Yesterday, on my birthday, Paul Krugman wrote a piece, Wasting Our Minds, blasting all of the Right wing governments of Europe for the consequences of their ferocious embrace of what we should still be calling Voodoo Economics, especially Draconian cuts to education and thus to economic growth. But he did not go anywhere near far enough in doing so. I wrote a comment to his piece, but the Times sets a limit of 1500 characters for comments, which is nowhere near enough to do justice to the subject. Even here, with enough space, I cannot really do justice to it, but I can make a beginning.
WARNING: N-bombs below. I didn't say them, I just quote one of the racists who did.
It is painful to see that even you accept the Republican frame that this is about "costs" and not investment. "Yes, such a policy reversal would cost money," you wrote. No, it would not. It would make money for the private sector (all of it, not just the 1%) and the government both, by raising incomes, creating new businesses, and increasing tax revenues. Education has been found to have a higher Return on Investment than any legitimate private-sector activity. Genuine economic theory, as opposed to the Voodoo Zombie economics you so recently wrote about ("Death of a Fairy Tale"), points out that wherever ROI is above average, there you are guaranteed to find that the market is not free and competitive, and there you are almost guaranteed to find a legitimate opportunity for governments to improve the situation. (Except the kind of government meddling that makes things worse, as with ag and energy subsidies.)But here I can. Veblen's Leisure Class is essentially our 1%. He defines it thus:
Adam Smith said it best: Everything for ourselves, and nothing for other people, seems, in every age of the world, to have been the vile maxim of the masters of mankind. (Wealth of Nations, 1776)
"The Father of Conservatism" Edmund Burke also said it best:
...mere parsimony is not economy. It is separable in theory from it; and in fact it may, or it may not, be a part of economy, according to circumstances. Expense, and great expense, may be an essential part in true economy. If parsimony were to be considered as one of the kinds of that virtue, there is however another and a higher economy. Economy is a distributive virtue, and consists not in saving, but in selection. Parsimony requires no providence, no sagacity, no powers of combination, no comparison, no judgment. Mere instinct, and that not an instinct of the noblest kind, may produce this false economy in perfection. The other economy has larger views. It demands a discriminating judgment, and a firm, sagacious mind. It shuts one door to impudent importunity, only to open another, and a wider, to unpresuming merit.
Letter to a Noble Lord, 1796
In our time the great friend of the American Revolution Edmund Burke has been reduced to just another lousy tax-and-spend Liberal [as I pointed out here in Conservatives: Endangered species? more than two years ago] by a party in which Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower, Richard "EPA" Nixon, Ronald "Buffett rule before Buffett" Reagan, and even the two Bushes are no longer welcome except to stand over there and shut up, unless the Applause light is on. [as I pointed out in my Republican Code Words glossary under the items Liberal and Big Tent]
Thorstein Veblen also said it best, in The Theory of the Leisure Class, 1899, but I do not have room here to quote him.
The institution of leisure class is the outgrowth of an early discrimination between employments, according to which some employments are worthy and others unworthy. Under this ancient distinction the worthy employments are those which may be classed as exploit; unworthy are those necessary everyday employments into which no appreciable element of exploit enters...A distinction is still habitually made between industrial and non-industrial occupations; and this modern distinction is a transmuted form of the barbarian distinction between exploit and drudgery. Such employments as warfare, politics, public worship, and public merrymaking, are felt, in the popular apprehension, to differ intrinsically from the labour that has to do with elaborating the material means of life.We would call "public merrymaking" the entertainment industry. Veblen goes on to draw out the distinctions made in society between slave and slave-owning classes, (now transmuted to union "wage slavery" and management) between men's and women's work, and above all between the life of Conspicuous Consumption vs. the life of production.
In our present context the essential distinction to be made is between politics as service, a notion now associated to some degree with US Democrats and with Social Democratic movements elsewhere, and politics as exploitation, a notion inseparable from the Republicans, and from all of the other parties of bigotry, kleptocracy, and even racism that Krugman was attempting to excoriate in terms too mild for the case.
Veblen did what I am now feebly trying to do in his attack on The Economic Consequences of the Peace, by John Maynard Keynes. Keynes correctly predicted World War II as a consequence of the Draconian austerity terms imposed by the French on Germany after World War I. Germany was required to pay more gold than there was in reparations, resulting in hyperinflation, conspiracy theories run riot, and the rise of the Nazis. (The final payments required by the Treaty, which remained in force after WW II, ended up being made on 4 October 2010.) Keynes foresaw the outlines of all of this, although of course he could not predict which hypernationalist party would arise to lead Germany into the next war.
Veblen agreed entirely. What he was furious about, and said in his review a year later, was that Keynes failed to point out that the Treaty was the work of the 1%, or as he called them at the time, "the absentee owner class", the owners of stocks and bonds and the landlords of great properties, and that the essential but unrecorded force of the Treaty was as a combination of the Great Powers against Soviet Russia, the greatest enemy of the interests of the 1% (and as it turned out, of the 99% as well).
It is an altogether sober and admirably candid and facile argument, by a man familiar with diplomatic usage and trained in the details of large financial policy; and the wide vogue and earnest consideration which have been given to this volume reflect its very substantial merit. At the same time the same facts go to show how faithfully its point of view and its line of argument fall in with the prevailing attitude of thoughtful men toward the same range of questions. It is the attitude of men accustomed to take political documents at their face value...It is no secret that for many on the Right to this day property rights are the only rights that count, the only Liberty that exists. You can see this with special clarity among the so-called Libertarians, such as Rand Paul, who denounce the Civil Rights Acts as an infringement on property rights, but it is quite general among those who set Republican policy. Liberty and Tyranny: A Conservative Manifesto by Mark R. Levin, is chock full of it. The essential Liberty that the South fought the Civil War over was the Liberty to own property in humans. But slavery is dead, except for the practice of declaring fully-owned corporations human.
The events of the past months go to show that the central and most binding provision of the Treaty (and of the League) is an unrecorded clause by which the governments of the Great Powers are banded together for the suppression of Soviet Russia...
It is to be remarked, then, that Bolshevism is a menace to absentee ownership. At the same time the present economic and political order rests on absentee ownership. The imperialist policies of the Great Powers, including America, also look to the maintenance and extension of absentee ownership as the major and abiding purpose of all their political traffic. Absentee ownership, accordingly, is the foundation of law and order, according to that scheme of law and order which has been handed down out of the past in all the civilized nations, and to the perpetuation of which the Elder Statesmen are committed by native bent and by the duties of office. This applies to both the economic and the political order, in all these civilized nations, where the security of property rights has become virtually the sole concern of the constituted authorities.
The only question in the minds of those who pass for Elder Statesmen today is what other issues, particularly of bigotry and racism, they have to gin up in order to get enough others to go along with their program of government of the 99% by the 1% for the 1%. Thus God, guns, and gays, of which the third leg has become quite wobbly, and something else is evidently needed. War on Women? Immigrants? Non-immigrant minorities? Furriners in general? Muslims? Students? The poor? The sick? Anybody other than the 1% itself, and its Southern White Evangelical Christian male surrogates?
Here is some more of the Edmund Burke letter:
It may be new to his Grace, but I beg leave to tell him, that mere parsimony is not economy. It is separable in theory from it; and in fact it may, or it may not, be a part of economy, according to circumstances. Expense, and great expense, may be an essential part in true economy. If parsimony were to be considered as one of the kinds of that virtue, there is however another and a higher economy. Economy is a distributive virtue, and consists not in saving, but in selection. Parsimony requires no providence, no sagacity, no powers of combination, no comparison, no judgment. Mere instinct, and that not an instinct of the noblest kind, may produce this false economy in perfection. The other economy has larger views. It demands a discriminating judgment, and a firm, sagacious mind. It shuts one door to impudent importunity, only to open another, and a wider, to unpresuming merit. If none but meritorious service or real talent were to be rewarded, this nation has not wanted, and this nation will not want, the means of rewarding all the service it ever will receive, and encouraging all the merit it ever will produce. No state, since the foundation of society, has been impoverished by that species of profusion. Had the economy of selection and proportion been at all times observed, we should not now have had an overgrown Duke of Bedford, to oppress the industry of humble men, and to limit, by the standard of his own conceptions, the justice, the bounty, or, if he pleases, the charity of the Crown.You will observe that this is the polar opposite of the "Cuts, cuts, cuts" mantra of the Right, which is the true interpretation of their Dog Whistle "Jobs, jobs, jobs." Cut taxes on the 1%, cut social programs in health, education, and the rest for the 99%, cut regulations whether they are needed or not.
Here is another snippet from the same letter:
To be ill spoken of, in whatever language they speak, by the zealots of the new sect in philosophy and politics, of which these noble persons think so charitably, and of which others think so justly, to me, is no matter of uneasiness or surprise. To have incurred the displeasure of the Duke of Orleans or the Duke of Bedford, to fall under the censure of citizen Brissot or of his friend the Earl of Lauderdale [the 1%ers of their day], I ought to consider as proofs, not the least satisfactory, that I have produced some part to the effect I proposed by my endeavours. I have laboured hard to earn, what the noble lords are generous enough to pay. Personal offence I have given them none. The part they take against me is from zeal to the cause. It is well! It is perfectly well! I have to do homage to their justice...I have had occasion to say something of the sort myself, to some who have attacked the notion of ending poverty by giving every child a computer, and thus an education:
Some, perhaps, may think them executors in their own wrong: I at least have nothing to complain of. They have gone beyond the demands of justice. They have been (a little perhaps beyond their intention) favourable to me. They have been the means of bringing out, by their invectives, the handsome things which Lord Grenville has had the goodness and condescension to say in my behalf.
Why, thank you. Coming from you, that's high praise.And so it is for Barack Obama, to be called the Kenyan Mau-mau terrorist Socialist Antichrist and all of the rest.
Let us give the last word to Lee Atwater, the principal architect (though not the founder) of the Republican Southern Strategy:
As to the whole Southern strategy that Harry Dent and others put together in 1968, opposition to the Voting Rights Act would have been a central part of keeping the South. Now [the new Southern Strategy of Ronald Reagan] doesn’t have to do that. All you have to do to keep the South is for Reagan to run in place on the issues he's campaigned on since 1964 and that's fiscal conservatism, balancing the budget, cut taxes, you know, the whole cluster.And that is why I never want to hear a Democrat, much less a Progressive, ever use the word "cost" in a Republican frame, ever, ever, again.
You start out in 1954 by saying, "Nigger, nigger, nigger." By 1968 you can't say "nigger"—that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states' rights and all that stuff. You're getting so abstract now [that] you're talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you're talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites. And subconsciously maybe that is part of it. I'm not saying that. But I'm saying that if it is getting that abstract, and that coded, that we are doing away with the racial problem one way or the other. You follow me—because obviously sitting around saying, "We want to cut this," is much more abstract than even the busing thing, and a hell of a lot more abstract than "Nigger, nigger."