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I’ve believed for some time now that the greatest threat to America’s freedoms is not from socialism or communism but rather an “ism” you seldom hear much about these days — fascism.

To understand what I mean, most people need to rethink their notions about the political spectrum. At the left end, most people agree, you have communism — total government control over the means of production and property. It’s at the other end of the spectrum that many get confused.

Ask most left-wingers and they’ll suggest that fascism is on the extreme right — 180 degrees from communism. Unh-uh. I’ve got news for you, friends. Fascism and communism are ideological kissin’ cousins. I would place fascism and socialism just a few degrees to the right of communism.

Remember, both fascism and socialism favor — to one degree or another — government control of production and distribution. The only thing that distinguishes fascism from socialism in economic theory is how they get that control.

Fascists realize the government doesn’t need to own industry to control it. Through regulation and taxation, fascists know they can achieve the same results without nearly as much work and responsibility.

So what’s at the other end of that political spectrum? This surprises a lot of people, but it’s really quite logical, if you think about it. If total government control in the form of communism is at the left end, wouldn’t it make sense that anarchy — no government control — is at the extreme right?

I envision many libertarians nodding in agreement as they read this. So where do they fit in? Just a few degrees to the left of the anarchists, of course. Conservatives, favoring less government as they do, would find themselves 20 or 30 degrees to the left of the libertarians, while liberals could shake hands with the socialists and fascists to their left.

And that’s really why we’re facing a serious threat today. You see, most liberals think they hate fascism. They equate it, understandably, with Nazism, Hitler, Mussolini, racism, anti-Semitism and imperialism. But they forget what the definition of fascism is.

Listen, Bill Clinton is no democratic socialist. He’s no Marxist. He’s a pragmatic politician — just like Mussolini. Like his predecessor’s dream of making the trains run on time, Clinton’s goal is for the economy to lumber along at a 2.5 percent growth rate. Whatever deals need to be cut with big business to make that happen are OK with him. If he needs to sell some corporate favors for campaign contributions, that’s just political expediency. If he feels it’s time to arm the Environmental Protection Agency to put more teeth into enforcement of the Endangered Species Act, who could blame him?

Very few Americans have even caught on to what’s happening. One man who has is Jack Wheeler, an adventurer and columnist with Strategic Investment financial newsletter. His term for what’s happening in America today is “democratic fascism.”

“Americans have imposed the tyranny of Washington upon ourselves,” he says. “No longer innocently oppressed, America has become a nation of belligerent beggars, demanding with insufferable arrogance an endless cornucopia of government handouts, subsidies, and entitlements. Refusing to pay for them themselves, they demand that others pick up the multi-trillion dollar tab — most especially and contemptibly, their children and grandchildren.”

It’s not just economic, either. Look at the way we have abdicated out individual liberties in favor of “group rights.” That’s a fascist concept. Look at the way we demonize certain groups (whether it’s smokers or Bible-believing Christians) and elevate others (native Americans and environmentalists) in our society.

How did we get here? It didn’t happen overnight, says Wheeler. In fact, he has another clever name for the brand of fascism we are experiencing here in the United States. He calls it “Fabian fascism.” It’s a slow-moving process. It develops incrementally. He compares it to that frog slowly boiling in a pot of water — never noticing that the temperature was approaching the lethal limit until it was too late.

One of the reasons America is moving toward fascism today is because it has lost its constitutional moorings. We’re supposed to believe in limited government in the United States. The federal powers are enumerated in the Constitution. But, in recent years, Washington has far exceeded its authority. And very few politicians — Democrats or Republicans — seem to give a darn.

Even worse, most Americans don’t even seem to be aware of the problem.

Is there any hope? Well, unless we understand what we’re up against, it’s difficult to fight it. We have to redefine our terms, comprehend the nature of the beast. That’s always a good first step on the road back to freedom.

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