Ed Driscoll

Flashback: The Return Of The Old Left

As the Anchoress quipped yesterday, “It’s a Consensus! Better Listen!”

Instapundit notes the economic news is pretty darned bad, and links to this smart stuff.He also links to a CNBC report that says 150 economists “back U.S. House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner’s call to match any increase in the debt limit with spending cuts of equal size. . . ” including

“. . .Nobel laureate Robert Mundell of Columbia University and economists from schools like New York University and Georgetown University, as well as conservative think tanks like the American Enterprise Institute.”

Wow. Hey, if I recall my ManBearPig-and-Media 101 lessons, 150 respected economists and a Nobel Laureate indicates that this is an august consensus, and therefore “the math is settled.”

We’d better listen! Do you think the press will agree?

Who could have foreseen that we’d now “unexpectedly” be in the midst of our third grim “Recovery Bummer?” Well, pretty much everyone not named Paul Krugman, Ben Bernanke, Joe Biden or Barack Obama.

But how did we get here? Caroline Glick’s essay last week in the Jerusalem Post is mainly devoted to Obama’s horrendous policy towards Israel and the lessons to be mined from Netanyahu’s response, but this passage on what Glick calls Obama’s “subversive leadership” seems remarkably multifaceted:

Obama’s leadership model is the model of subversive leadership. Subversive leaders in democracies do not tell their citizens where they wish to lead their societies. They hide their goals from their citizens, because they understand that their citizens do not share their goals. Then once they achieve their unspoken goals, they present their people with a fait accompli and announce that only they are competent to shepherd their societies through the radical shift they undertook behind the public’s back.

Both of which are why, when I came across this post I put together on the topic from December 16 of 2008, before Obama took office, its message seemed remarkably prescient. Here it is in its entirety:

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?