Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The spooking of the elite

A specter has been haunting the elites for a while now, of course, largely in the form of Sarah Palin -- she who will not go quietly into obscurity as they expected. It wasn't just that -- it was the frightening fact that every nail they tried to put into her coffin only seemed to give her extra strength, as though she were some unearthly, vampiric Barbie. And now, with the advent of the Palin look-alike Christine O'Donnell, not only is she growing in power, she's multiplying! Elite reps in the media have had to take their eyes off of Palin for the moment and execute a swift pivot to O'Donnell, but still without any other weapon at their disposal than repeated exercises in pointing out just how terribly, ridiculously, unfashionably non-elite she is. We can get a sense of their rising panic from noting the strain of their reach in a couple of recent examples.

First up is William Saletan in Slate, on "Christine O'Donnell, masturbation socialist". Saletan notes that O'Donnell is against socialism and then notes that 14 years ago, when O'Donnell was 27, she also expressed an opinion contrary to masturbation. Which last might be a bit silly, but, as Saletan is at least honest enough to note, was also merely echoing the teaching of a major faith. What is truly silly, on the other hand, is Saletan's vein-popping stretch to link anti-masturbation with socialism -- how does he do that, you ask? Watch:
In other words [paraphrasing O'Donnell], masturbation is wrong because you do it alone, outside the "moral order" of social relations in which you're supposed to perform your proper function. It's something you do for yourself instead of "giving" yourself to the larger purpose of human procreation. You're just a cog in the wheel. You exist to serve the community.
Oooookayy. I get it. So because you oppose the state treating you like "a cog in the wheel",  you should logically be opposed to any moral claim of the community, right? Ross Douthat, who provided me with the link in "Why We Have a Culture War", takes this down at far greater length than the simple guffaw it deserves.

The other one is also from Slate, a quick little potshot that, while it can't match Saletan for silliness (which would make a nice slogan of some sort), outdoes him in catty pettiness. It's about that other O'Donnell find:
... the thing I can't get past about Christine O'Donnell's assertion that she tried witchcraft is the way in which she describes her experimentation with it. What she said--twice--was that she "dabbled into witchcraft." Can we just point out for the record that you don't dabble "into" witchcraft, you dabble in it?
It's funny enough that she takes this seriously, as though no one else garbles the language, even twice, in the midst of an interview, but what really shows the tension is her sudden thought that, ... what, ... what if she planned this?! "I guess O'Donnell could have deliberately inserted a casual malaprop to enhance her populist appeal and distinguish herself from the nitpicking media elite, but she said this long enough ago that it doesn't seem purposeful." It's a nerve-wracking thought though, right? As Ann Althouse says (for whose link I must give thanks), "Hey! What if these rubes are just pretending to be rubes?"

Ah well. This is what gives an atheist like me such delight in Sarah and Christine and their ilk -- not just for the nature of their enemies, but for the confounding fear they inspire in the fashionably orthodox.


  1. I guess O'Donnell could have deliberately inserted a casual malaprop to enhance her populist appeal and distinguish herself from the nitpicking media elite, but she said this long enough ago that it doesn't seem purposeful.

    That's about it, morf. The witchy BS was most likely part of her marketing plan (and yd be surprised how widespread the wicca craze is among a certain section of ...femmes). She probably increased her standing in the polls...ooo witches...tell me more

    It's BS nonetheless. A Palin or McDonnell may seem somewhat populist, "jus folks" etc but they're at least as tied to corporate power as the elitist liberals--Palin for one has stumped for the Alaska oil biz for years (including BP, and taken many handouts). The rural good ol boy/ gal act and biblethumping functions mainly as marketing--and it works, apparently (as with Glenn Beck's recent rally-hucksterism).

    In terms of economics, however, it's a ruse, as they say. The GOP leaders don't have realistic plans for helping working class or middle class Americans (or the po'); the demos are hardly better (and demo leaders as a whole are wealthier). The GOP offers nothing more than the old trickle down--i.e help out the small minority of wealthy and hopefully--ie slash capital gains--and magically that will help out the non-wealthy masses. It doesn't--except maybe a few---porsche mechanics, or yacht builders, etc--

  2. The GOP offers nothing more than the old trickle down--i.e help out the small minority of wealthy and hopefully--ie slash capital gains--and magically that will help out the non-wealthy masses. It doesn't....

    No, it does. And it's not magic -- it's called wealth creation. See this post, and esp. the accompanying graph.

  3. No, the supply side and "trickle down" theory is demonstrably false. That some people--mainly the wealthy ---tend to benefit at times from a Reagan-ish like tax slash and short-term boomtown doesn't mean it's sound economics. Many middle class and working people benefitted from Clinton, even LBJ (check the charts on Clinton era GDP).

    Of course, supply-side econ. may be in your best interest, that is if you're a millionaire (somewhat I doubt that). But not if you're making average income--given that most people are in the under 100 grand a year bracket (if not under 50 grand bracket) they will not likely support the yacht club GOP, unless they fall for the tea-party hype (which is not merely economic anyway).

  4. The flood-down, not "trickle-down", theory -- meaning, the idea of leaving wealth-making capital in the hands of those who can make more of it -- is in everyone's best interest, but especially the poorest of the poor. I notice you didn't refer to the post mentioned above, which has a study showing that only a small portion of the wealth so generated accrues to the rich for yachts, etc. -- the rest enriches the society as a whole. For the envious, of course, it's better that the society as a whole be poorer, than that anyone have a yacht; and for committed lefties it's better that more people become dependent on handouts from state bureaucrats than that they become able to provide for themselves. But for everyone else, the benefits that flow from wealth creation -- a process that's generally improved, despite short term fluctuations, with lower taxes on those with wealth already -- are a general good thing, regardless yachts for the rich.

  5. I already added comments to your charity-nomics post. Moreover, you beg the question of how wealth is created. Bill Gates and/or most IT barons don't really "create" wealth. They created, or rather the army of programmers created (with assistance from an army of assemblers, hardware types, sweatshop labor...etc) some useful software, and then cornered the market. Software was a monopoly sort of situation from its inception, and a case of being in the right place at the right time--little to do with Bill Gates himself (heck, even you, morf, probably know as much about computing/programming as BG). Most of the Internet itself consists of old D.o.D. technology and networks.

    And calling the non-wealthy, or anyone who supports govt. intervention "envious" is just a bogus generalization, morf, as is the point of "committed lefties". Most US democrats are hardly cradle to grave socialists. Supporting like intervention in some circumstances (like, breaking up monopolies...or supporting education, job programs) doesn't mean approving of the little red book.

    Really your economic ideas seem akin to items of faith instead of reasoned positions, morf. I don't completely dismiss people who vote their pocketbook. But I do object to those who insist their libertarian/supply side models will benefit all, when they don't (ie Ahhnuldnomics in CA a case in point).

  6. But I didn't call anyone who supports government intervention "envious", J -- that's your generalization. I do think that far too many are, and far too many also stuck in an old political faith that more and bigger government is always better. As for my faith, well, of course it's true or I wouldn't believe it, would I?

    But seriously, folks -- these are large and general issues, and I don't expect we can settle them with just a tis-so, tis-not kind of back and forth. People differ over them in good faith, so to speak. But I'll leave with the question of how, regardless of personalities like Bill Gates, wealth gets created in the first place?

  7. you have faith that supply-side models work (and are "good", even across the board) but you can't prove that, or show that they're better than interventionism of various types or Keynesian models (...tho' I'm not a K-ian, and rather skeptical of claims that macroeconomics at least is science at all...see Lakatos). That would be a rather involved task. But google around to discover many refutations of the fratboy-supply sider faith. Again, vote your pocketbook, support the teaparty, GOP whatever--that's yr right. But pitching supply side BS like it benefits all--that's an intellectual sin.

    Your rhetoric regarding "old political faith" is also well, predictable, morf. I'd say the robber-baron capitalism is old political faith, old as like british monarchy if not middle ages, and before.

  8. No, I can't "prove that", any more than Keynes & co. can prove that spending money is a good way to get out of debt. As for your own frat-boy crap, maybe you should do a little googling around yourself -- you might find out that capitalism came after the Middle Ages, for example, or that GDP per capita growth, and all the good things that came with it, only assumed its exponential growth with the advent of capitalism. Or you can be a bitter clinger to your own sour belief system -- your choice.

  9. I'm quite aware of the historical progression of feudalism to capitalism (and I alluded to the british monarchy anyway-- capitalist, and ancien regime/feudal actually). Some good things may have arrived with capitalism--technological innovation, perhaps--but they're generally outweighed by bad (depressions, .. wars.. mechanization, tycoons, environmental problems, etc).

    It's only the most pollyannaish ..PollyAynish! who would ignore the actual history of capitalism , and only look at the few benefits. Wall street and Vegass--that's the essence of American capitalism

  10. Some good things may have arrived with capitalism--technological innovation, perhaps--but they're generally outweighed by bad (depressions, .. wars.. mechanization, tycoons, environmental problems, etc).

    You know, J, I bet if you looked around, you might still be able to find some places that are stuck in pre-capitalist modes of production and culture. Afghanistan, e.g. -- if you hurry.

  11. You've done well with the Rush Limbozo handbook, morf---insults via meaningless generalizations, chapter VIII.

    EU and the USA may have capitalist elements but they also feature large public/social infrastructures (including the militaries, education, police, etc). Skilled technicians, teachers, other workers have a good standard of living in much of Europe--and the USA-- because of govt. planning and education. Similarly for workplace laws and other regs, which the conservatives of a few decades ago called "socialist'. Indeed, the move to privatization --Gingrichism--has been a big part of recent economic problems.

  12. Skilled technicians, teachers, other workers have a good standard of living in much of Europe--and the USA....

    And where, I wonder, did all that wealth come from? Hmm?

  13. B. of A. doesn't sign the teacher/cop/bureaucrat paychecks...the State of CA bursar/treasury does (Ahhnuld's efforts to have his banker pals privatize nothwithstanding).

    Now as far as the economic-theory question regarding wealth goes, that's a bit more involved. But in brief it has to do with...the L-word (as in Labor), and properties (gained lawfully, or otherwise). Not just a pile of gold, or millions in bank, or inherited. Were wealth just a matter of how many millions of shekels you had in the bank, maybe you should just become an expert counterfeiter, morf (many financiers are close to that).

    Does Paris Hilton create wealth? No,she just inherited if from her fortunate daddy. And you'll find that most wealthy people started wealthy, Billy Gates included--even if not millionaires per se, they had connections, went to elite schools (ivy league, etc). There are very few real rags to riches stories.

    (review Smith, Ricardo, Mill, Karlo Marx on that issue also. Even Smith opposed bare-knuckles capitalism, and claimed the govt. had every right to step in at times and correct imbalances in trade or other economic crises)

  14. And you'll find that most wealthy people started wealthy....

    Okay, so nobody created the wealth in the first place? It just fell from the sky, into the laps of the already wealthy (who were wealthy from the days of the cavemen)? Did God dump it, do you think, or was it aliens again.

    As for the ol' L-word, I guess somehow, prior to capitalism there was no Labor, huh? There certainly wasn't much wealth.

  15. God? Aliens? You're the one backing the mystics, M--O'Donnells and Palins, mormons, etc.

    I already told you it has to do with labor and property. Add family dynasties and in regard to the USA, manifest destiny (ie seizure of native lands, conquest, etc). The capital gained from manufacturing, industry arrives much later, but ...depended on the earlier historical conditions (ie, property ownership for one). With someone like Carnegie it was mainly a matter of brute force---, monopoly, deals with railroad barons, paying workers--ie labor-- in steel plants a little and reaping in profits from their work, etc. One doesn't have to approve of marxism to understand that profits generally only come about by owners/mgmt. underpaying employees.

  16. One doesn't have to approve of marxism to understand that profits generally only come about by owners/mgmt. underpaying employees.

    You might not want to "approve" of marxism -- even academics are feeling a bit bashful about doing that these days -- but you pretty much have to buy into it if this is your so-called "understanding". Regardless, it turns out that it's just those profits that now pay the "skilled technicians", etc. you mentioned above, and that keep you, in particular, dwelling here in this capitalist hell, rather than trying to emigrate to one the few remaining workers' paradises, whether pre-capitalist, like Afghanistan, or post-capitalist, like Cuba (not for long, of course), or, better yet, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea! You know, J, you might still have a chance there, and imagine how glorious it would be -- no Paris Hiltons, no Bill Gates, no Walmarts, no MacDonalds, no Vegas, not even the possibility of a Carnegie, and best of all, nobody underpaying their employees! Of course, these days, who knows how long even so blissful a place can hold out -- you might need to move fast....

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  18. Merica, love it or leave it. You didn't respond to my points, as per usual. The economies of most western democracies are mixed. The USA as it now stands is hardly purely laissez-faire--and what was the bipartisan Bailout? Looks something like corporate socialism, tho' bankrolled by the US taxpayers . Similarly for the DoD.

    A better question--how do you think wealth is created? Maybe just by being born Paris Hilton, or a Walton, or being adopted by the Gates or Warren Buffett. Or winning the lotto, or some luck in Vegas.

    There's something weird about the idea that the wealthy are always correct, whatever they do, whether they earned their money or made it via the mafia--one of Ayn Rand's mottos. Alas Miss Ayn never read the fine print of Aristotle, like the sections where he criticized plutocracy and usury. Even Locke, the supposed libertarian granddaddy, did not favor massive estates and aristocratic priviledge.

  19. A better question--how do you think wealth is created?

    The answer's in the graph in this post again. Look at it, and stop long enough to think about it.

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  21. Heh. The chart hardly explains anything--it merely shows the west grew richer. It would need to be broken down via sectors, countries, other categories. Note my paragraph re Carnegie--that's an attempt at explanation (in brief...the IT stuff a bit different...but not that much). It's not merely.."Carnegie succeeded, so be a Carnegie".

    Book report time, m! "Thoughts on Carnegie & US Steel". Or just read the wiki. Economic history's about as viable as macro anyway-- note that US Steel (JPMorgan another founder) allowed only limited unionization and low wages, at least until 50s or so The usual tycoon strategy(and the Fed govt often attempted to control USS). .

  22. it merely shows the west grew richer.

    Add to that that the west was capitalist, starting about the time that it grew richer, and that's the whole point.

  23. lacking sectors, categories, itemization more or less the chart's more or less meaningless--for one, a few dozen millionaires or corporations could be raking it in (whether US steel, Ford, microsoft, etc.) and the average citizens aren't. That data's skewed as the stats people would say. Even if the USA or EU SOL index and average income's much better than most of the world that doesn't mean poverty has been abolished. Living in Palo Alto, silicon valley area you're in an elite nearly aristocratic techie paradise. Drive two hours east to Fresno, however, and you're nearly in Mexico.


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