Monday, December 14, 2009

Disaster and Denial

From the New York Times, Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman on the persistence of now totally discredited right-wing economic ideology:

Talk to conservatives about the financial crisis and you enter an alternative, bizarro universe in which government bureaucrats, not greedy bankers, caused the meltdown. It’s a universe in which government-sponsored lending agencies triggered the crisis, even though private lenders actually made the vast majority of subprime loans. It’s a universe in which regulators coerced bankers into making loans to unqualified borrowers, even though only one of the top 25 subprime lenders was subject to the regulations in question.

Oh, and conservatives simply ignore the catastrophe in commercial real estate: in their universe the only bad loans were those made to poor people and members of minority groups, because bad loans to developers of shopping malls and office towers don’t fit the narrative.

In part, the prevalence of this narrative reflects the principle enunciated by Upton Sinclair: “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it.” As Democrats have pointed out, three days before the House vote on banking reform Republican leaders met with more than 100 financial-industry lobbyists to coordinate strategies. But it also reflects the extent to which the modern Republican Party is committed to a bankrupt ideology, one that won’t let it face up to the reality of what happened to the U.S. economy.


Yeah, it's not even really an argument anymore. (And by "argument," I mean in the Monty Python argument-sketch sense: an argument is a set of propositions intended to prove a point. Not the right-wing sense of running your mouth until the other side gets sick of it and quits the exchange.) Yet we continue to see a seemingly endless parade of conservative commentators, activists, and politicians who seemingly have no understanding at all that some of the most foundational principles of their economic views, deregulation, free markets, etc., have been utterly shattered by real world events. I mean, there's obviously still some room to talk about how some regulations are bad, or how certain parts of the market ought to be freer than others, but until the right wing acknowledges that their laissez-faire absolutism now resides in the same file cabinet as phrenology and alchemy, and incorporates this development into their discussion of economics, they're just a bunch of gibbering monkeys.

The corporate news media taking their voodoo bullshit seriously doesn't help matters much.

Krugman ends his essay by tossing the problem to the Democrats. It's up to them, he writes. But the Democrats, even the true liberals among them, take laissez-faire absolutism seriously, too, even when they disagree. As a political party, they're incapable of dealing with this mass denial of reality. It's truly a Gordian Knot. Who's going to step up and cut the damned thing in two?