District of Corruption

Jonah's Fascism


Having read Jonah Goldberg's turgid tome on the fascist danger spawned by American Progressives and Obamaites, and having listened to his rants against "big government" on Glenn Beck's therapy hour, it seems to me that his column today, against Rand Paul as an enemy of property rights, raises doubts about Jonah's "antifascist" persona. As everyone must know by now, I find Jonah's ascription of "fascist" views to Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama to be downright silly. But I am willing to concede his argument for the moment, namely, that those who wish to use state force to introduce their notions of social transformation are really followers of Mussolini, Heidegger, Franco, et. al., even if these dead white males, to all appearances, came from the opposite side of the political spectrum. (Actually they did. The Marxists were right on this one.)

By Jonah's standards, where do we classify someone who unconditionally endorses the social engineering mandated by the 1964 Civil Rights Act, and who scolds Rand Paul for even daring to question the public accommodations and equal employment provisions of that act? According to our soi-disant antifascist, "it's certainly repugnant and bizarre for libertarians like Paul to lament the lost rights of bigots rather than to rejoice at the restored rights of integrationists."

The paragraph leading to this rhetorical crescendo notes that Paul is endorsing Jim Crow, a situation in which "the market wasn't free." Therefore state action became necessary to restore economic freedom, because "one of Jim Crow's greatest evils was its intrusion on the property rights of whites." These statements indicate the depth of cultural illiteracy that I've grown to expect from National Review, ever since the magazine was taken over by the Dark Side.

To the extent that segregation practices were state enforced, they represented an obvious encroachment on property rights. But if the state is not enforcing segregation and public institutions are to be accessible to whites and blacks, the situation that Rand Paul advocated in his controversial comments, how is this scenario an intrusion on anyone's property rights?

A new and graver intrusion comes with the Civil Rights Act itself, and particularly with Titles II and VII, which has the federal government forcing commercial and social integration on everyone. This government enforced access to equal employment rights and to accommodations is extended to "race, color, religion, sex or national origin."

It is not a red herring to ask whether the Act would allow men and women to have separate organizations with some commercial aspect or to create work situations that favor one designated group as opposed to another. Is it permissible to have a men's clubs, which conduct commerce but do not admit women, without being in violation of the Civil Rights Act? Does being licensed mean that one's establishment falls under the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission? Unfortunately there is no legal way to conduct one's business without having state authorization. But as soon as one becomes licensed, as that spirited "conservative" Bill O'Reilly reminded us last night, one is properly subject to federal (and by now state) anti-discrimination agencies. (O'Reilly thinks that the Constitution requires this surveillance because it guarantees "our pursuit of happiness," a phrase that never appears in the Constitution.)

Such problems, plus affirmative action and disproportionate impact cases, came rapidly in the wake of a congressional act that supposedly vindicated our property rights. Of course I wouldn't attribute any true fascist ideas to Jonah, even though he seems to be advocating gimlet-eyed administrative control to protect us against "bigoted" hiring and accommodations choices. But I can't think of any statement on economic freedom by a fascist intellectual that seems quite as juvenile as Jonah's column. Mussolini's chief theorist Giovanni Gentile was a brilliant philosopher, who rarely produced anything quite as bad as these type smudges. In those bad old times political intellectuals were serious people who would have perceived any glaring inconsistencies in their arguments.

A final question: What did George Bush Sr., Ronald Reagan, Richard Byrd, Albert Gore Sr., Richard Russell, Barry Goldwater, and J. William Fulbright all have in common? They all opposed the Civil Rights Act, and most of them expressed the same reservation about that intrusion on property rights that Jonah goes after Rand Paul for noticing. These people were correct to express their reservations, and so was I as a graduate student at Yale in 1964, when I figured out what continues to elude Jonah. By now one has to be really thick to believe that congressional invitation to massive social engineering guaranteed our economic freedom.