Ed Driscoll

The Return Of The Old Left

As Jonah Goldberg once quipped, “those who cannot learn from history are condemned to hear George Santayana quoted to them for the rest of their lives”–or this time around, Robert Tracinski from Real Clear Politics:

It looks as if we are going to have to relive all of the mistakes of the 20th century one more time–let’s hope it is one last time–before we relearn the big lesson of that century: the moral and material superiority of capitalism and the disastrous consequences of socialism in all its forms.

I thought we had learned that lesson well enough already, but it turns out I was wrong. Given a few decades to recover from the collapse of the Soviet Union–and given an opportunity to take advantage of the ideological confusion and muddled pragmatism of the pro-free-market right–the left is making a serious attempt to reconstitute itself.

And it is not just any variant of the left. It is the Old Left, the mid-20th-century left of public-works giantism, ham-fisted labor union protests, and command-and-control central planning.

By the end of the 20th century, the failure of all of these policies had caused the Old Left to splinter into two groups. The New Left hippies rejected industrial socialism in favor of anti-industrial socialism, adopting environmentalism and holding up a neo-primitive lifestyle as the ideal, while the New Democrat centrists sought a “Third Way” compromise between capitalism and socialism.

But now the discredited Old Left seems to be making a roaring comeback. We can see the signs all around us.

Consider Barack Obama’s plan for up to $700 billion in New-Deal-style “public works” boondoggles. It is a good old-fashioned Keynesian “stimulus” based on the premise that you can revive the economy by spreading paper money around at random.

Yet it is now widely acknowledged that the original New Deal did not actually revive the Depression-era economy. Even under Keynes’s failed theory, the amount of FDR’s spending was not enough to stimulate the economy–and neither is the amount proposed by Obama. But that hasn’t fazed the revived Old Left.

Which is why, as early as May, long before the September financial meltdown that paved the way for Obama’s victory in November, leftwing politicians were calling for a “New, New Deal”: But, as Tracinski notes above, what if the conventional wisdom is wrong about the Old New Deal, and that Risky Tax Scheme, to borrow one of Algore’s catch phrases, prolonged the Depression?