“I shall begin by doing a very unpopular thing that does not fit today’s intellectual fashions and is, therefore, anti-consensus. I shall begin by defining my terms, so that you will know what I am talking about:
Let me give you the dictionary definitions of three political terms: socialism, fascism, and statism:
Socialism – a theory or system of social organization which advocates the vesting of the ownership and control of the means of production, capital, land, etc. in the community as a whole.
Fascism – a governmental system with strong centralized power, permitting no opposition or criticism, controlling all affairs of the nation (industrial, commercial, etc.).
Statism – the principle or policy of concentrating extensive economic, political, and related controls in the state, at the cost of individual liberty.
It is obvious that ‘statism’ is the wider, generic term, of which the other two are specific variants. It is also obvious that statism is the dominant political trend of our day. But which of the two variants represents the specific direction of that trend?
Observe that both “socialism” and “fascism” involve the issue of property rights. The right to property is the right of use and disposal. Observe the difference in those two theories: socialism negates private property rights altogether, and advocates “the vesting of ownership and control” in the community as a whole, i.e. in the state: fascism leaves ownership in the hands of private individuals, but transfers control of the property to the government.
Ownership without control is a contradiction in terms: it means “property” without the right to use it or to dispose of it. It means that the citizens retain the responsibility of holding property without any of its advantages: while the government acquires all the advantages without any of the responsibility.”
(Ayn Rand, Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal 1965).
In 1965, Ayn Rand was rightly convinced that the United States was driftng towards a form of fascism, rather than socialism, not for ideological, but for pragmatic reasons. Although Rand did not express herself in these words, she was convinced that a desire for consensus, rather than a search for principle was edging the United States systematically away from any notion of laissez-faire capitalism, based on the inalienable rights of the individual to life and liberty and the imprescriptible right to property.
It would take some 15 years and the election of Ronald Reagan to the Presidency for this trend to reverse itself and for economic deregulation to put in place a 16 year period of the Great Moderation (1984-2000) that provided US citizens with increased liberty and rising wealth. It took just 8 years for President George W. Bush and Congress to change course once again, and to return the United States to the road to serfdom, identified by Friedrich von Hayek in 1944 as the inescapeable “pilgrim’s progress” under conditions of pragmatic liberal fascism.