Economics

The Tea Party's Pointy-Headed Populists

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When I last noticed a story about the Tea Party by New York Times reporter Kate Zernike, she was graciously allowing several of the movement's followers to insist they are not racists, even though they support federalism and oppose the minimum wage. On Friday she topped her superficially even-handed but implicitly hostile treatment of the Tea Partiers' alleged bigotry with a story about their reading tastes, headlined "Movement of the Moment Looks to Long-Ago Texts," that amounts to an anti-intellectual attack on a group that is usually portrayed as a bunch of dumb yokels. "When it comes to ideology," Zernike reports, the Tea Party "has reached back to dusty bookshelves for long-dormant ideas," such as those of F.A. Hayek and Frédéric Bastiat. A caption under a photo accompanying the article cites the same two writers, saying, "Tea Party supporters…have made best sellers out of books by long-dead authors."

So are these weird right-wingers ignoramuses or eggheads? I'm not sure, but Zernike and her editors seem to fall into the former category. Bastiat—the French political theorist who elucidated the "broken window" fallacy, wrote the anti-protectionist satire "The Candlemakers' Petition," and made the case for a strictly limited government in The Law—did die way back in 1850, so he obviously has nothing to offer us. But Hayek, the Nobel-winning economist and political philosopher whose books include The Road to Serfdom and The Constitution of Liberty, has been dead less than two decades, so it's possible that some part of his work may still be worth reading. Indeed, according to Zernike, Hayek invented "the rule of law," which was his "term for the unwritten code that prohibits the government from interfering with the pursuit of 'personal ends and desires.'"

Zernike offers this gloss in the process of explaining why Tea Partiers objected to "the $20 billion escrow fund that the Obama administration forced BP to set up to pay damages from the Gulf of Mexico oil spill." Actually, as Zernike's colleague David Sanger could have explained to her, the complaint was based on the fact that Mr. Obama "had no legal basis for the demand, but concluded he did not need one." People outside of the Tea Party, including leftish critics of George W. Bush (and of Obama, for that matter), have been known to express similar concerns about presidential lawlessness. Did they also get their devotion to this obscure "rule of law" idea from reading dusty books by that long-dead Hayek guy?

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  1. Geez, Ms Zernike, and how long has that Keynes fellow that or unicorn riding president seems to use for an authority been dead?

    Hayek published his The Constitution of Liberty 14 years after Keynes”death. The 3 volumes of Law, Legislation and Liberty camout in the third decade after it.

    So who’s really up to date or is it even that relevant?

  2. Did they also get their devotion to this obscure “rule of law” idea from reading dusty books by that long-dead Hayek guy?

    The Constitution was written, like 60 years ago guys. Get with the times.

    1. “Indeed, according to Zernike, Hayek invented “the rule of law,” which was his “term for the unwritten code that prohibits the government from interfering with the pursuit of ‘personal ends and desires.'”

      She rather proves the basic principle that the most cognitively impaired people lack the cognitive skills to understand how impaired they really are.

  3. Indeed, according to Zernike, Hayek invented “the rule of law,” which was his “term for the unwritten code that prohibits the government from interfering with the pursuit of ‘personal ends and desires.'”

    I cannot imagine anyone being able to make any kind of reasonable objection to a code, written or unwritten, that prohibits the government from interfering with the pursuit of “personal ends and desires.”

    WTF?????????

    [Man, it’s taling forever to post comment this PM. Who broke the intertubes?]

    1. Personal ends and desires are evil. Only the collective will of society, aka the people, aka the majority, aka the workers matters.

    2. To me the WTF is the bizarro definition of “the rule of law” and the idea that Hayek invented it. Information on the term isn’t hard to find.

  4. Do you have to take some sort of willful idiocy test to work for the NYT? If you don’t score stupid enough, you have to go work at The Post coming up with witty headlines.

  5. You’re a little late to the party Sullum. We were discussing this over the weekend.

    Also, you’re twisting Zernike’s message. What she really means is that only popular texts matter. God knows no one was reading these decaying tomes before the Koch brothers slipped them into the Tea Party’s required reading list.

    1. Oh, child, are you every out of touch. Try to be a little less insular and parochial.

      I know this is a shock but there is and has been a great deal of activity going on outside your little intellectual bubble.

      1. Oh Grandma, someone needs to turn her sarcasm detector to the on position.

        1. Shannon lacks a sense of humor, heller. I think he/she had it removed when he/she removed their ability to write non-turgid prose.

          1. You don’t think her chiding, condescending, neighborhood gossip tone is a subtle form of satire do you?

            1. If only, Hugh. If only.

      2. there is and has been a great deal of activity going on outside your little intellectual bubble

        Not so you’d notice. Just sayin’….

  6. Is there really any hope for whores like Zernike? Is there any reason to discuss why she or David Brock or Jennifer Palmieri do what they do?

    Isn’t the only question whether the flaks of the tax predator ruling class should be exiled come the revolution, or sent to the guillotine with their masters?

    It’s an important ethical question and no doubt the answer depends on your psycho-epistemological premises.

  7. It’s common knowledge that the Tea Party is at best borderline racist. This means Hayek, Bastiat, and whoever else they read are racist.

  8. Especially Thomas Sowell, Walter Williams, Anne Wortham, Larry Elder, Sudha Shenoy, etc.

    1. There’s no worse racist than a self-hating one.

    2. NOW you’re talking…the WORST kinds of racists.

  9. One of the funny little conceits of the contemporary left is that while they are innovative and always seeking new answers, the right is hopelessly and mindlessly mired in the past. Given that kneejerk assumption, it would seem obvious to Zernike that the Tea Party must be leafing through “dusty tomes” to find inspiration.

    In reality, it is just the opposite. The left hasn’t had a new idea in at least 40 years. Every political debate today has the left either trying to resurrect an ancient idea or keep some program laid down decades ago. Meanwhile, it has been the right that has brought forth new ideas and sought to innovate and experiment. Despite the conventional labels, the right are now the innovative progressives and the left the conservatives or reactionaries.

    That is one of the reasons I, heh, left the left. It was just so goddamn boring.

    There is another major factor that people like Zernike miss. The right often finds value in the old writings of people like Adam Smith and the American Founders because those people wrote about the inherent limitation of humanity. Smith did not set out to design a perfect society, instead he explained why it was impossible to do so. Likewise, the Founders did not set specific policies in stone but instead explained the inherent dangers of the state. Hayek explained how the inability to measure the economy in real-time made any kind of centralized planning impossible and dangerous to attempt.

    All these ideas are still valid because core human behavior and the limitations of human knowledge have not changed in the intervening years. Most left/right debates boil down to leftists claiming they’ve got everything figured out while the right simply points out that the left isn’t as smart as they think they are. You don’t need a spanking new library to cut down hubris. Dangerously arrogant people are the same now as they were in centuries past. The same tools can defeat them.

    1. The left’s arguments are “new” failures; proven not to work since, oh, 1917. There is nothing original from the left since then.
      The right’s arguments may be based on older premises, but the have yet to be shown as failures.

      1. The left’s arguments are “new” failures; proven not to work since, oh, 1917. There is nothing original from the left since then.

        They seemed like good ideas in 1792

        1. 1792? You might mean 1789, right? Oops, sorry to nail you down, you ignorant, patronizing fool.
          1789-on France saw the instauration the most ferociously murderous regime in French history that slaughtered hundreds of thousands, aimed to redefine reality itself (they created the Revolutionary Calendar with 10 days weeks, for example) and human itself (they ordered the entire population to wear Govt approved uniforms — except the elite — such a what Mao did).
          It’d take thousands of pages to describe, so I break it down.
          No wonder why Lenin was a great admirer of the French revolution: it turned out (didn’t start this way) to be the first Fascist=Communist revolution in the world.
          And 4 years after, one of the greatest butcher in history, Napoleon, came out of this Glorious revolution. Not to reverse it, but as its child.

          1. Somehow your asessment made my day, even though I’ve had the same idea about the French Revolution. I guess I could never articulate what bothered me so much about it. I guess it was the idea that because it was a revolution it “must be better than what came before it”. That’s like saying a kidney stone is better than bloody urine.

            Have fun in the land of good food. I have to deal with food infused with government subsidized corn. Yay, America. When will these assholes subsidize Apple Pie and Grandma (oh they do that already) for chrissakes?

    2. Meanwhile, it has been the right that has brought forth new ideas and sought to innovate and experiment.

      Please name one new political idea “the right” has brought forth recently.

      Every non-absurd political idea has already been put forth. Including libertarian ones. There’s not much innovation left.

      1. “Everything that can be invented has been invented.”
        Charles H. Duell, Commissioner, U.S. patent office, 1899

      2. The gov’t should stay the hell out of my wallet and life? Still seems that one hasn’t been tried yet.

    3. >The left hasn’t had a new idea in at least 40 years.

      That recently?

      Seems to me that the idea of sacrificing the individual to the collective probably predates history.

      -jcr

      1. The idea might be old, like the idea of suicide… If this “slefless” montrosity had been taken seriously as it is nowadays, humanity would have never existed.
        No, the idea that you ought to offer yourself as a sacrificial animal to the whims of “the people” (or whatever else), that you’re a slave to your neighbour, that because you’re a productive, creative person then you have to submit to the fool, the parasite, the Welfare State slave masters, is definitely a recent form of retardation.

  10. A Hayek-hating labor economists at the U. of Chicago has already played the race card against Hayek .. all is fair in love and left-wing agitprop.

  11. Oh my god…Kate Zernike…she looks like the love child of Amy Goodman from “Democracy Now” and…Amy Goodman from “Democracy Now”.

  12. A cogent argument is a cogent argument, regardless of how old it is. Liberals suffer from Intellectual Sloth.

  13. From Wikipedia:

    “The rule of law is an ancient ideal, and was discussed by Ancient Greek philosophers such as Plato and Aristotle around 350 BCE. Plato wrote:

    ‘Where the law is subject to some other authority and has none of its own, the collapse of the state, in my view, is not far off; but if law is the master of the government and the government is its slave, then the situation is full of promise and men enjoy all the blessings that the gods shower on a state.[6]'”

    I guess the Rule of Law is indeed a long-dead ideal.

  14. “Bastiat…did die way back in 1850, so he obviously has nothing to offer us.”
    Sarcasm?
    Or has the broken window fallacy been debunked.

    1. Sarcasm?

      If you have to ask…

  15. Yes.. individualism is some archaic concept that “teabaggers” needed to take off the back shelf. Its not you know… the most important idea in western civilization or anything like that…

  16. Love her or hate her, Kate Zernike is one ugly broad.

  17. Pythagoras has been dead for over 2500 years, but the last time I checked

    a^2 + b^2 still = c^2.

    Fucking asshole.

    1. BTW, I hate fucking trig.

      1. Yeah, sex with something that pointy is a pain.

    2. That theorem was known long before Pythagoras was born (not to mention that, like Socrates, Pythagoras never wrote anything himself). It got the name from the fact that, during the Renaissance/Scientific Revolution, the oldest texts Europeans knew about that contained it were written by the Pythagoreans.

      1. I was a science major, not a history major. Every math teacher I had through Diff Eqs credited Pythagoras. I even had one that suggested we pick up the phone and give him a call.

  18. Palin basher

  19. Uh, that was for Senor Whipple…, fucking nested comments.

  20. According to Wiki, the death date of the long-dead Hayek.

  21. Where are the trolls tonight? Seems like Tony especially would be using this thread to throw around his favorite trope that true constitutionalism means letting the Supremes tell us what it means and that anyone who actually wants to go by what the words say is hopelessly ignorant and out of date… which, errrr, is ass-backward. But whatever.

  22. Reasonites might be aware of this, but I figure I’d post it. It’s Friedrich Hayek being interviewed by John O’Sullivan. Anybody calling it irrelevant – especially the section on Keynesianism and inflation – is, well…Kate Bernike. What a twit.

    Sorry for the link, I couldn’t figure out how to hyperlink it, so…

    http://vimeo.com/4063439

  23. figured, sorry

  24. Rule of law- (celebrate the 2500th birthday)
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/N…..discussion
    and some aquinas for good measure-
    http://plato.stanford.edu/entr…..al/#RulLaw

    Zernike= waste of electricity necessary to power the mac book air that article was penned with.

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