Tuesday, April 3, 2012

I just found out about this today

Incredible stuff. So tell me, why do the people who love to rewrite history so that our favorite presidents are turned into fascists not put the same effort into discussing the actual fascists that actually planned to overthrow a constitutionally bound, democratic, duly elected government?

Could it be that they really don't care as much about fascism as they protest they do, and they actually have other interests, goals, and priorities?

23 comments:

  1. The link seems to be broken.

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  2. And now it seems to work. Weird. Maybe the fascists got it earlier.

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  3. What do you mean by "constitutionally bound"?

    More importantly, what do you mean by "democratic"?

    I ask these questions because you seem to believe that both concepts are normatively meaningful. I will agree, but only if we share the same conception of a morally meaningful instance of "constitutionally bound" and "democratic" political society. Otherwise, mere words.

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  4. There have been a bunch of scholarly works written on this subject and it has seen oodles of coverage over the years; most view it much less seriously than you're describing it here.

    "So tell me, why do the people who love to rewrite history so that our favorite presidents are turned into fascists..."

    When FDR imprisoned a bunch of Americans simply because of the color of their skin, that was a totalitarian action - whether FDR was elected or not. FDR will never live that down and for very good reason.

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  5. The NPR story would have been far more helpful if it had actually dealt with something other than this single work on this subject.

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  6. "So tell me, why do the people who love to rewrite history so that our favorite presidents are turned into fascists not put the same effort into discussing the actual fascists that actually planned to overthrow a constitutionally bound, democratic, duly elected government?"

    My first guess would be that they believe Mises, Rothbard, Reisman, etc. have all sufficiently dealt with the fascist problem by exhaustively talking about the ideology's many effects. The "business plot" is interesting, but it is definitely less important when considering the fascists who actually came to power.

    "Could it be that they really don't care as much about fascism as they protest they do, and they actually have other interests, goals, and priorities?"

    So, if there isn't a Daily Article over every (small) fascist movement, then they don't care and are biased? Is that what I am reading? Again, Mises, Reisman, and company have written exhaustively over fascism.

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    1. The point is LvMI sees fascism where there isn't fascism and ignores fascism where there is. Makes it hard for an outside observer to take seriously that fascism is really their concern.

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  7. Maybe they care more about denouncing actual fascist policies than they do about the failed and thus never-realized plannings of others?

    Or you could be right and mises.org isn't actually anti-fascist and they have some other ulterior motive you, quite conveniently, merely insinuated as opposed to specifying.

    If this is how far you have to grasp to find a supposed "gotcha" for the theory that mises.org people don't "actually care about fascism" and have some sinister, ulterior motive, I think it's a safe bet you aren't persuading anyone who doesn't already share your pre-existing anti-mises.org bias. It probably also reduces your credibility going forward as a source of reasonably objective commentary on this subject matter.

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    1. Well I didn't say that they AREN'T anti-fascist. I'm sure they are anti-fascist. My point is that I doubt that's their chief concern. My presumption is that their chief concern is being anti-liberal democracy/social democracy and that they find it rhetorically convenient to fling the f-word around.

      Fascism not being their chief concern is quite different from not being anti-fascist.

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    2. Liberal democracy and social democracy aren't the same things.

      Anyway, I see your original comment was really about one of these silly contests that goes on amongst a tiny handful of academics.

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    3. Ummm.. right. That's why I listed both. If they were the same thing I would have only listed one to avoid being redundant.

      The original comment was also about annoyance at being in the group that is framed as the enemy of liberty. I can't begin to tell you old that gets.

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  8. A slash between words can and often does link them. In this instance it looks like you're using it in place of a dash; ex. "Hanna-Barbara."

    Yeah, you're just reinforcing that it is a silly contest.

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  9. For really young people, Hanna-Barbera were a cartoon creating duo that had a huge slice much of Saturday morning television prior to the 1990s. Think Jetsons, Flintstones, etc.

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  10. Not sure exactly which bankers trie to overthrow the president, but it was probably Morgan people. Morgans dominated in the 20s,and once Roosevelt got elected, the Rockefellers/Harrimans were able to exercise dominance. You also had much smaller powers getting more dominance i.e Lehman, Goldman, etc.

    Rothbard did write about how most of the Roosevelt New Deal (the first, specifically financial legislation) was dominated by Rockefellers et al. trying to break up the Morgan ambit.

    So naturally the bankers that did not benefit from Roosevelt wanted to oust him.

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  11. Patch: There is a wikipedia article on it (that's all I know about it): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Business_Plot

    Lots of room for disagreement on the seriousness of the issue as the anonymous person above says basically. Some antisemitism (not surprisingly) involved in the accusations as well.

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    1. Milton -
      There's certainly always room for disagreement about history, but wouldn't you agree that this is more of an example of fascism in the United States in the 1930s than FDR himself? That's really my point - people who claim to be worrying about fascism in the United States completely unable to diagnose fascism in the United States.

      Obviously there were some things about FDR that could be considered "fascism" - the only ones that come to mind are court packing and internment. But I think it's a stretch to say he was a fascist. Whether this was a serious threat or not (it really could have been if their candidate accepted), there's much less ambiguity about whether we ought to call the effort "fascist".

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    2. "the only ones that come to mind are court packing and internment. "

      NRA?

      "Anti fascists" concentrate on FDR more because most people portray FDR as a demi-god with the likes of Washington and Lincoln. Not to mention, FDR did actually enact fascist policies, while the banker plot was just a plan (but this does not reduce its relevance). And again, to put some more light on the story, the "bankers hated FDR" drama is transformed into a Rockefeller v. Morgan battle where the Rockefellers were able to severely weaken the Morgans who dominated in the 20s. Makes sense when you realize Pecora mainly attacked Morgans (not Rockefellers), the Banking Act prevented investment banking from encroaching on commercial banking activities (Rockefellers more commercial bank, while Morgans were based in investment banking), SEC attacked the NY Stock Exchange which was heavily Morgan dominated, and the center of Federal Reserve power shifted from the New York Fed (Morgan dominated) to Washington.

      "Anti fascists" just try to talk about the other side of the story that is never really told.

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    3. If you're saying that people are blinded by their whatever ideological commitments they have sure, I agree with that. But that isn't something special to these people you are worried about I would think. A lot of people are unwilling to criticize FDR after all, and there is a lot of criticize (a lot of his economic adventurism turned out really badly to give just an example).

      Was FDR more "fascist" (whatever that term means - never been terribly clear on that) than whatever this plot actually was? I'd say that FDR did what he could get away with given the constraints on his power. If FDR had been able to imprison people for just disagreeing with him I think he would have done that not because he was a terrible guy, but because that's just how power works. There are lots of tales of the Roosevelt administration punishing his enemies; I don't know how credible those are but they wouldn't surprise me if they were true in part or in the whole. That's a long way of saying that FDR wasn't less fascist than other politicians because he was a virtuous guy but because other institutions existed to tell him to stuff it and those institutions had popular support. What's interesting to me just how much of what FDR put together was apparently dismantled during WWII or immediately after because much of what he wanted was really unpopular; that's just not part of how people think of the guy though.

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  12. Thought I would ask: isn't there a conceptual connection between "fascism" and militarism? If one were to engage in a conceptual analysis of the concept of fascism, wouldnt a militaristic component be an essential feature? Not sure how this helps, thought I would throw it out there.

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    1. It also connected to nationalism of an extreme, extreme kind.

      Watching old clips of FDR and the stuff put out by the government at the time kind of creep me out I will admit. Then again, they are not much worse than a lot of the stuff created by the government, etc. these days.

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  13. Historians disagree on how serious the plot actually was, i.e., whether it was any more than idle talk. The fact that so much of the story hinges on Smedley Butler makes it difficult to evaluate. On the one hand, Butler's account may not have been accurate. There's no particular reason to doubt his honesty, but he may not have perceived what was actually going on, and he was given to strong, black-and-white characterizations (see his famous essay, "War Is A Racket"). Furthermore, it stretches credulity to think that the plotters would seriously turn to Butler, of all people, to perform a fascist coup, particularly when MacArthur might have been so much more serviceable, which suggests that they may have had some other motive than actually overthrowing the president (e.g., getting intimidating rumors in circulation).

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  14. Daniel, there wasn't much of a plot to speak of here.

    According to reviews, the actual plot merits less than a paragraph, and most of the book is FDR worship.

    A group of people did a little nudge nudge wink wink to Smedley Butler, saying, "We should totally overthrow that Roosevelt guy", and Butler told J. Edgar Hoover, "You should look into these wackos, they sound crazy." That is it. That is all that happened.

    You are blowing a petty story out of proportion, as is the author of this book, who dedicates only a small chapter to the actual plot.

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  15. Even taking the worst-case scenario, the coup didn't happen. So while it may be interesting, it is nowhere near as interesting as what FDR did. And some of what he did was clearly wholesale violations of individual liberty. Even if you accept the legitimacy of the New Deal policies (though I'm sure we can all agree no matter where we stand on the economic ideological spectrum that things such as imposing maximum production quotas were not a smart way to boost production) there is the rather obvious matter of the internment of Japanese-Americans which is probably one of the most despicable things this country has done.

    Also, there is the important question of how much impact something will have on what you know. If you know Wall Street bankers to be neutral-to-bad, learning that some of them were fascists will change your opinion moderately. (ie from thieves to thieves with fascistic tendencies) On the other hand, if you know that Roosevelt is the Son of God come to rescue us from economic depression, Nazis and Republicans, learning that on his order, American citizens were imprisoned on the basis of their ethnicity using powers that would have made Jim Crow supporters salivate, your opinion can change substantially. (ie: From favorite President to bigoted fascist)

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