Archive for May 26th, 2009

May 26, 2009

Tucker Freaking Carlson?

Odd item of the day:

Pundit Tucker Carlson publicly announced Tuesday that a right-leaning news site resembling the Huffington Post he’s been planning will go live within weeks.
Carlson will launch, which he said would focus on reporting on the Obama administration and “adding facts to the conversation.”
“We are a general-interest newspaper-format style site,” Carlson told conservative bloggers at the Heritage Foundation on Tuesday. “There just aren’t enough people covering this administration and telling the people what’s going on.”

(Hat tip: Hot Air Headlines.) How long until the Culture 11-style Hindenburg-at-Lakehurst explosion of The Daily TuckerTuckPo? Anybody want to take a stab at an over/under? Please hand me a clue here, because I certainly know nothing about the news business or online publishing.

UPDATE: Despite my ignorance of news and online publishing, I just found what’s called a “Web page” named “Google,” which you can use to look up stuff. And I was surprised to find that, just two weeks ago, it was announced that Tucker Carlson had been hired by something called “Fox News” (it connects to your television set with what’s called a “cable”).

So maybe this online thing is just a hobby for him, at least until he gets fired from Fox like he did from CNN and MSNBC.

UPDATE II: Advice to Tucker Carlson: It had better not suck. See, the thing is, even though I’m not one of The Republicans Who Really Matter — not the kind of “influential” guy who can get you hooked up with a TV gig — you would never want to make me your enemy. Just ask Ross Douthat.

Or John McCain. Let you in on a little secret: Part of the rationale of this blog, originally, was the hope that somebody in the Republican Party might notice and be smart enough to think, “Hey, that loose cannon could be dangerous,” and then inquire about the price to get it off deck. I’m notoriously lazy, and getting paid not to blog would be a sweet gig.

But I overestimated their intelligence. (You’ll never go broke underestimating the intelligence of GOP political operatives.) Nobody ever got in touch with me, and by the time the campaign really got rolling, I’d completely forgotten about my original get-rich-quick scheme, and pretty soon I was racking up some impressive traffic and . . .

Well, now Technorati tells me the site’s worth more than $200,000. Man, to think what I’d have done for even $50,000 as late as mid-2008. Chumps.

May 26, 2009

Max Boot, R.I.P.

The late commentator was defending himself against charges that he had been too harsh in criticizing Liz Cheney when, for no apparent reason, he decided to write this sentence:

I wouldn’t waste my time criticizing a clown like, say, Ann Coulter, because, unlike Liz, she is not a serious person.

The first witnesses to arrive at the scene reported finding a smoldering crater . . .

(Hat tip: C.K. MacLeod.)

May 26, 2009

‘6.5% of nothing’

Glenn Reynolds asks, “Who Is John Galt?” in response to this Wall Street Journal editorial about Maryland (where I live):

Maryland couldn’t balance its budget last year, so the state tried to close the shortfall by fleecing the wealthy. Politicians in Annapolis created a millionaire tax bracket, raising the top marginal income-tax rate to 6.25%. . . .
One year later, nobody’s grinning. One-third of the millionaires have disappeared from Maryland tax rolls. In 2008 roughly 3,000 million-dollar income tax returns were filed by the end of April. This year there were 2,000, which the state comptroller’s office concedes is a “substantial decline.” On those missing returns, the government collects 6.25% of nothing. Instead of the state coffers gaining the extra $106 million the politicians predicted, millionaires paid $100 million less in taxes than they did last year — even at higher rates.

Even if we concede that the recession may account for some or most of this revenue decline, what’s fascinating is the reaction of liberals like the Atlantic‘s Conor Clarke:

Progressive taxes are useful in recessions precisely because of all that vanishing revenue. That’s because a progressive income tax is an automatic stabilizer: It helps offset shocks to GDP that come from large declines in income and wealth. . . .
It is also true, as the Journal says, that there will be a decline in revenue. That’s the inevitable price of offsetting the shock.

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot? It is at this point that the sane man must ask Conor Clarke, “What is the purpose of taxation?” Excuse me for believing (a belief shared by the Founders) that the entire point of taxation is to collect revenue. The government must have money to fund its operations, therefore it must have tax revenue.

Stabilizing the economy? Offsetting shocks to GDP? I am a primitive caveman blogger. Your Keynesian concepts confuse and frighten me.

What Clarke confesses here is that progressive taxation is not about revenue. It has policy aims beyond merely funding the government, and constitutes an effort toward the planned economy, in which economic activity is not a function of voluntary action by individuals. Rather, the progressive tax is a mechanism for centralized direction of the economy by government.

Ergo, never mind the Laffer Curve. A soak-the-rich rationale means that progressive taxation is preferred even if it results less revenue.

There is a word for this. It begins with “s” and ends with “m.” And I don’t mean “sarcasm.”

UPDATE: Cato’s Brink Lindsey dismantles Paul Krugman’s economic nostalgia in Reason magazine. I used to work with a guy, a Pat Buchanan-type protectionist, whose basic political impulse was that life should be like it was when he was growing up in the 1950s in Parkersburg, W.Va. Dad worked at the mill, mom stayed home and made cookies, the kids played in the streets without fear, etc.

No doubt it was wonderful, but nearly everyone remembers their childhood fondly. Then you point out that they lived in a 2-bedroom bungalow, all three kids sleeping in the same room, and the whole family sharing one bath. No air-conditioning, no cable TV, no computers, etc.

Even if we could “turn back the clock,” even if my friend and I were willing to live so simply, foreswearing every modern convenience, we cannot legislate matters so as to force others to do so, in order to create around us this 1950s Parkersburg society. But the enactment of protectionist legislation is just exactly the kind of legislation by which the nostalgists propose to do that.

Well, it won’t work, because it is based on a false understanding of why the ’50s were the way they were. Lindsey debunks some of Krugman’s revisionism, but he doesn’t debunk all of it. Let me finish the job:

  • During World War II, the U.S. came as close as it ever could to “full employment,” but wartime rationing limited the ability of workers to spend all their earnings, and much of the excess was invested in war bonds or otherwise saved.
  • World War II devastated the industrial infrastructure of Germany, Japan, Russia and other nations. Until those nations could rebuild, they were effectively off the map as economic competitors to the United States, which had expanded and improved its own infrastructure during the war. Furthermore, U.S.-made equipment — trucks, cranes, bulldozers, machine tools — would be needed for the work of rebuilding those war-shattered rivals.
  • Meanwhile, once wartime rationing and other economic controls were lifted, U.S. consumers were flush with cash and eager to buy. I once worked for a man who began a small department store right after the war. He explained to me that the difficulty in the first couple years was getting stuff to sell. There was no shortage of willing customers, but it took a while for manufacturers to switch from making bombs and boots to making skillets and skirts.
  • The great era of general prosperity that followed World War II, then, was not really caused by liberal economic policy so much as it was a consequence of the war.
  • The social stability of the 1950s was, in large measure, a result of the fact that Americans had experienced so much turmoil and woe — first the Depression, then the war — in the past two decades, and were intent on enjoying peace and prosperity.
  • However, a recession began in 1957, caused by various factors, including labor union strikes and a tax policy under Eisenhower that imposed high rates on top incomes.
  • In reaction to this sense of economic stagnation, Kennedy in 1960 ran on a promise to “get this country moving again,” and subsequently did so by slashing income taxes, particularly in the top brackets.
  • Kennedy’s tax cuts sparked one of the greatest economic booms the country had ever seen, creating new affluence and rising hopes of upward mobility that were the real fuel of the social upheavals we think of (in retrospect) as “The Sixties.” College kids did dope and protested the war because they could afford to. Jobs were plentiful, wages were high, and many middle-class kids saw no point in working the night jobs, weekend jobs, and summer jobs which previously been necessary to pay tuition, room and board.

This is one of the ironies of modern liberalism, this desire to substitute ideological certainty and revisionist history for the actual reality of what happened. Many Baby Boomers who fondly remember the peace-and-love stuff of the 1960s don’t ever think hard enough to understand how JFK’s big tax cut (and the hard work of their parents) made it all possible.

You want a revolution? Cut taxes!

May 26, 2009

Rule 2 Update Seminar

Something that bears repeating when talking about The Rules: If you can do nothing else as a blogger, you can always aggregate.

This morning I woke up with Sotomayer on TV representin’ the South Bronx and thought, “OK, there will be a zillion guys blogging this story today, but what’s up with that dissin’ on the North Bronx?” Wham-bam, and the joke was online in a few minutes.

Well, “hit ’em where they ain’t,” you see? Most political bloggers take this big stuff seriously and blog it like judicial Armageddon, so why not roll the other way and treat it like a joke? And then my buddy Chris Moody at Cato sent me some reaction from his guys, and I threw that in as an update.

The story kept rolling, I got ‘Lanched, and figured: Linkfest! Let’s just round up links to every consevative blog we know, make this a “one stop” post, so the thousands of readers who come in from Instapundit will have more than a dozen choices of where to click next.

Round-up blogging — aggregation, linkfests, whatever you want to call it — is a very reader-friendly way to work. Everybody loves to play the pundit with the original insightful commentary, but that’s really much harder to do than simply to link, link, link.

So: If you ever get some good traffic coming in on a post about a hot topic, try to update with links to other sites on the same topic. In that way, you become a one-stop source for the reader, and you’re also throwing off traffic to other bloggers, who will appreciate it.

May 26, 2009

What’s Wrong With the North Bronx?

So I woke up and heard Judge Sotomayor giving her speech accepting the Supreme Court nomination. And she was like “South Bronx” this and “South Bronx” that, and after a while, I start saying to myself, dang, y’all, girl representin’ here.

I’m pretty sure she threw some gang signs and name-checked Biggie and Tupac . . .

Anyway, my grasp of New York City geography being a little hazy — I’ve only actually been there once, not counting the the time I passed through on a train to Boston and back — I began to wonder, why are we always hearing about people being from the South Bronx? Never in my life have I heard anybody even mention the North Bronx.

What’s up with that? My guess is that while the South Bronx is all gritty and mean streets with graffiti and gang bangers and pimps and all that, the North Bronx probably must be like a vanilla bland suburban scene, with Ikea stores and stuff.

So nobody wants to admit they’re from boring, bourgeois North Bronx, which is uncool, like being from Connecticut or Long Island. Kids in North Bronx, with their safe neighborhoods and shopping malls, probably lie and say they’re South Bronx, because otherwise people would think they were wimps and beat them up.

That’s my theory, anyway.

UPDATE: Yo, Cato in the House! Ilya Shapiro:

In picking Sonia Sotomayor, President Obama has confirmed that identity politics matter to him more than merit.

Word, bro. Roger Pilon:

In nominating Second Circuit Judge Sonia Sotomayor to fill the seat of retiring Supreme Court Justice David Souter, President Obama chose the most radical of all the frequently mentioned candidates before him.

And she didn’t even mention Jam Master Jay.

UPDATE II: Via Instapundit, the sister from South Bronx gets dissed by Roger Kimball:

The air hadn’t stopped vibrating with the news that Justice Souter was taking his quill pen and heading back to New Hampshire before Sonia Sotomayor, the first Hispanic nominee to the Supreme Court, emerged as a front-runner on the SCOTUS racing form. Comments there noted her qualifications — correct complement of chromosomes and suitable ethnic identity, above all, but also the requisite armory of left-liberal opinions without which no candidate for the Court under Obama need apply.

Isn’t it odd that (a) on the one hand, her being a Latina inspires MSM celebration, yet (b) on the other hand, nobody is supposed to think she was chosen mainly because she is a Latina?

Donald Douglas calls her a “token,” but the weird thing is I can’t even work up any outrage at this kind of tokenism. It’s expected, like her being a Princeton/Yale Law alumna. Just once in my life I’d like to see a president nominate to the court a graduate of, say, University of Tennessee Law School.

That would be diversity. Instead, she’s just another Ivy Leaguer. Yawn.

UPDATE III: In the comments, E.D. Kain of The Ordinary Gentlemen arches an eyebrow:

Biggie and Tupac, Stacy?

Like I said, I was asleep and woke up with this on my TV, so maybe I misunderstood. But if I don’t know North Bronx from South Bronx, how can you expect me to tell East Coast from West Coast? I’m hip, but not that hip.

You notice she didn’t say a word for my homey Dolla Burton, though.

UPDATE IV: Second ‘Lanche of the day? Like Tigerhawk says in the comments:

Rule 6: Weave approving references to law professors, Knoxville, or the University of Tennessee Law School into as many posts as possible, preferably those with a hat tip-link back to Instapundit.

Don’t try this at home, kids. I am a highly-trained professional blogger. Also, Clyde offers a good comment:

I think he picked her because Rosa Luxemburg was already dead.

And to all you uptight whiteys throwing down “bigotry” accusations in the comments:

  • That’s so 2007, dude.
  • Don’t hate the playa, hate the game.

Peace out.

UPDATE V: Since we’re all about representin’ today — Dirty South! — I’ll go through the Memeorandum threads, and throw some Rule 2 on the usual suspects and newbie peeps:

KURU Lounge, Opinionated Catholic, Just One Minute, Weekly Standard, Don Surber, Volokh Conspiracy, Outside the Beltway, Townhall, Red State, Wizbang, Roger L. Simon, Debbie Schlussel, Pundit & Pundette, Hot Air, Michelle Malkin, Power Line, Jawa Report, NRO Corner, Stop the ACLU and Dr. Flap.

Lot of FMJRA aggregation there.

UPDATE VI: Sarcasm alert! Sarcasm alert!

May 26, 2009

‘In the Famous Wordsof Rahm Emanuel . . .’

And you know what those two words are, don’t you, Rod Dreher?

Lately, Dreher has endlessly whined about talk-radio personalities he considers uncouth lowbrows. In March, Dreher said that Limbaugh’s speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference “made clear that the GOP and the conservative movement are stuck on stupid.” In April, Dreher said Glenn Beck was “giving crackpots a bad name.” Then Friday, Dreher called Mark Levin a “cretin,” a “creep” and a “trashmouth.” . . .
“Cretin”? A magna cum laude graduate of Temple University, Levin served in the Reagan administration, ultimately as chief of staff to Attorney General Ed Meese, before becoming president of the Landmark Legal Foundation. All of this Levin accomplished before beginning his successful radio career and, most recently, authoring the No. 1 bestseller Liberty and Tyranny: A Conservative Manifesto.
That Levin employs hyperbole and sarcasm on his show is only shocking to people who don’t listen to talk radio. More importantly, Levin believes conservatives are in a fight they cannot afford to lose, against implacable adversaries determined to win at all costs. When a guy begins a fight by slamming a barstool into the back of your head, the Marquis of Queensberry rules do not apply. If you respond by ripping open his carotid artery with the jagged edge of a broken beer bottle, whose fault is that? (“He needed killing,” as Texans like to say.) . . .

Please read the whole thing. Of course, Levin is fully capable of defending himself, and does so at length at Dan Riehl’s blog, including back and forth in the comments with Conor Friedersdorf. This is all part of the same problem I’ve been talking about for months, so also see:

You will find unfavorable reference to me in a series on “Conservative Renewal” at The Ordinary Gentlemen. What manner of conservative is Freddie DeBoer? Beats me, other than to say he’s the kind of conservative who doesn’t like me — a potentially formidable coalition there, I’m sure.

Unfortunately, there is so much competition for anti-Stacy market share that the numerous Gentlemen could manage only 45K visits in April, less than a third of what we racked up here with just me and Smitty.

I’m the pinata at this fiesta, so Clark Stooksbury gets in a whack, as does Friedersdorf. (What, Larison took a holiday?) The experience of being bear-baited like this, when I have so much to do that I can’t even keep up with my e-mail, is one reason I’m sympathetic to Levin:

Levin, who served as Ed Meese’s chief of staff, must defend in detail everything he says during 15 hours of weekly radio time against whatever specific criticism any blogger might make, or else be presumed indefensible.

It’s absurd, you see. Friedersdorf lashes out and then, if Levin considers it unworthy of his labor to respond point-by-point, Friedersdorf shouts that Levin didn’t address his “substantive criticisms.” Like Zell Miller said to Chris Matthews, it makes a fellow nostalgic for the days of the code duello.

Tim Blair of the Telegraph is at least amused my enumeration of behaviors that distinguish one from the wusses of Beltway elite journalism. OK, Tim, you want more?

  • If you’ve ever paid your rent with proceeds from ticket-scalping;
  • If you’ve ever had a search warrant served at your home;
  • If your high school yearbook was signed by at least one person later sentenced to life without parole;
  • If you have at least one scar as the result of a motorcycle accident;
  • If you’ve ever been in a fight that ended when your sister-in-law pulled a pistol;
  • If you know all the words to at least one David Allen Coe song;
  • If you’ve ever eluded a pursuing police car;
  • If you’ve ever been on the front row at a ZZ Top concert;
  • If you’ve ever worked in a strip club;
  • If you got fired for “fraternization” . . .

Well, the list could be extended ad infinitum, I suppose, but my wife reads the blog. And I must point out that I used to be a Democrat, so that the charge of “conservative hypocrisy” doesn’t apply. Of course, the main thing that separates me from the Beltway elite wusses is that none of them ever sported a Speedo in such fine style.

UPDATE: Thanks to Freddie DeBoer, Sully has now named me “the Malkinyest of Malkin Award winners.” Hey, I’m just “a kid from the South Bronx,” yo.

May 26, 2009

What did I tell you about bonds?

Lot of jargon here, but important:

The interest yield on 10-year US Treasuries – the benchmark price of long-term credit for the global system – jumped 33 basis points last week to 3.45pc week on contagion effects after Standard & Poor’s issued a warning on Britain’s “AAA” credit rating.
The yield has risen over 90 basis points since March when the US Federal Reserve first announced its controversial plan to buy Treasury bonds directly, a move designed to force down the borrowing costs and help stabilise the housing market.
The yield-spike may be nearing the point where it threatens to short-circuit economic recovery. . . . The Obama administration needs to raise $2 trillion this year to cover the fiscal stimulus plan and the bank bail-outs. It has to fund $900bn by September.
“The dynamic is just getting overwhelming,” said RBC Capital Markets.
The US Treasury is selling $40bn of two-year notes on Tuesday, $35bn of five-year bonds on Wednesday, and $25bn of seven-year debt on Thursday. While the US has not yet suffered the indignity of a failed auction – unlike Britain and Germany – traders are watching closely to see what share is being purchased by US government itself in pure “monetisation” of the deficit.

(Via Instapundit.) OK, who’s been warning you about this? March 23:

My own point of view is that last week’s Fed buy-up of Treasury notes represents the fateful step into the fiscal/monetary abyss of Weimar America. We are so f****d now that the only question is what kind of financial rubble we will find most useful in rebuilding the shattered wreck of an economy that will be left desolated by the remorselessly descending spiral of inflation/stagnation that now begins in earnest. . .
When that disaster finally hits — when capital freaks the hell out and the bond market goes sideways — the lone sanctuary of sanity and calm will be Galt’s Gulch.

I’ve tried to explain this in more detail at the American Spectator. I’m not an economist, of course, but you don’t have to be an economist to understand (a) bonds are sold in a market, (b) the pace of deficit spending means a huge increase in the supply of debt, and (c) the loss of capital in the meltdown means weak demand for securities.

OK, so even if there were enough demand to buy up all these bonds (i.e., the Treasury notes issued to pay for the deficit spending), if the Treasury sucks up that much capital, what will be the impact on the stock market? And what will this mean for the amount of capital available to private borrowers including businesses?

Bill Clinton was elected in 1992 after promising all kinds of new stuff during his campaign. But then he sat down to talk to his economic brain trust (Larry Summers, Lloyd Bentsen and a lot of Goldman Sachs people) and they said, “Uh-uh. You pile on all kinds of fresh deficit spending, and the bond market will tank.”

Like Obama, Clinton was an Ivy League law grad who didn’t know jack about macroeconomics, but his background in Arkansas gave him that kind of Chamber of Commerce pro-business attitude that most Southern governors had. So when his financial advisors explained the basic reality of capital markets and why new deficits would hinder recovery, Clinton took it seriously and canceled a lot of his promises.

This infuriated a lot of people, including Labor Secretary Robert Reich, and James Carville famously said, “Man, I wish I was the bond market. Then people would respect me.”

That basic story has been told by Robert Reich, William Greider and others, and I had it in the back of my mind in December when I first wrote “It Won’t Work” in December and followed up with “It Still Won’t Work” in February. Clinton wisely heeded the warnings about the bond market, whereas Obama pushed recklessly ahead, and so we march down The Road to Weimar America.

UPDATE: Welcome, Instapundit readers! In the comments, Jimbo begins a dissertation by telling me that I “don’t understand how reserve accounting works in a floating exchange rate fiat money system.” And I don’t for a minute claim to do so.

However, I do understand that supply and demand function in every market, including bond markets, stock markets and currency markets. Furthermore, I understand that “currency” and “capital” are not the same thing. When the government prints currency, the mere act of printing does not create capital.

What we are dealing with, in this recession, is a capital shortage. The collapse of the housing bubble wiped out a massive amount of value. People had borrowed money against that value, and the creditors whose capital was invested in those loans are now trying to figure out exactly how many cents on the dollar they might be able to collect, and how soon.

Ergo, there is a severe liquidity crunch, which the federal government is attempting to remedy through deficit spending. But deficit spending is borrowing, and so money that might otherwise be invested in the (job-creating, growth-inducing) private sector is instead being siphoned off into government bonds.

Something is wrong here. Whatever the result of such a policy, it will not be economic growth. Exactly what “reserve accounting” has to do with this, I don’t know. What I’m seeing is the monetary cat is chasing its fiscal tail, and taking an educated guess that the result will be stagflation.

UPDATE II: Linked at RCP Best of the Blogs.

May 26, 2009

Hayekian, Reaganite or Texan?Essay on the Arrogance of the Elite

“It is just mind-boggling how some people think that an M.A. or a Ph.D. is somehow a bestowal of omniscience. . . . So why is it that so many academics believe that their word is final when it comes to anything and everything under the sun? As an academic myself, I can answer that question with one word: arrogance.”
Mike LaRoche, May 23, 2009

“The typical intellectual . . . need not possess special knowledge of anything in particular, nor need he even be particularly intelligent, to perform his role as intermediary in the spreading of ideas. What qualifies him for his job is the wide range of subjects on which he can readily talk and write, and a position or habits through which he becomes acquainted with new ideas sooner than those to whom he addresses himself.”
Friedrich Hayek, 1949

When I use “intellectual” and “elite” as putdowns, it is a Hayek’s conception of modern intellectuals as “secondhand dealers in ideas” that informs my disdain. The arrogance of their presumed omniscience, as Mike LaRoche says, is what renders them obnoxious.

Thomas Sowell (who far outranks me as a “top Hayekian public intellectual”) describes the liberal worldview as The Vision of the Anointed, a book that every conservative ought to read, re-read, and continue re-reading until it is thoroughly understood, if not indeed memorized.

When speaking about liberal bias in the media, I sometimes explain to conservative audiences what should need no explaining: The media elite hate you.

They hate you with a thoroughgoing contempt you cannot begin to comprehend. They hate everything you believe in and everything you stand for, and until you understand why they hate you, no defense against their hatred is possible.

The reason the elite hate you is because of your failure to acknowledge their superiority. What the elite cherish, above all else, is prestige. By questioning the truth of the elite’s belief, you deny their superiority and deprive them of prestige.

Have you ever wondered why evolutionists are so vehement in denouncing creationists? Among the elite, one cannot gain prestige by advocating biblical truth, creation ex nihilo as an expression of the transcendent soveignty of the Almighty.

If the Bible is true, then the elite are fools. To admit the possibility that “in the beginning was the Word,” is to suggest that Richard Dawkins is the intellectual inferior of the holy roller shouting hallelujahs at the Pentacostal revival in the hollows of eastern Kentucky.

Your Christian faith therefore is an insult to the elite, an attack upon their precious prestige, an invitation to whatever evil word or deed the elite employ against you. Creationism is a threat to the elite in the same way that the Ukrainian kulak was a threat to the Soviet revolution, or as Albert Einstein’s genius was a threat to Hitler’s vision of Aryan supremacy.

As the Marxist would say, those analogies are no accident, comrade.

“[E]very scholar can probably name several instances from his field of men who have undeservedly achieved a popular reputation as great scientists solely because they hold what the intellectuals regard as ‘progressive’ political views; but I have yet to come across a single instance where such a scientific pseudo-reputation has been bestowed for political reason on a scholar of more conservative leanings.”
Friedrich Hayek, 1949

For all that we are told about the need for conservatives to come up with “new ideas,” it is amazing how little the situation has changed in the six decades since Hayek wrote “Socialism and the Intellectuals.” Even the Nobel Prize (which Hayek won in 1974) has been tainted by being recently awarded to Al Gore and Paul Krugman.

The prestige enjoyed by Dawkins, Gore and Krugman is denied to Michael Behe, to Steven Hayward, to Thomas Sowell. To protect their status, the elite must deny prestige to their critics and it is this monopolization of prestige — not the pursuit or dissemination of sturdy truth — that eventually becomes the chief occupation as they seek to defend their supremacy against rivals.

You need not be an intellectual to understand this. Anyone who has ever worked in a dysfunctional office under an incompetent manager knows how this game is played. The manager has attained his position by deceiving his superiors into believing he is competent, and the object of the manager’s manipulations is to prevent the discovery that he doesn’t know how to do his job.

In this situation, the incompetent manager will:

  • Routinely take credit for the achievements of others;
  • Identify as enemies the most intelligent and competent of his underlings, since they are most aware of his ineptitude and most likely to benefit from his downfall;
  • Attempt by favoritism toward sycophants to create a Praetorian Guard to defend himself against criticism; and
  • Attribute all failures to scapegoats or circumstances beyond his control.

If you’ve ever been in the kind of toxic work environment where office politics is a bloodsport, then you understand how ambitious frauds can ascend to dominance, especially in environments where quantitative and qualitative measures of individual output are difficult to obtain.

This is one reason every bright, industrious student abhors the “group project” method that became vogue among progressive educators in the 1970s. Five students are assigned to the project, one or two do all the real work, sharing their grade with the slugs and dullards.

Students of Nicco Machiavelli, Antonio Gramsci or James Burnham equally understand how the organizational structure of institutions favor or disfavor various types of personalities and various means of advancement within those institutions.

Again, to borrow the Marxist’s maxim, it is no accident that incompetent backstabbers flock toward careers in academia. Who is to say whether one professor of women’s studies is superior to another? What are the criteria by which a dean chooses a new chairman for the sociology department? Now that Ph.D.’s in history, psychology and similar disciplines so vastly exceed the number of available tenure-track positions, the business of hiring and promoting in those fields has become notoriously arbitrary and politicized.

Academia is remote from the direct input of markets, and such is the prestige of elite institutions (e.g., the Ivy League schools) that the hiring process at Columbia or Yale can never affect the success and prosperity of those institutions unless — as in the notable case of Lawrence Summers at Harvard — they accidentally hire someone with the effrontery to criticize the elite’s belief system.

Yet it is a mistake to suppose that this sort of elitism exists only in academia or that elitism is only a problem among liberals.

“This is the issue of this election: whether we believe in our capacity for self-government or whether we abandon the American revolution and confess that a little intellectual elite in a far-distant capitol can plan our lives for us better than we can plan them ourselves.”
Ronald Reagan, 1964

As with Hayek, so with Reagan, one of Hayek’s most successful admirers. Isn’t it amazing how little things have changed? Truth is a sturdy thing and human nature is a constant factor in the equation, so that the elite always strive to impose their will, and the free man always struggles to resist.

If Reagan sneered at the elite, was he a “populist”? If he used “intellectual” as an epithet, did this make him “anti-intellectual”? No, he was merely expressing the Hayekian insight: Knowledge is so scattered among the population that, in the universe of facts, no one — no professor, no pundit, no politician — can ever have all the facts or claim such a superiority of knowledge that he qualifies to be an “expert” dictating the ordinary affairs of others.

That such arrogant presumptions of expertise are common among intellectuals is as obvious to me and Mike LaRoche as it was to Reagan and Hayek. And that those we might broadly descibe as the ruling class in Washington constitute an elite is self-evident. Reagan was therefore speaking of a real problem in American political life.

Having dealt with this intellectual elite in Washington for more than a decade, I know their habits and attitudes quite well. They habitually presume to know things they do not know, and react with hostility to anyone who questions their presumptions.

Ross Douthat, whose father is a successful attorney, grew up in New Haven, Conn., attended Hamden Hall Country Day School (tuition: $26K/yr.), graduated from Harvard University (tuition $32K/yr.), and married one of his Harvard classmates.

And the title of Douthat’s most recent book? Grand New Party: How Republicans Can Win the Working Class and Save the American Dream.

Douthat might be competent to suggest how Republicans can win the alumni of Hamden Hall and save the Harvard dream, but his only qualification to speak for the working class is the ubiquitous arrogance of the intellectual elite.

“You look back in the earlier times, there were no opportunities, so there were no opportunists. . . . Later on, you have all these people who figure it’s probably a pretty good political thing to do. And so they start talking about being conservative when they’re running [for office], but they really aren’t. So when they get to Congress or wherever they go, they’re pretty easily dissuaded.”
Al Regnery, The American Spectator

Douthat is the answer to a question that has long puzzled conservatives. When I abandoned the Democratic Party in the mid-1990s (hint: “From My Cold Dead Hands!”), one of the first things I discovered was that grassroots conservatives were perpetually peeved by the ineffectiveness of Republicans in Washington.

Living in northwest Georgia (Bob Barr’s district 1995-2003) this grassroots discontent was palpable. After I moved to Washington, I’d sometimes see people roll their eyes at any mention of Barr, whom even most conservatives in D.C. considered a reckless firebrand. I’d always tell them, “Man, if you think Bob’s an extremist, you ought to meet his constituents!”

The guy in charge of IT at the newspaper I worked for in Georgia was a federal licensed firearms dealer who used to tell me, “Hey, if you ever want to shoot a machine gun, just let me know.” Another grassroots leader among Republicans, the wife of a county judge, was also the head of the local Eagle Forum and an activist for the John Birch Society.

Bob Barr never could have been elected without the support of people like that, and if you believe in representative government, then it was Bob’s job to represent those people.

And that was my job, too. In 1997, I left Georgia to join the staff of the Washington Times, but not before all my conservative friends down home had thoroughly warned me not to forget where I came from. So it was that I came to Washington with a two-fold mission.

First, I would attempt to represent accurately the essential decency of the good folks I’d left behind — hard-working, God-fearing, patriotic and self-sufficient. If there is one belief that the elite never doubt for a minute, it is that the average citizen of Floyd County, Georgia, is demonstrably inferior to the average citizen of Chicago, Boston or San Francisco.

Bullshit. Want to argue, Harvard boy?

My second mission in Washington was to discover why the Republican Party failed so miserably to advance the kind of agenda that grassroots conservatives believed they were voting for. It took me many years to understand this, and the answer is complex, but it is also as simple as two words: Ross Douthat.

Well, the liberals had their intellectual elite, you see, and so conservatives decided they needed to get them one, too. Given the natural assumption that the finest minds in America had all been scooped up by the elite schools, there soon developed an intellectual superstructure in Washington of think-tank wonks, policy analysts, political advisers and journalists who came from the same elite background, and had attended the same elite institutions, as the liberal elite.

OK, fine. Let us match Ph.D. to Ph.D., expert to expert, in a sort of intellectual equivalent of the Harvard-Yale game. But while the liberal elite were directly and constantly associating with the liberals whose beliefs it was their job to translate into policy, the conservative elite were generally isolated from the kind of people whose beliefs they were representing.

The Democrat in Brooklyn may resent the arrogance of the Columbia University graduate who specializes in urban policy for the Brookings Institute, but the Brookings specialist is not immersed in an environment where that Brooklyn Democrat is sneered at contemptuously, the way a policy wonk at the American Enterprise Institute sneers as the constituents of the typical Republican congressman.

Whatever their differences in terms of policy, the Brookings wonk and the AEI wonk share the elite belief that the typical Brooklyn Democrat is somehow superior to the typical Georgia Republican. And from that shared belief — which I assure you is well-nigh universal among the intellectual elite in Washington — emanates the great divide between the Republican elite in Washington and the rank-and-file of the GOP.

The Republican elite is ashamed of its constituents in a way that the Democratic elite is not. Therefore, Democrats fight ferociously for their agenda in a way that Republicans seldom do.

The Republican elite in Washington crave prestige, you see, and they cannot gain prestige by sticking up for the typical GOP voter in Tucson, Tulsa, Tampa or Tulllahoma. You cannot become one of The Republicans Who Really Matter by defending Ann Coulter or Rush Limbaugh. No one can impress his friends at a Georgetown cocktail party by saying nice things about Sarah Palin or Joe the Plumber. No one in the D.C. elite — whether Republican or Democrat — can ever advance his career by quoting Michelle Malkin or Mark Levin.

You see why not only do Republican elites fail to defend their own party’s constituents, but they viciously attack anyone who attempts to represent the core beliefs of the conservative grassroots. Because if Michelle Malkin is a conservative, then David Brooks is not, and it is only his status as token “conservative” that assures Brooks of membership in the elite. If Brooks were just another liberal Democrat, after all, the New York Times already has plenty of those from which to choose.

So when you see some “conservative” sneering at Rush Limbaugh or mocking the Tea Party movement — what you are witnessing is the effort of elitists to signal to their fellow elitists that they are in on the joke, that they don’t take seriously the core values of grassroots types like Joe the Plumber.

“Even where the direction of policy is in the hands of men of affairs of different views, the execution of policy will in general be in the hands of intellectuals, and it is frequently the decision on the detail which determines the net effect. We find this illustrated in almost all fields of contemporary society. Newspapers in ‘capitalist’ ownership, universities presided over by ‘reactionary’ governing bodies, broadcasting systems owned by conservative governments, have all been known to influence public opinion in the direction of socialism, because this was the conviction of the personnel.”
Friedrich Hayek, 1949

What Hayek says here can be applied equally, you see, to the Republican Party and the various institutions of the conservative movement. If the think-tank wonks, the congressional staffers and the writers for conservative journals believe in same-sex marriage, global warming or universal health care, efforts to employ those institutions on behalf of contrary opinions will not be as effective as if those efforts were conducted by personnel who actually shared the beliefs they were paid to advance.

The elite cadre of the GOP and the official conservative movement constitute a bureaucracy, and the critique of bureaucracy are equally valid. The beliefs of the Heritage Foundation bureaucrat are in many ways more important in the operations of that institution than the beliefs of Ed Feulner or Ed Meese. The enemy within the camp is always the most to be feared.

Why, after all, does John Cornyn not hesitate to urinate all over the Republican rank-and-file in Florida by endorsing Charlie Crist more than a year before the primary? Because no one at NRSC headquarters, nor any member of Cornyn’s Senate staff, has any interest in the concerns of the conservative grassroots nor any incentive to represent those concerns.

Is David Brooks going to speak up for Marco Rubio? Will Kathleen Parker defend the rights of Florida Republicans to choose their own candidates? Do you expect Rod Dreher to tear himself away from the important work of defaming Mark Levin in order to tell his readers in Dallas what Cornyn has done?

“This is the arrogance of the intellectual elite, to imagine that their particular specialty — the expression of abstract ideals via the written word — is the only ability that matters, qualifying them as experts on anything and everything they choose to write about.”
Robert Stacy McCain, May 22, 2009

Michelle Malkin went to Oberlin, Mark Levin went to Temple and Ann Coulter went to Dartmouth. These are all elite institutions, and all three of these individuals engage in endeavors that qualify them as “intellectuals” in the sense that their work involves “shaping public opinion.” Why, then, are they at odds with, and scorned by, the people you think of as the “intellectual elite”? Chiefly because they do not look down at The Ordinary American, nor do they ever entertain the notion that their readers are morons incapable of thinking for themselves.

The greatest example of this respect for the grassroots, of course, is Rush Limbaugh. If you listen to Rush regularly, you know that sometimes he’ll get a caller who’ll say, “Rush, how can you say such-and-so? Everybody in the MSM is saying the opposite. The people will believe the MSM, not you!” And Limbaugh will calmly reply, “Look, you figured it out on your own. I figured it out. Don’t you think that other people see the same thing and can figure it out for themselves? Give people some credit.”

What makes Rush angry is the evident belief of so many Republican “leaders” that the American people can’t handle the truth. Among these truths is that the economic agenda of today’s Democrats is the exact same agenda that Hayek warned was being advanced by the intellectuals of 1949.

Begins with an “s,” ends with an “m,” and I don’t mean “sarcasm.” But don’t say it out loud, or Rod Dreher will call you a “crackpot.”

May 26, 2009

Ayers, Asness: which side to support?

by Smitty (hat tips: Lucianne and Roger Kimball)

  The poor wee Ayers was unable to enter Canada on 18May. He’d asked during a similar January incident “Are we living in some kind of McCarthyist nightmare?”
  It seems we are, Bill, though not your usual Rod Serling-esque Q&A about your preferences when you Party. No, it’s more a Kafka-esque running dream where the First Amendment has become notional, as Clifford Asness relates:

…a businessman who ran a manufacturing concern spent a good quarter of an hour railing against Obama’s plans to nationalize health care. He had informed himself about the pending legislation in minute detail. He had devoted hours to studying the effects on hospitals and HMOs. He had become utterly convinced that Obama’s plans would harm millions.
Well, then, one of his listeners asked, why had the businessman failed to say any of this in public?
The businessman paused, astonished.
“Isn’t it obvious?” he replied. “I have an obligation to my shareholders. Keep your head down. Don’t speak out. In this climate, that’s just being responsible.”

  Now, this is a context-free anecdote, and it may be that the writer is buffing up the column.
  What I do know is that the mood of the country is significantly altered. The general case of the blues is not the same as when the Internet bubble burst, post-Clinton. It’s not the worry about whether the world was ending on 9/11. It’s not just the certainty that the economy is going to stay parked in the toilet for the foreseeable future. No, it’s the sobering realization that the worst pre-election fears about the current administration are true, and then some: BHO represents the culmination of a lengthy cultural and academic campaign fomented by the likes of Ayers to put an absolute tool in the Oval Office.
  I remain optimistic, however, that the coming Tea Parties on 04Jul and 12Sep will build momentum, and McDonnell will win the VA gubernatorial race, and the 112th Congress won’t suck as much pondwater with Pelosi Galore out of the picture. This administration needs to become the Battle of the Bulge for the collectivists, the time where they threw in everything to the last union, acorn, and unicorn but couldn’t quite crush the American spirit.
  If we don’t support Asness in every legitimate way, then the Ayers crowd wins the day.

May 26, 2009

PajamasTV: silky fail?

by Smitty

So they finally offer emblematics, and what do you think is missing? Hint: this is P A J A M A S media, right? Haven’t these Hollywood types heard of Chekhov’s Gun?
I demand silk jim-jams of stunning, Hefnerian proportions.