What do you call it when socialists and nationalists govern together?

In my last post (and elsewhere), I criticized Trump’s (self-appointed) ideological vanguard for their Lefty/statist orientation, i.e. government-as-mechanic that tightens a tariff here and raises a rate there and — voila — The Economy! I also warned that a one-party system, with the political battlefield reduced to an internecine struggle between two Lefty coalitions fighting over the means of production coercion, was really scary news for all the peace and freedom loving people stuck in between, i.e. liberals.

Recently, Arnold Kling wondered about the same thing: what does a compromise look like between these two lefty coalitions?

My first thought is national socialism. It needs another name, because of all the Hitler/holocaust baggage, but here is why it makes sense.

The nationalism would include immigration restrictions, protection of “culturally significant industry” (e.g., wine in France), and cultural pride. This would appeal to the anti-Bobos. The socialism part, which requires technocratic management of economic outcomes, would appeal to the Bobos.

To get to national socialism in the U.S., the left would have to give up its attachment to multiculturalism and the right would have to give up its attachment to free markets (which Alberto Mingardi says has happened). Right now, it is easier for me to imagine the latter than the former, but maybe if the left loses one more election that could change.

That sounds about right (and it’s always been strange that the National Socialist movement is widely accepted as the epitome of right wing politics, but that’s another thought for another day).

Again, ethnonationalist socialism is actually pretty common. Off the top of my head, most of the regimes in North Africa and the Middle East (except for Israel and the emirates) are basically fascist: militant, ethnocentric, nationalist and socialist. It’s an observation that typically gets dismissed because of all the “baggage” associated with the original national socialists, but I think that’s a diagnostic failure.

For many a good reason, our cultural memory of the Nazis (and Hitler) is that of frothing at the mouth madmen and true Bond villains. The problem with that caricature, however, is that we’ll never see the next Nazis coming (indeed, they’ve been here for a long time) because we’re expecting some ghoulish evil mastermind to emerge as their leader — i.e. Hitler as we’ve reimagined him. But that Hitler wasn’t real and those characters by and large do not exist outside of their parents’ basement.

More importantly, one doesn’t require evil intentions to perpetrate great evil — quite the contrary, it’s righteous intentions and a broadly inspiring message that are (and always have been, including with Hitler) the prerequisites for inflicting harm at an order of magnitude to be considered evil. Indeed, it’s pretty unlikely that people would willingly destroy the lives of others if they didn’t genuinely believe it was for “the greater good.” Sociopaths are by far the exception and not the norm.

I view this diagnostic failure as part of the good intentions fallacy. People generally think intentions are predictive of outcomes and therefore their policies and leaders are righteous and altruistic, while the other team’s are heartless and selfish. That’s a mistake.

Intentions are more or less the same across the political spectrum — everyone generally wants to help the unlucky and stop the bad guys. We impute bad intentions to people we disagree with because we have no other way to explain their disagreement (since how can people with the same intentions desire divergent policies if intentions are all that matter?!). We also create a robust market for outrage and character attacks to justify our inferences about the other team. Tell me whether the candidate is a baby killing Christ-hater / racist oppressor of women, so I know who to vote for.

What we don’t do is pay sufficient attention to incentives, which actually do vary a good deal and truly are predictive of outcomes. And when we focus exclusively on intentions and ignore incentives, we get fascists and their multicultural counterparts, i.e. communists. [For related reasons, I think there should be a Godwin’s Law for Godwin’s Law.]

If you want to call Trump a Nazi, go ahead, just make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons: i.e. he’s an advocate for a robust state apparatus to “reengineer” a more “just” nation. Y’know, just like the early progressives who, concurrently with the Nazis, empowered labor cartels (through commercial and immigration regulation) in order to “protect” the American “working class.” And just like the present-day progressives who want to do the same thing for the international proletariat “multicultural working class.”

When politics is reduced to national socialists fighting with the international socialists, bad stuff happens.


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