February 21, 2009
“Facts Are Stupid Things”

The title above is a quote from Ronald Reagan at the 1988 Republican National Convention. He was trying to access a John Adams quote, “Facts are stubborn things,” but something more appropriate to the man and the occasion popped out.

The essay below is from my neighbor Jim, more of whose stuff can be seen here.

Compare and contrast:

1980 may seem kind of arbitrary as the jump off for the end of empire, but the economics bear it out. Under Reagan, government disbursements and revenues, as a share of GDP, jumped a full six percentage points. More, if you include his unfunded moral hygiene mandates.

All the Republicans talked Rand, Friedman, inter alia, but they acted like straightforward right wing military Keynesians. Military Keynesianism is of course nothing new in the US. But prior to 1980 there was a dominant Bismarckian consensus (have I dropped enough names yet?) that it had to be matched by social spending, otherwise the exercise of hard power would eventually become financially unsustainable.

You cannot extract surplus value — i.e. have capitalism — in great heaping bushel baskets unless you have a government willing to exercise single payer monopsony power over basic human needs, basic scientific research and renewable sources of the energy needed to drive all this. Lo and behold, the exercise of hard power is now done on credit, with only the threat of mutually assured destruction holding our creditors at bay.

I suppose one could point to a cultural shift in the eighties, as there certainly was one, but I prefer a bit more systemic determinism.

The political economy of capitalism is easiest to manage through psychological terrorism. It’s a cheap and effective way of outsourcing the quotidian enforcement of corporate feudalism to vigilante moral panic artists. There’s no shortage of people willing to enforce for free. Hell, they’ll even pay for the dubious privilege.

People become inured to this, querulous and rebellious, and the terrorism has to be stepped up. Red scares have to be coupled with ethnic scares, drug scares, satanic child care scares and so forth. Going against that, as Carter did in an achingly minuscule way, is a positive step for capitalism and a negative step for capitalists. Their enforcement costs look to climb. People who aren’t constantly depressed and frightened get a little feisty.

Under Reagan, the “clever” work-around was burgeoning unfunded mandates to make the states take on domestic psychological terrorism, and yanking the social safety net away, while the central government threw surplus value to the cretinous capitalists, hand over fist. It’s been down hill ever since.

I can’t see why anyone would want to be president after Bush. It’s not a sane thing to do. I thought, and still think, that the Democrats would have been better off throwing the election. McCain would probably not have lasted four years and right wing military Keynesianism would have been discredited for a good long time. Getting stuck with cradling the appalling, ghoulish offspring that are roving mindlessly over a dying empire would have ruined him, and the most cretinous of the cretinous capitalists.

The Democrats could have trotted out old social democratic wine in new bottles and enjoyed thirty or forty years of crowing from the top of the DC shit hill. So it goes, I guess. And my goodness, doesn’t Carter look like a saint in comparison to every asshole that’s come since.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at February 21, 2009 09:44 AM
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Really, the idea that it would have been better had the Democratic party surrendered again to the Republicans (throwing the election, as in 2004) is absurd.

Posted by: Mahakal on February 21, 2009 11:31 AM

That's an interesting take, Mahakal, and might be worth arguing, but it's not a take on what I said. My commentary was specific to the political fortunes of the Democratic Party.

Posted by: Jim on February 21, 2009 12:01 PM

Great essay. Aside from the opportunity cost of military Keynesianism on society, I believe the real danger lies in the fact that it encourages large standing armies. Couple that with Bush’s resurrection of Reagan’s frontier myth and a non-Christian “enemy” (which just happens to control our nation’s most sought after commodity), and our current state of foreign affairs should come as no surprise. I’m sure a seismograph would be able to detect the tremors coming from under Monticello.

Posted by: Jesse on February 21, 2009 5:15 PM

Jim, you said, "I can’t see why anyone would want to be president after Bush. It’s not a sane thing to do. I thought, and still think, that the Democrats would have been better off throwing the election."

I disagree with this completely, as I said. It would not have been better for the Democratic party, it would not have been better for the country, it would not have been better for anyone but the looters, and in four and eight years there would still be people making your argument that we just need to throw another election and let the Republicans really take the blame this time. It's totally wrongheaded, in my view.

Posted by: Mahakal on February 22, 2009 12:05 PM
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