Establishment Chic

July 02, 2009

Establishment Chic

Wonkette, if you have the good fortune of not knowing, is a left-liberal site that manages to consider itself cheeky and iconoclastic while endorsing only the most exquisitely conventional, establishment-approved opinions.  If you”€™re not located somewhere along that fantastic spectrum of genius that ranges from Chuck Schumer to Arlen Specter, Wonkette will expose you to the world as the misanthropic imbecile you obviously are.

In order to remain as predictable as possible, Wonkette’s writers have decided they really don”€™t like Rep. Michele Bachmann, member of Congress from Minnesota. Of all the geniuses in Congress, they select for special ridicule one of the tiny handful who actually ask an interesting question now and again.  By “€œinteresting”€ I mean the kind of question no one at Newsweek, MSNBC, or, for that matter, Wonkette itself, would think to ask. That’s not because these questions are stupid; it’s because they”€™re not designed to flatter our overlords, portray them as indispensable, or show them the kind of reverence that Pravda once displayed for the Politburo.

Thus, for example, when 60 Minutes interviewed Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke several months ago, the questions were on the order of “€œWhat are the dangers now?  What keeps you up at night?”€  Now there are some classic Wonkette questions.  Instead of asking how this guy could have been so wrong about practically everything he’s said since 2006″€”e.g., there’s no housing bubble, lending standards are sound, the housing bust should be over by December 2008″€”the establishment left wants to know what is troubling our great overlord, and how he intends to use his potions and incantations to slay the evils that afflict us.

But back to Rep. Bachmann. One reason Wonkette doesn”€™t like her is that she once asked Treasury secretary Timothy Geithner where he got the constitutional authority to do the things he’s doing. You might think so-called “€œprogressives”€ would be interested in that question.  Once upon a time, progressives grew suspicious when government officials shoveled money to the richest people in the country, and had enough common sense not to accept the official rationales at face value. Surely this is an area in which the real left and the real right might join in happy concord, no?  I mean, the left coined the phrase question authority, right?

As it turns out, they really meant question authority except the Treasury secretary in a Democratic administration, or the Fed chairman, or the Washington Post, or the bipartisan foreign-policy consensus, or the regulatory establishment, or Paul Krugman, or the SEC, or the medical establishment, or the central bank, or the Officially Approved Version of American History you were taught in fourth grade. These are wonderful people and institutions, citizen.  They exist to protect you. Yes, yes, question authority and all that, but none of that applies to people and institutions that exist for your own good.  You would have to be deranged and anti-social to oppose them. Why, you”€™re not deranged and anti-social, are you?

Listen to Geithner’s answers for yourself. You can learn a lot about the Wonkette people by grasping that they consider these to be good answers, indeed so good that only a blockhead would be unsatisfied by them. Bachmann is asking where in the Constitution the authority comes from for the Treasury and the Fed to be taking over companies and engaging in the bailouts. Geithner replies that they are acting in accordance with legislation passed by Congress. Exactly how smart do you need to be to recognize that that is not even close to an answer to the question? Geithner then says something about “€œthe laws of the land”€”€”again, perfectly irrelevant.  Where in the Constitution does this authority come from?  An answer to that question is not even attempted.

So the Treasury secretary has no idea where the authority comes from to bail out some of the most reckless, idiotic, parasitic parties on Wall Street, and Wonkette thinks the person to condemn here is not the Treasury secretary himself but the member of Congress who corners him? Can you imagine the contempt in which a genuine progressive like Robert La Follette would have held these establishment hangers-on?

Wonkette also doesn”€™t like Rep. Bachmann because she’s interested in the Austrian School of economics, a subject about which they”€™ve collectively read half an entry at Wikipedia. That the Austrians predicted the current crisis at a time when Wonkette’s heroes were calling for the very policies that brought on the collapse (and yes, that includes Paul Krugman, his protestations to the contrary notwithstanding) impresses them not a whit. The Austrians, who constitute the oldest continuously existing school of economic thought in the world, are out of favor with the establishment, whose boots it refuses to lick, and that’s pretty much all Wonkette needs to know.

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Even worse, and according to the article her worst offense, is that Rep. Bachmann has been learning this material recently, and other people have been glad that a member of Congress is showing interest in business cycle theory”€”a subject that is probably not at the very top of the reading lists of Chris Dodd or John McCain.  Now you can understand Wonkette’s ridicule, right?  She has attended lectures on the subject and read books. (What is that in your hand, citizen?  A book?)  We can”€™t have that”€”the most urgent need right now is for American congressmen to keep their present level of knowledge right where it is.

In particular, Rep. Bachmann has been reading my book Meltdown, which gives the free-market reply to the drones who tell us the crisis was caused by the “€œfree market”€ and “€œderegulation.”€ Ron Paul, who wrote the book’s foreword, invited me to discuss it before a small group of congressmen in his office several months ago.

Now we really can”€™t have that. Why, this is an unapproved opinion! And since no one at Wonkette is familiar with Austrian business cycle theory, which pinpoints the roots of the boom-bust business cycle outside the boundaries of the free market, it can”€™t possibly amount to much. If it did, they”€™d already know about it. QED.

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Perhaps indicative of the intelligence of Wonkette readers are the comments that follow.  One chap writes, “€œIs Austrian Economic theory the one where they march in wearing brownshirts and take all the businesses from the Jews? Laissez-faire, uber alles!”€  In case you think that’s a moronic remark that no conscious person would utter, or a stupid and blockheaded smear of an entire country, recall that people who live in Austria are Officially Designated Oppressors who can be smeared and insulted in perpetuity, without provoking the sensitivity sessions, candlelight vigils, and all-around tears and sorrow that accompany insults to other groups.  Wonkette, natch, will decide for us which groups belong to which categories.

Piling on a bit, if I may, consider that the greatest of the Austrian economists, Ludwig von Mises, was a Jew who was forced to flee Nazi-controlled Europe, arriving in the United States in 1940 almost empty-handed. The Nazis, who destroyed his library and papers, detested him because his message of freedom and the international division of labor was rather at odds with the autarkic, controlled economy of National Socialism.  So the least we might say is that our friend’s Nazi joke doesn”€™t really work.  He doesn”€™t strike me as the thirsting-for-knowledge sort, though, so I rather doubt he”€™ll one day come upon the truth and feel embarrassed.

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The George W. Bush years were such an ordeal that I actually remember thinking that the left wasn”€™t all bad. With a few honorable exceptions, though, they are what they have always been: anti-intellectual apologists for the status quo masquerading as “€œagents of change.”€ They claim to be antiwar but make excuses for people who vote the funds for war. They claim to oppose the neoconservatives but happily applaud when their cult leader surrounds himself with them, and seem untroubled when Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol declares, in response to the president’s policy on Afghanistan, “€œAll hail Obama!”€ And they”€™re all tears and pity for average Americans, while at the same time demonizing people who think there might be something a teensy weensy bit not-progressive about creating trillions of dollars and throwing it at the financial elite.

The Wonkette kids are like the popular group in high school that wanted to belong to the fashionable causes, since that’s what the other popular kids did, but made sure they weren”€™t too ostentatious in their devotion to those causes.  We can”€™t be too different, you understand. Just cool. Just different enough to be able to sneer at the rest of mankind and its stupid, unenlightened opinions, but not so different that we won”€™t get invited to cocktail parties at the homes of people who matter.

Now imagine those people running a website, and you”€™ve got Wonkette.

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