The booksellers at Borders and Barnes & Noble probably hate to see me coming in the door. I get a cup of coffee and spend hours browsing, and reading, and browsing, and reading, and ….
… and then, as often as not, I go home and buy what I want from Amazon.
Well, the other day I was in a B&N in Lewisville and started my usual browsing, reading, browsing eternal circle. However, I didn’t get far. I picked up Jonah Goldberg’s new book Liberal Fascism and was hooked. I never got away from it. As a teacher of Western Civilization I love to see an author critically, creatively and candidly dealing with the past. This is that kind of book.
Rich Karlgaard share his thoughts about the book in his recent Forbes column. Here is an excerpt:
Liberal Fascism is a must-read in this age of creeping statism–which one worries may advance with greater speed after November. Goldberg’s book is an alternative tour through the murderous 20th century, during which 100 million people were extinguished by their own governments and billions more had their liberties curtailed.
Goldberg debunks the widely held view that communism was the opposite of fascism. In fact, the only thing that separated the two main branches of 20th-century totalitarianism was that the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was born of an international movement while the National Socialist German Workers Party was explicitly nationalist.
Both cancers were inspired by Karl Marx. Both asserted the need for a “new man” torn from religion. In his youth, writes Goldberg, “Hitler often stayed up nights writing plays about pagan Bavarians bravely fighting off Christian priests trying to impose foreign beliefs on Teutonic civilization.” Hitler also hated capitalism as much as Lenin, though Hitler was better at bending it for his own purposes.
In the U.S., “fascism lite” was embraced by Teddy Roosevelt, and much more so by the Woodrow Wilson Administration. Wilson himself wrote, in a graduate school thesis called “Congressional Government,” “I cannot imagine power as a thing negative and not positive.” He wrote in another thesis, called “The State,” “Government does now whatever experience permits or the times demand.”
Youthful hyperbole? Hardly. Campaigning for president in 1912, Wilson said, “While we are followers of Jefferson, there is one principle of Jefferson’s which no longer can obtain in the practical politics of America. You know that it is Jefferson who said that the best government is which does as little governing as possible … But that time is passed. America is not now and cannot in the future be a place for unrestricted individual enterprise.”
Such words, of course, cleared the ground for FDR’s expansive government policies in the 1930s and 1940s and later for Nixon’s wage and price controls.
Every good history tells you something you didn’t know….
While I read the book at B&N I found plenty that I didn’t know. In fact, I just might have to order it from Amazon.