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Regimentation

Mises Daily: Wednesday, October 11, 2000 by

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Mussolini

Al Gore’s 190-page "economic plan," as detailed as any of the former Soviet Union’s vaunted "Five-Year Plans," demonstrates that the American Left still does not accept the worldwide collapse of socialism.

As extreme as the Gore economic plan is, with its record spending increases, social engineering through the tax system, environmental extremism, and threats to free trade, it is still a campaign document and politicians always pull their punches during a campaign.

A clearer picture of how the American Left really views the economy can be gleaned by reviewing the two biggest attempts to expand government’s power over the economy during the Clinton/Gore administration: the Clinton health plan and the administration’s plan to break up Microsoft.

The Clinton plan to nationalize some fourteen percent of the economy (the health care sector) was, intentionally or not, almost identical to how Mussolini organized the fascist Italian economy in the 1930s. The key component of the Clinton plan was a National Health Board comprised of seven presidential appointees that would have overseen the activities of government-created and -regulated "regional health care alliances" that would have strictly regulated and controlled the practice of medicine. The private practice of medicine would have been private in name only, and the health insurance industry would have become extinct.

In Mussolini’s Italy each industry was regulated by a state-recognized "confederation" or alliance. As in the Clinton health care plan, the purpose of these groupings, according to Mussolini adviser Fausto Pitigliani, was to allow the central government to orchestrate "collaboration . . . between the various categories of producers in each branch of productive activity." Only legally-recognized "collaboration" was permitted, just as only legally recognized regional health care and corporate "alliances" could purchase health insurance under the Clinton plan.

In Italy, a "National Council of Corporations" saw to it that private initiative could only exist "in the service of the national interest," as defined by Mussolini. In the Clinton plan, the National Health Board would have served the same function. The Italian National Council had the power to set prices and budgets and to issue regulations, just as the Clinton National Health Board would have had.

The Italian system was supported by the government’s official propaganda, which demonized private entrepreneurs and demanded that all industry be regulated in a "spirit of national collaboration." The Clinton/Gore administration spent its first eighteen months in office demonizing physicians, health insurance companies, and the pharmaceutical industry while calling for central planning of the health care industries "in the national interest."

Mussolini’s government claimed that its bureaucratic scheme would render the Italian economy "vigorous, careful and efficient," analogous to the Clinton/Gore administration’s claim that their central plan for health care would cut more than $200 billion in "waste" from the system.

Despite Mussolini’s masterful propaganda efforts, Italian fascism was an economic debacle, described at the time in The Economist as a "costly bureaucracy from which . . . industrialists . .. put into practice the worst kind of monopolistic practices at the expense of the little fellow who is squeezed out in the process." Sounds like the likely effects of the failed Clinton/Gore health care plan.

Then there’s the proposal for the breakup of Microsoft, authored primarily by Assistant Attorney General for Antitrust Joel Klein and other political appointees in the Clinton/Gore Justice Department and accepted almost verbatim by Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson, the judge in the Microsoft case.

The Clinton/Gore administration apparently has no qualms about forced labor, for the Microsoft breakup order commands Microsoft to "use all reasonable efforts to maintain and increase the sales and revenues of both the products produced or sold" prior to the order and to "support research and development for such products." Presumably, Microsoft would have to do this even if those products became obsolete in the rapidly-changing computer industry.

The Clinton/Gore plan for the Microsoft breakup also forbade myriad ordinary and efficient business practices such as giving valued clients and business associates preferential treatment. The company would be forbidden from offering such clients "terms more favorable than those available" to any other business.

Egalitarian extremism is another characteristic of the judge’s order, wherein Microsoft is commanded to offer "equal access" to all computer manufacturers with regard to discounts, technical, market, and sales support, licensing terms, etc.

Like all central planning schemes, the Microsoft breakup order would create a massive paperwork burden for the company, for it is required to report every single agreement made with any applications business to the government every three months and to present the government with a "report" of its activities whenever the government asks for one.

A corporate citizen’s right to privacy is not something the Clinton/Gore administration is concerned about, for the Microsoft breakup order also creates a Gestapo-like monitoring system whereby government regulators are given the right to storm Microsoft’s offices during business hours to "inspect and copy all books, ledgers, accounts, correspondence, memoranda, source code, and other records and documents."

A particularly totalitarian aspect of the Clinton/Gore plan for the breakup of Microsoft is the judge’s admonition that the company establish an internal spying network to "establish and maintain a means by which employees can report potential violations" to the government "on a confidential basis."

Judge Jackson’s order (currently under appeal), which was almost an exact replica of the Clinton/Gore administration’s proposed remedy, effectively nationalizes Microsoft, just as the Clinton/Gore health plan would have nationalized the entire health care sector. The American Left, whose current standard bearers are Al Gore and Hillary Clinton, still believes in 1920s-era socialism.