A new fascist movement is on the rise, and proponents of individual liberty are losing ground.
Left-wingers often accuse conservatives of being fascists, but the reality is that fascism is simply another form of collectivism, like socialism and communism. The differences, such as they exist, are marginal between these collectivist ideologies when viewed from the perspective of Liberalism. Fascism idolizes the state, socialists idolize “society” and communists idolize “humanity” as a whole.
What holds these ideologies together is much stronger than what divides them: they are all dedicated to the proposition that the rights and desires of individuals are properly subsumed by the needs of the whole. Individualism is selfishness, rights are collective, and the “good” of the whole is the true measure of society.
Collectivism has been like a chronic disease in the body politic ever since the birth of Liberal Individualism in the 18th Century. For Locke, there was Rousseau. The American Revolution contrasted with the French Revolution and its guillotine. America had George Washington and Europe had Napoleon. Lincoln saved the Union as Marx was promoting Communism in Europe. . For the last 300 years we in the Western world have been living in the midst of a struggle between the forces of Liberal individualism and the forces of collectivism.
Communism and fascism dominated much of 20th Century history as the alternative to Liberal individualism and free markets. Democratic socialism is still eating away at European societies, which grow poorer and more sclerotic every year as they continue to declare the superiority of their model to American individualism.
Even here in America, the home of Liberal individualism, there is a constant assault on individual liberty. The steady growth of economic regulations, income redistribution, speech codes (New York just banned the use of a racial slur in public!), the ever growing tax code, and ridiculous limits to what we can eat, drink, or smoke.
Still, compared to most of the developed world, American is remarkably free for the moment. And that’s a nagging problem for the believers in collectivism.
So today we are witnessing the rise of a new version of the same old collectivist ideal; instead of the State or Humanity being elevated above individualism, it’s an idealized version of the environment or the “Earth.” Call it Nature, call it Gaia, or even call it Climate, the ideologists of collectivism are just trying to sell us a new reason to subsume our individual liberty to a collectivist whole.
Be the first to read David Strom's column. Sign up today and receive Townhall.com delivered each morning to your inbox.