Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Were the Nazis Socialists?

The early-twentieth century National Socialist (Nazi) Party of Germany are usually classified - at least in the United States - as adhering to a 'right-wing' political philosophy. However, Professor Ilya Somin over at the Volokh Conspiracy wrote an interesting post on the question of the German Nazis as Socialists. His main premise seems to be as follows,
The idea that Nazism was an extreme form of "capitalism" and Hitler primarily a tool serving the interests of "big business" is a longstanding myth that even now retains a measure of popularity in some quarters. This, despite the fact that the full name of the Nazi Party was the National Socialist German Workers' Party, and that Nazi political strategy was explicitly based on combining the appeal of socialism with that of nationalism (thus the choice of name). Once in power, the Nazis even went so far as to institute a Four Year Plan for running the German economy, modeled in large part on the Soviet Union's Five Year Plans.

I find this interesting, as I have long wondered why Nazism is usually classified as 'right-wing' when in fact it appears to hold more in common with the 'left-wing' philosophies such as Communism than it does with modern right-wing thought in the untied States. However, the answer is that the United States is in fact almost unique in its political divisions. In this country, the modern political Right is in fact closer to classical liberalism - standing strongly for individual rights, equality for all, small government and less regulation. On the other hand the modern political Left stands for big government, economic control by the State, identity politics and individual freedoms subject to regulation and dispersal by the elites. Therefore the correct classification -at least for American political schools of thought - would be to classify the divide as between statists and individualists.

The modern political Right cannot be said to have any real connection to statism, although some post-war Republican Presidents have shown fondness for Big Government - notably Richard Nixon and both Bush presidents. But the main philosophy on the political Right in the United States seems to be a consistent call for smaller government, more individual freedom and less regulation. Ronald Reagan is the most consistent practitioner of these principles, but they have been among the modern conservative planks for some time.

The American Left in contrast is and has been for some time a powerful supporter of statist totalitarianism. Leftist support for Josef Stalin, Mao Tse-tung, Pol Pot, Fidel Castro, Ho Chi Minh and other totalitarian leaders who are thought to have socialist or communist policies has been a marked aspect of the Left for over a century. Remember that until that fatal day in June of 1941, the Left in the West were fervent supporters of both Hitler's Germany and Stalin's USSR, since they were allied. Therefore, i think it is a fair statement to say that the American Left - including a wide swath of the Democratic Party - is in favor of statist approaches. And Nazism is definitely a statist philosophy.

In conclusion, the labels Left and Right are not really valid in determining where Nazism lies in the political spectrum. but if one divides political philosophies into those who are in favor of State control and those that are not, it is pretty clear that National Socialism is far closer to Marxism and Communism than it is to any definition of free-markets and individual rights. At its core Nazism is a statist doctrine and as such it is far closer to the modern American Left than is the American Right.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Time for a Constitutional Convention?

Well, Lawrence Lessig and Mark McKinnon certainly think so. In today's Daily Beast, the two - one a conservative one a liberal - lay out their rationale for why a Constitutional convention might just be a good idea. Write the pair,
Washington is hopelessly addicted to money and thus to the status quo; drunk with power and incapable of getting sober and fixing itself. It’s time for an intervention—by the states.

As anyone with a cursory interest in the United States Constitution knows, there is a way to amend the Constitution without Congressional approval. As laid out in Article V, the Constitution states (emphasis mine),
The Congress, whenever two thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose Amendments to this Constitution, or, on the Application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States, shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments, which, in either Case, shall be valid to all Intents and Purposes, as part of this Constitution, when ratified by the Legislatures of three fourths of the several States, or by Conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other Mode of Ratification may be proposed by the Congress; Provided that no Amendment which may be made prior to the Year One thousand eight hundred and eight shall in any Manner affect the first and fourth Clauses in the Ninth Section of the first Article; and that no State, without its Consent, shall be deprived of its equal Suffrage in the Senate.

This may be the only way we can rein in Congress. As Lessig and McKinnon state, Washington has long since abandoned any pretense of adhering to their constituents' wishes. Members of Congress engage in open graft, corruption and legal thievery to grease the palms of their corporate, nonprofit and governmental special interests. And thei spending is simply out of control. And if I were to propose amendments, they would be as follows:

  1. Any Act passed by Congress will apply to all elected, appointed and career members of the executive, legislative and judicial branches.

  2. No regulatory agency has authority to alter or amend its scope or requirements without said regulation being reviewed and approved by Congress.

  3. Neither Congress, the Executive nor the Judicial Branch may nationalize or have any ownership interest in any business, industry or other commercial endeavor.

  4. Neither Congress nor any State may mandate the individual purchase of any goods or services.

  5. Prisoners of War and non-legitimate combatants as defined by the Geneva Convention are not entitled to any access to any US court.

  6. No executive order may remain in effect for more than 365 days without Congressional review and approval.

  7. No Act of Congress may remain in effect for more than five years without Congressional review and approval.

  8. The President shall have a line-item veto as defined in California's Constitution Article IV, Section 10e

  9. The Second Amendment shall be interpreted as follows: The right of individuals to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

This would be a good place to start. We need to get the career corruptocrats out of Washington and remind Congress that this is a Federal system of checks and balances - not a parliamentary format where the national government has all the power!