Tuesday, December 30, 2008

On The Inconvenience Of Prosperity

Here's John Stossel on [the President-elect's] plans to remake the economy because of the recession.
He begins with a couple of quotes:
"Painful crisis also provides us with an opportunity to transform our economy to improve the lives of ordinary people," - Barack Obama
"You never want a serious crisis to go to waste" - Rahm Emmanuel

So they will "transform our economy." [the President-elect's] nearly trillion-dollar plan will not merely repair bridges, fill potholes and fix up schools; it will also impose a utopian vision based on the belief that an economy is a thing to be planned from above. But this is an arrogant conceit. No one can possibly know enough to redesign something as complex as "an economy," which really is people engaging in exchanges to achieve their goals. Planning it means planning them.
[the President-elect] and Emanuel want us to believe that their blueprint for reform will bring recovery from the recession. Yet we have recovered from past recessions without undertaking a radical social and economic transformation.
In fact, reform would impede recovery.
This is not the first time a president chose reform over recovery. Franklin Roosevelt did it with his New Deal, and the result was long years of depression and deprivation.

Later on, he digs up the scariest quote of all. This is from FDR's 2nd Inaugural address:

"To hold to progress today, however, is more difficult. Dulled conscience, irresponsibility and ruthless self-interest already reappear. Such symptoms of prosperity may become portents of disaster! Prosperity already tests the persistence of our progressive purpose."

We're already seeing grousing that the current stretch of cold weather is going to interfere with funding for initiatives to fight Global Warming. Is there anything that would be more disheartening to the current batch of "Progressives", whose economic and governmental ideals shouldn't have survived the age of feudalism, than a nice, quick economic turnaround?


Stephen M. Smith said...

Robert Higgs will have to come out with a revised edition of "Crisis and Leviathan" to capture the Bush and Obama administrations. Rahm Emmanuel's quote about no crisis going to waste was downright spooky after having read Higgs's thesis.

Dr Ralph said...

One thing I've learned in life: as difficult as it is to predict the future, predicting the past is also tricky business.

If only I'd stayed in St. Louis instead of moving with my girlfriend to California (I'd be the senior VP of Creative for the 3rd largest ad agency in the world).

If only Al Gore hadn't been cheated out of the presidency (9-11 never would have happened).

If only JFK hadn't been assassinated (we never would have gotten entangled in Vietnam).

And now John Stossel wants to play "what if" with the New Deal (and extrapolate it to a very different environment). He could be right and he could just as easily be wrong, both in his predictions about the past and the future.

If you are a fan of "what if" history, may I suggest Philip Roth's The Plot Against America (order now and you can have it delivered by Jan 2!).

Frankly, Roth writes much better fiction than Stossel.

vampE said...

Dr Ralph, you just said exactly what I was thinking when I read this post. Plus, comparing Obama and the US economy in 2009 to FDR and the US economy in 1933 is specious. Yes, we are supposed to learn from history lest it repeat itself, but holding up an archaic plan to a 21st-century mirror...well, it simply does not reflect well on anyone.

That said, Emmanuel's quote is laughable. I pity his PR person.

I read The Plot Against America. Fun fiction, indeed.

Dr Ralph said...

Not to appear unduly negative or cynical, but I fear Rahm Emmanuel may be one of the first casualties of the incoming administration -- he's in danger of becoming a lightning rod, given his personality and reputation.

Gone within a year, if not much sooner.

The Whited Sepulchre said...

S.M. Smith,
What I'm currently getting a kick out of is Naomi Klein's book "The Shock Doctrine", in which she states that governments try to give businesses and property to evil Cigar Smoking, Lobster Eating, Moustach Twirling Capitalists whenever there is a financial or environmental upheaval. "Disaster Capitalism", she calls it.
Contrast that with reality, in which the state merely takes over the banks. "Disaster Socialism" reigns.

Dr. Barr,
There are a few things, though, where there are enough footprints at the scene of the crime to come up with more plausible "what-ifs"....

Like, if Lincoln hadn't gone to the Ford's theatre on a particular night, then Booth definitely wouldn't've shot him there. (And, if you want to see me go all revisionist, JFK ran as a Cold Warrior, stating that Ike had been too soft on the commies.)

In addition to the Philip Roth(Portnoy was great, all else has been a disppointment) may I suggest "The Forgotten Man", by Amity Shlaes? I'll bet dollars to donuts that this is the book that caused Stossel go off on the rant under discussion.
But IF Roosevelt was telling the truth in his 2nd inaugural, then those pesky signs of prosperity and recovery were premature and damned inconvenient. It's hard to implement "Disaster Socialism" when people are making money.

I kinda like Rahm Emmanuel. He actually went to Israel during Gulf War I to help defend the Motherland.
He's also got some ideas on taxes that make WAY too much sense, and are WAY too fair to ever be implemented.
When you get a chance, Google (not Yahoo or AOL, but Google the words "Rahm" "Emmanuel" "Flat" "Tax".
Emmanuel is the best of the bunch. (This is relatively speaking, of course. Kinda like one of my ex-convict employees is my all-time favorite rapist.)

Dr Ralph said...

So wait -- first you're down on Emmanuel, citing his "crisis" quote, then you "kinda like him," and say he's got "ideas on taxes that make WAY too much sense," and end by saying he's the best of the bunch.

This confusion you're exhibiting concerns me.

What exactly did you do on this so-called cruise?

The Whited Sepulchre said...

What I like most about Emmanuel is his almost brutal honesty. He really did mail an enemy a dead fish.

Emmanuel was willing to come out and say that no crisis should go unexploited.
The other Big Statists are not willing to come right out and say this, even though the Mommy and Daddy parties are going to exploit the crisis to the tune of 700 billion dollars.

There is a minor crisis going on. A recession. They happen once per decade, give or take.

They're going to take advantage of the crisis to reward their political supporters. The Mommy party and The Daddy party. Both of them are going to be larding out the slop to every hog lined up at the trough.

Rahm Emmanuel, God bless him, came right out and said what they're going to do.

Not for THE CHILDREN. Not to achieve fairness, and not to fight injustice. They're just going to exploit the crisis.
Because they can.

Come on, admit it. You've gotta admire that in a person.

Dr Ralph said...

You sir, are a cynic.

Which is but one of the many things I admire about you.