The Reddess and I spent a pleasant evening out at the Seven Seas at a Club For Growth event featuring a talk by Jonah Goldberg. He gave a hilarious and insightful talk and he and Karen compared notes about our dogs. His Cosmo (long featured at NRO) has arthritis and our Derry has gotten rather needy in his old age.
Jonah talked a bit about his book Liberal Fascism which I have read and enjoyed. It is an intellectual history written for a general audience which makes the point that fascism was a movement from the left. He does not argue that liberals in 2008 are Nazis or that they want to throw people in concentration camps. But he does connect fascist movements in Europe with early twentieth century progressivism (the racist nature of which is often ignored) and traces the desire to remake and collectivize society in contemporary liberalism to the same desire in these earlier movements. This does not mean that this desire will lead to the same things or be expressed in the same ways, but there is a danger, as we say, in trying to immanentize the eschaton.
There are places where I think he pushes the argument too far and there are also (as he acknowledges) fascist temptations on the right. But a belief in limited government and a healthy respect for alternative realms of authority, such as traditional culture and religion, serve as a type of firewall against the hubris that can succumb to the fascist temptation.
In this sense, I think that the book is a useful corrective to the contemporary allegations of fascism. If it succeeds, it shows that what we call fascism was a particular application of socialism and grew from its imperatives. In our tradition, it makes little sense to call fascism a movement on the right. It just doesn't look much like what we call conservatism in America in 2008. To the contrary, it contradicts core conservative principles. It may not resemble what we call liberalism in 2008 either, but, Goldberg says, if the book results in the banishment of the word from modern political discourse, it will have served its purpose.