Monday, November 30, 2009

The Republican Party - United in its Opposition to President Obama but otherwise Split

In the November 30, 2009 Washington Post article "A party both united and divided," Jon Cohen and Dan Balz report "opposition to Obama is strong, but Republicans are split on GOP's direction and leaders."
The Republican rank and file is largely in sync with GOP lawmakers in their staunch opposition to efforts by President Obama and Democrats to enact major health-care legislation, but a new Washington Post poll also reveals deep dissatisfaction among GOP voters with the party's leadership as well as ideological and generational differences that may prove big obstacles to the party's plans for reclaiming power.

Republicans and GOP-leaning independents are overwhelmingly negative about Obama and the Democratic Party more broadly, with nearly all dissatisfied with the administration's policies and almost half saying they are "angry" about them. About three-quarters have a more basic complaint, saying Obama does not stand for "traditional American values." More than eight in 10 say there is no chance they would support his reelection.

But for all the talk among Republican elected officials about a nascent comeback after gubernatorial victories in Virginia and New Jersey this month, there is also broad frustration among Republican voters about the party's direction, detachment from its congressional representatives and a schism over its priorities.

Fewer than half of the Republicans and Republican-leaners surveyed by The Washington Post see the party's leadership as taking the GOP in the "right direction," down sharply from this time four years ago. About four in 10 are dissatisfied with the policy proposals being offered by congressional Republicans, and similar numbers see the current crop of GOP legislators as out of touch with their problems and personal values. Nearly a third say the Republicans in Congress are not standing up for the party's core values.

This portrait of how Republicans see their party is part of an ongoing series of stories examining the GOP at the midpoint between its disastrous losses in the 2006 and 2008 elections, and the midterm elections in 2010 and the 2012 presidential contest. The findings are based on a national survey of 1,306 adults, including additional interviews with Republicans and Republican-leaning independents and a set of focus groups in Arapahoe County, Colo., a GOP-leaning county that Obama carried handily in 2008.

No clear leader

Asked who leads the Republican Party at this point, one group participant, Ryan Brown, a computer programmer, cited two men who are often at odds: Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), the party's 2008 presidential nominee, and Rush Limbaugh, the conservative radio talk show host. But he was hesitant: "I'll bet you could go around here, and either people would not have an answer or they would have a different answer for that," he said. He was right, and the poll reveals similar threads of uncertainty.

Nearly three in 10 of those surveyed expressed no opinion about who in the GOP best reflects the party's principles or volunteered that no one does. Topping the list of named leaders was former Alaska governor Sarah Palin, the party's 2008 vice presidential nominee.

In the poll, taken amid the media whirlwind surrounding the release of her memoir "Going Rogue," more cite Palin than other Republicans as best reflecting the party's core values and as the top vote-getter in hypothetical presidential nomination contests. But on neither question did she exceed 20 percent backing among all Republicans.

Just 1 percent pick George W. Bush as the best reflection of the party's principles, and only a single person in the poll cites former vice president Richard B. Cheney. About seven in 10 say Bush bears at least "some" of the blame for the party's problems.

At the recent Republican Governors Association meetings in Austin, party officials discounted the absence of a single clear leader, arguing that what is most important is for Republicans to resist Obama's domestic agenda, reaffirm conservative principles and begin to articulate an alternative set of ideas. These officials expect to pick up seats in Congress and win more governorships in next year's elections, and think new, formidable leaders will emerge from those victories.

In the meantime, Republicans are faced with significant discord within their ranks. They are divided over how much to work with Obama on energy and climate-change legislation. There are generational differences on the role of religion in public life and how much emphasis the party should put on hot-button issues such as same-sex marriage. And the party's moderate and conservative wings have widely divergent views on a number of issues.

If there is one thing the party's strategists have in their favor at the outset of their push to regain majority status, it is broad public dissatisfaction with the way the country's political system is working -- the same force that helped propel Obama into office a year ago.

Overall, more than six in 10 Americans say they are unhappy with the way things are going politically, and half are discontent or downright angry about the policies of the Obama administration. On each of these fronts, dissatisfaction among Republicans is nearly universal.

In the Colorado focus groups, Republican voters expressed strong concerns about the first year of the Obama presidency. Pam Hyde, 53, who works at an elementary school, said new government spending worries her. "We'll never recover from that," she said. "I can't imaging recouping the money that he's proposing to spend. Unbelievable."

Health care was a particular concern in the groups, and a point of strong GOP unity in the poll. Talking about the legislative initiative, Karon Dawson, 59, a data processing manager, said that "there are no provisions in there to save any money or do anything to make a difference. . . . [It] is a waste right now unless they change it. It's like: 'Okay, we've got a bill out there but it's not going to be any good.' "

When to cooperate?

In the poll, nearly eight in 10 Republicans and GOP-leaners alike want party lawmakers to try to stop the health-care-reform proposals Obama and his Democratic allies in Congress are pitching; almost all these GOP voters feel "strongly" about their opposition to health-care reform.

More Republicans have compromise in mind when it comes to Democratic efforts to revamp the country's energy policy. On this front, as many of them want congressional Republicans to work with Democrats on these changes as those who want the process halted. When it comes to their general position, 56 percent want Republicans to engage Democrats in an effort to get GOP ideas into legislation; 41 percent would prefer simply to stop the Democratic agenda.

The debate over whether to seek compromises cuts to the heart of the question about the party's future. The party's "very conservative" bloc is strongly opposed to it; others are more open to the idea, even on health-care reform.

Overall, though, the GOP is a party that has become increasingly conservative, particularly on fiscal issues. Obama's stimulus package of nearly $800 billion, bailouts for banks and the auto industry, and a health-care bill with a price tag of nearly $900 billion over 10 years have aroused strong opposition on the right.

Almost three-quarters of Republicans and GOP-leaners identify themselves as "conservative" on most issues, up sharply from a couple of years ago. (In some part, the rise is attributable to fewer Americans calling themselves Republicans; with an average of just 22 percent in Post polls this year saying so, the lowest number in polls since 1981.)

On fiscal issues, the percentage calling themselves conservative has soared to more than eight in 10. More striking is that a majority considers themselves to be "very conservative" on fiscal issues, up about 20 points in two years. On social issues, two-thirds of Republicans say they are conservative, and about a third of Republicans say they are very conservative. Overall, about two in 10 are both fiscally conservative and moderate-to-liberal on social issues.

Republicans are now debating whether and how much candidates should be allowed to stray from party doctrine. That issue caused a split in the special election in New York's 23rd Congressional District. Former House speaker Newt Gingrich and others backed the Republican candidate and other leaders, including Palin, endorsed the Conservative Party candidate.

Last week, some Republican National Committee members began circulating a resolution, to be taken up early next year by the RNC, setting out a purity test for candidates.

In the new poll, 69 percent of Republicans and GOP-leaners say they think it is all right for the party's candidates to take moderate positions on some issues; 27 percent say they want candidates to hew exclusively to conservative positions.

Support for allowing some deviation from conservative views is particularly high among the two in 10 who describe themselves as conservative on fiscal issues but moderate to liberal on social ones. Among that group, more than eight in 10 say it is okay for Republican candidates to veer from conservative positions.

Among those who see themselves as very conservative in their views (about a third of the sample), however, 53 percent say candidates should embrace only conservative positions, highlighting the potential for continued divisions and GOP primary battles next year.

Splits on the issues

The GOP's internal fissures are also pointed up on the question of what issues voters think the party should focus on in its attempt at resurgence.

About a third of Republicans and GOP-leaners say the party is putting "too little" emphasis on same-sex marriage, but nearly as many say it is spending "too much" time on it. Here, there are big divisions by group, with younger people evenly divided between whether the party overemphasizes or underemphasizes the issue. More than four in 10 moderates say too much, with a similar proportion of the very conservative saying too little.

There is a similar split within the GOP on abortion. Moderates and non-religious Republicans are on one side, and staunchly conservative ones and white evangelical Christians are on the other.

Younger Republicans are also much more apt to advocate for increased emphasis on environmental concerns, with 44 percent saying the GOP focuses on environmental concerns too little and 14 percent too much.

Most Republicans, regardless of age, see the party as paying too little attention to federal spending. Most strongly oppose the government's use of hundreds of billions of dollars over the past two years to bolster the economy. Illegal immigration, which caused a major rift within the party during Bush's presidency, is another area in which most Republicans would like to see party leaders pay more attention.

Which way GOP?

Throughout the year, some "tea party" protesters and others at congressional town hall meetings have expressed grievances with the leaders of both parties. That disconnect between the party's congressional leadership and rank-and-file Republicans shows up in the Post poll when people were asked several questions about those leaders.

One year out from the 2006 midterm elections, 76 percent of Republicans and GOP-leaners said the leadership of the party was taking it in the right direction; now, 49 percent say so.

Barely more than a third of Republicans and GOP-leaners in the poll say the party shares their views on "most issues." Although most say congressional Republicans understand the concerns of people like themselves, share their personal values and are true to the party's core values, sizable numbers disagree.

Citing incidents in which Republican elected officials have confessed to extramarital affairs, Stephany Reed, 27, a student and stay-at-home mother, said: "Their moral character is totally not moral. . . . When your personal life is in shambles and your house is not in order . . . then it's going to affect how you lead us."

One rallying point for the GOP, though, is a broad perception among moderates, conservatives, and younger and older Republicans alike that television news is biased against the Republican Party and tilted highly in favor of Obama and Democrats. Nearly nine in 10 see the news media's treatment of Palin as unfair.

But that does not mean they are ready to get behind her, or any other potential candidate, to take on Obama. Perhaps no single indicator reveals the party's current fractures as do the poll's findings on the question of who Republicans are looking to in 2012: About four in 10 said they do not have an opinion or cited "nobody" as their preferred candidate.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Most Influential Conservative Voice? Rush Limbaugh!

According to the November 29, 2009 Associated Press article "Poll: Limbaugh is most influential conservative":
By a wide margin, Americans consider Rush Limbaugh the nation's most influential conservative voice.

Those are the results of a poll conducted by "60 Minutes" and Vanity Fair magazine and issued Sunday. The radio host was picked by 26 percent of those who responded, followed by Fox News Channel's Glenn Beck at 11 percent. Actual politicians - former Vice President Dick Cheney and former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin - were the choice of 10 percent each.

The random national telephone sample of 855 adults was conducted by CBS News from Nov. 6-8. The margin for error is plus or minus three percentage points.

Thursday, November 26, 2009


According to laissez-faire philosophy, business firms should be allowed to operate without government regulation and interference.

This laissez-faire video lacks sound reasoning, however.

For example, it suggests that any government interference with the pursuit of one's happiness is immoral. But government regulation is an essential component of PROTECTING the rights of individuals and the broader society. Laws are necessary to reduce the ability of one person to unfairly impede another's pursuit of happiness. Unregulated markets create too much of some things (such as pollution, poverty, and market power) and too little of others (such as national defense, education, disease control, and other public goods.)

Read more about laissez-faire on Wikipedia.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel has been awarded 41 times to 64 Laureates between 1969 and 2009.

The winners of the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel:

2009 - Elinor Ostrom, Oliver E. Williamson
2008 - Paul Krugman
2007 - Leonid Hurwicz, Eric S. Maskin, Roger B. Myerson
2006 - Edmund S. Phelps
2005 - Robert J. Aumann, Thomas C. Schelling
2004 - Finn E. Kydland, Edward C. Prescott
2003 - Robert F. Engle III, Clive W.J. Granger
2002 - Daniel Kahneman, Vernon L. Smith
2001 - George A. Akerlof, A. Michael Spence, Joseph E. Stiglitz
2000 - James J. Heckman, Daniel L. McFadden
1999 - Robert A. Mundell
1998 - Amartya Sen
1997 - Robert C. Merton, Myron S. Scholes
1996 - James A. Mirrlees, William Vickrey
1995 - Robert E. Lucas Jr.
1994 - John C. Harsanyi, John F. Nash Jr., Reinhard Selten
1993 - Robert W. Fogel, Douglass C. North
1992 - Gary S. Becker
1991 - Ronald H. Coase
1990 - Harry M. Markowitz, Merton H. Miller, William F. Sharpe
1989 - Trygve Haavelmo
1988 - Maurice Allais
1987 - Robert M. Solow
1986 - James M. Buchanan Jr.
1985 - Franco Modigliani
1984 - Richard Stone
1983 - Gerard Debreu
1982 - George J. Stigler
1981 - James Tobin
1980 - Lawrence R. Klein
1979 - Theodore W. Schultz, Sir Arthur Lewis
1978 - Herbert A. Simon
1977 - Bertil Ohlin, James E. Meade
1976 - Milton Friedman
1975 - Leonid Vitaliyevich Kantorovich, Tjalling C. Koopmans
1974 - Gunnar Myrdal, Friedrich August von Hayek
1973 - Wassily Leontief
1972 - John R. Hicks, Kenneth J. Arrow
1971 - Simon Kuznets
1970 - Paul A. Samuelson
1969 - Ragnar Frisch, Jan Tinbergen

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Contrary to Popular Opinion, Democrats made Government Smaller, Republicans made it Bigger

Click on the table above to enlarge it.

Contrary to its claims and popular perception, the modern Republican Party has been the true practitioner of big government in recent decades. Democrats reduced the relative size of the U.S. federal government in the 1990s and Republicans expanded it in the 2000s. Under President Bill Clinton's leadership, Congress reduced the size of U.S. federal government expenditures from 22.1% of gross domestic product in 1992 to 18.4% of GDP in 2000. Under President George W. Bush, public expenditures increased to 20.5% of GDP in 2008.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Different Perspectives on the Cause of Human Suffering

“In the last chapter of Up from Eden (“Republicans, Democrats, and Mystics”), I made the observation that, when it comes to the cause of human suffering, liberals tend to believe in exterior causes, whereas conservatives tend to believe in interior causes. That is, if an individual is suffering, the typical liberal tends to blame external social institutions (if you are poor it is because you are oppressed by society), whereas the typical conservative tends to blame internal factors (you are poor because you are lazy). Thus, the liberal recommends exterior social interventions: redistribute the wealth, change social institutions so that they produce fairer outcomes, evenly slice the economic pie, aim for equality among all. The typical conservative recommends that we will instill family values, demand that individuals assume more responsibility for themselves, tighten up slack moral standards (often by embracing traditional religious values), encourage a work ethic, reward achievement, and so on.”

-- Ken Wilber, A Theory of Everything, page 84.

Click here to read more about Ken Wilber and Integral Theory.

Republican Party factions

Former U.S. Congressman Bill Bradley describes the factions of the Republican Party in his book, A New American Story:

corporatists – seek control of government to enhance their profits and pockets. Had favored protective tariffs in the early 1900s. Now seek to reduce their taxes. Support government programs that give them money. Oppose government regulation. Tend to favor free trade now.

fundamentalists – Christians who believe in the literal truth of the Bible. The world is good and evil. Suspicious of science. (Creationism vs. evolution) Anyone who disagrees with them is ignorant or evil. Reluctant to negotiate or cooperate. Want to control government to impose their morality on society. Culture is coarse. The media have a liberal bias.

libertarians – want to abolish government interference in private lives. Pro-choice. Legalize drugs. Against military interventions. Favor lower taxes, free trade, free speech. Worried about privacy. (Oppose large government databases.) Free market advocates. (Example: Ron Paul)

supply-siders – believe tax cuts solve everything from urban decay and economic downturns to third-world development. Deficits are unimportant. Think tax cuts promote economic growth. Repeat JFK´s “a rising tide lifts all boats.” Little interest in defense policy or foreign affairs.

subsidists – primarily westerners (where the federal government owns up to 90% of the area´s land). Want to end most regulation and oversight of public resources. But want to increase federal subsidies to timber, mining, grazing, and agriculture.

Main Streeters – small-town virtures. Church-goers, but don´t impose their values on others. Support local civic organizations, give to the United Way, serve on the school board. Do not seek federal subsidies. Favor less government spending and a balanced budget.

messianists (also called neoconservatives or neocons) – believe in U.S. destiny. Seek to liberate the world for democracy. Believe the U.S. government is the world´s best and our economy the most important. Little to be learned from other nations. Want to impose our systems and thinking on other countries. Favor a strong military and use it to pursue our goals.

realists – combine post World War II optimism with post-Vietnam pessimism. Hesitant to commit troops abroad. Oppose nation-building. (Doubt it is doable.) Insist on an exit strategy before going to war.

crime busters – believe the death penalty is the all-purpose answer to violence and pathology. Favor giving more authority to police. Question the validity of the right to legal counsel before questioning. Favor the war on drugs.

liberals – Believe in government regulation and helping the poor. Seek bipartisan solutions. Favor civil rights and protection of the environment. (Example: Barry Goldwater)

racemongers – maintain prejudice. Oppose affirmative action. Want to reduce or cut funding for programs that benefit blacks and Hispanics. Oppose immigration.

The corporatists seem to be the most dominant faction of the current Republican Party. The supply-siders have successfully made tax cuts a Republican mantra, to the dismay of the Main Streeters who favor personal responsibility and balanced budgets. The fundamentalists are much more influential than the libertarians and convince many middle and lower-income Americans to advocate policies that hurt them economically. The messianists (neocons) now dominate foreign policy discussions and drown out realist voices. Liberals have almost disappeared from the party.

What Democrats Believe

According to their website (, Democrats believe:

The Democratic Party is committed to keeping our nation safe and expanding opportunity for every American. That commitment is reflected in an agenda that emphasizes the strong economic growth, affordable health care for all Americans, retirement security, open, honest and accountable government, and securing our nation while protecting our civil rights and liberties.

We come together at a defining moment in the history of our nation –- the nation that led the 20th century, built a thriving middle class, defeated fascism and communism, and provided bountiful opportunity to many. We Democrats have a special commitment to this promise of America. We believe that every American, whatever their background or station in life, should have the chance to get a good education, to work at a good job with good wages, to raise and provide for a family, to live in safe surroundings, and to retire with dignity and security. We believe that quality and affordable health care is a basic right. We believe that each succeeding generation should have the opportunity, through hard work, service and sacrifice, to enjoy a brighter future than the last.

But today, we are at a crossroads. As we meet, we are in the sixth year of a two-front war. Our economy is struggling. Our planet is in peril.

A land of historic resourcefulness has lost its patience with elected officials who have failed to lead. It is time for a change.

We can do better.

What Republicans Believe

According to their website (, Republicans believe:

We're fortunate to live in America

The Republican Party believes that the United States has been blessed with a unique set of individual rights and freedoms available to all.

You can be what you are, and become what you are capable of becoming

The Republican Party is inspired by the power and ingenuity of the individual to succeed through hard work, family support and self-discipline.

Helping those around you is worthwhile

The Republican Party believes in the value of voluntary giving and community support over taxation and forced redistribution.

Small government is a better government for the people

The Republican Party, like our nation's founders, believes that government must be limited so that it never becomes powerful enough to infringe on the rights of individuals.

You know what to do with your money better than government

The Republican Party supports low taxes because individuals know best how to make their own economic and charitable choices.

Free markets keep people free

The Republican Party is supportive of logical business regulations that encourage entrepeneurs to start more businesses so more individuals can enjoy the satisfaction and fruits of self-made success.

Our Armed Forces defend and protect our democracy

The Republican Party is committed to preserving our national strength while working to extend peace, freedom and human rights throughout the world.

The Republican Party is guided by these principles as it develops solutions to the challenges facing America.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

A Source of Republican Talking Points: Albert Jay Nock in the 1930s

In his November 5, 2009 Salon article "Hated Roosevelt, Hate Obama: Paleoconservative Persuasions," writer Steve Klingaman provides a 1930s source of current Republican talking points:

In the crusade against Obama administration efforts on behalf of economic recovery and health care reform, we encounter lies, damn lies, and Republican talking points. Touchstones like: “government takeover,” “government-run,” “profligate spending,” “usurpation of power”—where did they all come from? Well, in a word, they all came from this guy named Albert Jay Nock.

Albert Jay Nock was one of the most virulent critics of President Roosevelt and his administration’s efforts to extract the nation from the Great Depression. Nock’s opus, Our Enemy, the State, published in 1935, attacked the New Deal in terms that, well, you’d have to listen to Glen Beck to replicate. Or Michele Bachmann. Or Rush. It is the source code for anti-Obama talking points.

Born in Pennsylvania and based for much of his life in New York and Brussels, Nock was a visiting professor at Bard College and a lecturer at University of Virginia. He was a failed Episcopalian cleric who wrote proto-libertarian works rooted in a philosophical tradition that would never fly today. Yet many of his sound bites endure.

Nock saw the state as “them,” not “us,” and “them” really came to mean Roosevelt. You must know that Roosevelt was hated by many during the Great Depression. Not disliked, hated. The laissez faire crowd saw every move toward government relief of intolerable conditions as government self-aggrandizement—Nock’s term, not mine. Despite the fact that people were desperate in the streets, extreme-sport capitalists saw only usurpation of the powers of the church (as the precursor to the modern social relief agency) and the individual—that old fall-back, the rugged individual—Nock’s term, not mine.

Nock preferred alms-to-beggars to a hand-up from the government, and said so, as he does here in lamenting government involvement in social relief programs as somehow causing individuals to fall away from the ethos of mutual assistance:
We can get some kind of rough measure of this general atrophy by our own disposition when approached by a beggar. Two years ago we might have been moved to give him something; today we are moved to refer him to the State's relief-agency.

Initiatives like the legendary Civilian Conservation Corps, the CCC, were presented as Mr. Roosevelt “announcing the doctrine, brand-new in our history, that the State owes its citizens a living.” And such a measure, he felt, was simply a pretext for increasing government control. “Thus the State,” he wrote, “‘turns every contingency into a resource’ for accumulating power in itself…”

Hated Roosevelt, Hate Obama

The issue was with Roosevelt himself:
State power has not only been thus concentrated at Washington, but it has been so far concentrated into the hands of the Executive that the existing régime is a régime of personal government.

Professor Nock pulls no punches. With a Beckian flourish he proclaims, “This regime was established by a coup d'État of a new and unusual kind, practicable only in a rich country.” Yup. A coup d’etat. You almost want to ask for Mr. Roosevelt’s birth certificate.

Nock’s antipathy to Roosevelt knew few boundaries. Perversely, Nock saw in the New Deal, “the erection of poverty and mendicancy into a permanent political asset.” As if, rather than responding to a national emergency, Roosevelt was amassing poverty as political capital, as an opportunistic end in itself even during the depths of the Great Depression. To a Republican of a certain brand, this was gospel.

Socialists by Any Other Name

Here is Nock’s take on the form of relief that would become known as Social Security:
The method of direct subsidy, or sheer cash-purchase, [as if Roosevelt was literally buying the poor] will therefore in all probability soon give way to the indirect method of what is called “social legislation”; that is, a multiplex system of State-managed pensions, insurances and indemnities of various kinds.

Instead of socialists, Nock railed against “collectivists.” Nock remarked, “One of my friends said to me lately that if the public-utility corporations did not mend their ways, the State would take over their business and operate it.” Of course, Nock felt this was repugnant. But what he doesn’t say is the utilities weren’t bothering to electrify vast expanses of rural America because there was no money in it.

Nock was an adherent of mid-19th century English proto-libertarian Herbert Spencer. Spencer was to contemporary social thought what the reptilian brain is to Einstein. Spencer characterized any government-run effort as “slow, stupid, extravagant, unadaptive, corrupt and obstructive.” Interestingly, Nock professed this belief as his own just ten years before the “greatest generation” went to war under Roosevelt and saved the world, for a while anyway, from fascism.

Birthing Cato

“Every intervention by the State enables another, and this in turn another, and so on indefinitely…” wrote Nock. And every intervention, life-saving or not, was seen as usurpation of individual power. In that jealousy he established that elected government was a thing to be hated, and ultimately, abolished. In this respect, his thought was a precursor to the anarcho-capitalists, or as I call them, anarcho-libertarians. Little known but influential libertarians such as Frank Chodorov and Murray Rothbard were his intellectual progeny, as was William F. Buckley, Jr., who got to know Nock, a supplicant of Buckley senior, while still a child. Ayn Rand fits in here, too. So we see these two strands emanating from the visiting professor’s thought, tangling and untangling over time, but always united in opposition to the State, enemy of freedom.

In Nock’s construct, individual perogatives were manifest as social power, as opposed to State power. Corporate power, too, was social power:
Does social power mismanage banking-practice in this-or-that special instance - then let the State, which never has shown itself able to keep its own finances from sinking promptly into the slough of misfeasance, wastefulness and corruption, intervene to "supervise" or "regulate" the whole body of banking-practice, or even take it over entire.
In a rare moment of informality, Nock bends to facetiousness. Having the State take over failed financial institutions is represented pretty much as a crime against nature. And somehow, Nock manages to see the Crash of ’29 as a mere “special instance,” an “Oh, that” moment. Furthermore, he has the temerity to go on the offensive against any and all regulation after the nation’s life savings have been wiped out. And what were they wiped out by? The market abuses of a decade of laissez faire government. One can only think, “Cato Institute, here we come!”

To Nock, as to libertarians today, social power is locked in a zero sum gain struggle with state power. If state power can in any way said to be increasing, then social power must be decreasing. Sarah Palin rushes to these ramparts with her codified rhetoric under the banner of freedom. Michele Bachman is her lesser echo. Freedom from government. Freedom from them—us.

There is a technical political term, called paleoconservatism—you can’t make this stuff up—that describes Nock-inspired thought. Paleoconservatism espouses anti-communism, isolationism, “family values,” Americanism, rugged individualism, anti-Statism, and religion (Christians only, thank you). The term is used in opposition to neocon. The paleoconservative motto might be, “Praise God, but get even.”1 Visiting professor Nock may have been the original paleoconservative, the Lucy of his ilk.

Nock’s thought arises a multi-layered 19th century tradition of philosophy. He was well-read in the Federalist papers. He is about Hegel. And early 20th century anti-statist Franz Oppenheimer. He even critiques Plato. Serious scholarship could be performed on this guy. But why bother? In his heart of hearts, he was like Beck, a mouthy polemicist.

“History? We don’t need no stinkin’ history!”

It is an overworn truism that those who do not learn from history are destined to repeat it. But who would have guessed that any party could break its back to repeat it so thoroughly, in the carbon copy reaction we see in the Republicans at this moment?

The Obama administration will never be able to prove that financial catastrophe was avoided by its interventions (and by the impossibly ironic Paulson-led interventions of the dying Bush regime). You can’t prove a negative like that. And, in that respect at least, the present moment is far different than the Great Depression, when they went over the falls. History, I predict, will attest to the very great likelihood that the Obama administration did stem the tide of disaster. And it will show that for the most part the administration held its nose as it did so. Despite this, Obama will forever wear the mantle of usurper, government overstepper, just like Roosevelt, in the rhetoric of that obscure, somewhat creepy (he wrote an essay in the Atlantic Monthly titled "The Jewish Problem in America") ex-cleric from Scranton.

Let them—the Republicans—say what they will, history proclaims Roosevelt was right, and that only a cohesive federal government can marshal the forces necessary to counter a national economic collapse.

But we have an entire party, a party bereft of a moderate wing, standing in the town square, fingers in ears, screaming “Redo, redo!” And while the Republicans still envy the spoils that control of the State entails, in their mushy heart of hearts that tiny anarcho-libertarian muscle is beating away, a little Energizer Bunny from a paleolithic era of political thought.

Note to Scholars: I readily acknowledge that Nock was in no way the only Depression-era antecedent for current conservative talking points. He was merely one of the most visible and audacious. We would not want to forget Mr. Hoover, who railed against Roosevelt for the better part of a decade after losing office.

* * *

1 Credit to Robert MacLeay for the disarranged proverb submitted to the New York Times blog, Schott’s Vocab.