It is now likely that ongoing government intervention will lengthen and exacerbate the current economic crisis, just as such intervention exacerbated the crash of 1929 into the Great Depression. The Great Depression led to the establishment of fascist, socialist, or mixed fascist-socialist regimes in most previously liberal countries, including the short-lived "New Deal" in the United States, the National Socialist regime in Germany, and a Socialist-Fascist civil war in Spain - an era known to historians as "The Age of Dictators." What, then, are the likely political consequences of the current crisis?
After the fall of the Soviet Union, Robert Heilbroner, the world's most eminent Marxist economist, examined the newly declassified record of the Soviet economy. The results disconfirmed, with the actual evidence of the facts of reality, the foundations of Marxist economics, and the ideology built on that foundation. Marxism, as a foundation for Socialism, was dead.
Marxism, for all its horrors, was an Enlightenment-based idea, and therefore subject to reality-based disconfirmation. As Heilbroner demonstrated from the evidence, "The crucial missing element (in Socialism) is not so much information, as Mises and Hayek argued, as it is the motivation to act on information." Marxist Socialism failed in reality, because it had inherited from Christendom its belief that men can be motivated by appeal to self-sacrifice. It failed because an economy for humans, an economy that works in reality, requires, as its foundation, a morality of self-interest. (This is yet another instance of a fact that was first derived from philosophical considerations by Ayn Rand, and later confirmed independently by a scientist's integration of relevant objective measurements of facts of reality.)
The spectre of the Twenty-First Century is the return of Socialism - that is, of economic systems based on an ideology of self-sacrifice - no longer on the basis of Marx's incomplete embrace of the Enlightenment, but on the basis of Christian "Imitatio Dei" - the original source of all ideologies of self-sacrifice, including Marxism. Economic crises - the previous Great Depression, and the one now around us - bring a popular demand to re-base the economy on a foundation of common morality, which for Christians, as for Marxists, refers to their (pseudo-)morality of self-sacrifice.
But it is a mistake to take the parallels too far. When the Great Depression had run its course, it did not take long for Americans (still animated, back then, by the Enlightenment ideas of America's Founding Fathers) to dump the Marxoid policies of the early FDR administrations and to return to something that at least pretended to be Capitalism. Socialism persisted the longest in Russia, in the world's most darkly mystical and, at its foundation, most deeply Christian culture. Today, the anti-intellectualism inculcated by a Pragmatist educational system has all but erased the ideas of the Enlightenment - America's founding ideas - from the culture of the majority of Americans. Kant, through Pragmatism, has limited Reason and given room to Faith. Leonard Peikoff demonstrates, in "The Ominous Parallels," how Kant's ideas led to National Socialism in Germany. Pragmatism, the dominant pseudo-philosophy of current American politics, is "Kant on Steroids." If a faith-based Fascism/Socialism were to take hold of America, then this time there will be no quick way out.
And so we come to the politics of the day.
In the last couple of weeks, Nick Provenzo and Diana Hsieh took the time to provoke some Christianists into writing and speaking their minds. The results show that the Christianists are fundamentally totalitarian: The theocratic Right lives by faith - and, as we have seen, responds to an argument mainly not with arguments but with wishes for and threats of violence, including murder - the argument from the fist and the knife. They are reason-proof (credo quoia absurdum) and evidence-proof. In their brains, arguments from reason and evidence invoke not thought, but resentment against the intellect for being capable of thought. It is this resentment of the intellect that is the direct cause of the appeal to violence in their responses - and in the policies that a McCain-Palin government would enact and enforce. The Christianists are as totalitarian as the Communists, the National Socialists and the Fascists of the previous century, or their Islamist contemporaries. But the Christianists, unlike the Islamists, are here in America and not mostly overseas. They wear Respectability. And one of them is the vice-presidential candidate to a presidential candidate who is in his seventies and in poor health - a probable replacement President.
The threat level from the far left is not much in comparison. The remaining Communists - Stalinists, Trotskyites, Castroites, Maoists and so on - are totalitarian. But they are, everywhere in America including the Democratic Party, a disreputable fringe. The left-totalitarians can vote and contribute to political organizations and post to left-wing blogs, but not one of them has been elected to political office, anywhere in America, in the last half-century or so. There is no symmetry of threat level here, except in fiction.
The Democratic Party is now, just as it was in the days of FDR, the party of Pragmatist compromise: then of compromise with Marxism, now of compromise with religion. But if religion is the new Marxism, then the Republicans - explicitly in Sarah Palin, implicitly in Senator McCain - are the Communist Party of our time. And if they win, America will be to the 21st Century what Soviet Russia, or National Socialist Germany, were to the 20th.