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Richard Larsen: Nazism and American Political Dialogue

August 25th, 2009 by Halli

By Richard Larsen

It’s alarming to witness the escalating accusations of people being “Nazis” in American politics. Bush was not a Nazi, and Obama is not a Nazi. Swastikas have no legitimate place in the American political dialogue. National Socialism (for which Nazi serves as a contraction) was peculiar to an era of German nationalism based on socialistic and fascistic principles, and was as much a cultural as it was a political phenomenon in German history.

Aside from the accusations of being “Hitleresque” from both the right and the left in today’s political environment, the most specious and disingenuous are those who claim that conservatives or these health-care protestors at town halls are “Nazis.” On the political spectrum, the further to the left you move, the more totalitarian the government is. Governmental control over the lives of individuals is characteristic of all forms of socialism, whether Communist or the Nationalist variety, and the state assumes preeminence over individual rights when taken to the extreme.

Whereas the further one moves to the right on the political spectrum, the more individual liberty is advanced. Taken to its extreme is anarchy. When analyzed logically, then, National Socialism, or fascism, is incongruent philosophically and practically to the political conservative. Those who refer to Nazism as “right-wing” are politically ill-informed and have fallen for Stalin’s game of referring to them as such. One scholar makes the point that Nazism is to Communism what Pepsi is to Coke: basically the same but with a little different flavor.

There may be some angry folk out there who find elements of National Socialism fanciful, who delight in angering the rest of us with their displays of neo-Nazi swastikas, like Hayden Lake was plagued with a few years ago. But they aren’t in the mainstream, and they aren’t in the White House, and they aren’t the hordes of frustrated Americans attempting to express their chagrin over the perceived hijacking of the American health-care system in the name of providing insurance to the uninsured.

That said, there is, however, an American statism based ideologically on similar principles to European fascism. Our statist or fascist movement has the same ideological connections with those in Europe, reliant on philosophical components of Hegel, Weber, Marx, Kung, and Sartre. It seems harmonious in principle to Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s Minister of Propaganda, statement, “To be a socialist is to submit the I to the thou; socialism is sacrificing the individual to the whole.”

America’s version also seeks to concentrate power in the state at the expense of individual liberty. As Leonard Piekoff states, it “does not represent a new approach to government; but is a continuation of the political absolutism — the absolute monarchies, the oligarchies, the theocracies, the random tyrannies — which has characterized most of human history.” It seeks to suppress criticism and opposition to the government. It denounces and eschews individualism, capitalism and inequity in compensation. It seeks out and targets enemies of the people like corporations and those not supportive of their collectivist objectives. Economically, fascism advocates control of business and labor, not ownership of it as communism advocates. In fact Mussolini called his system the “Corporate State.” Even the term “totalitarianism” derives from Mussolini’s concept of the preeminence of the “total state.”

As Jonah Goldberg described, American fascism is “a smiley faced version” of the European cousin. Less militaristic and forceful, it shares the concepts of an organic national community and sacrificing individual liberty is acceptable if it’s perceived to benefit the whole. As Goldberg says, what unites all versions of fascism is “their emotional or instinctual impulses, such as the quest for community, the urge to get beyond politics even though all is political to them, a faith in the perfectibility of man, the cult of action, and the need for an all powerful state to coordinate society at the national or global level. Most of all, they share the belief that with the right amount of tinkering we can realize the utopian dream.”

The examination of these historical philosophical roots is significant in the context of today’s discussion on a government-run health system. Look up Marc Micozzi’s 1992 research on the German system when he was the director of the National Museum of Health and Medicine. It bears an uncanny resemblance to the public mandate being sold to us today as a “public option.

While we should unanimously denounce the use of “Nazi” name-calling in the public dialogue, there obviously are lessons that can be learned from Nazi statism, vestiges of which are abundantly evident in today’s national political dialogue. What each of us need to decide is which is more important, the individual with his rights, or the state with its power and control.

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