The place to begin is with a definition of the word. Unfortunately, it's useless to look to dictionaries in this case. They are all over the map on the subject.
Wordnet offers this:
Fascism: a political theory advocating an authoritarian hierarchical government, as opposed to democracy or liberalismThe Random House dictionary defines it as:
a governmental system led by a dictator having complete power, forcibly suppressing opposition and criticism, regimenting all industry, commerce, etc., and emphasizing an aggressive nationalism and often racism.Neither definition distinguishes Fascism from communism, monarchy, or many other similar political ideologies, though the second quote is nearer the mark.
Looking to popular culture to discover how the word is actually used is even worse. It is always slung blindly at any political view with which the speaker disagrees strongly, as more or less a synonym of "very bad."
Wikipedia comes closest to what I have in mind when it states:
Fascism is a totalitarian nationalist political ideology and mass movement...and then proceeds to add the non-defining silliness:
that is concerned with notions of cultural decline or decadence, and which seeks to achieve a millenarian national rebirth by exalting the nation or race, as well as promoting cults of unity, strength and purity.But that same essay does include one key item:
Property rights and private initiative were contingent upon service to the state.Why select this to complete the definition? Because, following Rand, one has to look at actual countries that had modern fascist movements — Nazi Germany and Italy, most particularly — to see that they were, indeed, nationalist and authoritarian, and that property rights were contingent on service to the State.
Unlike communism, which at least has the 'decency' to nationalize industry outright, Fascists maintain the illusion of private property while seeking to benefit from its advantages. They allow individuals to imagine they own their businesses, then proceed to heavily regulate and tax them for (as Pelosi put it) the alleged benefit of 'the people'.
But, 'the people' is always some specific people. There is no collective entity called 'the public'. There is only Jeff and Pekka and John and Sarah and... Some of those individuals are shareholders of British Petroleum or Royal Dutch Shell and some of them are not. Some are Americans, others are British, Japanese, Danish, and dozens more nationalities.
Those two oil companies were not chosen at random. They are (predominantly) private businesses, but they are not (entirely) American businesses, as a glance at the names will show. Still, since many of their shareholders are Americans, some individual citizens of this country do benefit when they make a profit. Those companies serve to illustrate that the idea of extracting and selling oil for "the benefit of Americans rather than the oil companies" is incoherent, when it isn't plain dictatorship.
But even if it we strived to guarantee that oil would be extracted only by Americans and sold only to Americans that goal still would be impractical and immoral.
It would be impractical because to try would require even greater control of the oil markets than we have now and those very controls — and even more so, the philosophy behind them — are the fundamental problem in the first place.
It would be immoral because it would represent an even greater violation of property rights than is the case now, which is already far past any forgivable gray area justified on the basis of "cleaning up corruption" or "keeping markets fair."
It is not the proper function of the Federal Government to dole out natural resources to whomever will promise (a promise backed by government force, as it always turns out) to use them for the benefit of the American voters. That may sound like a good campaign strategy, but it is suicidal economic policy.
The difference in the present campaign is that John McCain and Sarah Palin don't understand what they are talking about. They genuinely want people to be free to pursue their interests, less encumbered by heavy government regulations, taxes, and the penumbra of the Fascist State. At the same time, they want to end the culture of corruption that has found oil companies (and thousands of others) in bed with Alaska and Washington (figuratively and literally, as a just-released CBS investigative report shows).
Tragically, they also say that in order to solve that problem, individuals running large businesses must operate their enterprises for the "good of the nation." That contradiction makes them dangerous. It's tragic because it's mistaken, not a blatantly evil desire for control; fascism is what led to the problem in the first place, but they don't know that.
Far more dangerous is the candidacy of Barack Obama and Joe Biden, who do know what they are talking about. They know full well what fascism is and that they prefer it. Both are lawyers and Obama taught Constitutional law at the University of Chicago. They know what the words mean and how those ideas work in practice.
Apart from their background, their voting records and the fact that they are running on the Democratic ticket are more than enough to prove that. Politicians choose a party that most closely mirrors their own views and values, and the Democrats are now led by the far Left. It is no accident that Pelosi is the Speaker in a majority Democrat House of Representatives. It is not a coincidence that Harry Reid is the Majority Leader of the Senate.
None of those well-known figures would have the courage or decency to actually declare themselves as Fascists, of course. They would lose what they treasure most: their political power. They know that, if their views were baldly stated, they wouldn't attract more than 30% of the vote at best. They simply hide their real beliefs in order to get elected.
But they convict themselves out of their own mouths.
Harry Reid said:
"The American people do not like privatization."Nancy Pelosi said:
Let's have a discussion and a change of the relationship between our oil, which is owned by the American people, the desire of Big Oil for us to subsidize their drilling, and us not to - the American people not getting the benefit of the profits."Nationalist. Authoritarian. Dedicated to controlling private business to place it in servitude to the public. I.e. Fascist.
So, please Senator McCain and Governor Palin, let that be the position solely of the Democrats. Get back to capitalism and private individuals pursuing their own interests. Leave the "in service to the nation" stuff where it belongs, in the Fascist camp.