New Deal and Fascism

On a number of occasions, I have pointed to the strong echos of Italian-style fascism in Roosevelt's New Deal, particularly in the National Recovery Act, which was practically a copy of Mussolini's political-economic model.  David Gordon reviews a new book called the Three New Deals which delves deeper into this parallel development on matters of state control of the economy between Roosevelt, Hitler, and Mussolini.

Roosevelt never had much
use for Hitler, but Mussolini was another matter. "'I don't mind
telling you in confidence,' FDR remarked to a White House
correspondent, 'that I am keeping in fairly close touch with that
admirable Italian gentleman'" (p. 31). Rexford Tugwell, a leading
adviser to the president, had difficulty containing his enthusiasm for
Mussolini's program to modernize Italy: "It's the cleanest "¦ most
efficiently operating piece of social machinery I've ever seen. It
makes me envious" (p. 32, quoting Tugwell).

Why did these
contemporaries sees an affinity between Roosevelt and the two leading
European dictators, while most people today view them as polar
opposites? People read history backwards: they project the fierce
antagonisms of World War II, when America battled the Axis, to an
earlier period. At the time, what impressed many observers, including
as we have seen the principal actors themselves, was a new style of
leadership common to America, Germany, and Italy.

Once more we must avoid a
common misconception. Because of the ruthless crimes of Hitler and his
Italian ally, it is mistakenly assumed that the dictators were for the
most part hated and feared by the people they ruled. Quite the
contrary, they were in those pre-war years the objects of considerable
adulation. A leader who embodied the spirit of the people had
superseded the old bureaucratic apparatus of government.

He also gives us a good hint as to why so many people on the left today are trying to find way to paint the American economy as somehow broken or at some historical low point:

He concludes the book by recalling John T. Flynn's great book of 1944, As We Go Marching.

Flynn, comparing the New Deal with fascism, foresaw a problem that still faces us today.

But willingly or
unwillingly, Flynn argued, the New Deal had put itself into the
position of needing a state of permanent crisis or, indeed, permanent
war to justify its social interventions. "It is born in crisis, lives
on crises, and cannot survive the era of crisis"¦.


  1. MesaEconoGuy:

    Cato scholar Jim Powell also brings this obvious parallel up in his book “FDR’s Folly.”

    Much of the premise and many guidelines of FDR’s programs were straight out of Mario Palmieri’s “The Philosophy of Fascism (1936)” [quoted in FDR’s Folly].

  2. triticale:

    Could it be that FDR's confiscatory taxation of corporate capital reserves in 1935 was in fact intended to have the effect which it did, of blunting an incipient recovery?

  3. Tim Fowler:

    I agree that the economic structure was somewhat similar to fascism. OTOH I would not call FDR fascist. He was elected, and he didn't try to stop future elections (no auto-coup for him), he also didn't commit the level of abuse that real fascists are prone to do, and I don't think he had the same sort of hyper-nationalism. Fascism is not just "nationalist corporate socialism", it includes that but having that doesn't mean you have a fascist state if you have a relatively free democracy.