Economist Robert Higgs has convincingly argued that the real tendency is not toward pure socialism, but toward a mixed economy and corporate liberalism. This means a corporate state where big business, special interests and the governing elite together rule over an economy of heavily regulated and politically connected crony capitalism. The public also tends to be included in a semi-democratic fashion -- unlike in outright totalitarian regimes of the past, there is wide enfranchisement and encouragement that the people engage in the system.From The Mixed Economy in Crisis by Anthony Gregory at Campaign for Liberty.
There is just enough of an opening for business and just enough of an illusion of public involvement that neither economic law nor public opinion will cause the government to fold over, despite its many tyrannical vagaries and encroachments on the liberties of the people. Higgs calls this system "participatory fascism" -- the economics of corporatist central planning coupled with a democratic form of government -- and says it is the dominating tendency in the modern developed world.
Discussion of fascism, like socialism, is often dismissed as hyperbolic, but the fundamental features of fascist central planning can be seen in our economic system. Politically protected big business, cartels, nominal private property rights, a welfare state and socialized risk -- crony capitalism and social interventionism -- mark both systems.
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