• Sean II

    Shorter: “Hayek thought the real problem with socialism was that it might one day lead people to back a loudmouth buffoon who departs from polite consensus on the sole issue of border control.”

    UK Version: “Hayek thought the real problem with socialism was that it might one day lead people to withdraw from the control of a transnational bureaucracy.”

    Because that’s it. That’s all there is to this alleged fascist rising. The whole thing comes down to a slight lag between public and elite opinion on the question of abolishing nation-state boundaries. Elites want to do this quickly and without discussion. The public wants to slow it down.

    Neutralize that one issue, and there is no populism capable of tempting anyone into an alliance.

    • LLC

      Sean, I think perhaps you credit the public with way too much thought. Hayek seems to say that we can arrive at fascism by either turning left or right, with the left turn being the surer course. And yet here we are, once again choosing to ignore Santayana’s injunction to learn from history, watching the ‘f’ door swing open, having taken a decidedly right turn. The more traditional righties may be experiencing a bit of sea sickness, but obviously not enough to stop the boat or even change course. Their anti-intellectualism (among other time-tested sales appeals) has once again borne fruit. I think we’ll be seeing a spate of academic papers examining the psychology of fascism and its timeless appeals – which we will subsequently ignore as they become ‘history’.

      • Sean II

        Nope. There has been no rightward turn. There are no fascists in control of anything. Nobody is proposing an alliance with said imaginary fascists.

        This whole moral panic has bootstrapped itself into existence. The panic itself is the only evidence of anything unusual going on. There is nothing to it, and hence nothing to be explained.

        The most “fascist” positions of Trump, Farage, Marine, etc. were all safely within the left-wing mainstream just 25 years ago.

        Which means this moment is not about the right fringe seizing the center. It’s about the center absorbing the opposite fringe, to risk everything on an extreme single-issue experiment.

        • King Goat

          Yes, I remember when Bill Clinton called for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.”

          • Man, I don’t expect you to debate in good faith, but you might want to do 30 seconds of internet research before you begin…

            One of the most controversial items in the bill, Title III, addressed the issue of undocumented aliens already inside U.S. borders. In particular, the government enacted rules calling for permanent restrictions or bans on undocumented aliens found in violation of certain legal rules. For example, the act states that any person who has been in the United States illegally for at least 180 days, but less than one year, must remain outside the United States for three years unless granted a pardon. Moreover, any person who has been in the United States illegally for more than one year must reside outside the United States for ten years unless a pardon is granted. Any such person who returns to the United States prematurely without the specified pardon will not be permitted to apply for a waiver for reentry for an additional ten years. Additionally, the language of the law applies regardless of whether a person has a spouse or children who are U.S. citizens.

            Source: http://immigrationtounitedstates.org/577-illegal-immigration-reform-and-immigrant-responsibility-act-of-1996.html

          • King Goat

            What does this have to do with barring a group entry on the basis of religion?

          • Right, goat. It’s totally different.

          • King Goat

            Yes, barring an entire group from entry based on their religion is different than religion neutral restrictions.

          • The executive order suspends the entry of refugees into the United States for 120 days and directs officials to determine additional screening ”to ensure that those approved for refugee admission do not pose a threat to the security and welfare of the United States.”

            The order also stops the admission of refugees from Syria indefinitely, and bars entry into the United States for 90 days from seven predominantly Muslim countries linked to concerns about terrorism. Those countries are Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen.


            It’s like you don’t even care about facts.

          • King Goat

            And so far most courts have recognized this as a thinly veiled attempt to do what he said and which I was pointing to. You may want to read their opinions. But I’m glad you’re switching goal posts from ‘there’s no difference between religion based and religion neutral restrictions’ to ‘Trump’s not acting religion based!’

          • I’m glad you edited out the part where you linked to a PolitiFact article that reiterates exactly the quoted passage above from the NYT. I presume you realized that I was just going to quote the article to reiterate that everyone agrees what the letter of the Trump policy was:

            To refresh, Trump issued an executive order on Jan. 27 barring citizens of Iraq, Syria, Iran, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan and Libya from entering the United States for 90 days. It also puts Syrian refugee admissions on hold indefinitely.

            Linking so others can see what you thought argued against my point: http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2017/jan/30/donald-trump/why-comparing-trumps-and-obamas-immigration-restri/

            Now, as per usual you are either deliberately ignoring my point in order to give yourself a platform to make your own, or you’re just not patient enough to take the time to understand people who disagree with you.

            My point was in support of Sean II’s claim that:

            The most “fascist” positions of Trump, Farage, Marine, etc. were all safely within the left-wing mainstream just 25 years ago.

            My evidence was travel bans. Your rebuttal only reiterates the point made in my other comment, below, that what is objectionable about Trump isn’t his policies but rather the semiotic indignance you suffer. “Hermeneutic injustice,” if you will, and I’m sure you will.

            I oppose both policies. You’re willing to ignore one because the other one causes you a bigger narcissistic injury. I oppose this kind of thinking. I’m against all travel bans, not just the one kind.

          • King Goat

            You want to talk about travel bans in general, but I specifically pointed to Trumps call to ban entry to an entire group based on religion. I reiterated that was my focus, but you’re plowing ahead.

            Targeting an entire group based on their religion is something different. You can’t have not heard of this before. From the First Amendment to federal and state anti discrimination laws, we allow policy to treat people differently for numerous reasons but *not* based on religion. Religious tolerance and neutrality was a fundamental and foundational aspect of Liberalism. On the other side, attacking entire groups, often religious ones, as scapegoats is an important element of fascism. The left wing (or right wing for that matter) mainstream 25 years ago would not have done that, hence my point.

          • Ha ha! “I specifically pointed to.” Yes, you did Goat. You dropped the context established by Sean’s comments to make your own point – a point that starts to evaporate the minute the old context comes creeping back in. Which is why you keep getting flustered when I bring us back to the matter at hand.

            As we can see, absent all the hysterics about the semiotics of a Trump travel ban, All we’re talking about is mainstream leftist anti-immigration sentiment.

            Which was Sean’s whole point.

          • King Goat

            Sean II said “The most “fascist” positions of Trump…were all safely within the left-wing mainstream just 25 years ago.” You’re trying to make critical a distinction between policies enacted and policies merely called for or proposed, as if the latter don’t fall under one’s ‘positions.’ That’s nice, but that’s not how ‘positions’ is normally understood. I guess we could say that Bill Clinton and George H. Bush had the same position on health care policy, because while Clinton introduced his ‘universal health care policy’ it was never enacted. But that would be silly. Likewise, Trump’s position on immigration, especially regarding using religion as a criteria, is not one that could be found among mainstream leftists like Clinton 25 years ago. That was my point.

            You’d like to say, ‘well, maybe he did call for using religion as a criteria, but in the end what he formally proposed was the same as what Obama did.’ But even that’s not true both on it’s face (see the politifact article) and given that we know that Trump went to advisors like Giuliani who have said they, mindful that courts were not going to let Trump have explicitly what he originally called for, fashioned something with a similar aim and operation but which had a better chance of passing legal muster. There are several federal opinions out there detailing this.

          • At this point, you are agreeing with me, but trying to make it sound as though I am wrong. We agree that two people with very different rhetoric ended up with very similar policies. Your position is to get super-extra-sensitive about the rhetoric, and my position is that both policies are atrocious enough to make the rhetoric a moot point. The fact that the policies wind up more or less the same regardless of the rhetoric is a point in my favor, not in yours. But at any rate it is the policies I oppose; the rhetoric is of minimal interest to me. Nobody remembers it 25 years later, anyway, and judged by actually implemented policy it will be hard for the historians of subsequent generations to understand the difference between WJC and DJT.

          • King Goat

            I’ve partially answered you while you wrote your comment in my ‘added’ part above, rhetoric by itself can really matter when it comes from a national figure. But there’s something else to say to what you’ve just said: I think there’s a big difference between two politicians, one who pushes for X and fails to get it because it’s blocked in Congress, the courts stop them, etc., and one that didn’t push for X in any appreciable way.

            I think Trump, true to his word, wants and is pushing for a ban motivated on religious criteria. Now, let’s say arguendo a combination of his advisers and courts intervene and all he gets for his efforts is something similar to what existed under Obama or Clinton. If you want to say *things* were no different under Trump and Obama or Clinton, well, fair enough I guess. But does it make sense to say ‘Trump and Obama or Clinton’ had the same ‘positions’ on that topic?

          • I already lead into this discussion by stating clearly that I thought Clinton’s attempt at refusing entry to immigrants was basically no different than Trump’s attempt at refusing entry to immigrants. Both were struck down in their own way. American institutions are not yet a total failure, at least on immigration policy.

            You’re sensitive to rhetoric about Muslims. You might not realize it, but I likely have a bigger dog in that fight than you do. Most Americans have no idea what the immigration quotas from Muslim-majority nations were prior to the arrival of Trump. That’s the context of the discussion that always gets dropped. For people having this debate, it always begins with, “Trump said blah-blah-blah!” Fine, but what about before Trump? What about the way things were before he opened his mouth? How does what he says compare to what was going on before anyone decided to react to Trump?

            Nobody knows, but according to Vox, what Trump is saying is unprecedented, so it must be unprecedented, you know? Since nobody actually knows any Muslim immigrants personally – and especially since no one knows any Muslims who tried to immigrate but couldn’t get in – it’s all Vox-versus-Trump, and Trump’s a jerk, so Vox wins by default.


            The fact that these two particular individuals hang around in the same social circles and fit the general description of a cigar-chomping fat-cat getting blow jobs under the desk is not lost on me.

          • King Goat

            I’m not ‘sensitive to rhetoric about Muslims,’ I’m opposed to rhetoric proposing we base policy on criteria like religion. I’m opposed to such proposals because, while I think we can talk about policies based on other criteria, I think religion, along with race, sexual orientation, and the usual list of things included in non-discrimination laws, should not be differentiating criteria for government policy. I think that that is a fundamental, foundational aspect of liberalism, *which is why I brought up Trump’s proposal to do so in a discussion about liberalism vs. fascism.*

            If you want to say that pre-Trump refugee policy for people from the Middle East was terrible, I might agree with you. But Trump’s proposal for a ‘complete and total Muslim ban’ would have been worse for people from the Middle East, and, for me, it has the additional major problem of violating a major tenet of liberalism. I don’t give him any points because a combination of advisers and courts kept him from getting fully what he’d like to.

            Oh, and it would also have been a proposal not heard in the mainstream left 25 years ago. Which was where this all started…

          • I’m opposed to rhetoric proposing we base policy on criteria like religion.

            Yeah, that’s my point. You’re opposed to rhetoric like that. Absent the explicit rhetoric, you don’t even notice that that’s what’s happening, which is why you won’t admit that Clinton’s anti-immigration bill was racist, even though everyone knows full well that it was. And that’s why you think Trump is basically unique in proposing anti-Muslim immigration policy when in fact it’s been happening for decades.

            But you’re so caught up on the rhetoric of it all. Which is my point. That’s what matters to you, the rhetoric. I won’t expect you to soften on that at this point, because now I’ve painted you into a corner and you have to defend yourself. But in the future, I’d hope you’d take the time to recognize that policy can be anti-Muslim without a big cigar-chomping guy spelling it out for you.

          • King Goat

            1. Rhetoric from a national figure is by itself important for reasons I’ve mentioned. We’ve got an all too tenuous but still mainstream disinclination for basing our policy on things like religion. That gets undermined when national figures call for policies contrary to it, even if their called for policies are ultimately thwarted while they themselves are in power.

            2. But it’s beyond rhetoric here. However anti-Muslim you think pre-Trump policy was *in effect,* the categorical, explicit ‘total and complete ban on all Muslims’ that he called for would be worse. Again, he gets no points not being able to get what he wants.

            In the civil rights community, there’s an annoying tendency for people to play down the very real victories won by getting rid of explicit, categorical racist policy by pointing to continuing de facto racist effects of ostensibly race neutral policy. I’m not unsympathetic to what they’re trying to point out by the latter, but however bad those de facto effects are, de jure explicit, categorical rules were and would be worse.

          • Yeah, I’ve heard your point #1 from many people already, including pretty much everyone who’s ever written anything for the Niskanen Center. “But this horrible rhetoric is uniquely dangerous!” No, it’s not. It’s not more dangerous than rhetoric that makes it sound like we come in peace but really we’re dropping bombs. It’s not more dangerous than convincing everyone that we’re opening borders when in fact we’re building walls. It’s not more dangerous than creating a massive bureaucratic excuse to keep believing that we’re doing good when we’re really doing evil.

            Quite the opposite, actually. You can’t change what you don’t acknowledge. The reason Trump offends so many people is because he closes off the rhetorical escape hatch/defense mechanism that prevents real change from happening.

            Now, at last, we can all start to acknowledge the reality of the American government – but only if we actually do acknowledge it, and not try to pin it all on a caricature. That’s just the last bastion of our national defense mechanism talking. Anything, so long as we don’t have to change!

            That’s why it’s so important to oppose policy, rather than rhetoric.

          • King Goat

            That just seems like a bunch of ‘both sides do it’ but the good thing about someone like Trump is he’ll ‘heighten the contradictions’ so that ‘real change’ can happen. I don’t think any of the assumptions I see baked into those ideas are true. I think there are real, meaningful differences between Trump’s position and Obama/Clintons on this and other issues, I think Trump’s rhetoric and policies are as likely to lead to more people thinking like he talks and supporting the kind of things he talks about as they are anything else and I don’t think even if he makes some hidden, ugly reality of America more explicit that it would lead to that being addressed in any positive or effective way.

          • Well, you will see what you want to see, and I will say that this is your defense mechanism talking. I do want to correct you on one thing, though. I’m not trying to make the argument that Donald Trump will force a change. All I’m saying is that your emotional reaction to him is preventing change from happening. Big difference.

          • King Goat

            Because if not for my finding his advocating violating basic fundamentals of liberalism I would be blind to any and all other violations? Come on.

            I also wanted to test empirically your ‘both sides do it’ type claim, specifically on the subject we’re discussing. So I took a look at your premise about how while they’ve been providing dangerously misleading silver tongued rhetoric on the subject, how horribly anti-Muslim previous administrations’ immigration record actually was.

            So it appears the US, in Obama’s last year in office, admitted a *record number* of Muslim refugees. Half of those came from two nations which Trump’s travel ban (and this is the ‘Rudy, please bake me up some version of my total ban which would be more legally defensible’ version, needless to say his original proposal would have meant in comparison *no* Muslim refugees or immigrants) would have stopped entry from (Syria and Somalia).


            More broadly, Muslim immigration has steadily *increased* since 1970, in fact they’re “one of the fastest growing immigrant groups in America.”


            Yup, no difference between the two here, except that Trump is a straight shooter about what he’s doing!

          • So now you’ve taken to building straw men? I never once said anything like both sides do “it”. Your defense mechanism must frame the argument that way, otherwise you are left with something quite different than a two-party partisan debate. It is unfortunate that we’d wind up here after everything else we’ve said today. But this is the only conversation you are prepared to have. So, I shall leave you to it.

          • King Goat

            Now wait a minute. You’ve said “that’s why you think Trump is basically unique in proposing anti-Muslim immigration policy when in fact it’s been happening for decades,” “Clinton’s attempt at refusing entry to immigrants was basically no different than Trump’s,” and that clearly that Trump’s position differs in “semiotics” only. Now you want to try to cut and run claiming you’re not equating Trump and his Democratic predecessors? B.S. flag there.

            This isn’t about ‘semiotics,’ there’s a clear difference in the positions here. Trump’s position is 1. No Muslim entry or, if you want to be (naively) charitable, 2. a bar on Muslim entry from seven predominately Muslim nations. In contrast, under Clinton and Obama (and both Bush’s btw, this isn’t about ‘two party’ partisanship but whether Trump represents something different here, this all started with whether Trump’s ‘positions’ were essentially the same as the left wing mainstream recently in this country, and my reply was that his position on Muslim entry represented something that was indeed different) Muslim immigration and refugee immigration *steadily increased.* So is that just ‘semiotics?’

          • You have the comparison right, but the “sides” wrong. Don’t worry, I wouldn’t expect you to understand.

          • King Goat

            Ah, the classic dodge. What is it you say about people arguing by claiming the person disagreeing with them just doesn’t understand what they’re saying?

            Since the higher order three dimensional chess of your argument is beyond me, let me just put this simple question to you: if Muslim immigration and refugee entry increased consistently and to record highs under Obama and Clinton (and Bush I and II), and Trump’s position on Muslim immigration is a total ban on Muslim entry and/or the travel ban he’s signed and currently defending in court, then how are their *positions the same?* Because, remember, that’s *all I said* that all of your responses here were to.

          • Hey, wait a minute. Don’t I know you?

          • Sean II

            I should also clarify: what matters is not just what Clinton did, but what he would have been allowed to do under the climate of opinion then prevailing.

            And the truth is, circa 1995, he could have imposed a ban on travel from every Muslim country on earth (even Bosnia!) without much trouble from anyone, right or left.

          • King Goat

            The point continues to be missed. It has less to do with international migration and more to do with targeting a group for different policy treatment because of their religion. That was not part of the mainstream left (or right) back then, because foundational Liberal ideas of religious tolerance were not being questioned so much.

          • Sean II

            Nope. In 1995 you could not have sold the idea that American religious freedom created a right for citizens of other countries to come here as they please.

            People in those days tended to think the Constitution of the United States had something to do with the United States.

            Citizenism may be a good idea or it may be a bad one, but the fact remains that 20 years ago damn near everybody took it for granted.

          • King Goat

            Again, you’re confusing the idea and legality o restrictions to entry with the idea of religion as a criteria for those restrictions. That would have been unacceptable on the mainstream left 25 years ago, heck it would be unacceptable to the mainstream right back then (in fact, it was widely denounced as such by the mainstream right *when Trump proposed it* https://qz.com/897332/mike-pence-paul-ryan-chris-christie-and-dick-cheneys-moral-outrage-at-donald-trumps-threats-to-bar-muslims-from-the-us-in-their-own-words/ )

    • Salem

      You’re normally the best thing about this website, but you lose me here.

      The alleged “fascism” of Trump is not his backsliding on border control. It’s his contempt for the rule of law and democratic norms. Now, admittedly, those look like pretty frayed concepts after 8 years of Obama, but he’s managed to make things even worse. Admittedly too, Trump is no fascist, he’s more a Peronist, but Levy is right that we shouldn’t make excuses for him, and that he’s contributing to the ruin of the country. Of course the Democrats would be entirely happy with Trump’s degradation of the rule of law, picking winners in the market place and abuse of democratic norms if only he was on their side. But the whole point is we are (used to be?) better than them.

      I am no expert on the situations in Hungary, Turkey or Poland, and I wouldn’t be the least surprised if the charges of “fascism” there are similarly overblown. But that doesn’t mean that those countries aren’t heading down a road to serfdom.

      • Sean II

        Well, give me a chance to explain and maybe redeem myself.

        1) Turkey seems like a real point of concern, not for fascism in the usual sense, but for Islamism.

        2) Meanwhile the big sin of Hungary and Poland seems to be not wanting to import Islam. It follows: to the extent that things like Turkey scare us, we ought to find Poland and Hungary somewhat encouraging.

        Importing Islam is the single stupidest thing anyone is doing right now, so a desire to resist that cannot by itself sustain the charge of fascism. And indeed, if it turns out that only fashy creeps are willing to resist it, whatever happens next will be the fault of everyone who didn’t resist.

        3) I simply don’t see any evidence that Trump has an unusual contempt for either democracy or the rule of law, beyond that which I’ve come to expect from officials and politicians of all stripes.

        For one thing, there hasn’t been enough time for such evidence to accumulate. The guy simply hasn’t done enough of anything, for us to say he’s done too much of this or that.

        (Indeed if anyone has violated major political norms at this early stage, it might be his impatient opposition. If democracy and rule-of-law mean anything, they ought to mean that fair election results stand. But it’s very obvious Trump’s opponents have never stopped trying to overturn that election…and it’s even clearer they’re doing this, not to save the republic, but simply because it is intolerable to them that an amateur should beat such a carefully rigged game. Hence why you see so many Republicans willing to take part.)

        4) But more importantly, compared to what? I can’t recall a president (or any other high official) who could straight-facedly be described as obedient to the rule of law. The only constraint I’ve ever seen work on politicians is “what I can get away with”.

        Indeed, if anything Trump, being an amateur, is getting away with less than any of his predecessors.

        5) Full disclosure: I’m what you might call a legal skeptic. I believe that once you control for climate of opinion, there really isn’t much to the law. Your population determines your culture, your culture determines what people can get away with. The thing we call law is mostly a means of stylizing changes to that culture, in order to make them seem less arbitrary, more dignified, etc. But never so much as to really tie any hands, and always with the knowledge that clever word-smiths can, when necessary, cut any ties which become inconvenient.

        • Peter from Oz

          And the strength of sin is the law.

    • But don’t you see? It’s not the real world that matters, it’s the internal word of rhetoric and semiotics.

      To the Niskanen crowd, semiotic and rhetorical disasters are weighted more heavily than actual, real-world disasters. It is 10 times worse that Trump says, “I want to build a wall” and then proceeds to fail to build a wall than it is that HRC said, “We should have open borders” and then proceeds to make headway toward building a wall.

      It is apparently more important to pay rhetorical lip-service to the idea of liberalism than it is to make concrete gains toward a more liberal life. That’s why they favor weird contradictions like outlawing the Confederate flag in order to signal racial tolerance or implementing a UBI without otherwise reducing the size and scope of the welfare state.

      A few years back, there was this guy who proposed a comprehensive, heavily annotated, and thoroughly argued reason why society was moving in this direction, and oddly enough his prediction was the same: Despotism. But he didn’t pay the right kind of lip-service to anyone, so everyone forgot what he was talking about.

      • King Goat

        Who favors “outlawing the Conferderate flag?” Unless by “outlaw” you mean “stop government sponsored honorings” I’m not aware of calls to “outlaw” that treasonous, racist symbol.