What IS a Fascist? (Ayn Rand)

All this talk of how Donald Trump is a fascist … but what actually IS a fascist? What is fascism? Ayn Rand provided the best definition to date. Read it here:

Ayn Rand wrote:
The difference between [socialism and fascism] is superficial and purely formal, but it is significant psychologically: it brings the authoritarian nature of a planned economy crudely into the open.

The main characteristic of socialism (and of communism) is public ownership of the means of production, and, therefore, the abolition of private property. The right to property is the right of use and disposal. Under fascism, men retain the semblance or pretense of private property, but the government holds total power over its use and disposal.

The dictionary definition of fascism is: “a governmental system with strong centralized power, permitting no opposition or criticism, controlling all affairs of the nation (industrial, commercial, etc.), emphasizing an aggressive nationalism . . .” [The American College Dictionary,
New York: Random House, 1957.]

Under fascism, citizens retain the responsibilities of owning property, without freedom to act and without any of the advantages of ownership. Under socialism, government officials acquire all the advantages of ownership, without any of the responsibilities, since they do not hold title to the property, but merely the right to use it—at least until the next purge. In either case, the government officials hold the economic, political and legal power of life or death over the citizens.

Needless to say, under either system, the inequalities of income and standard of living are greater than anything possible under a free economy—and a man’s position is determined, not by his productive ability and achievement, but by political pull and force.

Under both systems, sacrifice is invoked as a magic, omnipotent solution in any crisis—and “the public good” is the altar on which victims are immolated. But there are stylistic differences of emphasis. The socialist-communist axis keeps promising to achieve abundance, material comfort and security for its victims, in some indeterminate future. The fascist-Nazi axis scorns material comfort and security, and keeps extolling some undefined sort of spiritual duty, service and conquest. The socialist-communist axis offers its victims an alleged social ideal. The fascist-Nazi axis offers nothing but loose talk about some unspecified form of racial or national “greatness.” The socialist-communist axis proclaims some grandiose economic plan, which keeps receding year by year. The fascist-Nazi axis merely extols leadership—leadership without purpose, program or direction—and power for power’s sake.

— from “The Fascist New Frontier,” by Ayn Rand, The Ayn Rand Column, 1962


Dr. Hurd: It’s fashionable among both leftists and Never Trumpers to dismiss Donald Trump as a fascist. Since Donald Trump has literally no experience as a politician holding office, there’s really no evidence for this assertion. But the thing to watch will be both his attitude and policies toward the economy. Will he move the economy in the direction of free markets, including reductions in taxes and regulations? Or will he expand the power of the state, even arbitrarily via executive order, as President Obama did?

Psychologically, Obama’s theme was certainly sacrifice. Everything, for Obama, was about sacrifice of the individual self for the common good. In practice, of course, this meant the sacrifice of politically unconnected economic and social groups for the sake of politically connected ones. Obama moved us decisively and progressively in the direction of fascism, as Rand defined it. Hillary Clinton was an even sterner advocate of self-sacrifice, if anything.

But America is supposed to be about rational self-interest, profit, mutual gain, self-improvement and ultimately individualism. Obama spent eight years sneering at these things and putting that sneer into policy practice, every chance he got. It’s why so many people rose up against him. If Donald Trump ends up doing the same, he’ll lose his supporters faster than Obama and Hillary Clinton did, and his fall will be even more spectacular.

Will Donald Trump contribute to the advancement of these individualistic ideals or to their opposite, as Obama most certainly did? Let’s allow the evidence to decide. And we’ll soon know.




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