Blogs > Liberty and Power > Higgs and "Participatory Fascism"

Oct 9, 2004

Higgs and "Participatory Fascism"

As a follow-up to yesterday's discussion of fascism as a species of statism, I had a nice offlist exchange with Robert Higgs. Higgs' work, Crisis and Leviathan: Critical Episodes in the Growth of American Government, published in 1987 by Oxford University Press, includes a crucially important chapter on the subject of the mixed economy. Higgs asks in Chapter 10 if the mixed economy is on a march toward Socialism or Fascism. He concludes that the best descriptive term for the present political economy of the United States is"participatory fascism." Higgs reminds me that it's a term he borrowed from his friend and former Ph.D. student Charlotte Twight, who first used it in her 1975 book America's Emerging Fascist Economy.

There is an interesting myopia at work in the acceptance of this phrase,"participatory fascism," even among the friends of liberty. As Higgs explains, many seem incapable of accepting the current system as a fascist derivative, equating fascism with Nazism and the practice of genocide. In his just-published book, Against Leviathan: Government Power and a Free Society, Higgs characterizes the system as"quasi-corporatism," but, as he expresses in his correspondence with me, the system"still walks and quacks like a participatory-fascist duck."

Higgs has done a lot of important thinking about this subject, and I think his notion of"participatory fascism" captures an essential aspect of what actually goes on in American political economy.

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