Back in the early thirties, before â€œfascismâ€ became a pure epithet, leading politicians and economists recognized that it might work, and many believed it was urgently required. When Roosevelt was elected in 1932, in fact, Mussolini personally reviewed his book, Looking Forward, and the Duceâ€™s bottom line was, â€œthis guy is one of us.â€
As an economic fix, the Corporate State was not a great success, either in America or in Italy. Rooseveltâ€™s New Deal didnâ€™t cure Americaâ€™s economic ills any more than Mussoliniâ€™s Third Way did. In both countries, however, its most durable consequence was the expansion of the ability of the state to give orders to more and more citizens, in more and more corners of their lives. In the first half of the twentieth century, that was hardly unique to the â€œfascistâ€ states; tyranny was the order of the day in the â€œsocialistâ€ or â€œcommunistâ€ countries as well (not for nothing were so many learned books written about â€œtotalitarianism,â€ which embraced both â€œsystemsâ€). Paul Johnson writes of a â€œnew speciesâ€ of â€œdespotic utopias,â€ and Richard Pipes went so far as to call both Soviet Bolshevism and Italian fascism â€œheresies of socialism.â€
This is why Jonah Goldberg’s popularization of the term “liberal fascism” is so important.
It is an article of faith on the left that fascism is the most evil system ever to exist – mostly because, for a short time, Nazi fascism seems to present a mortal threat to Russian socialism. But the divide was nothing more than a family squabble – which Mussolini, the “father” of fascism, recognized in Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the “father” of liberal fascism.