Wednesday, February 18, 2009
News from The Financial Times has it that the Republicans have taken a shine to the word, "nationalization" lately:
Lindsey Graham, the Republican senator for South Carolina, says that many of his colleagues, including John McCain, the defeated presidential candidate, agree with his view that nationalisation of some banks should be "on the table".The Financial Times goes on to claim that the Obama administration is "opposed to federal control" and "has tried to avoid panicking ... markets by entertaining the idea," but this is an illusion deliberately generated by a party of pragmatists and "Orwellian brainstormers", as Doug Reich recently put it.
Mr Graham says that people across the US accept his argument that it is untenable to keep throwing good money after bad into institutions such as Citigroup and Bank of America, which now have a lower net value than the amount of public funds they have received.
"You should not get caught up on a word [nationalisation]," he told the Financial Times in an interview. "I would argue that we cannot be ideologically a little bit pregnant. It doesn't matter what you call it, but we can't keep on funding these zombie banks [without gaining public control]. That's what the Japanese did." [bold added]
What is going on here? Why aren't the Republicans at least mouthing objections to government control of the economy? Certainly, at least part of the answer lies with a fact I have mentioned here too many times to count. Namely, the Republicans fundamentally agree with the Democrats that altruism is the proper morality and that the state exists to serve the collective, rather than to protect individual rights. They differ only on some details of how to implement state control over the individual, and specific goals. The Bush administration, which was bad enough before it started the current orgy of chaining future generations with debt and government control, demonstrated this in spades.
But there's something else happening, too. Reich noted the deliberate attempts by the Democrats to at least conceal what they are doing. Why would they? Because political power still rests in the hands of the American people, who are, at least in some measure, still rightly suspicious of the government running their lives.
The Democrats -- who will avoid debating things at all when they can get away with it -- still feel it necessary to hide the true nature of what they are doing from the American people. The Republicans, who favor a theocratic version of the welfare state, once similarly felt the need to pose as defenders of capitalism, but apparently, they don't anymore.
Just as President Bush has set the stage for the Republicans to become an openly statist party in deed with his de facto nationalization of large swaths of the financial sector, so has he set the stage with his words. The above follows inexorably from Bush's own "chucking" of the pretense of having "free market principles". Back then, I said the following:
In his folksy boast, Bush has -- as usual -- conceded much more than he realizes, as men who attempt to go through life without thinking are wont to do: He has admitted that he never really held "free market principles".Bush, not really appreciating the practical value of principles, sees them as a luxury (or, at best, as something it may be politically expedient to profess). To Bush, and, apparently, to too many other politicians from Obama's "opposition" party today, free market principles are "impractical", and, more, they think (rightly or not) that the American people see it this way, too.
(Otherwise, if the Republicans did really favor free markets or even wanted to pretend to, they would oppose all the bailouts, or at least explain why some were necessary to avoid complete calamity, as well as how they would be rolled back. This is far different from brandishing the word, "nationalization" as if it were the name of a new miracle drug.)
Remember. These are politicians, not profound political philosophers. Ideas guide them, as they do all men, but much of their thinking consists of second-handed guesstimates of what they can get away with before the next election. The Republicans, woozy from pragmatism and seduced by cries of "do something" from every direction, have chosen to pose as men of action, still somewhat in keeping with their "defenses" of capitalism as practical, but now free from such pesky constraints as freedom and property rights.
They never really believed what they said about capitalism, anyway, and they need a new mask. They can't compete directly for moral turf with fellow altruists, especially the religious Obama, so they will strike a pose of brutal honesty (and all that that thoroughly modern phrase implies) and "hard-nosed" practicality. They won't mind the Bush-Obama plan failing, so long as they can pin the blame on the "idealistic", impractical Democrats. Never mind that they can't solve the crisis, either. That's not what's really at stake, or so they like to imagine.
In other words, the Republicans, by all indications, will pretend that not thinking is both moral and practical. This has truly become the party of George W. Bush.