Pressure-Release Valves in Participatory Fascism.

Author:Higgs, Robert
Position:Etceteras ...

Nearly ever)' country in the world currently has an economic system I have long called "participatory fascism" (Higgs 1987, 240-42, 256-57, and 2018). This is a system in which nominal private-property rights exist in most resources, but these rights are subject to pervasive state abridgment and restriction. Private markets operate, but only within the extensive constraints imposed by the government. Many producers--now often referred to as "cronies"--enjoy special privileges or protections created by government restraints and penalties imposed on competing producers. Such pervasive government interference also exists in markets for labor, natural resources, intellectual capital, and other inputs in the productive process.

Such pervasive interference creates both winners and losers, and if the losers are aware of how the government's actions are bringing about their losses, they are unhappy about the situation. They resist in all sorts of ways, from simply not complying to lobbying for changes in the laws and regulations to appealing for relief or compensation in review boards and the courts. Of course, much of the action in the electoral system pertains to candidates' promises to change laws and regulations so that losers can reduce their losses or currently excluded parties can become privileged beneficiaries of the system.

One of the chief reasons why almost every regime in the world has converged to a system of participatory fascism is that this system creates or retains a great variety of institutionalized opportunities for the state's victims--who compose the great majority of the people--to challenge the state's exactions and to "make their voices heard," thereby gaining the impression that the rulers are not simply oppressing and exploiting them unilaterally but involving them in a meaningful way in the making and enforcement of rules imposed on everyone.

These opportunities help to allay public resentment and anger, assuring people that they have had "their day in court," and they thereby serve to prop up the regime and its ongoing exploitation. These official avenues of protest and resistance are, however, rarely of much real avail and in most cases do nothing whatsoever to relieve the victims' plight. The oppressed citizens and other residents are protesting the actions of legislatures, government executives, bureaucracies, and courts before...

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