January 02, 2009

Plunder and Parasites

It seems Prof. DiLorenzo is not pleased that I made fun of his post stating that anyone who buys a new American car “is a chump, a sucker, a fool, a loser, and a fascist,” and advising anyone who “value[s] living in a free society at all” to “[g]ive the middle finger to anyone you see driving a new ‘American’ car.”  This was a “tongue-in-cheek” comment, according to DiLorenzo, the jollity of which I did not appreciate because I am a “Humorless Paleocon Plunder Supporter.” 

I can understand DiLorenzo’s irritation with me. If I wrote the type of nonsense he did, I certainly wouldn’t want anyone else drawing attention to it. But his second post displays the same vitriol as the first, claiming that I think “it is a good idea to tax the shirts off the backs of working class Americans outside of Detroit and give the money to automobile industry plutocrats, union bosses, and their terminally inefficient, inept, lazy, and uncompetitive [sic], unionized work force.”  “Plutocrats,” “plunder,” and “selfish parasites,” in the words of DiLorenzo’s ideological ally Kevn Gutzman.  Why do libertarian ideologues insist on using the same clunky language their Marxist opponents do?  Even though Marxists and libertarians disagree on who is the “worker” and who the “parasite,” do adherents of economic determinism naturally use the type of language brilliantly mocked by the Simpsons, back when that show was still funny?

But humorless supporter of plunder that I am, I must respond to some of DiLorenzo’s misconceptions, tongue in cheek or not. First, I do not speak for Takimag. In fact, my position on federal loans to the American auto industry was sharply criticized by managing editor Richard Spencer and contributing editor Paul Gottfried. It’s true that Richard encouraged me to make my arguments, but a libertarian like DiLorenzo should approve of that. 

Second, as I pointed out in my intitial post, it’s not clear why DiLorenzo is so angry at Ford, which hasn’t received any federal loans at all. And I don’t think that a $17 billion loan to GM and Chrysler constitutes “tax[ing] the shirts off the backs of working class Americans outside of Detroit,” especially when the last such loan given by the federal government to an American auto company was paid off early, with interest,  and the costs to the taxpayer from the collapse of the American auto industry would likely vastly exceed the amount of the loans given to GM and Chrysler.  (Of course, Americans in Michigan will be taxed just as much as Americans outside Michigan to fund these loans, non-working class Americans will be taxed alongside their working class counterparts, and the American auto industry is hardly confined to Michigan). Actually, I was quite pleased with the column DiLorenzo dislikes, which was cited by both Pat Buchanan and John Derbyshire.  I was on the cutting edge of plunder supporters, you might say.

The CEOs of GM and Chrysler have agreed to work for a dollar a year under the terms of the federal loans their companies received, which might take them out of the “plutocrat” category for the time being, and DiLorenzo is simply wrong about the “terminally inefficient, inept, lazy, and uncompetitive, unionized work force” the American automakers use to make their cars. Third parties who measure the productivity of North American auto plants find those plants at least as efficient as their foreign competitors.  And by the end of the current UAW contract, the average wage for an autoworker employed in an American plant will be lower than the average wage in the foreign plants operating in America. 

But why would facts matter to DiLorenzo?  Like any good ideologue, he knows what makes the world work, and all he needs to comment on any current situtation is to put that situation into its proper ideological box. Thus, he is perfectly comfortable opining about an industry of which he knows nothing, inadvertently exposing his ignorance to anyone who doesn’t subscribe to his particular ideology.  If failing to go along with DiLorenzo as he heaps scorn on the Americans who make and drive American cars makes me a “humorless paleocon plunder supporter,” so be it.

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