Recently I saw an elderly gentleman smoking a cigarette and walking a Chihuahua through Oceanside’s Buddy Todd Park. It was midmorning and no one else was about in the facility under construction—only this lone lawbreaker. I mention this incident because my column three weeks ago, “Nanny State on a Roll” (Jan. 15), generated a lot of dissent on the page opposite.
Pointing to a recent beach booze ban and anti-smoking ordinances that extend from Solana Beach to Oceanside to Poway, I noted that government regulation of personal behavior is permeating more and more areas of life. In the case of Belmont, California’s anti-smoking ordinance, the ban even reaches into some private apartments.
I also included two other examples of top-down governmental regulation—one environmental and another a proposal (now put on hold) to let the state set home thermostats during “emergencies.” Had I world enough and time, I could have discussed the jaw-dropping subversion of parental authority via the public school system—an institution whose purpose seems to be, in the words of Woodrow Wilson (John Dewey’s presidential disciple), “to make [children] as unlike their fathers as we can.”
Whether a toll road is built connecting I-5 to Highway 91 via the San Onofre State Park wasn’t my concern—only the employment of an unfettered critter-based logic that allows a few bureaucrats to veto decisions arrived at by democratic means.
Some responders to the column focused attention on the term “liberal fascism”—the popular title of Jonah Goldberg’s new book. Those critics would do well to peruse Goldberg’s well-researched tome—a work that illustrates the extensive ideological and personal links between fascism, America’s Progressive movement, Woodrow Wilson’s presidency, and FDR’s New Deal. Goldberg not only demonstrates the unmistakable leftist origins of fascism, he also observes that the term “liberal fascism” was consciously employed by H. G. Wells when he promoted an ambitious Progressive variant of Europe’s burgeoning political system.
The dust jacket of Goldberg’s book displays a yellow “happy face” that sports the distinctive mustache worn by the anti-smoking, vegetarian, organic foods Chancellor of the German Reich. That oxymoronic icon perfectly expresses the blending of fascism’s fixation on the health of the state with a boundless do-gooderism that imposes its will with a benevolent smile. As Goldberg observes, “Brave New World” exhibits this obsessively “nurturing” approach to politics—not the “masculine” totalitarianism of Orwell’s “1984.”
Goldberg repeatedly notes that there’s nothing wrong with focusing attention on the common good. He even supplies a chapter on conservative programs that move in this direction. What he decries is the perverse stigmatizing of small-government, free market policies as fascistic while so-called liberals make extensive “It Takes A Village” plans to push an omni-capable state into kindergartens, nurseries, and beyond.
Personally, I wouldn’t have a huge problem with ticketing that elderly Chihuahua-walker in the park if there weren’t a phalanx of power-hungry do-gooders eager to make every part of our collective lives “better”—according to the lights of their constitutionally unrestricted secular faith.