Book Review: Liberal Fascism by Jonah Goldberg

Liberal Fascism is to me, a fascinating look inside the historical and philosophical roots of the modern liberal/progressive movement. It is also a scathing indictment of the totalitarian tendencies of the modern liberal/progressive movement but that is essentially the whole point of the book.

The numbers first. The book contains 406 pages of text in an introduction, 10 chapters, and an afterword. There are also 50+ pages of endnotes and an index. The book was published in 2007 in the waning days of the Bush presidency but the intervening 10 years have not done anything to change the conclusions if anything, the author’s conclusions seem prescient.

The book itself should probably be in two parts as the first 6 chapters are chronological examinations of the various iterations of fascism starting with Mussolini in the 1920’s and ending with the Johnson administration in the USA. The next three chapters are examinations of specific aspects of fascist programs with the final chapter tying the threads together.

One of the most interesting parts of the book is also the first, an examination of what exactly, fascism is. The author points out correctly, that there is no universally agreed upon definition of fascism and even the definition he settles upon has some self-acknowledged flaws. The author’s definition is actually quite simple and fairly good in my opinion. He simply says that Fascism is a religion of the state. That actually sums it up quite well as the subsequent historical analysis f fascism shows quite clearly that the common thread throughout the 20th century experience of fascism is that fascists believe that the state can and should be the answer to humanities many problems. That belief in big government as the answer instead of the problem is indeed the common thread that links such diverse figures as Woodrow Wilson, FDR, Adolf Hitler, Francisco Franco, LBJ, and modern progressives from Hillary Clinton to Bernie Sanders.

Indeed, one of the central tenets of the book is that not only is fascism as term used incorrectly, it is done so with the full knowledge of those throwing it around that they are labeling the wrong people fascists. The sad part is that the fascist mislabeling has been so pervasive for so long that it is probably too late for the misuse to be corrected.

The book makes a very good argument and a detailed examination of the history of fascism and shows very well why fascism is a phenomenon of the left and not the right. The author does however point that there are some fascist tendencies in the right as well. The love of big government has crossed ideological lines and the ranks of classical liberals (small government, free market, 19th century liberals) are mighty thin in modern politics.

This is an excellent and highly readable book that I encourage anyone with an open mind and an interest in contemporary politics to read.