What's Good for Il Duce... or Can We Get a Little Empathy Now?
Over at Cliopatria, Timothy Burke complains that Jonah Goldberg's forthcoming new book abuses the word "fascism" in describing modern US liberals as heirs of the fascist tradition of the earlier 20th century. Putting aside whether Goldberg is right or wrong for the moment (though having seen a draft of one chapter on the economics of fascism, I thought his argument was good enough to require a serious response from the left, rather than the comparisons to Ann Coulter it is drawing in Matt Yglesias's comments), I think it's probably a good thing for those on the left to have to deal with what they perceive to be misleading or inaccurate terminology about their beliefs that is damaging.
After all, libertarians have been dealing with everything from Pinochet to Halliburton described by leftists as "the free market," when neither authoritarianism nor corporatism are what libertarians stand for (the latter is closer to fascism, Italian style, in my view). And let's not forget Naomi Klein's book The Shock Doctrine in which Milton Friedman and capitalism more generally are linked to torture and the intentional destruction of communities for political purposes. Then there's Michael Moore blaming the "free market" for the problems with US health care, an industry in which almost half of the expenditures are made by government. The left has practically made a movement out of blaming every social outcome they don't like on "capitalism" or "the free market" (regardless of the actual institutions and policies in place) and/or calling everything that conservatives or libertarians do that they don't like "fascism." It's hard to drum up a ton of sympathy when the current victims have been guilty of the same sorts of sins.
So now that the worm has turned, and a conservative is seen to be abusing the language in describing the views of the left, perhaps folks on the left will be more circumspect in their own use of language when talking about the positions held by conservatives and libertarians, or in labeling the institutions of the very mixed economy as being "free market" or "capitalist." At the very least, I hope they are more empathetic to libertarians when we complain about such abuses.
Cross-posted at The Austrian Economists