So now when there is a standoff, we have no moderating forces. The government thus shuts down, or the Congress refuses to fill Supreme Court vacancies. These kind of antics may be a prelude to worse, more destabilizing standoffs.

These three factors on their own won't push the country toward illiberalism. But add them together and we have a country that's unprepared, and unwilling, to solve its next major crisis (whether external security threat or financial meltdown). That's the fear. Not some neo-fascist takeover.

You could have just said fascism will never happen in America because its citizens are armed, but that would have required a level of bravery you do not possess.

If you want to find fascism, seek out a more-pliable citizenry. Europe is a good bet.

How will a bunch of disorganized people with stockpiles of guns and ammo at home prevent fascism? And even if organized, small arms are no match for the weapons of modern warfare.

After all, that's why the Iraq war was so easy.

Genocidal eradication literally was not an objective.

The Iraqis were supposed to "own" whatever outcome occurred, so US forces had to be limited to the extent that the outcome be believed by Iraqis as not forced upon them by a colonial regime (or any sort of thing like it).

Your hypothetical fascist regime is planning genocidal eradication in the US? What exactly is the hypothetical here? Is it different from the OP?

In Iraq, the coalition faced a situation that was easier than some hypothetical aspiring American despot would face, and had looser rules of engagement than could reasonably be applied domestically before a truly complete consolidation of power around a tyrant. And even then winning was hard and took almost ten years and a lot of money.

In the US, your prospective tyrant has to get past millions of people with AR-15s before he has the power to, say, call in airstrikes on domestic civilians. I hesitate to say it can't happen, but it's a much harder problem. Some massive crisis like a devastating plague or a non-trivial nuclear war would probably be a necessary preamble.

Lord Action,

You're assuming a level of steel and resolve the vast majority of the American people don't possess.

Unlike the Iraqis, the vast majority of Americans have no personal experience within living memory of prolonged mass conflict much less of their infrastructure destroyed and their society collapsing due to said conflict. Americans have had it too good for too long. As a people, we've gone soft and lack the grit, sense, cunning, and strategic foresight to organize and endure a successful resistance.

Keep in mind, too, that a good portion of those millions with AR-15s are Tackleberry-type meatheads who've seen Red Dawn too many times and have delusions of being Chris Kyle. Against a trained and resourced military force, they'll get cut to pieces in short order.

There's also the matter of Americans hating each other as much or more than they hate the fascists. In any such authoritarian crackdown, between a third and a half of the public will be on the side of the regime. Were the U.S. military to, say, roll into San Francisco or Brooklyn and start wholesale slaughtering cosmopolitan yuppies and hipsters, Red America wouldn't shed any tears much less rush to their defense. Similarly, were the military to, say, "scour the Shire" of greater Appalachia, Blue America wouldn't lose much if any sleep over it.

The point is simply that guns are unlikely to protect against tyranny in the USA.


"I hesitate to say it can’t happen"

More specifically, I'm not saying it can't happen. The lesson of the last couple of hundred years is that great powers rarely go a century without experiencing violent invasion or revolution. The US is a weird exception to this rule, not the norm, and it's only been 150 years here.

I'd put it down to geography, wealth, and an armed populace, in that order. But hey, I'm just some guy on the internet. Feel free to disagree.

Clearly, having an armed population helps keep the state under control. You can quibble about the degree to which it helps, but most of you are saying "It's not an insurmountable obstacle to a would-be dictator," and not "It matters not at all or would even facilitate a rising tyrant."

Re: . As a people, we’ve gone soft and lack the grit, sense, cunning, and strategic foresight to organize and endure a successful resistance.

That was said of us before WWII and it proved quite beside the point when the crunch came. To be sure that involved external foes, but there is an object lesson there.

That was the lesson of the Branch Davidians.

I wonder how far down the chain of command the order would go before the issuer of said order takes a bullet?

Depends how many people you are willing to kill in your counter-insurgency.

Sure, all-out ethnic cleansing and democide stuff against entire cities, then yeah. Small arms are almost useless.

But if you are trying to keep the violence at small-arms level and the situation "normal-ish", small-arms with insurgents (and improvised explosives) are not that greatly disadvantaged against conventional soldiery.

Ask the SA or the Italian squadristi...

Far from preventing fascism, the armed militias of inter-war Europe weren't the stalwarts against fascism, they were the vanguard of it.

Spain, 1936-39

When was the last time you heard someone talk about the federal reserve? Complete and total fascist takeover over governments just means cis-hetero-normative bathroom rules and you can't immigrate illegally.

I remain unconvinced. You're relying on the bureaucracy to halt fascism when as best I can discern the bureaucracy is the most fascist "branch" of our government. It is an unelected group of people who create rules that carry the force of law with very little oversight from anyone besides the executive. As soon as we have an executive willing to rule entirely by fiat (phone and pen) and aligned with their interests, the fascism will be the next natural step.

Disagreeing with something does not make it "fascist". You could consider consulting a couple/few dictionaries on the matter.

“It’s not fascism if I agree with the regime!” This feels like a defining viewpoint of the Clinton/Obama left.

I'm not sure if people are thinking that I'm out for one particular tribe here. I really just think that the bureaucracy is a sword that is currently in a stone and as soon as a president has the power to draw it, it will be the best weapon of fascism. It isn't that they are each individually fascists now or will become so.

Mussolini did not take over Italy in one day. It started with railing against communism, then he courted the business people by banning labor unions, then signed peace with the catholic church, then a well oiled patronage system for civil servants and local governments.

The lesson here is to select a few low popularity enemies, start with them and never stop finding new enemies.

On a second thought, I'm amazed how religion was forgotten in Sunsteins's text.

In the case of Italy, the fascist dictator represented a lifesaver for the Vatican that lost almost everything on the 1870 defeat. The Vatican sanctified the guy who helped them, he got god's stamp of approval. The US also has a rich history of pro-war and pacifist churches (Civil war, Spanish war). Pacifist churches counterbalance any fascist tendency coming from the government.

I know priests prayed for Germany's victory in WW1 and for Italy's victory in WW2. I have no idea what are the current trends or conditions among US priests. My not educated guess would be there is still a lot of people that pray for peace. Of course, praying is not the mechanistic cause, but it rises the status of peace and lowers the status of fascism among churchgoers.

I know priests prayed for Germany’s victory in WW1 and for Italy’s victory in WW2.

I'm sure there are lots of centenarians in the clergy who were members of the Silver Shrits.

The attempt has surely been made. The transition teams in every department were literally called "beachhead teams", coming from outside, reporting to nonconfirmed WH staff, and trying to skirt limits on their tenure. Meanwhile official positions in the bureaucracy were made to be and left empty, and aligned judicial nominees were fast tracked.

In other words: the duly elected president somehow got the idea that he had some say in the workings of executive departments. How unsophisticated/fascist! It is admittedly by now a pretty radical and discontinuous idea, but some quaint American souls might call it "democracy"—which, by now, we all deserve good and hard.

"That means such a state will predominantly comprise policemen, soldiers, possibly border authorities, Coast Guard employees and others in related support services. The culture and ethos of such a state is likely to be relatively masculine and also relatively martial and tolerant of a certain amount of risk, and indeed violence. "

But every state has those services. And they're always relatively 'masculine and martial'. And isn't it the case that those are the only agencies required for a military takeover? I mean, it wouldn't really matter if the departments of education or heath were opposed, would it? They don't have the guns nor the training to use them. And once a forcible takeover has been accomplished, opponents in the rest of government don't have to be brought around -- they can always be purged and replaced (as was done under the Nazis and as Erdogan seems to have been doing for a few years now).

Furthermore, under a 'nightwatchman state', the state would not be in the habit of managing citizens' lives nor would citizens be accustomed to accepting such direction and interference. And was pre-Nazi Germany really anything like a classic liberal state? I was under the impression that Germany was the birthplace of the welfare state which had been in place a couple of generations by the time Hitler seized power. This, to me, sounds like quite the opposite of a small, 'nightwatchman state':

A wide range of progressive social reforms were carried out during and after the revolutionary period. In 1919, legislation provided for a maximum working 48-hour workweek, restrictions on night work, a half-holiday on Saturday, and a break of thirty-six hours of continuous rest during the week. That same year, health insurance was extended to wives and daughters without own income, people only partially capable of gainful employment, people employed in private cooperatives, and people employed in public cooperatives. A series of progressive tax reforms were introduced under the auspices of Matthias Erzberger, including increases in taxes on capital and an increase in the highest income tax rate from 4% to 60%. Under a governmental decree of 3 February 1919, the German government met the demand of the veterans' associations that all aid for the disabled and their dependents be taken over by the central government (thus assuming responsibility for this assistance) and extended into peacetime the nationwide network of state and district welfare bureaus that had been set up during the war to coordinate social services for war widows and orphans.

There must have been a whole lot of non-martial bureaucrats running those programs -- so didn't they stop Hitler and the Nazis?


Indeed, the wide-ranging bureaucracy of Germany became a tool for entrenching Fascist power. Identity cards, residence registration, firearm restrictions, employment laws, national health campaigns, and of course a vast network of government patronage for supporters of the Nazi's to enjoy.

+1. By way of example, the large city in which I live has a building inspection department which regulates new building and renovation, and a health inspection department that certifies restaurant kitchens, etc. They employ a bunch of people but I don't think a fascist government would need to assert control of those agencies to rule as a fascist government. I would suspect that Germany had similar government functions in place when the Nazis took over, and those government functions continued under Nazi rule in much the same way.

I'd add that it's questionable soldiers *are* more tolerant of risk than the guys behind the Irak Attak. Maybe they understand, from personal experience, that war is kind of a bad thing?

Simpler states in the past may have been more martial, but simply because of a lack of nuclear weapons, and generally a lack of mass destructive capability extraordinarily reduced the lethality of war to members of the wargroup, and society in general.

Bravery and courage, and actual experience in combat, is not bellicosity, and perhaps often reduces the likelihood of war.

(Of course, this is all more of the TC "Men are brutes; pro-large complex states staffed by women" type stuff that is either "Straussian" in intent, to draw out inevitable criticisms, or a means of providing boilerplate for the status quo).

It depends on what your definition of 'fascism' is.

If the definition is government, RNC and DNC, and elites' control over everything. America is pretty much there. So, government is incompetent. That isn't helpful when everything it touched turns to $#!+.

> No matter who is elected, the fascists cannot control the bureaucracy, they cannot control all the branches of American government, they cannot control the judiciary, they cannot control semi-independent institutions such as the Federal Reserve, and they cannot control what is sometimes called “the deep state.”

They don't have to control any of that. All they have to control is USMC and SOCOM. All it would take would be a Navy Seal fireteam to end Federal Reserve independence. USMC 1st Recon could shut down the entire DOJ in about 3 hours. All of DC could be captured by the 101st Airborne in a day or two. Even if the rest of the military was nominally opposed, it really couldn't do anything.

Most of the military's just logistical support, and has little to no use in actual combat. No one's going to sign off on deploying air support, missiles, naval bombardment, drones or artillery on US soil. Certainly not nukes. At best maybe the deep state could get the loyalist army units to muster a few mechanized infantry groups.

OK, now your Navy seals are in the boardroom at the Federal Reserve. What next? The FOMC no longer has the ability to steer the nominal economy, but it is not at all clear that you've gained it.

There would be no need to storm the bureaus. At first, after a coup, little changes. Bureaucrats report to work as usual. Gradually, over the course of months or years, more and more 'emergency' laws are adopted and purges proceed in waves. As happened in Germany under Hitler. As has been happening under Erdogan in Turkey. Do I think there's a danger of Fascism in the U.S.A.? No. But it's not because a big, unwieldy, unaccountable bureaucracy serves as a bulwark against it.


Agreed. Why do otherwise sensible commentators think authoritarian takeovers happen overnight? Evidence suggests it can take between 5 to 15 years to really subvert a state to one-party rule once you have seized the executive. Look at Venezuala, Turkey, Russia, etc.

P.R. China is fascist right now, and is both large and threatening to most of the world. And yet the most self-avowedly "anti-fascist" people seem un-interested in publicizing that information or opposing China's fascist state. Many alleged anti-fascists, in fact, seem to admire China's system, fantasizing about all the good they could do in their own country if they only held all of the levers of power like China's rulers do.

Oops, discussion below.

China is indeed as close to textbook fascism as any other polity today. (And people complain about, say, Poland going fascist? The recent law to dissociate Poles from the Holocaust was a ridiculous undertaking and only came to a vote because of "perfect storm" political jockeying.)

And we hear very little about the import of recent significant changes in China.

So how China's fascist state is not a counter example to Tyler's argument that larger governments are harder to become fascists? Also, German government spending in 1937 was 34% of GDP, more than Germany in 1960 and the US in 1996 according to the same source Tyler quotes in the article.

Big data meet "AI" prediction/feedback/control meet EM weapons

In such a situation, diversity and magnitude of areas of public sector activity, and size of "the bureaucracy", cannot prevent fascism in the way it might have in contexts of 19th century technology.

And, with deeply data-mined psychological profiling, entrenchment of democratic norms (which among other things require freedom of mind, aka cognitive liberty) could be manipulated to be used toward precisely opposite ends of what people want.

It seems the current administration and republicans, in general, are trying their best to reduce the size of government and lead any and all decisions to a tiny few---whether by not filling positions, forcing long term public servants out, and in general downsizing everything...

"are trying their best to reduce the size of government"


-Reforming Government Agencies: Trump tasked each of his Cabinet secretaries to prepare detailed plans on how they propose to reduce the scope and size of their respective departments while streamlining services and ensuring each department runs more efficiently and handles tax dollars appropriately.


How's the latest Republican budget working out for us? Republicans have always been about making big government more efficient.

This is a good point. I'm not happy about deficits in prosperous times.

I would not attempt to categorize China, other than to say it is not a government I would want, or a relationship we can really turn away from.

So that leaves what, a cool, business-like, interaction?

Oh sure, but the general point here is that China's large bureaucracy didn't "protect" it from being run by very unpleasant people.

Kinda. They are coming from the other side, a totalitarian state that liberalized until maybe it didn't.

On the other hand, we have a government that starts swearing people in with oaths to a democratic/republican (both!) constitution at very low levels.

What we are seeing now, as Kushner is examined for friendly loans etc, is the momentum of our large constitutional government.

Yeah, there's certainly some resistance to the Republicans. You and I may disagree on the reasons for that, but we can agree on the fact of it.

Yet the strong claim here would be that a large bureaucracy protects against bad people getting control of government generally, via "inertial resistance", which doesn't appear to be true to either of us, right?

I think you are trying to wiggle free of the constitutional nature of our bureaucracy. But I suppose that is what defines the American right. Size matters for them more than kind.

Constitutionality should not just be a sometime argument. I think the bulk of voters, and public servants, understand that.

"Constitutionality should not just be a sometime argument. I think the bulk of voters, and public servants, understand that."

Well, we obviously agree on that.

I'd urge a bit of caution about stressing "constitutional nature of our bureaucracy"; does putting an oath in front of the office holder REALLY turn them into the paragons of constitutional order we would want? Doesn't the evidence (US and global) suggest that such oath-taking is at best a modest safeguard against bad behaviour in office?

I have no problem with groups right or left suing government when they see things getting out of hand. That is part of our system too.

i think this wonderful site is losing its bearings. Alex on gun control and this on impossibility are examples. Push re-set please.

It's a reasonable inference that what Sunstein et al mean by 'fascism' is what Scott Sumner means by it: our crowd loses policy battles to people we really despise. The thing is, Sumner, Sunstein, et al deserve to lose those battles and the public interest is served whey they're miserable.

Precisely. Whoever's goring their ox becomes the "fascist." It's an empty term at this point.

+1. It seems just emotive name calling, because its otherwise hard to characterize people who mostly just say "lower my taxes and leave me alone" as a threat to the Republic.

+1. Racist, it's now just a general term of abuse and projection.


"It will be seen that, as used, the word ‘Fascism’ is almost entirely meaningless."

-George Orwell, 1944

And it’s a bit creepy to be lectured on fascism by someone whose wife - Samantha Power - belonged to a government that 1) turned the IRS against Tea Party donors in the runup to the 2010 elections, 2) used the NSA to spy on political opponents, and 3) who herself allegedly unmasked Americans picked up by surveillance hundreds of times.

If you’re using the power for the state to illegally thwart elected representatives who are reducing the power of the state by cutting taxes, shredding regs and appointing originalist judges, well, you’re the fascist.

Power contends someone stole her credentials and petitioned for the unmasking in her name.

At the risk of reducing this to a Twitter meme, these two statements should be mutually contradictory:
1. Trump's election represents a fascist takeover of government!
2. We want more government power, like having the Trump Administration confiscate and ban guns in private hands!

Lots of noise out there, signifying nothing other than identifying with attacks on the "other" guys and hoping something sticks.

I love the passive-aggressive answers, all variations on "sure fascism is bad, but democracy isn't perfect either."

Self-recommended; should have been the first comment on this thread. I find the idea that a sprawling bureaucracy is an impediment to authoritarian rule to be unconvincing. Someone bent on instituting fascism in the US would just need to not the rock the boat, as most of what the government does in the US wouldn’t really be impacted by authoritarian rule. I mean, how much would authoritarian rule change Medicare or Medicaid? What about the CDC? Or the department of education?

Fascism is revanchist in essence. You'll find that in the Arab world, some countries adjacent to the Arab world, North Korea, China, and Russia. In the Arab world, competence is inversely related to political ambition, so you'll face only circumscribed dangers from that quarter. There's a great deal of butt-hurt incorporated into Russia's political culture, but, one might wager, a limited interest in any projects inconsistent with commodious living.

I think it would be fairer to say that the bureaucracy can act as a brake on fascism rather than that it makes fascism impossible. If the military and federal law enforcement have been co-opted, the bureaucracy can do little beyond making the ordinary functioning of government slow down (at least until their bosses are replaced with the party faithful and unreliables have been fired)..

As a general matter, I think its a mistake to view the danger of ethno-nationalistic authoritarianism in the US through primarily the lens of European fascism. US history is replete with extra-legal and quasi-state sponsored (or at least condoned) violence against non-whites, religious minorities and labor activists. An ethno-nationalist authoritarian US government would probably look more like the Trail of Tears, Jon Burge's Area 2 command, the Pinkertons, the KKK or Jim Crow than 1920s Italy. Importantly, the model suggested by the Pinkertons, Burge or the KKK can co-exist with the existing legal framework of the US government. The Bill of Rights would remain on the books (and probably be officially celebrated too) but key government officials would ignore or condone the intimidation / assault / torture / disappearance of undesirables and/or regime opponents.

Excellent points.
Indeed - this is also true of 1930s Germany... while the Gestapo was certainly doing its share of arresting people - and I suppose the SS was technically a "state apparatus", I think it would be better to call the SS Hitler's quasi-state paramilitary goon squad.
Even during Kristallnacht - the looters and pillagers and murderers were comprised largely of non-state actors citizen-Nazis and citizen Nazi sympathizers, though certainly with the encouragement of the state (and certainly including many members of the SS/rump SA - but they were very careful not to carry out any of the violence in uniform). Goebbels said in a speech in advance of Kristallnacht that the "party" should not be involved in organizing any of the 'demonstrations', only that it should not hamper them "if they occur". Heydrich's orders to the SS and SA were stand aside unless non-Jewish businesses or persons were threatened.

In other words, the government has become so large it can no longer be changed by voting. Isn't this closer to the fascist ideal of the State uber alles than a Jefferson-Jackson spoils system?

What do you consider the premier institution in human affairs--the Church, the Family, the Culture, the Populi? If you say "the State," aren't you more inclined toward fascism? Americans are frankly too ornery and cynical for fascism. They love their churches, their kids and moms and dads, their idealized Constitution, even their college alma maters far more than the State. In contrast, I've met Canadians who have a practically tearful reverence for their State, which I find baffling.

Does anybody really see the State in fascist terms any more? Fascism was an inter-War phenomenon as a rival with bolshevism for State power in the vacuum of the departing monarchies. It did not survive the end of World War 2. Hitler was its most successful practitioner and his Reich ended way short of its goals. Mussolini was LARPing; he never really could get the Italians on board. Plucked from its historical context, "fascism" is just a grab-bag term for policies people disagree with, like "racism."

I’ve met Canadians who have a practically tearful reverence for their State, which I find baffling.

I've yet to meet an anglophone Canadian emotionally invested in anything but winter sports and beer. Some of the bourgeois types are given to supercilious posturing, but you can find those types in Beantown and Frisco too.

There is already a fascism of the Left in this country, mainly because of lazy, useful idiots like you not standing up to it.

I'm always uncomfortable with these discussions because I find the term fascism to be ill-defined. Everyone seems to use the word as if we all agree on its meaning. I wish people would give a short two sentence definition of what they mean by fascism before launching in to an essay about it.

It's odd that discussions of Trump involve fascism. Trump doesn't have the ideological focus, motivation, organizational, intellectual, or managerial skills to be much of a tyrant of any particular kind. To me he comes across as a typical New York Democrat, but without any political skills or connections. On the fascist scale, I found Obama to also have a low score, but to have been more of one than Trump, despite is more cosmopolitan style.

When a government has its boot on your neck, do your care if that boot is fascist, communist, or unwieldy bureaucratic?

Trump is a lazy, and probably stupid, would-be authoritarian strong man.

He thought the way the US Presidency worked was that the President just tells people what to do. Like in his company, like in the Philippines or Russia or China. He still tries to do that, current frustration with Sessions as an example.

That sort of looks like a road to WWII vintage Fascism, if more people than the US Border Patrol got behind it.

Again, luckily the people are not getting behind it. Trump's apologists are indirect. They will readily attack the left, but they are not really behind Trump.

Trump is obviously neither lazy or stupid, especially compared to his predecessor.

Personally, I do not like all of his rhetoric, but sure do approve of most of what he's been getting done.

I understand that there is a way to count Trump accomplishments so that they only look like libertarian reductions in government. I don't think that is honest or on-topic here. More important and on-topic is this statement of resistance from Jeff Sessions:

"As long as I am the attorney general, I will continue to discharge my duties with integrity and honor, and this department will continue to do its work in a fair and impartial manner according to the law and Constitution.'

How is that resistance? Had Holder said it, sure. Trump was just questioning using the IG -which I don't understand. The IG was often on Obama's case for illegal activity.

"Wow, Jerry Falwell Jr. calls Jeff Sessions a 'coward'"

Neither Hitler nor Mussolini had much of an ideology, either... Mussolini in particular - immediately following WWI and leading up to the March on Rome, couldn't decide whether the Bolshevik revolution was the most awesome thing ever or the worst thing ever (he ultimately landed on the latter). While there were some early Nazis with strong ideological leanings - only Goebbels survived the 30s (and early 30s at that) and he only survived because he got over his crestfallen Bamberg Conference experience and got on board with the fuhrerprinzip.
Hitler, especially, was famously disorganized and had absolutely shit managerial skills - far from solving or otherwise smoothing over disputes between high-ranking Nazis, he fostered them, even encouraged them. He thought it was a great managerial strategy (both because he had some really twisted ideas about 'competition', but also because lieutenants fighting to curry HIS favor had no time to consolidate their own bases of power and potentially challenge him).

Famous last words?

Pennsylvania Republicans are now planning to impeach the judges who overruled their legislature stealing gerrymander. Scary.

The Republicans everywhere have lately showed off a single-minded willingness to lemming-like run off any irrational, impractical or undemocratic cliff. If the New-York-loudmouth (can be mistaken for blue collar) decides one day, for whatever specious emergency to take over D.C., who can guarantee anyone can stop him?

Pennsylvania Republicans are now planning to impeach the judges who overruled their legislature stealing gerrymander. Scary.

That's not scary. The judges had no authority to do what they did. Not only should they be removed from the bench, they should be disbarred and banished.

Now you're the one who's scary. Judicial review is a long-established tradition in this country and one of the pillars of our democracy. Disposing of it conduces to dictatorship.

Judicial review is an exercise in comparing subordinate law to superordinate law. Since there's no superordinate law which prohibits the legislatures action, this is just an exercise of wilfullness on the part of the judges. They want to be that way, they get wilfullness in return.

I am quite aware, without being reminded by you, that progtrash fancy that 'democracy' is and 'constitutionality' are coterminous with progtrash getting what they want. That is false, of course, and one reason among many others why the contemporary prog program is inherently incompatible with constitutional government and legality.

"Trumpocracy" by David Frum
David Frum’s ninth book expands on his eye-opening March 2017 Atlantic column, “How to Build an Autocracy,” which argued that Trump is leading the nation into authoritarianism. An experienced Washington insider and one of the country’s leading conservative commentators, Frum examines the implications of Trump’s behavior as well as his policies. From Trump’s admiration for […] read more...

So legislatures are not under the authority of the Constitution (federal or state) that establishes them? Who knew?

ARE DUMOCRACY - I'm going to sell bumper stickers.

Judicial review is counter-majority, so inherently undemocratic. Maybe something good, maybe something bad, depending on which ox is being gored.

Impeachment has been an Anglo-American legislative power for 600 years.

Its only "scary" because you like the judicial gerrymandering order.

Scarier and scarier.

Judges are supposed to have the last word -- or the judiciary might as well not exist. Don't like the results, get a hold of the politics it takes to replace retirees or maybe pack the court. Impeaching bad decisions (Roe v. Wade my pick for worst of all) means judges might as well not be there.

Never happened here in 219 years.

And you only say that because you agree with gerrymandering-- letting the politicians pick their voters rather than the voters picking the politicians. That may not be fascism, but it is not exactly a democratic norm either.
Face the facts: your side got called out on blatant cheating.

I don't agree with gerrymandering at all. If you want to get rid of it, constitutions have amendment procedures. Please note that the sine qua non of getting rid of it is quashing the federal judiciary's interference in the redistricting process. You can have re-apportionment and redistricting without gerrymandering by having a practice manual appended to your state constitution which incorporates rules for agglutinating jurisdiction and for allocating any discretionary decisions to local bodies. However, it doesn't work well if you insist on strict equipopulousness in your districts (Robert Bork had a funny story of working as a special master for a federal court which had insisted on an absurd +/- 1% standard for equipopulousness). The federal judiciary has invented these standards out of whole cloth.

I just don't think this generation of the general staff would carry out orders as cartoonishly fascist as you would have to give to shut down the dissenting media in a country that's so closely divided.

Of course all of this depends on how you define "fascism".

If by "fascism" you mean something like an authoritarian dictatorship against the will of the majority of the population, that indeed might be hard.
If by "fascism" you mean an elected government that combines hardline nationalist, racist, and socialist policies, that is entirely possible. If anything having a powerful centralized government with a large bureaucracy makes that easier.

+1 the answer is a 'too small to do this government' rather than a 'too large to be competent to do this government'

And if by fascist you mean "all the institutions in society must work for the good of society as defined by the government"--Mussolini's definition--then the US has been fascist since Heart of Atlanta and gotten steadily more so.


Firstly, a large Bureaucracy affords many tools for control of the populace. The more tools, the easier the authoritarians can control

Secondly, the Bureaucracy is not neutral. It likes authoritarians.

And bureaucrats are trained to follow orders. They do what the law tells them to do, regardless of how inhumane it is.

Well, we're agreeing here. Let's hope it lasts :-)

Also, It's hard to think of many things that resemble fascism more than men with guns coming to remove people from the country they grew up in, purely because their papers aren't in order. Well, at least we aren't putting them in camps. Er, well, at least we aren't executing them.

“purely because their papers aren’t in order.“

You might as well complain that men with guns took a thief’s car away because he didn’t have the paper showing he owns it.

Those bits of paper are the rule of law that protect the legal from the illegal, the weak from the strong and ultimately civilization from chaos.

Fascism will arrive sooner when government makes its own rules, not when it follows rules that originate with the citizens.

You might as well complain that men with guns took a Jew's car away because he didn’t have the paper showing he wasn't a Jew.


Did you mean Roosevelt sending families to internment camps, or Clinton sending in armed men to force Elian Gonzales back to Cuba, or just Obama selectively deporting foreign nationals?

Or just any of the recent Presidents enforcing the law, over the last 50+ years?

How about all of the above?
Do you think that deporting 700,000 people who have grown up in this country would be less bad than the internment of the Japanese?

Perhaps so. The ethnic Japanese Americans had civil and constitutional rights clearly violated.

But what constitutional or civil rights (or even libertarian ethical duty?) is being violated in the 700,000 persons in question? Please be specific with an answer.

So if we passed a law saying that ethnic Japanese had no rights, then the internment camps would have been totally ethical, right?

I assert that a person has a natural right to live in the country he or she grew up in, regardless of wherever that person was born.

So if we passed a law saying that ethnic Japanese had no rights, then the internment camps would have been totally ethical, right?

Oh gosh, no, Hazel. C'mon; such a law would obviously have been unconstitutional, right? Under the equal protections clause. And it would still have violated (our?) libertarian principles in any event.

> I assert that a person has a natural right to live in the country he or she grew up in, regardless of wherever that person was born.

OK. I completely disagree with you, but we have clarified the point of contention.

So how does the existing legal structure, which defines certain people, despite having lived here nearly their entire lives, as not having a constitutional right to live and work in the US, not violate the equal protections clause and/or libertarian principles?
Why does your right to the equal protection of the law depend on the physical location of birth? Or the parent's immigration status at the time of birth? You realize that a child born in a foreign country to a US citizen is a US citizen, right?
My older two sisters and brother are US citizens by birth, despite being born in Canada and never having lived in the US a day in their lives. But a kid transported here at the age of one who has never known any other country is not, and is subject to deportation. Why?

“I assert that a person has a natural right to live in the country he or she grew up in, regardless of wherever that person was born.”

And since this natural right supersedes all other laws, you’ve just erased all national borders, because the illegality of crossing the border is nullified by the act of living on the other side of the border. Europe without the ability, or even threat, to deport, would cease to exist within decades.

Nonsense. You people are always complaining that immigration needs to be slow in order to allow immigrants to assimilate. Well, kids who have grown up in a country are assimilated. If all the children under 5 were teleported from Syria to Europe, those kids would grow up European, not Syrian. Europe isn't going to cease to exist by allowing immigrant children to have rights any more than it would cease to exist via mass adoption of foreign babies.


You have the right of it already- what have I to add? It's entirely down to citizenship, which is not a slight or accidental thing. This unlimited, inalienable right to visit, live and work in a country is dependent on citizenship.

Through its duly-formed government, a people may extend such rights of work and residence to aliens. It may even offer them a way to citizenship itself. But the aliens have no inherent right to demand such things, and enjoy them solely at the pleasure of the host government, which may amend them at any time.

Now, the requirements for citizenship, de sanguis, de solis, may be entirely arbitrary. Perhaps you should argue instead that citizenship requirements are wrong, and should be loosened to accommodate the Dreamers? Then you could end-run around my disagreement.

Perhaps you should argue instead that citizenship requirements are wrong, and should be loosened to accommodate the Dreamers? Then you could end-run around my disagreement.

Obviously that is what I have been arguing all along. I'm baffled as to how this could be a revelation to you that I don't think our immigration or citizenship laws conform to what is morally just. Nor do I think that the laws just ought to be enforced as is because "the law is the law", any more than bureaucrats should "just follow orders". There are cases when the law should be enforced without discretion, but NOT in cases where doing so would violate basic human rights. You don't just enforce a law that violates human rights because it's the law.


Well, please accept my apologies if I have been poor in expressing myself. I do like to distinguish between actions that are moral and actions that are kind, as well as between ethical rights and civil rights and political rights. Too much political philosophy sometimes, I fear.

>> You don’t just enforce a law that violates human rights because it’s the law

Well, we are agreed on that. But I am not persuaded that an ETHICAL right of citizenship flows directly from a long-term residency (using a libertarian ethic and if I understand your claim correctly?).

Now, if you merely wished to assert that people should enjoy a CIVIL right of citizenship flowing from long-term residency, in the US context, you would be on much surer ground with me. Arguing that America SHOULD amnesty the Dreamers through self-interest or compassion is much more persuasive than saying America MUST amnesty them through some ethical obligation. Hortative and Imperatives differ.

I am sympathetic to a claim for amnesty in this case, and for a reform of immigration/citizenship generally, starting with a more honest conversation with less heat and name-calling.

I am not persuaded that an ETHICAL right of citizenship flows directly from a long-term residency

Although I would argue that, yes, it does, in the case of the "Dreamers" it isn't even *just* long term residency, it's residency since childhood. In some cases, one's entire conscious life.

But even in the case of long term residency, heck there are theories of property rights which recognize things like "adverse possession". If a person lives on a plot of land, or just utilizes it long enough, it's theirs. Too bad.
There are statues of limitations in civil and criminal law for many offenses. The same principle should apply to immigration law. Someone who has been in the US for many years should be allowed to stay, especially if they have since married and or had children who are US citizens. There are literally millions of aliens married to American citizens who would otherwise be eligible to apply for residency, except that they immigrated illegally. After ten, twenty years, that should end.

I don't see any validity to the claim that people should be restricted to the country they are born in. Why should immigration be restricted?

Why should immigration be restricted?

Because if a million Jews emigrate to the West Bank then it's no longer Palestine but Greater Israel. Or Chinese into Tibet, or Turks into Greece, or Arab Muslims into the Christian Levant, or European Christians into the Pagan Americas.

It's hard to think of anything more fascist than the government taking away my car just because its papers say I stole it from Hazel meade.

I will be going to live in Hazel Meade's house. Her son has offered me a job to do his homework and as long as I don't break anything I should be free to come and go as I please.

Children , families, and the homeland you grew up in, are just like cars. Mere objects of trivial important.

Yeah I don't understand the fanatical opposition to DACA, unless it's a rhetorical game or a bargaining chip for something else. Can't one agree that the Dreamers morally have the right to be made de jure citizens as they are de facto ones now? They didn't break any laws (their parents did), they are as 'American' as the next person, etc. Can't a smart guy like Alistair agree those people need to be admitted and still oppose illegal immigration by adults?

Hell, I can even see being in favor of deporting the illegals who entered of their own volition (I'm pretty much there) but I simply do not see the argument to expel the Dreamers. There's only the 'moral hazard' and we do lots of things even with moral hazards because they are the right thing to do. This is one of them.

Oh Msgkings, I am entirely sympathetic to the appeal for amnesty. Or a limited amnesty to dreamers in "good standing" or whatever. I have no great love for the Dreamers, but the cost is modest (mostly sunk) and I weigh the moral hazard against the bad optics.

I'd just such to be recognised AS an amnesty. A gift outright from the US people. Not something the dreamers have any moral or constitutional right to. A man may gift something freely if asked nicely, but would guard the same jealously should he suspect you of forcing him to part with it.

Alas! I am not lucky enough to be an American. You must persuade your countrymen, not me.

I can only comprehend it as the product of some sort abject hatred, either for foreigners, or for the Democrats and everything they stand for. Why would you want to do something that horrible to another human being? Why would you want to take a young person, at the beginning of their life, who has never harmed you, and sever them from their family, their friends, their future, and the only home they have ever known? A person who wants that must be filled with an uncontrollable rage and hatred and a disregard for the humanity of the people they are trying to strike back at.

"They didn’t break any laws "

Did they work before DACA came around? Then they broke a law.

While working, did they use a false or stolen social security number? Then they broke a law.


It's good form to assume your opponents are not motivated by pathological means unless you have really good evidence otherwise. Might they not be fairly motivated by moral hazard? And cost (albeit mostly sunk)?

I'd also note that libertarian ethics are fine with inflicting harm, even great harm, so long as no rights are violated. If you wish to use a utilitarian ethic instead then your position would be more consistent.

"Yeah I don’t understand the fanatical opposition to DACA"

Very few people have any opposition for the DACAs, but then people try to conflate the issue with other illegal aliens. The shrill complaints that the DACAs are already legal here doesn't help at all. I'm all for a method for them to stay and gain citizenship, am much less sympathetic to those who entered as adults. Mixing the two, and then further adding in legal immigrants into the conversation seems dishonest. People react to more harshly to this. An honest conversation will get you further.

@Bob: really? Hazel must be right, you people just hate these kids. Or you hate Dems so much that anything they support must be opposed, even when it's the plain and simple right thing to do. Sad.

@TMC: Hazel and I have always argued honestly here, we aren't conflating illegal adults with Dreamers. If some Dreamers' dad has to get deported, well, that's different. But the kid should stay. And yet we still can't get a single one of you haters to just say 'ok fine, it's true, Dreamers should be allowed to stay'.

I'm not assuming that they are motivated by pathological hatred. I'm unable to relate to why someone would want to inflict such harm on another human being, unless they were motivated by pathological hatred.

I’d also note that libertarian ethics are fine with inflicting harm, even great harm, so long as no rights are violated.

Not if your "rights" are grounded in morality and not arbitrary legal constructs.
In a theoretical universe, we could have a system where people named Alistair have no legal right to work. And then if you got a job I could legally imprison you. Libertarian ethics would not be fine with that. Libertarian ethnics would hold that a system in which people named Alistair don't have a legal right to work is unjust and immoral.

What do you mean 'you' haters? Haven't I said, several times, that I agree with you about the DACAs? Look 2 comments up from yours for the lastest time. "I’m all for a method for them to stay and gain citizenship" This is your example of your honesty?

"lastest " You chose, either latest or last.

@TMC, ok then don't mischaracterize me as conflating DACA with illegals in general. Glad we agree on DACA.

Fair enough, but I've called Hazel out on it several times.

>> Not if your “rights” are grounded in morality and not arbitrary legal constructs. In a theoretical universe, we could have a system where people named Alistair have no legal right to work. And then if you got a job I could legally imprison you. Libertarian ethics would not be fine with that. Libertarian ethnics would hold that a system in which people named Alistair don’t have a legal right to work is unjust and immoral

Thank you for your defence of my ethical rights in such a universe, please be assured the sentiment is reciprocated. But note such Alistair's (and his employer's) "right to work" is just a function of their free association in libertarian ethics; it doesn't allow such Alistairs to ignore other people's right to exclude them (a well-known bunch of troublemakers) from their individual and collective property whilst undertaking such work.

I suggest we are mostly arguing about whether a right is being violated in the first place, not that such rights supersede mere legalities. Hence my earliest suggestion; could you tell me precisely what ethical (from a libertarian ethic?) right of the Dreamers is being violated.

It seems to me, and apologies if I misrepresent you, you have to conjecture something like "Long standing residence in X creates a right of permanent residence/work or citizenship in X", and it is not clear to me that such can be derived simply from libertarian foundations.

it doesn’t allow such Alistairs to ignore other people’s right to exclude them (a well-known bunch of troublemakers) from their individual and collective property whilst undertaking such work.

"collective property" is a strange phrase for a libertarian to use, as is your collectivization of "Alistairs" as a "bunch of troublemakers", which "other people" as a collective entitity supposedly have a collective right to exclude from said employment, even if individual members of this "other people" entity DO wish to employ and invite to their property certain Alistairs.
Very strange since libertarian ethics are fundamentally based on liberal individualism. That is, recognizing that rights belong to individuals not groups. In other words, you are rationalizing denying that there is any such thing as individual rights, since you're essentially arguing (again) that collective groups get to just decide what everyone else's rights are via collective (government enforced) exclusion from society. The one thing I WILL grant is that if everyone in a community individually decided not to employ someone, that someone doesn't have a right to employment. What the community cannot justly do is have a majority vote to decide that people named Alistair can't have jobs, any more than a democratic government can justly vote to imprison ethnic Japanese in internment camps.

Much of the reluctance to just say “ ok, let’s legalize all the dreamers” is because of the systematic bad faith of the pro illegal immigration advocates.

We have repeatedly made these “one time only” deals, “legalize this batch, and we’ll enforce the laws in the future”. No credibility left at this point.

I’d support residency, no citizenship and no voting, ever. But contingent on the wall, no chain migration, no diversity lottery, vigorous enforcement of existing law, e-verify - all in place and working for 10 years. Not much to ask in order to address this pressing humanitarian crisis is it?

You know, I wish people would just acknowledge that the "Dreamers" are human beings who have human rights, and not just act as if they are mere pawns in some sort of chess game, collateral damage, or invading ants to be stomped upon.

You know, I wish people would just acknowledge that the “Dreamers” are human beings who have human rights,

No one suggested they were rabbits, Hazel, so quit striking poses. Their human rights do not include residing in foreign countries contrary to law. Like anyone else, their human rights are properly exercised in their home country under the aegis of their home polity.

The Dreamers are already in their home country, the US. It's where they grew up, where they fit in, where they speak the language. It's their home. How many times does this distinction need to be made, if you are brought here as a child, this is your home, and you didn't do anything wrong to be here. I can see an argument that after age 14 or so, even though you are still a 'child', you can reasonably considered to have cultural roots where you were born. Not for kids under say 10.


It’s not really about this batch, it’s the unending stream standing behind them. The fact that their advocates are unwilling to cut the sort of deal that I outlined just demonstrates that they think so too.

So it’s political cash in advance, no deal on credit. Schumer et al could make this deal in a day., and solve the dreamer issue. They don’t want to.

@Engineer: I'm saying in this case they shouldn't be a partisan bargaining chip. It's so obviously the right thing to do (as I said I can't think of a reason not to) that we should just handle it separately. Then the two sides can go back to fighting the usual way about immigration in general.

The only issue in my mind is the moral hazard one, and what to do 20 years from now with the next batch of kids brought here illegally. I don't know how to address that to be honest, but I do know that on a purely moral basis, these people should not be deported from their home country, the US.

It’s not really about this batch, it’s the unending stream standing behind them.

There's not an unending stream. It's pretty hard for a child under 10, or an infant, to get to the US without help, and denying them the right to legalize their parents status is an option on the table. Also, there's still the fact that you can deport a child back to their home country if they haven't been here that long. You could define some reasonable age and time limits, like "children who came here before the age of 10, and who have reached the age of 16." I.e. if someone came here when they were 10 and is now 14, you could still send them back. Or if they were 12 and are now 18, you could still send them back. But that would involve having a rational discussion which would acknowledge that the right to be counted as an American isn't something that the white majority exclusively gets to control.

And Art, it's not a "pose". I came to the US when I was 18 years old, as an immigrant from Canada, and at the time rather clueless about the immigration system and what it was going to take to be allowed to pursue my dreams here.
So I guess I just relate strongly to people in the Dreamers position. I wasn't even an "illegal" immigrant. I cannot even fathom how awful it would be to find out that you have no legal right to work in your own country upon reaching the age of majority.

...And not even not have a legal right to work in the country they grew up in, but not even have any legal path to ever GET to having a legal right to work in their own country.
Try to put yourself in their shoes, for once. Literally, there is no difference between their situation and being an official pariah.

They break the law every day the remain in the country. No child has the right to the property their parents stole and citizenship is property.

Also, we know very well that you only like immigration in order to hurt people you don't like and inflict the gangs and drugs on them.

So we want to throw them out to make you angry as well.

And Art, it’s not a “pose”. I came to the US when I was 18 years old, as an immigrant from Canada, and at the time rather clueless about the immigration system and what it was going to take to be allowed to pursue my dreams here. So I guess I just relate strongly to people in the Dreamers position.

Your dreams are not a public interest and your biography is no more probative of a normative position than mine is.

I wasn’t even an “illegal” immigrant. I cannot even fathom how awful it would be to find out that you have no legal right to work in your own country upon reaching the age of majority.

It isn't their country, nor was it the country of the adult who smuggled them over the border. It doesn't get to be just because Hazel repeats a lie over and over.

So we want to throw them out to make you angry as well.

If the law is not enforced, it is not a law. But, yes, irritating the graceless Miss Hazel is a side benefit.

Art Deco may be unduly confrontational here, but I have to agree with his reasoning RE Dreamer "rights".

Hazel, I'd back a case for amnesty from compassion. Or perhaps that a lack of enforcement/deportation over long period creates a presumptive right of citizenship (analogous to rights of way).

BUT I won't agree the Dreamers have a "right" to be in the US per se. Your reasoning here seems to proceed from the assumption that such a right exists (you talk vaguely of "human rights", but never specify your precise moral claim), whereas Art et al have been attacking that very assumption. Do you understand? They are bashing your premise, not your logic. And you have not mounted a defence of your premises; you just keep repeating your argument over.


> I cannot even fathom how awful it would be to find out that you have no legal right to work in your own country upon reaching the age of majority.

Yes, I know, it's horrible to be them. But good grief, Hazel; this is argumentum ad misericordiam. Don't do that on an economics blog....

Thanks, Tyler, this was actually a fairly interesting take on the situation -- something which I admittedly did not expect from an essay in such a book. Still, even if you accurately judge the smaller danger as, well, small, I think you're ignoring the much bigger danger -- the Democrats.

I'll just make one point to illustrate what I mean, which is on the topic of how a fascist or totalitarian government is essentially created by victory of Party over State.

I agree that Trump and/or the more Establishment Republicans would find it extraordinarily difficult to take over the huge, sprawling bureaucracies which comprise the so-called Deep State -- a necessary step in the creation of that dreaded beast, the One-Party State. What I find curious is your lack of worry about the danger of the Democratic Party taking over the bureaucracies, given that they have almost entirely achieved this already. The university system is a Democrat stronghold - and boy howdy do they want you to feel it these days - and it feeds all the major government departments, both in terms of actual personnel and in terms of studies, recommendations, consultants, etc. All of this goes for the media as well. The elected branches of government are by comparison thin and weak, and the "Republicans" are effectively a sham, having been unable to hold the center for half a century running.

I have made this point on this blog before, but bear with me again: one necessary step in creating such a totalitarian state, implemented by both the Nazis and the Soviets, was the purging of political "undesirables" from the academic institutions - because those institutions are vested with the sacred right to officially separate truth from falsehood (not to mention the sacred right to directly teach the brightest, most talented, and most ambitious young people). If you can prevent your opponents from receiving intellectual and rhetorical training or academic prestige, you can reduce them to a mass of idiots; even if they are right on one count - opposition to you - they will be so transparently crazy on other counts that nobody will take them seriously.

Again, note which American party is currently actively engaged in rooting out political undesirables from the academic institutions, and work out the rest at your leisure.

What I find curious is your lack of worry about the danger of the Democratic Party taking over the bureaucracies, given that they have almost entirely achieved this already.

Expressed worry about that is status-lowering in the faculty rathskellar.

+1. The Academy is the wellspring of the Cathedral.

Tyler thinks the bureaucracy is somehow an "inert, resistive mass" against authoritarianism, which is really weird coming from an economist. Public Choice, much?

Tyler's definition of fascism is too old-fashioned. Modern control of citizens will come from something like the social credit score that the Chinese are already using.

One big flaw in the argument - and the data presented - is you only consider Italy and Germany in terms of government spending on GDP.
This is a classic "all dogs are poodles" -- the more correct "all poodles are dogs, but not all dogs are poodles" look would include looking at other countries.
Here's a quickie table showing government spending as a percent of GDP going back to the 1930s comparing the US, UK, Germany, and Japan. (not vouching for the source, just the quickest google find with a 1930s GDP spending comparison). Far from outlier - Germany is actually right in the middle - a smidge above the US, below the UK, well above Japan. This table DOES include debt servicing - take that out, and Germany is actually outspending the UK (and France, though not included in this particular table. Keep in mind, too - Versailles had placed significant limits on the Reichswehr - so those relatively comparable GDP figures? France and Britain were spending them on enormous armies to control their worldwide empires... The Germans were limited to a virtually non-existent navy, no air force, and an army no larger than 100K. Where did that extra GDP go?
What's more - there was, for example, no national German police force in 1933 - the Nazis didn't just rename the state (as in federal) police, the Gestapo was created. This is a big reason why in the "Hitler cabinet" - Hitler and Goering insisted on Goering getting ministerial control of Prussia... It had the largest of the Lander police forces... and he very much did - before the Enabling Act, a year and half before the Night of the Long Knives - set about installing loyal Nazis in key positions. It wasn't until 1934 that Hitler made the Gestapo - then just the Prussian police - a national force.
What's more - it's a complete missing of history in that the Nazis LOVED bureaucracy. Ministers often had overlapping portfolios and even with the increasing centralization, they still kept their state gauleiters in place and those gauleiters still exercised significant power (indeed, if anything, it got some of them in trouble with Berlin when such exercises became overly comical).
It should be noted, too - the first exclusionary law the Nazis passed was related to the civil service; government posts. Before they were barred from the law, the military, education - the Nazis banned Jews from working in the government.
There may well be good reasons that fascism can't happen in America -- the size of government is not one of them. It's a bad theory that cherrypicks the hell out of even the limited data it uses and completely ignores rather glaring evidence to the contrary.


Bureaucracy is a tool of control. Having more of it ultimately favours the bad guys here.

I agree -

To the extent there's much of anything to be gleaned from analysis of totalitarianism superimposed on bureaucracy (let's set aside fascism and just more generalized despotic/tyrannical regimes), it's that deep, overlapping bureaucratic layers work in favor of such regimes because they provide a layer of insulation... One can certainly see this in plenty of deeper dives in the Holocaust - from train conductors to paper stampers to engineers - the 'layers' between facilitators and actual guards and camp personnel granted (in the minds of those 2-3-4-etc times removed) a degree of "I'm not responsible".
The same problem tends to exist on the diametrically opposite side - deep bureaucratic layers tend to inhibit actual state "good works" (be it building schools, maintaining safety nets, whatever).
The key difference in my mind is that one might say "altruistic intents" may well tend to increase bureaucratic layers unintentionally (and thus, blunt their means to the proposed ends); but the "bad guys" tend to rely on bureaucratic layers as more of a necessity. Call me an optimist regarding humanity - but I tend to believe the proportion of truly evil human beings is generally low... to carry out such evil on a nationwide level, a totalitarian state virtually requires a multi-layered bureaucratic edifice to provide insularity for those necessary for all manner of humdrum activities in service of a malignant purpose. I.e., the trains need to run and someone has to ensure the trains carry people to the camps and gulags don't run into the trains transporting grains.
I think that the leap too many make is trying to assign an ideology towards a regime-agnostic growth in bureaucracy. That tends to know no ideology - though, without thinking too deeply about, I might well make the case that bureaucratic growth in a non-totalitarian, democratic system where repression isn't the aim, comes in the form of increasing layers of oversight, investigation/validation of benefits/beneficiaries to prevent fraud and waste, etc.
Shifting slightly from bureaucracy to "regulation" - I think it's likewise a misnomer to assume large corporate concerns automatically oppose regulation. While the details and specifics matter, of course, large interests actually tend to support (crafted as they prefer) regulatory thrust because it can provide a distinct advantage... Tipping points here and there, of course - but a large entity operating in a space with potential smaller, more nimble competitors would most certainly wish to leverage the advantage of having a large HR department, in-house counsel, et al over would-be competitors not able to have such.

South American history, and more particularly Argentina, Brazil, and Chile, would appear to offer examples that may contradict Tyler's assertion that a large, unwieldy government is a useful protection against fascist/authoritarian movements. In Argentina in 1976, Isabel Peron presided over a government that had been large and unwieldy for decades and had programs for everything imaginable (even state control of filling stations) and the inevitable large budget deficits that go with that, but her anti-terrorism eroded civil liberties and opened the door to the coup that led to control of Argentina by a US-backed military junta. Leaving for another day the technical question of whether Peronism itself, or military juntas, meet a particular definition of fascism or authorianism, a large and unwieldy government was not an effective defense against either. Similarly, in Brazil in 2016, a large unwieldy government did not prevent the coup deposing Rousseff. Temer, who replaced her, is considered a fascist by many Brazilians: And, finally, when Pinochet overthrew Allende in 1973, the government of Chile was indeed large and unwieldy, and had nationalized the health care system. Again, leaving aside the question of under what definitions this might merely be fascist replacing fascist, large and unwieldly government was no protection against bad things. The disturbing parallels between these histories and the current US situation might be enough to dissuade one from resting easy on the assumption that our large and unwieldygovernment will prove a bulwark against undesirable political movements. Nevertheless, we should also consider the vulnerabilites created by our large and unwieldy. The large and unwieldy government has produced a weapons acquisition system that guarantees late delivery of over-priced systems that don't work and in insufficient numbers to actually fight a war, so military surrender is probably a fore-ordained outcome should Russia, China, or Mexico attack us. Secondly, rentier capitalism benefitting the elites in our large and unwieldly, and worthless, government, is no great shakes either.

Temer is as facist as Obama was. Anyway, to call the impeachment a coup is ludicrous, clearly a petralha has infiltrated this blog.

It has to have been a coup. The New York Times said so.

Temer is as facist as Obama was. Anyway, to call the impeachment a coup is ludicrous, clearly a petralha has infiltrated this blog.

led to control of Argentina by a US-backed military

No, it led to control of Argentina by a military board because that was the only option left (see Jacobo Timmerman on this point) to restore order. That the U.S. government didn't set up a pointless sanctions regime is incidental.

Thank you for the correction.

This is a terrible argument; much below Tyler's level.

Firstly, Fascism is so badly defined as to be meaningless. How about simply "authoritarian?". Well authoritarian states can clearly co-exist with large bureaucracies. Some may even depend on them. Take China, for instance, is anyone going to argue that authoritarianism in that country is impossible because their bureaucracy is so large? Ha!

Or perhaps, charitably, we are to suppose the large bureaucracy is caused by authoritarianism and actually mitigates against it in the first instance? Again, a terrible argument. At best - at best - a bureaucracy might slow down the authoritarians; until its leaders are replaced...and it's staff positions used as sinecure to cement control. Oh, yeah, it's far easy to cement your power when you have a vast government payroll to reward your supporters than a few hundred jobs in the coast guard. Can we have some recognition of Public Choice and authoritarianism here?

And why assume the bureaucracy is intrinsically hostile to the bad guys? The Deep State has been plenty on-board with many freedom-squashing activities when they come from the "right party". Indeed, the very nature of a large bureaucracy is anti-democratic; it very clearly has interests distinct from the citizenry; and it's supposed to be a force for democracy somehow?

Inherently, a wide-ranging and deep bureaucracy affords limitless ways to reduce the freedom of the population through regulation and oversight. Through it a government can control and regulate and destroy its opposition in a million soft ways. It makes authoritarian projects so, so easy. A night-watchman state, on the other hand, can only send men with guns; a risky and gauche strategy at best. At the risk of Godwin's law the fascists didn't start by rounding up their enemies in the street (the Army was definitely NOT onboard with the programme in 1933). They destroyed them through a long pseudo-legal campaign of ruin, enforced belatedly by the courts and civil service.

" At the risk of Godwin’s law the fascists didn’t start by rounding up their enemies in the street (the Army was definitely NOT onboard with the programme in 1933)."

Yes, they did - or, more exactly, the Italian blackshirts and German brownshirts start to beat the socialists and communists in the street even before taking power (yes, the violence were from both sides, but sooner the "fascists" gained the upper hand). And, in the case of the nazis, the prisions begin almost after Hitler was nominated chancellor (he was nominated at 30 January, the Riechstag fire was at 27 February, and the arrest of the communists begin at 3 March - Ernst Thälmann was arrested that day - or perhaps even before).

The blackshirts and browshirts were private para-military outfits. They had been beating the opposition up for a while. Not the Wehrmacht - in 1933 it is a small, professional / small-c conservative force with a Prussian aristocratic core that despised Hitler. It takes until 1937 before Hitler really neutralises the Army as a political opponent, and he is probably not entirely safe until after France 40.

I do agree that it imprisonment of opponents becomes notably worse once they have the Chancellorship, but again, it takes years of new offences and suborning the judiciary before they have a real monopoly of control.

I'd put it earlier - 1934... It was shortly following the SA purge in August that the military oath was modified to pledge allegiance to Hitler, rather than the state. Ernst Rohm in particular had made a lot of noise about simply replacing the army with the SA, or minimum, integrating the SA into the army (the SA outnumbered the uniformed military by at least 10-1). In addition to eliminating a potential rival (Rohm) AND calming the industrialists (who feared the SA and especially Rohm's more socialist leanings) - it was a big sop to the military.
You're right, of course, that skepticism - especially among the Prussian blue bloods - certainly persisted... though, I would say that it was probably Munich that ended any real threat. The Czechs had a pretty well-defended border, as well as a pretty capable army - and most of the OKH feared an actual invasion would be a meatgrinder, even IF France or Britain didn't get involved. When Munich essentially neutered the fears without a shot being fired, many of the skeptics became believers and the outright opponents were despondent to the point of giving up.

That's a thoughtful counter-point. I acknowledge 1938 Munich as point of last serious threat from Army. And that Hitler starts work on suborning the Army immediately after the Night of Long Knives (a sop which gets his foot in the door, so to speak).

And why assume the bureaucracy is intrinsically hostile to the bad guys?

NB Tyler Cowen's remarks on political controversy in North Carolina that he wanted the permanent government to have more power vis a vis elected officials. TC's sense of identification is very much that of a conventional arts-and-sciences academic, and that carries the assumption that the judiciary and the civil service make decisions congruent with what People Like Us want, and not what People Like Them want. The them in question would be the guys who fix TC's car.

The people who fix TC's car don't care about politics the way you and the rest of us here do.

I can see how this works as an argument against dictatorship, but not as an argument against fascism.

I read all the comments (100+) upstream and TC's excerpt and the fly in TC's argument that fascism cannot happen in the USA is this: it assumes "normal" times. If, however, North Korea exploded a half-dozen nuclear bombs on the east and west coasts, I can easily see fascism taking over. If the destruction of twin towers in Manhattan and the loss of a mere 3k people caused a $1T Middle East war(s), I can easily see how a few exploded hydrogen bombs can create an American Hitler. There's even an argument that the Great Depression caused Hitler to rise to power, and Stalin was a product of a failed economic state, the Russian post-Czar state (Lenin's "NEP" plan is evidence that the state had failed, economically).

I'm late to this string of comments, so maybe someone has already made this simple point:

The American administrative state is largely staffed by people from the political left. Many of them sympathize with socialism. Many of them also sympathize with an authoritarian government, as long as it doesn't interfere with the personal freedoms of the "protected classes." Given those circumstances, the bureaucracy would not be unwieldy and would not be an impediment to the imposition of a left-wing authoritarian government. Maybe "The New York Times" wouldn't call it fascism, but that's a pretty low bar.

Re: The American administrative state is largely staffed by people from the political left

That has already been debunked above. Sure, you can find such people, but there are no few number of quite conservative folks, notably at the DoD where control of the actual firepower resides.

1. Debunked does not mean someone has made a counterclaim.

2. "Employees at all the agencies analyzed, without exception, are sending their campaign contributions overwhelmingly to Clinton over her Republican counterpart. Several agencies, such as the State Department, which Clinton once led, saw more than 99 percent of contributions going to Clinton."

I you think Clinton was any kind of left-winger then you were not paying attention for the last 25 years.

It may not be fascism, but plenty of countries with bloated, opaque, bureaucratic states are clearly moving in an authoritarian direction with a strong man leader (China, Saudi Arabia, Turkey...).

This is why fascism is much more likely to arrive in America from the left. The media, academia and the people in the bureaucracy skew heavily left, and therefore are much less likely to be a check on left-wing governments.

For example, Obama directed the IRS to be 'extra diligent' when looking at applications for tax-free status from right-wing organizations, and not only did the IRS willingly comply, it appears they went even farther and basically sat on applications from right-wing non-profits for years, essentially tipping the playing field to the democrats to some degree. And the media treated it like a nothing story.

Now ask yourself what the response would have been if Trump gave the same order, but for left-wing firms. My guess is that the order would have been leaked almost immediately by a liberal in the government, and the media would have gone bananas with it and tried to turn it into the next Watergate.

It's hard for Fascism to take hold unless it controls the media and academia. And those aren't contolled by Republicans, no matter how big Fox News looms in your fever dreams.

I've long had a personal rule to ignore the opinion of anyone who describes any contemporary political figure as "fascist". I've yet to see a single reason to change that rule.

I see no reasonable alternative to what Huxley (1965) expressed so well: "Eternal vigilance is not only the price of liberty; eternal vigilance is the price of human decency.” I have to strongly disagree with TC's contention that any particular ideology can't "happen" because our (federal? state? local? ???) government is 'so large and unwieldy'. Unless that was intended to be funny, which I doubt. Fascism is defined to be authoritarian and conservative, so I'm wondering whether mainland China's government qualifies? It is both, isn't it? If no, disregard this, but if so then it must follow that the Chinese government is smaller and more "wieldy" than ours. Right? LMFAO!!

If only we had a few more libertarians around, that fascist's project could possibly succeed.

"How about a President ordering government agents to round up people who don’t have certain papers, physically separate them from their spouses and children, and then ship them to a foreign country? Is that fascist enough for you?"

The Obama Administration deported more than 2 million people. Also fascist?

In essence, we are too complacent to be fascists.

Let's try a read of why TC may make this case, assuming he doesn't believe it (assuming he's not that dumb): as a politically unifying argument.

The centre-leftists get to feel good about their ludicrously overmanned government ("See, at least it does something right"), but they don't get to worry that centre-rightists (even Trumpistas) are the harbingers of fascism any more.

The centre-rightists lose being able to complain about the complex bureaucracy that mainly exists to give upper middle class graduates lots of underlings, but they gain not being denounced as potential handmaidens of fascism.

Perhaps we are resistant to fascism as it was embodied in the early mid-20th century, but Mises was not wrong on the march toward the socialism of the German variety progressing through the Anglosphere. The "Deep State" and bureaucracies are creatures of this interventionist socialism, not opponents.

"The Dictatorial, Anti-Democratic and Socialist Character of Interventionism

"Many advocates of interventionism are bewildered when one tells them that in recommending interventionism they themselves are fostering anti-democratic and dictatorial tendencies and the establishment of totalitarian socialism. They protest that they are sincere believers and opposed to tyranny and socialism. What they aim at is only the improvement of the conditions of the poor. They say that they are driven by considerations of social justice, and favour a fairer distribution of income precisely because they are intent upon preserving capitalism and its political corollary or superstructure, viz., democratic government.

"What these people fail to realize is that the various measures they suggest are not capable of bringing about the beneficial results aimed at. On the contrary they produce a state of affairs which from the point of view of their advocates is worse than the previous state which they were designed to alter. If the government, faced with this failure of its first intervention, is not prepared to undo its interference with the market and to return to a free economy, it must add to its first measure more and more regulations and restrictions. Proceeding step by step on this way it finally reaches a point in which all economic freedom of individuals has disappeared. Then socialism of the German pattern, the Zwangswirtschaft of the Nazis, emerges."

von Mises, Ludwig (1947). Planned Chaos (LvMI)


Mises saw the independence of American youth as a protection against fascist socialism or the soviet variety. Yet, in the description in this passage of German youth prior to WWI resembles many in attendance to American universities today. It should be noted, this youth of the early 20th century grew up to be the bureaucrats for Hitler and the implementers of the "Final Solution":

"HIGH-BROWS turn up their noses at Horatio Alger’s philosophy. Yet Alger succeeded better than anybody else in stressing the most characteristic point of capitalist society. Capitalism is a system under which everybody has the chance of acquiring wealth; it gives everybody unlimited opportunity. Not everybody, of course, is favored by good luck. Very few become millionaires. But everybody knows that strenuous effort and nothing less than strenuous effort pays. All roads are open to the smart youngster. He is optimistic in the awareness of his own strength. He has self-confidence and is full of hope. And as he grows older and realizes that many of his plans have been frustrated, he has no cause for despair. His children will start the race again and he does not see any reason why they should not succeed where he himself failed. Life is worth living because it is full of promise.

"All this was literally true of America. In old Europe there still survived many checks inherited from the ancien régime. Even in the prime of liberalism, aristocracy and officialdom were struggling for the maintenance of their privileges. But in America there were no such remnants of the Dark Ages. It was in this sense a young country, and it was a free country. Here were neither industrial codes nor guilds. Thomas Alva Edison and Henry Ford did not have to overcome any obstacles erected by shortsighted governments and a narrow-minded public opinion.

"Under such conditions the rising generation are driven by the spirit of the pioneer. They are born into a progressing society, and they realize that it is their task to contribute something to the improvement of human affairs. They will change the world, shape it according to their own ideas. They have no time to waste, tomorrow is theirs and they must prepare for the great things that are waiting for them. They do not talk about their being young and about the rights of youth; they act as young people must act. They do not boast about their own “dynamism”; they are dynamic and there is no need for them to emphasize this quality. They do not challenge the older generation with arrogant talk. They want to beat it by their deeds.

"But it is quite a different thing under the rising tide of bureaucratization. Government jobs offer no opportunity for the display of personal talents and gifts. Regimentation spells the doom of initiative. The young man has no illusions about his future. He knows what is in store for him. He will get a job with one of the innumerable bureaus, he will be but a cog in a huge machine the working of which is more or less mechanical. The routine of a bureaucratic technique will cripple his mind and tie his hands. He will enjoy security. But this security will be rather of the kind that the convict enjoys within the prison walls. He will never be free to make decisions and to shape his own fate. He will forever be a man taken care of by other people. He will never be a real man relying on his own strength. He shudders at the sight of the huge office buildings in which he will bury himself.

"In the decade preceding the First World War Germany, the country most advanced on the path toward bureaucratic regimentation, witnessed the appearance of a phenomenon hitherto unheard of: the youth movement. Turbulent gangs of untidy boys and girls roamed the country, making much noise and shirking their school lessons. In bombastic words they announced the gospel of a golden age. All preceding generations, they emphasized, were simply idiotic; their incapacity has converted the earth into a hell. But the rising generation is no longer willing to endure gerontocracy, the supremacy of impotent and imbecile senility. Henceforth the brilliant youths will rule. They will destroy everything that is old and useless, they will reject all that was dear to their parents, they will substitute new real and substantial values and ideologies for the antiquated and false ones of capitalist and bourgeois civilization, and they will build a new society of giants and supermen.

"The inflated verbiage of these adolescents was only a poor disguise for their lack of any ideas and of any definite program. They had nothing to say but this: We are young and therefore chosen; we are ingenious because we are young; we are the carriers of the future; we are the deadly foes of the rotten bourgeois and Philistines. And if somebody was not afraid to ask them what their plans were, they knew only one answer: Our leaders will solve all problems.

"It has always been the task of the new generation to provoke changes. But the characteristic feature of the youth movement was that they had neither new ideas nor plans. They called their action the youth movement precisely because they lacked any program which they could use to give a name to their endeavors. In fact they espoused entirely the program of their parents. They did not oppose the trend toward government omnipotence and bureaucratization. Their revolutionary radicalism was nothing but the impudence of the years between boyhood and manhood; it was a phenomenon of a protracted puberty. It was void of any ideological content.

"The chiefs of the youth movement were mentally unbalanced neurotics. Many of them were affected by a morbid sexuality, they were either profligate or homosexual. None of them excelled in any field of activity or contributed anything to human progress. Their names are long since forgotten; the only trace they left were some books and poems preaching sexual perversity. But the bulk of their followers were quite different. They had one aim only: to get a job as soon as possible with the government. Those who were not killed in the wars and revolutions are today pedantic and timid bureaucrats in the innumerable offices of the German Zwangswirtschaft. They are obedient and faithful slaves of Hitler. But they will be no less obedient and faithful handy men of Hitler’s successor, whether he is a German nationalist or a puppet of Stalin."

von Mises, Ludwig (1945). Bureaucracy

We're six states shy of the number needed to launch a state-initiated constitutional convention that will give the delegates carte blanche to rewrite whatever parts of the U.S. Constitution they choose, and the forces pushing for that to happen are definitely not interesed in the enlightenment and liberal democracy. Six gerrymandered bought-and-paid-for legislatures is all it would take. Couldn't possibly happen...

We’re six states shy of the number needed to launch a state-initiated constitutional convention that will give the delegates carte blanche to rewrite whatever parts of the U.S. Constitution they choose,

Any proposed amendment is subject to a ratification procedure.

Six gerrymandered bought-and-paid-for legislatures

Call the waaahmbulance. The Democratic Party lost an election. No fair! No fair!

The specifics of fascism are I think less interesting than the question of how vulnerable a state such as the US is to any sort of totalitarian or authoritarian slide or takeover.

One way that I measure the maturity and resilience of a state or empire is how difficult or easy it is for a young unheralded outsider to take it over. Alexander the Great wasn't even 30 when he'd conquered most of the western world. Napoleon wasn't even 40 when he'd conquered much of Europe. Hitler was a bit past 50 when the he's conquered most of continental Europe.

You can see the trend, it's unthinkable for some hotshot 28 year old to take over the US government let alone most of a continent. But someone with experience and time to create a faction and set of followers? Probably not in the US, but I don't think the size of the bureaucracy is the key as Tyler claims. As others have pointed out, countries such as Russia, China, and Germany have fallen under the control of dictators. Size of the bureaucracy may very well be a factor but I don't think its the critical factor.

At the end of the day, and some great points/counterpoints above -

I think this is ultimately the big problem with anyone trying to reach back in history and cherry-pick aspects of historical states, systems, and governance with the intended purpose of just using it at best as ammunition against a prevailing, modern state/governance concept, at worst, as a lazy slur. Neither "side" - in a binary reading - has any sort of monopoly on it. The larger points always end up as inverted pyramids of evidence and inevitably, totally lose sight of the difference between correlation and causality.... don't even get me started the Kopel/Halbrook fantasies on guns.

Such things are ALWAYS more complex.... but paradoxically, they're also incredibly simple to do.

For example, it wouldn't be at all difficult to construct (terrible, but superficially eyeball-drawing) argument that, say, "feminism" is actually the best stalwart against fascism. And reactionary rejection of feminism is hallmark of fascism.

To wit, on our 2D scale with just L/R poles -- you had the Bolsheviks actually using women in combat roles, to say nothing of the factories. You had the western style capitalist democracies - somewhat grudgingly, initially, but certainly embracing - women in factories.... and then you had the fascists, most dearly in need of labor (and especially, reliable labor not interested in sabotage), virtually refusing to send the wives and daughters to the factories (at least, until the final days when it hardly mattered anyway). There was, of course, a strong sense of social traditionalism in fascist regimes - women were the mothers and the keepers of the home and it was anathema for them to do anything other than cook, clean, and have babies.

However, to do so - would also be an incomplete analysis... and while there would certain be valid points to be gleaned, it would be inherently wrong to proclaim feminism or the lack thereof as some sort of grand unification theory of fascism (or even a significant part of it). There's just too much more that has to get left out and ignored to the case to paper.

This is one reason why I hate, hate, hate longer "historical" pieces (read: books) that attempt to do such. They inevitably start as nothing more than more than screeds lazily filled in with color by the numbers facts, rearranged to serve the point. It's almost always bad analysis.

Lucrative, though... so forget I said that - in the current environment, I just might have a money maker of an idea on my hands :-)

Well not for nothing but Steve Bannon's tenure in power was remarkably impotent. That alt-right is probably the first political party dedicated to internet trolling in between porn viewings. One would have thought something would have come from their unexpected thrust into power.

I think the word they prefer is "cuckish" :-)

But yeah - it's pretty amazing that all the Bannon tenure really produced was a hackneyed travel ban that ultimately caused more headache than it did really have any earth-shattering change.

Beyond that? Well, it's hard to see how the tax legislation can even be mildly squeezed into a populist agenda. I hear Mnuchin has even been putting out feelers about possibly rejoining the TPP.

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