Economics

Joe Conason Prefers American Cheese to Vienna Sausages

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Joe Conason's columns are reliably stupid, but this week he's really outdone himself. Here's his reaction to the news that Tea Partiers have been reading Austrian economics:

It probably isn't necessary to point this out, but many "Austrian" economists were born right here in the U.S.A. (and some who weren't came here as immigrants); and needless to say, Americans did not invent the "native-grown concepts" of tariffs, research subsidies, deficit spending, the regulation of private infrastructure, or government schools. The fact that one set of ideas is called "Austrian" and the other "American" doesn't change the fact that both have international pedigrees.

The Austrian craze is particularly curious because it has displaced a school of economics that ought to be more appealing to the proud and patriotic, especially those who claim to be true to the views of the nation's founders. That would be the school known as "the American system"–which offers the added attraction of a real record of promoting national prosperity.

What is (or was) the American system? As articulated by thinkers from Alexander Hamilton to Henry Clay to Abraham Lincoln, it included protective tariffs to foster industry, national support for scientific research, federal spending (and debt!) to finance public works, regulation of private infrastructure (such as railroads) and universal education. That way of doing things persisted well into the past century, influencing policy in the Progressive Era, the New Deal and the Great Society. It preserved the nation's independence after the Revolution and built the United States into the wealthiest and most powerful country in the world.

But Austrian economics–which the Austrians themselves have wisely rejected, by the way, in favor of a more democratic and egalitarian style–had precisely nothing to do with that historic process.

So why would the Tea Party movement, so prone to bouts of jingoism and xenophobia, embrace an untried foreign ideology? Why would they ignore the traditional, native-grown concepts that bear the stamp of Hamilton and Lincoln?

The "American system" was an early step toward the modern corporate state, so naturally Conason wraps up the article by accusing the Austrians of advocating a "corporate oligarchy." Click through to the whole thing for more fun, including a passage that seems to suggest that Mises, Hayek, and Bastiat were anarcho-capitalists.

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  1. Why would they ignore the traditional, native-grown concepts that bear the stamp of Hamilton and Lincoln?

    I…..

    wonder.

    1. Hamilton…thats enough to drive any right thinking person away.

  2. I guess now that Bill Clinton is being seen again in public it means that Conason has finished fellating him and is back behind a keyboard again.

    1. That must be it. Yes.

      1. Joe! Good of you to drop by!

  3. the Tea Party movement, so prone to bouts of jingoism and xenophobia

    STFU and act American, you fucking jingoistic xenophobes!

    1. The MSM has questioned the patriotism of its opponents more in two years than conservatives did during the entire Bush administration.

      1. Questioned their patriotism? No, I think they’re questioning the tea party’s right to walk about in public. To their credit only half think it’s time for ‘against the wall’ talk.

  4. I can’t outdo the photo. It perfectly encapsulates my thoughts.

    So to sum this up: we should be OK with wrecking the rule of law and shitty monetary policy because… other Americans have done it before.

    WTF, indeed.

    1. So to sum this up: we should be OK with wrecking the rule of law and shitty monetary policy because… other Americans have done it before.

      …AND burning Atlanta!

      1. Have you been to the ATL lately? It could use a reboot.

        1. or a re-burn?

  5. Protectionism and spending and debt! (exuberant exclamation mark Conason’s), oh my. Anyone speaking fondly of tariffs is instantly dismissable.

    1. Protectionism’s all respectable again, didn’t you get the memo?

      Along with talk about how we got to save jobs for real Americans and keep them away from those dirty foreigners. Or, at least, that’s what the Democrats in Congress are saying now.

      Finally something Obama will get a bipatisan consensus on. (Although to be fair, although some are protectionist most Republicans I’ve heard seem to still be pretty good on free trade).

      1. Tariffs are the one thing I specifically mentioned in that batshit answer I gave in the debate the other night.

        You don’t create jobs by making new stuff for the whole world to consume, you create jobs by forcing your neighbors to by the shit you’re already making… or something.

        Oh, and fuck Bastiat.

        1. “buy” “by”

          If you can’t already tell I’m an idiot.

          1. weren’t you in viet nam?

            1. Yes! err, no! err, I misspoke!

              But you can be assured that now I’m trying to keep Vietnam from coming here!

              1. Oh, forget it.

                I’ve really got nothing to add other than being slightly less despicable than Dick. And I put out these great. women-centric advertisments were we talk about talking and sharing. Vote for meeeee!

                1. Whoops. There’s an extra period in there. Which, come to think of it, was probably subliminally induced by my advertisements.

                  1. “where,” not “were.” Typo. I’m shutting up now.

              2. Loretta Sanchez, is that you?

    2. Hmm… I wonder if all the Chinese-made drugs we use in the U.S. (most of the OTC stuff) will be subject to the tariffs?

      If so, it’s just another example of the left’s War On Ill People.

  6. I think, in this instance, the appropriate spelling would be cheeZe.

  7. What happened to the Welcome MSNBC viewers post? Why did it disappear?

    1. I guess the comments were scaring away all of the millions of MSNBC viewers that were there to read the post.

    2. Does someone have a quick summary of the post?

      1. Reason put a shortened version of the UPS Whiteboard Reason.tv presentation from last year into a one minute commercial and aired it on MSNBC. The post was welcoming anyone who might be visiting this fine establishment as a result thereof.

        At last check, hilarity was ensuing in the comments.

        1. Thanks, sorry I missed the fun.

        2. I was in there early, but not near when it got canned. Can you elaborate on the hilarity?

          1. Yes, please.

            1. I tweeted Mr. Gillespie about that and he said that the post had gone up early and unedited so it would be back up later this evening.

              1. It looked good to me.

          2. I missed it. Elaborate further on hilarity, please.

            1. I’d like to subscribe to this newsletter as well. By the time I clicked on the “comments” link, all I got was a 404 error.

    3. Why did it appear in the first place? Do we not have enough trolls or something?

  8. Little details like a “gold standard” or “no income tax” do not bother the liberal revisionist…

  9. Is this an onion article?

    1. Joe Conason actually believes the crap he writes.

      1. or at least smokes the crap he writes…

  10. Yeah, tariffs! Let’s make all 300 million Americans worse off by artificially raising the cost of goods above market value so that a few thousand people don’t have to learn new skills and look for new jobs. Who could possibly be against such a brilliant idea?!

    1. Obama was already talking a protectionist line during the campaign but many of us were fooled by the reassuring talk that he was just pandering to the trade union base.

      I didn’t vote for him but I did think he wasn’t going to be too bad*. I was expecting Bill Clinton, not Woodrow Wilson/FDR/LBJ all in one. But maybe this is how Bill would’ve been with a veto-proof Senate and a cult of personality that includes school children singing “Dear Leader” style anthems and so much great art.

      Hell, I’d be happy if he was just Jimmy Carter. At least, he wanted to get the budget under control before adding new programs.

      *Couldn’t be worse than George Bush, right? Boy was I wrong. 🙂

      1. This. I had the same thoughts. And, if he was Carter, he’d be deregulating industries right now.

        Jesus friggin Christ. I never knew I was capable of being *that* wrong about something.

        1. I knew you were.

          What’s funny is that many of us were like “how bad can some ego-tripping douchebag be?”, and we pooh-poohed the right wingers who were saying he was Satan incarnate. And they turned out to be way more correct than we were.

          1. All the knuckle dragging right wingers got it right. All of the smart set too cool for school conservatives and libertarians like David Frum and Christopher Buckley were dead wrong.

            1. It’s a bit like the boy who cried wolf. The Free Republic crowd is so hyperbolic in their declarations that most people have been conditioned to take their opinions with skepticism. This time they were right, but no one took them seriously.

            2. Really? So why did the get the nomination of 100 year old McCain and Caribou Barbie so wrong?

              1. What do you mean?

                I used to frequent FR back in those days and they mostly (and probably still) HATED McCain. Once he was the nominee they supported him over Obama, and they liked what Palin brought to the ticket, but most Freepers would have preferred a Huckaby or Fred Thompson type and felt cheated by the structure of the primary process that let (what they saw as) open primaries in purple states decide the nominee so early.

        2. That’s what you get for being optimistic about politicians!

      2. I honestly didn’t think he would be this bad either. I looked at the economic and budget situation and thought “only a lunatic would try to create a European style welfare state in this economy. Reality will force him to be more like Clinton.” Sadly I was correct in that assessment but wrong in my assessment of Obama.

        1. Obama has managed to go the right of Bush on national security and personal privacy matters. I still cannot fathom how the Democrats mostly remain silent on this.

          1. Because they don’t give a shit. To the ones who care about policy you could be pro choice, pro LGBT rights, pro drug legalization, anti-war, anti-police state, pro-open border, express sympathy with feminism, acknowledge the dreaded white male privilege, point out the malign influence of corporations (stemming almost entirely from their relationship with the state) and so forth, but if you point out that the welfare state is just another pillar upholding an entire structure of oppression, you are the devil to them. If you point out that “teh evil corporashuns!!!!” are empowered and made “evil” by the regulatory state, which is the primary factor in quelling small scale entrepreneurial activity which does more to keep people poor than any cultural prejudices, they can’t argue you, so they pretend not to hear it.

            In truth though, most voters for either side don’t care about the stances of candidates, they vote based on what it says about them culturally. If I vote for a Republican I thumb my nose at snobby liberal academic types and smelly hippies. If I vote for a Democrat I thumb my nose at NASCAR fans and Bible Thumpers. That is what motivates people when they go to the polls.

            1. There is a lot of truth to your last paragraph. Politics has become brand. In the last election the Democrats cornered the “smart brand”. Voting for Obama was a way of showing how smart and cool you were. The problem is that in taking that brand, the Democrats gave away any share any share of the populist brand they had. And now two years later, as a populist wave sweeps the country, they are paying the price for it.

              1. Voting for Obama was a way of showing how smart and cool you were.

                I knew that McCain was toast when I walked into my son’s preschool on election day and saw all the mommies in their Obama shirts. I figured that if it was that bad in one of the richest sections of Houston, it was bad all over the country.

                FWIW, I concluded right then and there that all of those mommies were not serious people.

                1. No they were not serious people. And that is why it is so not surprising they turned on him so quickly. His support was miles wide and an inch deep. Most people who voted for him voted for him for silly and stupid reasons.

                  1. it is so not surprising they turned on him so quickly

                    But have the unserious people turned on him, or just the thoughtful ones who really truthfully bought into throw out the bums we need a new party in charge hype?

                    As I see it, blacks and stupid people make up ~40-45% of the electorate and are going to vote for him no matter what, which is consistent with his current favorability ratings.

                    There is no sign that blacks have given up on him in any meaningful way and I can’t imagine that any of these preschool mommies or nitwit actresses are sitting around going, “Obama’s fiscal policy is horrendous and he doesn’t understand Pakistan’s internal politics. I can’t vote for him again.”

                    The only ones who have turned on him seem to be people who are paying attention. The ones who weren’t paying attention then probably aren’t paying attention now, either.

                    And yes, I have said in this forum before that I think he’ll be reelected, but that’s only because I’m being a pessimist and saw Clinton pull a similar trick. Maybe I am wrong and maybe he really does ride the electorate down to his base supporters and gets booted in a 20 point landslide in 2012. Maybe. But I don’t think the unserious people are turning on him, by definition.

        2. I figured Obama was bad news. I figured McCain was slightly less bad news, and Clinton was slightly worse bad news, if only because of the Rotating Monarchy thing.

          So I voted for Ron Paul, then Bob Barr.

          I didn’t think Obama would be Perenially Running Trillion Plus Budget Deficits bad news. For once, I wasn’t pessimistic enough.

          1. Meh. I thought Obama would actually do a smaller bailout than McCain. But that was only because my cynicism about McCain’s ability to sell out his own side was well grounded, whereas I didn’t have enough data to be appropriately cynical about Obama. (I still voted for McSame, hoping he’d have enough cred to get us out of Iraq and Afghanistan.)

          2. “So I voted for Ron Paul, then Bob Barr.”

            How many votes do you get?

            1. Depends. In this case, he got one vote in the primaries (Ron Paul), and one vote in the general election (Bob Barr).

            2. You get to vote in a primary, then a general election.

        3. I knew he would be this bad on the economy. Nothing he did on it has surprised me. I was surprised that health care was forced thru, but that was more a surprise at the senate.

          However, I thought Obama might not totally suck on WoD and civil libertires and the wars. I was really really wrong.

          1. I knew he would suck on the WOD and not change a thing on the WOT. That I would have bet my house on. But I honestly didn’t think it was possible for him to be this bad on the economy an domestic policy. I always thought there were adults in the Democratic Party who would take him aside and debase him of most of his really stupid ideas. I guess not.

          2. So, so far nobody here realized up front just how bad Obama would be.

            1. I sure didn’t. I thought he might be better on Iraq, and I thought he would be much better on the WOD and immigration. Goddamn was I wrong.

              I spent the weekend with a bunch of foreigners. They were all outraged that Obama had received the Nobel Peace Prize.

            2. I did. But I live in Illinois and was born in the neighborhood he was a community activist in. All his activism made it the worst neighborhood in the city.

            3. I think combined John and I had him nailed. Ive got a pretty good feel for how a candidate is going to be on the economy. I knew Bush was a big government conservative, for example.

            4. I voted for McCain in a state where he had no chance, but I didn’t think Obama would be this awful.

        4. Reality will force him to be more like Clinton.

          He may yet become somewhat less awful if the Republicans win really big in November. I doubt he’ll have quite the Come to Jesus moment Clinton had, though.

          1. So, he’ll start getting blow jobs from interns now?

            1. Why do you think he hasn’t started? He spent $5 million of taxpayer money just to get his wife out of town for a week.

            2. What do you mean, “start”?

              Try “start getting caught getting beejs from interns”.

          2. I don’t think he will. He is just not Clinton. First, he is not as experienced as Clinton was. And second he is not nearly as politically skilled and shameless as Clinton. Only a politician of great skill and completely bankrupt of moral values and shame could have gotten up and said “the era of big government is over” after trying to do what Clinton did in his first two years. Obama doesn’t have it in him. Also Clinton was expert at mao maoing his base with meaningless shit like school uniforms to convince the public he was a centrist. And Clinton was also willing to change course and work with the Republicans. I don’t see any of that with Obama. You watch, he will get more stubborn and more petulant as time goes on.

            1. You watch, he will get more stubborn and more petulant as time goes on.

              We’ll see. He’s not a lame duck, and he’s not stupid (except for where ideology causes him to do ignorant things). If he gets his ass handed to him in the midterms, he’ll try to figure out how to change course enough to get re-elected.

              I’m skeptical that he’s idiotic enough to try doubling down rather than trimming his sails a little bit.

              1. “I’m skeptical that he’s idiotic enough to try doubling down rather than trimming his sails a little bit.”

                And we were both skeptical that he would be idiotic enough to do the shit that he has. At this point, Obama living down to expectations looks like a good bet.

              2. You seem to be forgetting that he doubled down on everything Bush did despite getting elected because everyone hated Bush.

                1. This was to prolefeed, not John.

              3. Why not? After Scott Brown won Ted Kennedy’s seat (!), I thought that this was a warning cannonade across Obama’s bow and would cause him to seriously rethink his health care plans.

                Instead he doubled down and got the damn Senate bill passed.

                1. You people (and people everywhere now) keep writing or saying “double down” (a specific term from casino blackjack) when you really mean “double up”.

          3. But didn’t you see that retarded historian list making the rounds a few months ago that had him as the 20th best President or something? It truly made me embarrassed to be a history buff.

  11. Yeah I can’t understand why a group inspired by the original Boston Tea Party would object to taxes being levied in order to help subsidize industries and companies the government favors. Can’t see how that makes any sense at all.

    Is he that historically illiterate or does he just assume his readers are?

    1. Joe Conason is far and away the worst idiot over at Salon, and they have a large stable of far-left idiots to choose from.

    2. Is he that historically illiterate or does he just assume his readers are?

      Yes.

  12. WTF indeed!

    What does an economic theory have to do with a system of government? Economic models are ways of viewing the world, not ways of doing things. Praxeology doesn’t say anything about how a public school system should or should not be run. Neither does Keynesianism.

    Of course, people on this forum also miss the distinction with some regularity, e.g. “Keynesian” = anti-liberty = evil.

    The truth is, both Keynes and Hayek had useful and brilliant insights, that are applicable in various domains of economics.

    1. The politicians who invoke a Keynesianism Lite philosophy as justification for spending lots of money have only the vaguest idea what Keynes actually said.

    2. So economic models don’t offer insights into which policies will affect economies and to what degree? What’s the fucking point?

      1. Draco has a very good point. Politicians may talk this or that Economic theory, but it’s usually just bullshit cover for doing whatever they wanted to do in the first place.

        1. Or maybe it was my point. Still a good one. 🙂

  13. Buggy Whip Braiders Local 526 salutes Joe Conason, a truly wise and perspicacious American!

  14. The Austrian craze is particularly curious because it has displaced a school of economics that ought to be more appealing to the proud and patriotic

    Uh…I…what? I think I need to lie down.

    1. You believe in a more moral and efficient economic system that allows for greater wealth creation? Why do you hate your country so much?

      1. See? Clever.

  15. Another thing about these lost manufacturing jobs. We have mandatory high school in this country. We have thousands of universities, community colleges, and trade schools. If despite all the opportunities to learn a useful skill, you are still working the kind of job that could be outsourced and done by a bunch of uneducated, semi-literate Chinese who are only working because it’s better than subsistence farming and near starvation, you only have yourself to blame.

    1. As much as I like free markets, I dislike blaming individuals on their failure to find a job. In a good market, jobs should be as easy to find as pot (ask someone who got one where he got it).

      1. I dislike blaming individuals on their failure to find a job.

        I don’t quite think that’s what he’s saying.

        But I like your analogy and I agree with you about the way a good economy should work.

  16. The most amusing thing about the Conason piece is the message the comments reveal about journalistic outfits like the New York Observer. A common trend in new media is the “me too” story, written hastily and poorly researched to garner some site traffic by referencing a hot or controversial news item. This clearly falls into that category as it makes a total mess of the ideologies and movements it tries to criticize and references the recent controversial story from Tennesee. As of this writing 9 comments appear, ALL of them harshly critical of the author and displaying more of a grasp on history. The Observer is such a pathetic journalistic outfit that it does not even appear to have readers that are interested/parrot the opinion sections views.

  17. “As articulated by thinkers from Alexander Hamilton to Henry Clay to Abraham Lincoln, it included protective tariffs to foster industry, national support for scientific research, federal spending (and debt!) to finance public works, regulation of private infrastructure (such as railroads) and universal education.”

    Before World War II, when did the US ever have national support for scientific research? I honestly can’t think of an example. Can anyone else?

    And when was there much regulation of industry before the late 19th Century Progressives? Isn’t the idea that America was an evil Hobbesian Leviathan of robber barons and oppressed poor before the benevolent progressives came along? But now regulating private industry goes back to Hamilton?

    1. I think President Grant subsidized all the cool junk on the ‘Wild, Wild West’

      1. According to the American West documentary Bonanza, many scientific innovations were financed by the Cartwrights, including manned flight, measuring the speed of light, cattle dipping, box set mining technology, and the first horseless carriage, the Pettibone Power Wagon.

    2. I honestly can’t think of an example. Can anyone else?

      At the time it was supported, eugenics was considered scientific research.

    3. Before World War II, when did the US ever have national support for scientific research?

      The Lewis & Clark expedition and a few others like it around the same time.

      1. Is that science or accounting?

  18. So now Conaston is claiming Hamilton as a precursor of the New Deal???

    As I recall, most New Dealers and their historian-cheerleaders viewed Hamilton as the enemy, a proto-Republican who Championed the Rich over the People. They would undoubtedly be shocked to learn that Hamilton was their intellectual forebearer.

    1. He certainly supported repaying the national debt.

  19. I’d forgotten Conason existed. I’m sure I’ll forget again, soon.

  20. Who knew that all those people ranting about dang foreigners who come here and take our jobs and wreck the country, were talking about Austrians. I always thought they were talking about the Dutch.

    1. The ones with the chocolate process?

  21. Yes, free-market ideology replaced the kind of economics he espoused. In 1776. With Wealth of Nations. (Not to mention Ricardo). Yet zombie mercantilism keeps on rearing its ugly head, thanks to idiots like Conason.

    1. Goddamit, Adam Smith and David Ricardo were Scottish and English, respectively. Joe Conason says that they don’t count, so quit bringing them up.

      BE MORE PATRIOTIC!

      1. I’m sorry. How’s this: HURR DURR TUK UR JERBS DURR HURR. NOW I PAYS $88 FOR JEENS AT THE WALMART BUT THEIR AMURICAN MADE!

        1. Which reminds me – I think it was John Edwards who said he was going to bring textile jobs back to Carolina. I remember thinking, these jobs are currently held by Cambodians making $2 a day. There is no need for them to have any foreign language skills (which has been a brake on certain other jobs going overseas).

          But forcing people to pay more so that certain people will benefit is pretty much the modus vivendi of the politician, so I shouldn’t have been surprised.

          1. If Edwards can bring them back to Carolina, does that mean that John Kerry can take them back from Carolina to Massachusetts where they originally came from?

            1. New Hampshire, too. My grandparents worked in the mills. Of course, those mills have now been converted to condos, Internet businesses, etc., etc. I imagine it’s similar in MA, even with their high taxes. So the textile companies would have to build new factories.

              Of course, I’m sure Kerry would be down with giving them millions in taxpayer money to get the ball rolling…

        2. I’m sorry. How’s this: HURR DURR TUK UR JERBS DURR HURR. NOW I PAYS $88 FOR JEENS AT THE WALMART BUT THEIR AMURICAN MADE!

          This, my friends, is how you create jobs.

        3. Much better. LOL

  22. Hamiltonianism: Taxing farmers and working people to prop up the value of rich people’s assets. How… *progressive*.

    Well, it certainly establishes the “progressive” credentials of the TARP program.

  23. I tweeted Mr. Gillespie about that and he said that the post had gone up early and unedited so it would be back up later this evening.

    As soon as they get the registration and comment moderation feature up and running.

    1. Yeah, didn’t they agree to moderate comments to make that guy with sheep hobby go away?

  24. What is (or was) the American system? As articulated by thinkers from Alexander Hamilton to Henry Clay to Abraham Lincoln, it included protective tariffs to foster industry, national support for scientific research, federal spending (and debt!) to finance public works, regulation of private infrastructure (such as railroads) and universal education.

    If we could just cut gov’t back to this American system, I’d be very happy. Regulation of public utilities plus protective tariffs — the revenue from which would fund research grants, public works, and gov’t schools — and nothing else. That’d be a gigantic cut in the fisc & regul’n.

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