My Response to New York Times Op Ed
Columnist David Brooks: 'Liberal Democrats'
by Gary North: Collapse,
No. Huge Losses, Guaranteed
a resident columnist at the New York Times, asks this question:
Why aren't there more liberals in America?
I'm glad he
He begins by
offering some reasons that are not valid, in his view.
because liberalism lacks cultural power. Many polls suggest that
a majority of college professors and national journalists vote
Democratic. The movie, TV, music and publishing industries are
dominated by liberals.
It seems to
me that this is a very good place to begin. When Brooks' list of
segments of the society that vote far-left Democratic are these,
he has begun to answer his question about the decline of liberalism.
professors are part of a self-screened, self-regulated profession
who owe their careers to the existence of a cartel maintained by
federal and state laws governing the accreditation of colleges and
universities. This is a crucial barrier to entry. They are rent-seekers
in a closed profession that screens out conservatives, beginning
in the freshman year in college, and has ever since 1948. I recommend
this milestone: Economics,
by Paul Samuelson, first edition (1948).
As for national
journalists, he is correct. These people are ignored by most people
and always have been. They have influenced politicians and government
employees, but hardly anyone else. They are now in a doomed profession.
The World Wide Web is eliminating newspapers, including the New
York Times, which sold off a large chunk of its capital a week ago,
and whose CEO has resigned. The gray lady is at long last headed
for a convalescent home, meaning God's waiting room. Politicians
respect power, and newspapers no longer have much.
indeed liberal. Michael Medved's book, Hollywood
vs. America, did a fine job in exposing that cultural reality
two decades ago. But movies are a fading influence. Ever since 1962,
per week has been flat, despite a rising population. As for
network TV, music, and publishing, the World Wide Web is undermining
all three of these industries. They have been weighed in the digital
balance and have been found wanting.
because recent events have disproved the liberal worldview. On
the contrary, we're still recovering from a financial crisis caused,
in large measure, by Wall Street excess. Corporate profits are
zooming while worker salaries are flat.
This has been
true ever since 1973. Liberals were dominant in Washington, 1973-1995,
when the Republicans took control of the House of Representatives.
If, in two decades, the policies of the Democrats could not change
the direction of senior corporate salaries (up) and household earnings
(flat), why should anyone expect that this will change?
Obama got his
shovel-ready $787 billion stimulus law in 2009. He got his $1.3
trillion Keynesian annual deficits thereafter. The Federal Reserve
bought T-bonds in QE2 in 2010. What would the Democrats do any differently
with whatever solvency remains of the U.S. government?
It's not because
liberalism's opponents are going from strength to strength. The
Republican Party is unpopular and sometimes embarrassing.
Are we ready
for a vaudeville line? "How's your political party?" "Compared
circumstances, this should be a golden age of liberalism.
here that which he is trying to prove. In fact, later in the essay,
he offers cogent reasons why this is not a golden age of liberalism.
But, to preview my response, we are witnessing the twilight of
faith in the state as an agency of social redemption, which is the
religion of liberalism.
percentage of Americans who call themselves liberals is either
flat or in decline. There are now two conservatives in this country
for every liberal. Over the past 40 years, liberalism has been
astonishingly incapable at expanding its market share.
40 years, we arrive at 1972. That was the era of Democratic control
in Congress. Lyndon Johnson, the incarnation of New Deal politics,
had been harried out of the Presidency in 1968. He had succeeded
in getting his Great Society legislation into the law books. He
also did what FDR did and Harry Truman did. He got us into a major
war. He could not win it. Congress could have stopped it at any
time by refusing to fund it. The Democrats in Congress voted for
the funding without a hint of resistance. They remained unindicted
co-conspirators right up until the fall of Saigon in 1975.
Nixon did not
run against the New Deal or the Great Society. He implemented it
and added more. He created the Environmental Protection agency by
executive order. In 1971, he removed the last remaining traces of
the gold-exchange standard. And, it should be noted, he ended the
draft, which remains his enduring legacy to this day. Kennedy didn't.
Johnson didn't. It was an act of real liberalism, pre-Wilsonian
liberalism. On the issue that got the protesters into the streets
-- the draft -- the hated Nixon pulled the moral rug out from under
important explanation is what you might call the Instrument Problem.
Americans may agree with liberal diagnoses, but they don't trust
the instrument the Democrats use to solve problems. They don't
trust the federal government.
A few decades
ago they did, but now they don't. Roughly 10 percent of Americans
trust government to do the right thing most of the time, according
to an October New York Times, CBS News poll.
Here, he comes
to the heart of the matter. But he frames it inaccurately. He describes
it as the Instrument Problem. On the contrary, it is the Substantive
Problem. It is not a matter of procedure. It is a matter of
ethics. It is not a matter of technique. It is a matter of worldview.
Let me spell it out:
mind and soul of the liberalism of the Democratic Party, beginning
approximately 60 seconds after William Jennings Bryan ended his
"Cross of Gold" speech, has been this: social salvation
through federal legislation.
was the watershed event which transformed the Old Democracy of Jefferson,
Jackson, and Cleveland into the New Democracy of Bryan, Wilson,
FDR, Truman, and Johnson.
He then asks
a highly relevant question:
Americans trust their government? It's not because they dislike
individual programs like Medicare.
is true. He is onto something.
likely because they think the whole system is rigged. Or to put
it in the economists' language, they believe the government has
been captured by rent-seekers.
This is the
disease that corrodes government at all times and in all places.
As George F. Will wrote in a column in Sunday's Washington Post,
as government grows, interest groups accumulate, seeking to capture
its power and money.
Yes, he really
is onto something. He has identified the problem. This is the side
effect of the corporate state. Let us not forget, however, that
"side effect" is a phrase we use to describe effects we
do not like. There are no side effects. There are only effects.
the rest of the article
North [send him mail]
is the author of Mises
on Money. Visit http://www.garynorth.com.
He is also the author of a free 20-volume series, An
Economic Commentary on the Bible.
2012 Gary North
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