opinions & VicivsnFrom Robespierre with LovenBertram Gross: Friendly Fascism:nThe New Face of Power in America;nM. Evans & Co.; New York.nRichard Lingeman: Small TvwnnAmerica: A Narrative History, 1620n— The Present; G. P. Putnam’s Sons;nNew York.nby James J. Thompson, Jr.nA.merican leftists had best pondernan old saying that still makes the roundsnamong God-fearing folks: “Be carefulnwhat you pray for; the Good Lord maynjust give it to you.” Back in the 1890’snthe American Left—ranging from mildmannerednliberals to fire-breathing socialists—begannto beseech the PowersnAbove to bestow upon us a federal governmentnthat would check the abusesnof powerful corporations, foster thengrowth of labor unions, direct the citizenrynin the ways of righteousness andnat last lead us into the promised landnof justice and material abundance fornall. Presidents Theodore Roosevelt andnWoodrow Wilson seated America at thenbanquet table and served the appetizers,;nFranklin Roosevelt spread a sumptuousnmain course; and Lyndon Johnson borenin a dessert tray laden with every delicacynimaginable. Surely the Lord hadnanswered the prayers of America’s tirelessnleft-wing reformers.nBy the late 1960’s American leftistsncould look back over a half-century ofnprogressive innovation and social engineeringnsponsored by an ever-beneficentnfederal government. But alas, unhappinessnand discontent and, yes, even gloomnbegan to permeate the ranks of the left.nSomething had gone awry. The dirtynlittle secret had become too obvious tonignore: big government had not curednall our ills. Even worse, it had pilednnew problems upon the half-solved andnDr. Thompson is professor of historynat The College of William and Mary.n6nChronicles of Culturenunsolved ones that already existed. Whatnin the world were right-thinking renformers to do?nWith no immediate way out of thisnimpasse in sight, some leftists turnednto the self-flagellation they engage innwhen not flaying right-wing miscreants.nThe mounting self-doubt of the 1970’snhas now emerged in full panoply. BertramnGross’s Friendly Fascism and RichardnLingeman’s Small Town Americanboth attest to the growing concern ofnthe left with the massive centralizationnof power in Washington, D.C. Grossnhas served the masters of aggrandizementnwell since the 1940’s; over thencourse of a long career he has advisednPresidents on economic policy and hasnlent a hand to the drafting of such billsnas the Employment Act of 1946. InnFriendly Fascism he wails “mea culpa “:n”For many years I sought solutions fornAmerica’s ills—particularly unemployment,nill health, and slums—throughnmore power in the hands of centralngovernment… It has taken me a longntime to concede that I (and my colleagues)nhave often been a large part ofnthe new Leviathan’s entourage. In anyncase, I no longer am.”nRichard Lingeman, executive editornof The Nation, offers no such recantation,nbut in Small Town America henlooks with ambivalent admiration towardna segment of America not oftennpraised in the salons of New York City:nhe has rediscovered the virtues of thensmall town. As more and more powernhas accrued to the federal government.nnnsmall towns have suffered accordingly.nLingeman seems eager to reverse thatntrend, for he appreciates the smallntown’s “potential for community—forndirect, caring, face-to-face interactionnof people” who direct their own livesnwithout the heavy yoke of Washingtonnupon their backs.nWhat do we have here? Are wenabout to witness a mass exodus from thenleft? Anyone even faintly familiar withnthe passionate faith of the leftist TruenBeliever knows that even to pose such anquestion is to risk being labeled a lunatic.nNo, Gross and Lingeman have notnfound the light; they remain men of thenleft. For all of Richard Lingeman’s beliefnin the promise of small-town lifenand his wistful nostalgia for his ownnboyhood years in Crawfordsville, Indiana,nhe reviles the small town asnhistorically the bastion of tight-fistednbusinessmen, lackluster political hacks,nprune-faced puritans and sharp-tonguedngossips; “mean-spirited negativism, bigotry,nand nativism” have flourished behindnthose white picket fences. Lingemannfollows a classic pattern: smalltownnboy goes to big city (New York,nin this case), becomes a deracinatednurban sophisticate, and blasts the homenfolks for their narrow-mindedness. AndnGross? He longs to slay the Great Beastnof Big Business, eviscerate the strengthnof a warmongering federal governmentnand return America to the “people,”nthose long-suffering masses yearning tonbe free. Lingeman and Gross need notnfear that they have violated the sacredncanons of the left: Jane Fonda and RamsaynClark will still come to their cocktailnparties.nBut the American right has its sacredncanons as well, and if the first is “Thounshalt assail Big Government,” surelynthe second reads: “Thou shalt speak nonill of corporations.” Most conservativesnwill love Bertram Gross’s animadversionsnon the iniquities of the federaln