Sunday, January 20, 2013

Yes, certain words, like Fascism, have baggage attached

The CEO of Whole Foods, John Mackey, has written a book entitled Conscious Capitalism. To promote sales of his book he has subjected himself to a series of interviews. In one, on NPR's Morning Edition, he was asked about Obamacare. His characterization of Obamacare:

Technically speaking, it’s more like fascism. Socialism is where the government owns the means of production. In fascism, the government doesn’t own the means of production, but they do control it — and that’s what’s happening with our health care programs and these reforms.”

That caused a firestorm of gasps and chatter, and he was asked about it by Norah O'Donnell on CBS.

Well, I think that was a bad choice of words on my part … What I know is that we no longer have free enterprise capitalism in health care, it’s not a system any longer where people are able to innovate, it’s not based on voluntary exchange. The government is directing it. So we need a new word for it. I don’t know what the right word is.”

David Catron at The American Spectator has been following Mr. Mackey's interviews.

OK, Mr. Mackey, if it’s not socialism and it’s not fascism and it’s not capitalism, what precisely is it? The humbled Whole Foods magnate made another attempt to arrive at acceptable nomenclature on Thursday while prostrating himself before the thought police at HuffPost Live: “I regret using that word now because it’s got so much baggage attached to it.… Of course, I was just using the standard dictionary definition.… I think I’m going to use the phrase government-controlled health care. That’s where we’re evolving to right now.”

Catron writes,

There is, of course, a reason the word “fascist” has “baggage attached to it.” As Mackey gratuitously (or perhaps not) explained to O’Donnell, “That word has an association with dictatorships in the 20th Century, like Germany and Spain and Italy.” He might have added that an important feature of these regimes was “government-controlled health care,” as he has now decided to call it. Another distinctive feature that they shared was a conspicuous dearth of free expression, particularly where unpopular government programs were concerned.

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