A Momentary Lapse of Reason

posted at 8:52 pm on July 8, 2010 by Ed Driscoll

Megan McArdle, The Atlantic’s resident in-house World’s Tallest Female Libertarian Econoblogger Who Nonetheless Voted for Obama, wrote yesterday:

Random thought of the day: what if Lord Keynes was right . . . but only in 1932?

Actually, that timeframe makes a certain amount of sense — we know Keynes wasn’t right from 1933 to 1941, when, as UCLA noted a few years ago, “FDR’s policies prolonged Depression by 7 years, UCLA economists calculate.” Or as Mark Steyn presciently noted, in late October of 2008, other nations had economic Depressions at the start of the 1930s; the US had a Great Depression, earning that added sobriquet due to its needless longevity.

And we know that Keynes’ medicine — spend ‘til a nation is even more broke than it was at the start of the Depression — wouldn’t go over well with the American people during 1932, since it wasn’t a part of Roosevelt’s platform. FDR, to listen to him, seemed most concerned with ending Prohibition, and far from promoting massive Make Work Projects, in some ways, ran to the right of Herbert Hoover.

But thanks to almost three quarters of a century worth of self-perpetuated myths, today’s liberals actually couldn’t wait for the 21st century economy to collapse before literally promising to dust-off 70-year old programs. Pennsylvania Democrat Paul Kanjorski was quoted in May of 2008 as saying:

“All we’re doing is going into the basket and saying, ‘Damn, what did they do in ‘32, what did they do in ‘34, what did they do in ‘36,’ and we’re pulling them out, dusting them off, giving them a paint job, correcting the fenders a bit, and we’re using them…To get us through the horrendous problems we may have over the next several years, we’ve got to make these old programs work, and we’ve got to be as inventive as hell.”

In May of 2008, the Dow-Jones was 2000 points higher than it is today, and unemployment was at about 5.5 percent, half of today’s national average.

At least though, most of FDR’s Keynesian programs were focused on temporarily creating jobs by building things. But that’s the paradox: pace Rep. Kanjorski, we can’t do what they did in ’34 and ’36. Thanks to a morass of political correctness, NIMBY “Not In My Backyard” extremism has gone BANANAS — “Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anyone.”

In his op-ed this week, Jonah Goldberg squared the circle:

Gleichschaltung is a German word (in case you couldn’t have guessed) borrowed from electrical engineering. It means “coordination.” The German National Socialists (Nazis) used the concept to get every institution to sing from the same hymnal. If a fraternity or business embraced Nazism, it could stay “independent.” If it rejected Nazism, it was crushed or bent to the state’s ideology. Meanwhile, every branch of government was charged with not merely doing its job but advancing the official state ideology.

Now, contemporary liberalism is not an evil ideology. Its intentions aren’t evil or even fruitfully comparable to Hitlerism. But there is a liberal Gleichschaltung all the same. Every institution must be on the same page. Every agency must advance the liberal agenda.

And this is where the Catch-22 catches. The dream of a nimble, focused, problem-solving government is undone by the reality of hyper–mission creep. When every institution is yoked to an overarching philosophy or mission, its actual purpose can become an afterthought. In 2005, volunteer firefighters from all over the country offered to help with Katrina’s aftermath. But FEMA sent many of them to Atlanta first to undergo diversity and sexual-harassment training (which most already had).

Such examples are everywhere. What is political correctness other than the gears of the liberal Gleichschaltung? The financial crisis was worsened because Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac became tools for liberal social engineering. Let’s not even mention public schools.

The White House is determined to be a great friend (i.e., servant) to the unions, so everything from the stimulus to the automaker buyout to the Gulf spill must first pass union muster. Remember those vital, “shovel-ready” weatherization jobs the stimulus was supposed to pay for? The Labor Department delayed them for nearly a year while trying to figure out how to comply with pro-union “prevailing wage” rules for each of more than 3,000 counties.

Liberalism has become a cargo cult to the New Deal, but many of the achievements of the New Deal would be impossible now. Just try to get a Hoover Dam built today.

But Didn’t Candidate Obama realize this when he was running in 2008? Mickey Kaus recently wrote:

On page 85 of his excellent quick-history, The Promise, Jon Alter discusses Obama’s 2009 stimulus bill:

The biggest frustration involved infrastructure. Obama said later that he learned that “one of the biggest lies in government is the idea of ‘shovel-ready’ projects.” It turned out that only about $20 billion to $40 billion in construction contracts were truly ready to go. The rest were tied up in the endless contracting delays and bureaucratic hassles associated with building anything in America. [E.A.]

a) Good that Obama is still learning, but the realization that the expensive projects he repeatedly assured Americans were “shovel-ready” actually weren’t comes a little late, no? The economy needed stimulating 18 months ago. How many unemployed Americans could have had jobs for the last year and a half if Obama had realized the House Dems’ “shovel-ready” pitch was a crock and pursued other, quicker forms of stimulus–like an instant payroll tax cut?

Mickey quipped, “And here I thought the coming to power of the Democrats was a voyage of discovery only for their youthful journalistic enthusiasts.”

Heh. Or as somebody said in early September of 2008, “My fellow citizens, the American presidency is not supposed to be a journey of personal discovery.”

Fortunately though, California’s state government, knowing that its unemployment rate is even higher than the national average, shows that when it wants to cut through the red tape, it can, as J.E. Dyer writes today on Commentary’s Contentions blog:

Thousands of people in the farming industry have lost their livelihoods and property since California’s “man-made drought” became reality three years ago. In some counties, unemployment tops 20 percent. The state has lost billions in revenue from its largest industry: agriculture.Advocacy groups this spring brought the central dispute, which is over the celebrated Delta smelt in the San Joaquin River delta, to a judicially brokered compromise that now allows some level of water pumping. (A good summary of the process is here.) But this is a conditional outcome: not sustainable and not intended to be so. New development is what’s needed to transcend the limitations of our state water infrastructure, which set us up for the crisis to begin with. But legislators in Sacramento aren’t serious enough to prioritize taking action; they have to wangle votes from each other with unseemly pork, which only makes their “fix” more difficult to present to tax-weary voters.

There is, however, something on which the political leaders in Sacramento were able to take unified action this week. In 2008, California voters passed Proposition 2, which mandates a set of humane conditions for the hens tended by egg-producing farmers. This year’s legislature has passed a law that will require out-of-state egg producers to conform to the mandate as well, if they want to sell eggs in California. The governor signed it yesterday, demonstrating that they can get things done in Sacramento. The things just have to be on their list of priorities.

What will it take for California’s political class to recognize that prosperity, public order, and human survival are not givens? They can collapse under the weight of hostile regulation. The Golden State’s sour economy and staggering deficit are the chief exhibits in that lesson today, and worse is probably looming. But by all means, let us fight to ensure that hens across America can spread their wings without bumping into each other.

So how does one fix a worldview that’s so trapped in an imaginary glorious past that it thwarts its ideology’s technological advancement?

Good luck — not even NASA knows how to solve this issue.

Update: Amity Shlaes, the author of The Forgotten Man, her brilliant 2007 look at human cost of the Great Depression, has an op-ed at AOL that dovetails well with this post: “Is Obama Spurring Growth, or Knocking It Down?”


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Megan McArdle is a drooling idiot…but at least she’s smart enough to know it and try to hedge her bets.

Really, I can’t stand that hedging moron. She really just can’t come right out and say Obama is a disaster…and why? Because she voted for the American destroying tool and because if she did, then all of her lefty pals (the only friends I think she has) would disown her in a heartbeat. What a lame clown.

AUINSC on July 8, 2010 at 9:03 PM

How about making this compulsory reading for every university student?

Nah! That might seem like indoctrination – as opposed to what they teach on campuses all over this nation. /

honsy on July 8, 2010 at 9:03 PM

2010 and 2012. That’s America’s only hope.

SoulGlo on July 8, 2010 at 9:04 PM

So how does one fix a worldview that’s so trapped in an imaginary glorious past that it thwarts its ideology’s technological advancement?

Maybe with Unicorn ranches and Skittle Rainbows for everyone! Well not everyone mind you , someone has to keep filling the pot with gold to pay for the Skittles.

We are close to the big Government Bubble bursting, until then we will be fighting uphill!

bluemarlin on July 8, 2010 at 9:05 PM

This is all crap because all of this assumes that Obama has a desire to fix anything. He does not.

HE WANTS TO BREAK IT. CRUSH IT. SPINDLE IT. This son of a gun hates our laws, hates our country and is completely bent on destroying it. Everything he does is to that one goal…and while you folks discuss all the cute ass reasons he is failing, he is succeeding well past his wildest dreams.

PierreLegrand on July 8, 2010 at 9:06 PM

Megan McArdle is a drooling idiot

Please keep repeating this until people stop listening to her.

tetriskid on July 8, 2010 at 9:06 PM

Megan McArdle, The Atlantic’s resident in-house World’s Tallest Female Libertarian Econoblogger Who Nonetheless Voted for Obama, wrote yesterday:

Heh.

Weight of Glory on July 8, 2010 at 9:10 PM

Belief in Keynesian economic theory is part of the left-wing mantra. You must believe, or you can’t be a member. And when the facts prove Keynes wrong, children such as McArdle try to wiggle around things.

Finally, does anyone really believe Obama did not know that there are never many “shovel ready” projects. The cash was destined for SEIU, ACORN and the like all along.

doufree on July 8, 2010 at 9:11 PM

A Momentary Lapse of Reason
=====================================

Ed,for a minute,after clicking,I had
to take a double look,I though Reason
said Treason,haha!:)

canopfor on July 8, 2010 at 9:11 PM

Now, contemporary liberalism is not an evil ideology.

Contemporary liberalism (aka, fascism with a wig) which is not liberal, might as well be evil, if it is not. Hitler didn’t think he was doing evil either.

Tav on July 8, 2010 at 9:13 PM

Thousands of people in the farming industry have lost their livelihoods and property since California’s “man-made drought”

versus

Proposition 2, which mandates a set of humane conditions for the hens tended by egg-producing farmers.

Lack of water is inhumane while Proposition 2 clearly defines precisely how much inhumanity is tolerable for chickens.

ericdijon on July 8, 2010 at 9:15 PM

The Dimocrats have to go.

GarandFan on July 8, 2010 at 9:15 PM

But thanks to almost three quarters of a century worth of self-perpetuated myths, today’s liberals actually couldn’t wait for the 21st century economy to collapse before literally promising to dust-off 70-year old programs.
=======================================================
Well,so far,there spending hand over fist,and its been
a real Lefty creative two years!!

Ugh!

canopfor on July 8, 2010 at 9:17 PM

Sorry Jonah, I have to disagree with you.

Liberals ARE evil.
Obama IS evil.

Open your eyes. Our country is being systematically destroyed.

fogw on July 8, 2010 at 9:19 PM

Ok, wait. Federal laws like DOMA don’t apply in Massachusetts but California laws can regulate Iowa egg producers? Note it is not the product that is being regulated but the CONDITIONS of production.

And it was the mess the various states made of inter state trade under the Articles of Confederation that contributed to the US Constitution, the Federal Government, and the COMMERCE CLAUSE.

The United States have become a loose collection of war lords who haven’t yet dispatched their armies. This is NUTS.

Skandia Recluse on July 8, 2010 at 9:20 PM

A Momentary Monetary Lapse of Reason

FIFY

dts-01 on July 8, 2010 at 9:21 PM

In 2005, volunteer firefighters from all over the country offered to help with Katrina’s aftermath. But FEMA sent many of them to Atlanta first to undergo diversity and sexual-harassment training (which most already had).
=====================================================

So Bush gets crucified!!

Meanwhile,get caught snooping around the Well from H*ll
Oil Spill areas,and you`ll get a nasty fine!!!!!!!!!!!

canopfor on July 8, 2010 at 9:23 PM

Commentary on Keynsian economics is a huge waste of time. These people aren’t about Keynes, they are about Cloward-Piven IMHO.

Dr. ZhivBlago on July 8, 2010 at 9:23 PM

“Such examples are everywhere. What is political correctness other than the gears of the liberal Gleichschaltung? The financial crisis was worsened because Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac became tools for liberal social engineering. Let’s not even mention public schools.”

I’m going to make T-Shirts and Bumper Stickers that say…

“Liberal Gleichschaltung!”

… then laugh at every liberal that walks up to me and asks:

“What’s that mean?”

Seven Percent Solution on July 8, 2010 at 9:26 PM

…we’ve got to make these old programs work, and we’ve got to be as inventive as hell.

How in the name of logical consistency can you both “do what we did before” and “be as inventive as hell”?

I don’t really expect today’s progressives / liberals to be consistent, since their postmodern worldview throws the law of non-contradiction to the winds… but gee whiz!

psrch on July 8, 2010 at 9:27 PM

BREAKING NEWS: Lebron James is going to the Miami Heat.

SoulGlo on July 8, 2010 at 9:30 PM

“Now, contemporary liberalism is not an evil ideology.”

I missed that the first time around…

… Can you please give just one example, just one, where the original liberal “intention” did not result in the absolute devistation on the population targeted for, in the real world, once the liberal ideology leaves the think tanks, and when implemented is a disaster?

Seven Percent Solution on July 8, 2010 at 9:39 PM

So Obama the smartest president i9n the history of the universe got fooled, tricked, or otherwise fell off the turnip truck?

I would love to see the 1.8 GPA he got at harvard.

jukin on July 8, 2010 at 9:40 PM

“Now, contemporary liberalism is not an evil ideology. Its intentions aren’t evil…”

The sooner everyone wakes up and realizes that this is simply not true, the sooner we’ll be able to discuss this seriously.

Midas on July 8, 2010 at 9:52 PM

A Momentary Monetary Lapse of Reason

FIFY

Heh. I wish I had thought of that — I might have used it as the title.

Ed Driscoll on July 8, 2010 at 10:06 PM

Now, contemporary liberalism is not an evil ideology.

Oh, OK.
Legalized theft, broken families, class warfare, resultant crime (just to name a few items) is not evil.
Thanks so much for clearing that up for us.

Amendment X on July 8, 2010 at 10:11 PM

Kay, Why does the graphic of Bambi morphing into FDR send chills up my spine…as opposed to thrills up my leg?
Gyasus Effing Kryst, these peeps make me wanna Phuke!
November 2010, hurry and get here!

Chewy the Lab on July 8, 2010 at 10:38 PM

“Now, contemporary liberalism is not an evil ideology. Its intentions aren’t evil…”

The sooner everyone wakes up and realizes that this is simply not true, the sooner we’ll be able to discuss this seriously.

Midas on July 8, 2010 at 9:52 PM

Agreed. Evil never thinks it’s evil. We kill 4,000 babies everyday in this country (as a result of liberalism). How can anyone say that’s ‘good’.

Mojave Mark on July 8, 2010 at 11:27 PM

Daddy, did you plug the hole yet?

Vntnrse on July 9, 2010 at 12:23 AM

Awesome post Ed!

And an even better front page image!

juanito on July 9, 2010 at 12:47 AM

I’m thinking, Pink Floyd

Kini on July 9, 2010 at 3:00 AM

Finally, does anyone really believe Obama did not know that there are never many “shovel ready” projects. The cash was destined for SEIU, ACORN and the like all along.

doufree on July 8, 2010 at 9:11 PM

Every POS legislation coming out of this Democratic Congress has a big concession to unions somewhere in it. This isn’t massive incompetence…it’s the redistribution plan.

SEIU is looking for your 401K now.

itsacookbook on July 9, 2010 at 4:53 AM

Belief in Keynesian economic theory is part of the left-wing mantra. You must believe, or you can’t be a member. And when the facts prove Keynes wrong, children such as McArdle try to wiggle around things.

doufree on July 8, 2010 at 9:11 PM

Keynes said that during good economic times, you run surpluses to save up for the bad times. That’s actually not a bad idea but unfortunately, our representatives have used the good times to spend more, not save. So, if you’re going to be a proponent of Keynes, you can’t just be a fan of the spending part, you have to push the saving part too. No economic system works when it is only half tried. After the fall of the USSR, the Russians tried limited capitalism. It worked about as well as one would expect.

Kafir on July 9, 2010 at 7:44 AM

A Momentary Monetary Lapse of Reason

—————-or—————–

Merrily Spending our Way to Oblivion

hillbillyjim on July 9, 2010 at 7:49 AM

Great piece, by the way.

hillbillyjim on July 9, 2010 at 7:49 AM

Megan McArdle, The Atlantic’s resident in-house World’s Tallest Female Libertarian Econoblogger Who Nonetheless Voted for Obama…

John Kenneth Galbraith was 6-7 and understanding how markets work continuously went over his head. Megan’s five inches shorter, but still seems to be running into the problem of comprehending that even if all the ‘cool’ people around you still believe that big government can walk and chew gum at the same time doesn’t mean you should abandon your basic instincts and your own libertarian beliefs (Dave Weigel may be a nice guy, and a great dancer at weddings, but of all the people to ideologically mimic on libertarian policy who came out of Reason magazine, Dave’s probably the next-after-last one on the list).

jon1979 on July 9, 2010 at 8:59 AM

This is the new liberal scam, pretend that maybe things are not going right to keep the Hot Air-type blogs placated with the dream of maybe the libs are realizing the problem (after all an election is coming up), but all the while going full bore to destroy the foundations of America.

This is typical Obama – his speech is full of “rah, rah, rah America!”, but his actions are the opposite.

albill on July 9, 2010 at 9:12 AM

Difference between Obama and FDR: FDR didn’t hate this country.

petefrt on July 9, 2010 at 9:25 AM

In 2008, California voters passed Proposition 2, which mandates a set of humane conditions for the hens tended by egg-producing farmers. This year’s legislature has passed a law that will require out-of-state egg producers to conform to the mandate as well, if they want to sell eggs in California.

Well, I’m glad I’m not buying eggs in CA anymore.

Count to 10 on July 9, 2010 at 10:20 AM

At least good ole’ George had 7 1/2 years of prosperity. Zero can’t do that unless…………….

Herb on July 9, 2010 at 10:52 AM