Sunday, February 12, 2012

The Trouble With Douthat

I haven’t read Coming Apart by Charles Murray, nor do I plan to. From what I can tell it’s standard conservative claptrap. The poor are poor because they are drunk, lazy, they sleep around, don’t believe in God, and they buy sneakers instead of investing in mutual funds, or whatever. It’s just one more attempt to blame the victim and, of course, exonerate those who are truly responsible for the rotten state of USA, Inc.

One of its main ideas, apparently, goes like this: If only the poor would imitate upper middle class white people everything would be fine, and then we could finally get rid of that wicked, bad bad bad welfare state.

Well, if that’s the case, maybe we should give them fanny packs and bottled water with their food stamps. That way the poor could start catching the proper tone. Oh, wait. That might foster a dependency culture. Scratch that.

It’s pretty tired, but that doesn’t stop dime store conservative pundits like Ross Douthat from thrilling to its rhythms, as he does in the NY Times. I honestly don’t know where all these pseudo-intellectual conservative hacks come from. It’s almost like they’re stamped from a press somewhere. If truly free market forces ruled the punditocracy, all these surplus commentators would be “corrected” right out of the scribbling class. But, alas! this is one area of the economy where the iron laws of supply and demand aren’t so iron.

Anyway, here’s a sample of Douthat’s sparkling sagacity:

If Murray’s prescription for the social crisis is an exercise in libertarian wishful thinking, this liberal alternative is a mix of partisan demonization and budgetary fantasy. It was globalization, not Republicans, that killed the private-sector union and reduced the returns to blue-collar work. It’s arithmetic, not plutocracy, that’s standing between the left and its dream of a much more activist government. Even if liberals get the higher tax rates on the rich they so ardently desire, the money won’t be adequate to finance our existing entitlements, let alone a New Deal 2.0.

I love the way globalization is always spoken of as if it was an inevitable force of nature, like an earthquake or a tsunami. Well, kids, once upon a time the US built the best mousetrap in the world, but then, one strange day, a Saturday, I believe it was, globalization came

What a fallacy. Globalization is the product of calculated human action. It didn’t just fall on us from Mt Olympus. Like all man-made inventions, it can be reformed, halted, overthrown, destroyed. We don’t need to passively submit to it like a bunch of primitive islanders bowing to a wooden tiki. This is just a pretentious 21 century way of saying “You can’t fight City Hall,” and it is said for the same reason: they don’t want you to fight it.

Apple runs slave labor in China because Apple makes lots of money running slave labor in China. Mysterious cosmic forces from the Crab Nebula didn’t descend like a mist over the earth and make them do it. The recently sanctified Steve Jobs — he who made flowers bloom in the desert, cured lepers, and, it is rumored, briefly walked on water before ascending to heaven — made the conscious decision along with his colleagues to do it.

What a shoddy and transparent trick. It wasn’t Republicans, it wasn’t plutocrats. No, no, it was globalization. Ah, yes, globalization. When will those silly naive liberals understand, Statler? I don’t think they can, Waldorf.

Well, uh, Ross, who enacted the policies that made globalization possible? The globalization fairy?

This guy mades a living writing this stuff, mind you. A good one.

But to continue. I’m not aware of anybody arguing that raising taxes on the rich will finance all of our existing entitlements or solve all of our economic problems. That’s a puny straw man. We “ardently desire” raising taxes on the wealthy because we ardently desire fairness and simple justice, you putz.

By the way, if you know of any politicians seriously urging that we implement New Deal 2.0 put me in contact with them. I’ll volunteer to work on the campaign.

It’s uproariously funny to hear a man in 2012 fret about how to instill thrift and industriousness in the lower orders. It’s just so gigantically silly. I wonder, did he get a ride to work this morning in Queen Victoria’s coach?

1 comment:

Grung_e_Gene said...

First Great Post!

Absolutely on globalization. The Uber Rich 1% decided that they weren't Rich enough and spent years building the underpinning of globalization.

While you could get a great quality pair of union made LL Bean trousers at a reasonable price, the global hegemony started screaming 'No! No! Those can be made in china super cheap.'

People bought into it because they thought wow I'll get the same quality at 1/4th the price. Instead they got toxic materials, tacky, unevenly made cheap jeans.

Of course, the proponents of Globalization weren't finished as they weren't going to be satisfied with the money they could save shafting American workers while working Malaysian employees to death, so they shifted the entire apparatus of American ingenuity from Manufacturing to Finance.

Because the only thing we export nowadays are financial products and as we saw with the Reight-Wing push for deregulation all we made were toxic bundles of overleeraged naked credit default swaps which swamped the world market and crashed the system.

As Tom Friedman said, Suck on this!