Saturday, December 30, 2023

Why Fascism is Attractive

When liberal governments can't seem to get things done, people pine for fascism.

There is a new Sheriff in town in Argentina, and he is certainly stirring up a hornet's nest.  He claims to be an "Arachno-Capitalist" which I think is some kind of spider.  He actually is a fascist.  The reason why he elected was that people were tired of governments that for decades appeared to be ineffective and corrupt.  People would hold demonstrations in the street that lasted for days and blocked traffic and the Police acted like there was nothing they could do about it. Politicians, nervous about losing support, were afraid to take harsh measures to fix the economy, so nothing got done, other than to kick the can down the road a ways.

Stop me if any of this sounds familiar. It was Germany in the 1930s, it is Western Europe and North America, today. Whether real or imagined (or merely exaggerated) it seems that waffling liberal governments are unable to get things done.  But oh, boy!  That Putin fellow really knows how to knock some heads together! (and throw people out of windows).  People want action - even if it means horrific consequences, such as nearly a million dead in a pointless war against Ukraine.

In the US, we see these protests where people chain themselves across a road or glue themselves to the counter at a business.  You have to wonder if "stop oil!" is in fact, sponsored by the oil industry.  It has already been revealed that one of the heirs to the Getty oil fortune is a big backer of it. Make climate change advocates look ridiculous and you make climate change look ridiculous. Meanwhile, the Police, feeling embattled, are "quiet quitting" and doing the absolute minimum to stop crime.  Wishy-washy judges and prosecutors are letting criminals go free (or such is the narrative, anyway) giving rise to the feeling that "sumptin' needs to get done!" to fix all this.

Dictator, anyone?

In Mussolini's Italy or the Nazi Germany, the feeling was the same - the people felt they needed discipline and order, even if it meant privation for themselves. Liberal governments are reluctant to take extreme actions like cutting social benefits, when budgets needed to be balanced. A dictator simply abolishes them and if anyone complains about it, they are shot. Easy-peasy!

Hmmm.... what did I say once that simple solutions to complex problems are almost always the wrong answers?

Of course, in the long run, the dictatorship ends up being a raw deal for nearly everyone involved, even the dictator. Even those in the "inner circle" of power are constantly nervous that they will be denounced and put before a firing squad (or in Russia today, defenestrated).  It is not a relaxing way to live.  Sure, you can make millions as a member of the Saudi royal family - until you are detained in a hotel and beaten to a pulp until you give up your perks.

The dictators themselves?  Well, maybe the dynasty in North Korea has had a good run, but most others end up dead, either by declaring war on the rest of the world, or due to palace intrigues.  In the interest of "getting things done" everything is destroyed.  And not much gets done, either - Mussolini never got the trains to run on time, despite the slogan.

And Hitler?  For a brief period it seemed he would help the working man with cruise ships for the workers and the world's largest resort hotel as well.  People would drive Volks-wagens on the Autobahns, and life would be sweet.  But few "Beetles" were produced before he wrecked the entire country by declaring war on the entire world.  Conditions for "the workers" got worse, not better.  The country was bombed flat and millions of young men lost their lives on the Russian front.

That's the problem with a dictatorship. One man rule can "get things done" but unless that one man is wise and compassionate, it won't work out well, for long.  Sadly, the kind of people who pine to be dictators often turn out to be narcissistic assholes as well as insane.  The myth of the "wise king" in fairy tales is just that - a fairy tale.  Even a "normal" person, once they are given absolute power, become crazed. "Absolute power corrupts, absolutely!"

Of course, the problem for would-be dictators is, how do you get people to elect you as dictator?  If conditions are horrific, people will go along with anything. In post-Soviet Afghanistan, people welcomed the Taliban as liberators - after years of indiscriminate shelling by competing "warlords"  The harsh rule of the Taliban turned out to be anything of a picnic - out of the frying pan and into the fire.

But what if things aren't that bad?  In Germany in the 1930s, the economy was actually recovering before the Nazis took power.  There was sort of a second recession in the late 1930's and the Nazis made  sure there was political violence in the streets, with brawls with Communists (who also wanted to take over).  So they created chaos to convince people a strong-man was needed.

And I think we are seeing the same today. We are told there is a homeless crises and a drug crises and a border crises and a transgender crises and a crime crises and protest crises and so on and so forth. In part these are exaggerated. Homelessness is a tiny fraction of our population. Crime rates are a fraction of what they were in the 1970's. Protesters are annoying, but if they glue their hands to the highway, simply arrest them (but it seems the Police fail to take action, in part to foment this discontent and make  Democracy look ineffective).

A lot of people are buying into this - convinced that an era of record low unemployment, low interest rages, low inflation, and a prosperous economy is somehow awful because, reasons.  How can you be happy when a transgender athlete is competing in women's track? (Answer:  Because largely this isn't actually happening except in a few rare cases, and State after State, as well as sports regulating bodies are outlawing this sort of thing).

We are poised to throw away our county over nothing - and it is just stupid.  Dictatorship is not the answer - it will destroy us all.