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Sheldon L. Richman is the former editor of The Freeman, the one-tine monthly magazine of the Foundation for Economic Education. He is a contributor to the Concise Encyclopedia of Economics and the author of Coming to Palestine, America's Counter-Revolution: The Constitution Revisited, and What Social Animals Owe to Each Other (forthcoming), among other books. He keeps the blogs Free Association and The Logical Atheist.
Fascism (The Library of Economics and Liberty)
- As an economic system, fascism is socialism with a capitalist veneer.
- Fascism was seen as the happy medium between boom-and-bust-prone liberal capitalism, with its alleged class conflict, wasteful competition, and profit-oriented egoism, and revolutionary Marxism, with its violent and socially divisive persecution of the bourgeoisie.
- Socialism sought totalitarian control of a society’s economic processes through direct state operation of the means of production, fascism sought that control indirectly, through domination of nominally private owners.
- Where socialism nationalized property explicitly, fascism did so implicitly, by requiring owners to use their property in the “national interest”—that is, as the autocratic authority conceived it.
- Where socialism abolished all market relations outright, fascism left the appearance of market relations while planning all economic activities.
- Where socialism abolished money and prices, fascism controlled the monetary system and set all prices and wages politically.
- Under fascism, the state, through official cartels, controlled all aspects of manufacturing, commerce, finance, and agriculture. Planning boards set product lines, production levels, prices, wages, working conditions, and the size of firms. Licensing was ubiquitous; no economic activity could be undertaken without government permission. Levels of consumption were dictated by the state, and “excess” incomes had to be surrendered as taxes or “loans.” The consequent burdening of manufacturers gave advantages to foreign firms wishing to export.
- Fascism embodied corporatism, in which political representation was based on trade and industry rather than on geography. In this, fascism revealed its roots in syndicalism, a form of socialism originating on the left.
- The fascist leaders’ antagonism to communism has been misinterpreted as an affinity for capitalism. In fact, fascists’ anticommunism was motivated by a belief that in the collectivist milieu of early-twentieth-century Europe, communism was its closest rival for people’s allegiance. As with communism, under fascism, every citizen was regarded as an employee and tenant of the totalitarian, party-dominated state.
- Hitler’s regime eliminated small corporations and made membership in cartels mandatory. The Reich Economic Chamber was at the top of a complicated bureaucracy comprising nearly two hundred organizations organized along industry, commercial, and craft lines, as well as several national councils. The Labor Front, an extension of the Nazi Party, directed all labor matters, including wages and assignment of workers to particular jobs.