In the wake of the protest that rocked the city of Charlottsville, much has been said about what caused it, what caused James Fields to use his car to kill 3 people and injure many more, and of course how to prevent it from happening again.

There are those who say it was caused by bad ideas, others a reaction to the policies of the  Left.  Of course bad ideas were a key factor in what happened over the weekend, ideas that many naively believed were gone for good.  Fascism and Nazism had been defeated in war, and society in the West had years of integration under its belt.  Yet they never truly went away.  People are mortal, ideas are not, whether good or bad.  Collectivist ideals such as racism, nationalism, fascism, and Nazism act as bloody, ideological stains on humanity, but after their glory days of the 20s, 30s, and 40s, they gradually went underground, their believers waiting for the right time to strike back.

Then, things began to change.  A poor economic reality for millions made people extremely upset, their livelihoods which seemed so secure had crumbled into dust.  When the government decided to bailout massive multi-national corporations, many became quite enraged.  When the government tried to “fix” America’s healthcare system, they became even more enraged.  “Taxed Enough Already” became a rallying cry, yet despite electoral success, they failed to stop the ever greater expansion of the State.  Many lived in flyover country, and as the years went by, they felt their voices being heard less and less.  During this time, their suspicions of foreigners grew and grew.  They began to blame immigrants, and other foreigners for a loss of jobs and livelihoods.

Suddenly, a political messiah came, promising them he would fight those dastardly foreigners who somehow had stolen all that was dear, and were threatening to take even more.  They rallied to Donald Trump, who promised to “save them” from the vast hordes of foreigners streaming into the country, from people who have “incompatible cultures,” and to return their jobs which had gone overseas.  The establishment simply laughed at Trump and his movement, deciding that it would go away sooner or later.  Instead of crumbling away though, the Trump phenomenon gained steam, winning primary after primary, and successfully taking the Republican nomination.  Then the unthinkable happened:  Trump won the Presidential election in a shocking upset over establishment darling Hillary Clinton.  9 months later, emboldened by his electoral success, the far Right descended on Charlottsville.  Tensions that had been building for months finally broke, as blood ran through the streets.

So what should be done in response?

Should we panic and limit the exchange of ideas to protect minorities?  As repugnant as the beliefs of the Unite the Right protesters are, it was this very idea of limiting free speech which led to the rise of Trump.  No, not all straight, white males are fascistic racist assholes, far from it, even those with Confederate blood.  For example, my great grandparents fled Benito Mussolini’s Italy.  I also had relatives who lived in Hitler’s Germany.  Additionally, I have relatives, whose in-laws managed to get  doses of fascism, Nazism, and communism in Hungary.  I happen to find racism, slavery, fascism, Nazism, and communism to be very horrid and disgusting, collectivist things.  But first, how might these manage to take hold in a country?

In Omnipotent Government: The Rise of the Total State and Total War, Ludwig von Mises writes:

“Nazism conquered Germany because it never encountered any adequate intellectual resistance.  It would have conquered the whole world if, after the fall of France, Great Britain and the United States had not begun to fight it seriously.”

Mises then points out why attempts to combat Nazism before it completely took over failed: the core beliefs of Nazism were never criticized, as they have much in common with more socially acceptable ideologies.  There are six such tenets

“1.  Capitalism is an unfair system of exploitation.  IT injures the immense majority for the benefit of a small minority.  Private ownership of the means of production hinders the full utilization of natural resources and of technical improvements.  Profits and interest are tributes which the masses are forced to pay to a class of idle parasites.  Capitalism is the cause of poverty and must result in war.

2.  It is therefore the foremost duty of popular government to substitute government control of business for the management of capitalists and entrepreneurs.

3.  Price ceilings and minimum wage rates, whether directly enforced by the administration or indirectly by giving a free hand to trade-unions, are an adequate means for improving the lot of consumers and permanently raising the standard of living of all wage earners.  They are steps on the way toward entirely emancipating the masses (by the final establishment of socialism) from the yoke of capital.

4. Easy money policy, i.e., credit expansion, is a useful method of lightening the burdens imposed by capital upon the masses and making a country more prosperous.  It has nothing to do with the periodical recurrence of economic depression.  Economic crises are an evil inherent in unhampered capitalism.

5.  All those who deny the foregoing statements and assert that capitalism best serves the masses  and that the only effective method of permanently improving the economic conditions of all strata of society is progressive accumulation of new capital are ill-intentioned and narrow-minded apologists of the selfish class interests of the exploiters.  A return to laissez faire, free trade, the gold standard, and economic freedom is out of the question.  Mankind will fortunately never go back to the ideas and policies of the nineteenth century and the Victorian age.

6.  The advantage derived from foreign trade lies exclusively in exporting.  Imports are bad and should be prevented as much as possible.  The happiest situation in which a nation can find itself is where it need not depend on any imports from abroad”

If I were to ask, say, a random college student what they thought of the above ideas, chances are they would agree, at least in part with most, if not all the ideas above.  Many people in the US in general, especially those working in blue-collar industries would especially agree with the 6th one.  Of course, this doesn’t make any of these people Nazis or fascists by virtue of holding such beliefs.

Jeffrey Tucker points out, a major reason why fascism can become so popular is that it avoids attacking the institutions of family, faith (at least what is deemed ‘acceptable’ faith), and property (as long that property is ultimately in use to enhance the power of the State).

“Whereas the left has long attacked bourgeois institutions like family, church and property, fascism has made its peace with all three. It (very wisely) seeks political strategies that call on the organic matter of the social structure and inspire masses of people to rally around the nation as a personified ideal in history, under the leadership of a great and highly accomplished man.”

No, the answer is more liberty.  Humanity advances when ideas are exchanged.  All that does not exist naturally was the product of an idea.  An idea that likely needed the input other ideas, all of which required others ideas.  And, in order for it all to come to fruition, cooperation is key.  By allowing ideas to be freely exchanged, humanity has a greater chance of flourishing.

“But wait, wouldn’t that allow Nazis and other such ilk a platform to espouse their hateful ideas?”  Yes it does, but that’s not the point.  Whether we like it or not, ideas, both good and bad are essentially eternal.  No matter how hard you try to eradicate an idea by force, the more it simply goes underground, and becomes more extreme.  This is quite obvious in Europe, where there are numerous laws against Antisemitism and Holocaust denial, yet the rates of Antisemitism are higher there, than in America, where those sorts laws are not on the books.  Additionally, those who hold such views in places where they are banned tend to be much more dogmatic in their beliefs than in places where they are free to hold such views.

More importantly, as Greg Lukianoff and Nico Perrino point out:

“But we should not be so myopic about the value of freedom of speech. It is not just a practical, peaceful alternative to violence. It does much more than that: It helps us understand many crucial, mundane and sometimes troubling truths. Simply put, it helps us understand what people actually think—not “even if” it is troubling, but especially when it is troubling.”

The best way to deal with bad ideas is to have them openly compete alongside good ideas.  Otherwise we shall rue the day when they come out of the woodwork, nastier than when they first appeared.