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Thomas Sowell
Thomas Sowell
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Socialist or Fascist?


It bothers me a little when conservatives call Barack Obama a "socialist." He certainly is an enemy of the free market, and wants politicians and bureaucrats to make the fundamental decisions about the economy. But that does not mean that he wants government ownership of the means of production, which has long been a standard definition of socialism.

What President Obama has been pushing for, and moving toward, is more insidious: government control of the economy, while leaving ownership in private hands. That way, politicians get to call the shots but, when their bright ideas lead to disaster, they can always blame those who own businesses in the private sector.

Politically, it is heads-I-win when things go right, and tails-you-lose when things go wrong. This is far preferable, from Obama's point of view, since it gives him a variety of scapegoats for all his failed policies, without having to use President Bush as a scapegoat all the time.

Government ownership of the means of production means that politicians also own the consequences of their policies, and have to face responsibility when those consequences are disastrous — something that Barack Obama avoids like the plague.

Thus the Obama administration can arbitrarily force insurance companies to cover the children of their customers until the children are 26 years old. Obviously, this creates favorable publicity for President Obama. But if this and other government edicts cause insurance premiums to rise, then that is something that can be blamed on the "greed" of the insurance companies.

The same principle, or lack of principle, applies to many other privately owned businesses. It is a very successful political ploy that can be adapted to all sorts of situations.

One of the reasons why both pro-Obama and anti-Obama observers may be reluctant to see him as fascist is that both tend to accept the prevailing notion that fascism is on the political right, while it is obvious that Obama is on the political left.

Back in the 1920s, however, when fascism was a new political development, it was widely — and correctly — regarded as being on the political left.

Jonah Goldberg's great book "Liberal Fascism" cites overwhelming evidence of the fascists' consistent pursuit of the goals of the left, and of the left's embrace of the fascists as one of their own during the 1920s.

Mussolini, the originator of fascism, was lionized by the left, both in Europe and in America, during the 1920s. Even Hitler, who adopted fascist ideas in the 1920s, was seen by some, including W.E.B. Du Bois, as a man of the left.

It was in the 1930s, when ugly internal and international actions by Hitler and Mussolini repelled the world, that the left distanced themselves from fascism and its Nazi offshoot — and verbally transferred these totalitarian dictatorships to the right, saddling their opponents with these pariahs.

What socialism, fascism and other ideologies of the left have in common is an assumption that some very wise people — like themselves — need to take decisions out of the hands of lesser people, like the rest of us, and impose those decisions by government fiat.

The left's vision is not only a vision of the world, but also a vision of themselves, as superior beings pursuing superior ends. In the United States, however, this vision conflicts with a Constitution that begins, "We the People..."

That is why the left has for more than a century been trying to get the Constitution's limitations on government loosened or evaded by judges' new interpretations, based on notions of "a living Constitution" that will take decisions out of the hands of "We the People," and transfer those decisions to our betters.

The self-flattery of the vision of the left also gives its true believers a huge ego stake in that vision, which means that mere facts are unlikely to make them reconsider, regardless of what evidence piles up against the vision of the left, and regardless of its disastrous consequences.

Only our own awareness of the huge stakes involved can save us from the rampaging presumptions of our betters, whether they are called socialists or fascists. So long as we buy their heady rhetoric, we are selling our birthright of freedom.

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305. His website is To find out more about Thomas Sowell and read features by other Creators Syndicate columnists and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at



10 Comments | Post Comment
Sowell is an intellectual heavyweight in a world where the feather-weights dominate the mainstream media (half of Fox, most of CNN, and everyone at MSNBC possess the critical thinking of your common household pet). I wish I had discovered Sowell's books sooner.
Comment: #1
Posted by: nydivide
Mon Jun 11, 2012 3:19 PM
Definition of a fascist: Somebody who's political opinions are different than yours.
You are correct in your assessment that half of Fox and some smaller portion of CNN do not have critical thinking skills that rise as high as the level of your common household pet. Sowell the book author has produced carefully crafted positions with insightful research and analysis. Unfortunately, Sowell the political hack frequently helps him write his columns.
Comment: #2
Posted by: Mark
Mon Jun 11, 2012 5:06 PM
Great article Mr. Sowell, I always find it amusing when an intellectually inferior lightweight liberal attacks your well-reasoned writing with the tired old tactic of attacking the messenger instead of the message. I have always said that socialism and fascism are very similar. Both create an elite class, not based on entrepreneurial skills and hard work, but rather on ruthfulness, cronyism, and corruption. The only difference is that Socialoism makes the entire elite class part of the government while fascism divedes them between the government and business. The funniest part is that liberals don't realize how stupid they sound when they call supporters of free markets fascists.
Comment: #3
Posted by: Thetruth
Mon Jun 11, 2012 7:06 PM
Re: Mark ...aren't you clever? NOT
Sowell could intellectually run circles around his critics.
Comment: #4
Posted by: JanineC
Tue Jun 12, 2012 12:29 AM
Since both Mark & my pets need a refresher...
Fascism...A governmental system marked by a centralized dictatorship, stringent socioeconomic controls, and often belligerent nationalism.
Considering our current Whitehouse occupiers, I think Sowell hit the nail on the head squarely.
Comment: #5
Posted by: Carol
Tue Jun 12, 2012 5:35 AM
"A rose by any other name..." "Collectivist" or "Statist" is a better term than the overused "Socialist", as he does not want to necessarily have the state own the means of production, as much as he wants the state to direct people and enterprises actually competent to run productive activities for the reason that he is just minimumally capable enough to know that government lackeys are incompetent to take over and run such activities properly, and it must be left to private parties to do the heavy lifting all the while under the thumb of bureaucracies at his command. I have coined the term "Directivist" as a consequence to better describe his brand of collectivism, which insidiously chooses where the populace must point its energies and dispose its wealth. Those who practice its dark arts possess the maximum arrogance to believe they have the superior knowledge to "know what's best for you" and act accordingly with a indefatigable hand to force it.
As Daniel Webster warned, "Good intentions will always be pleaded for every assumption of authority.... There are men in all ages who mean to govern well, but they mean to govern. They promise to be good masters, but they mean to be masters."
Comment: #6
Posted by: Roguewave
Tue Jun 12, 2012 5:55 AM
What an intellect he is! I often wonder how many other Thomas Sowell's there may have been had they not been included in the 260,000 blacks murdered by blacks since 1976?
Comment: #7
Posted by: Toddles
Tue Jun 12, 2012 7:14 AM
Toddles, no doubt a lot of smart and talented blacks get murdered by blacks all the time, but regardless of their talent, every human life is precious. But Obama and the lamestream media can't use black on black violence to propogate their hateful racial tension. They need white on black crime for that.
Comment: #8
Posted by: Chris McCoy
Tue Jun 12, 2012 9:15 AM
Agree with Thomas Sowell's assessment of our president. He is following the patterns of a Fascist type government. He acts more like a dictator than someone following Socialist type government. The Fascist type government is to me much worse and makes more DEMANDS on all people to do what they demand them to do, whatever it takes to get that done. Remember Mussolini and Hilter worked side by side to make a dictatorship that caused people to be killed and countries brought to ruin before they could be stopped. But, Thank God, countries who believed in Democracy fought this evil control and set their countries back on the right path. Let us all pray this kind of thing does not come back to visit anyone in any country, but we have to be watchful and put a stop to it before it gets too far out of hand. So we in America are now faced with doing this very thing and if it is not stopped in November, then I am really fearful of what we will face next in this country.
Comment: #9
Posted by: Barbara James
Thu Jun 14, 2012 2:21 PM
Great article. I think "Fascism" is more commonly associated with militarism, dictatorship, and nationalism than the cartelization and regulation of the private sector. Obama is an advocate for government regulation over the means of production, not government ownership and Sowell is correct, this is fascism, not socialism.
Comment: #10
Posted by: Deft
Mon Jul 2, 2012 4:14 PM
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