Turn To Page 1 In Your Hymnbook

Gene Lyons, whose column appeared in today’s Joplin Globe, as usual, gets it right:  

Increasingly, one of our two great political parties appears to be governed by what Charles P. Pierce calls the “Three Great Premises” of talk radio: “First Great Premise: Any theory is valid if it moves units … Second Great Premise: Anything can be true if someone says it loudly enough … Third Great Premise: Fact is that which enough people believe. Truth is measured by how fervently they believe it.”

No doubt, if we could measure the fervency of Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul’s beliefs, we would have one whopper of a Truth.  A couple of days ago, I heard Paul say the following on Dylan Ratigan’s show:

I think the debate is going my way…When the financial bubble burst—and the housing bubble burst—all of a sudden Austrian, free-market economics gained a lot of credibility…

Yep. In the mind of Ron Paul, all we need to solve our troubles is more of the same stuff that caused our troubles: free-market economics.  And, of course, he is not the only one singing from the Gospel According to Ayn Rand hymnal.  Nearly every Republican leader, and potential presidential candidate, is singing from that hymnbook, which really only has one song: An Anthem to Greed.

Fortunately, though, in a moment of repentance, the contemporary high priest of Randian economics, Alan Greenspan, put down his free-market hymnal in October of 2008.  Contrary to Ron Paul and the Republican Party, he said the following to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee:

REP. HENRY WAXMAN: The question I have for you is, you had an ideology, you had a belief that free, competitive — and this is your statement — “I do have an ideology. My judgment is that free, competitive markets are by far the unrivaled way to organize economies. We’ve tried regulation. None meaningfully worked.” That was your quote.

You had the authority to prevent irresponsible lending practices that led to the subprime mortgage crisis. You were advised to do so by many others. And now our whole economy is paying its price.

Do you feel that your ideology pushed you to make decisions that you wish you had not made?

ALAN GREENSPAN: Well, remember that what an ideology is, is a conceptual framework with the way people deal with reality. Everyone has one. You have to — to exist, you need an ideology. The question is whether it is accurate or not.

And what I’m saying to you is, yes, I found a flaw. I don’t know how significant or permanent it is, but I’ve been very distressed by that fact.

REP. HENRY WAXMAN: You found a flaw in the reality…

ALAN GREENSPAN: Flaw in the model that I perceived is the critical functioning structure that defines how the world works, so to speak.

REP. HENRY WAXMAN: In other words, you found that your view of the world, your ideology, was not right, it was not working?

ALAN GREENSPAN: That is — precisely. No, that’s precisely the reason I was shocked, because I had been going for 40 years or more with very considerable evidence that it was working exceptionally well.


  1. ansonburlingame

     /  April 30, 2011


    Now this blog raises a very interesting issue. Do you agree with Greenspan that from about 1960 to 2000 (40 years) that the American economy was doing pretty well? Actually I would say it did quite well for 55 years, since 1945 with free market capitalism running the show. Sure some inevitable bumps along the road, but overall, I sort of liked the way the ecomony was going over those years, at least on a macroscopic scale. Note I said the economy, NOT our path to more social justice.

    But what else was happening during those 40 years to which Greenspan alludes. Can you disagree that the size and intrusion of the federal government got bigger and bigger over those years. Civil Rights reform along with intrusion into hiring and firing people, Medicare, Medicad, an explosion of entitlement programs never before seen in our history along with lossing or stalemating 4 out of 5 wars, sucking American treasure right out of our hands.

    Government became far more powerful during those years and slowly sucked the treasure MADE by private industry in the country right out of the hands of capitalists and workers.

    So are we now in an economic crisis because of BIG government or because free market priniciples failed?

    That I believe is at the heart and soul of political arguments in America today and the question is not in any way resolved. And as long as we stalemate over that argument we make little or no progress, either way, towards resolution.

    And of course as we continue to stalemate the liklihood of simple economic laws (don’t spend more than you make) will eventually make the decisions for us.

    And when such happens over the course of history we see Empires fail, untold millions suffer, death, destruction, war, you name it.

    And of course when such happens people return to the law of the jungle where each survives on his or her own merits. And the bigger the fall from power and wealth the longer and more painful the recovery back to civilization. Did not the Dark Ages teach the west that fact? And in the east the rise and fall of dynasties did the same in China and Japan (later on).

    And I need no more of an example than my recent experience with my nose under the federal tent watching a totally inept government try to deal with something that was a non-crisis from the beginning.

    The federal government trying to deal with a radiological issue is like you and me blogging and commenting to each other. There is no “ninth inning” in such contests and we just keep on going like the energizer bunny, until the batteries run out in accordance with simple principles of what makes batteries work.



    • Anson,

      I agree with you that the analysis involved here is “the heart and soul of political arguments in America today.”

      First of all, there is no greater living advocate of free-market economics than Alan Greenspan. Okay? And Alan Greenspan had doubts. He had doubts about his free-market ideology. Okay? Not Duane Graham. Duane Graham’s doubts about free-market economics doesn’t much matter to anyone but Duane Graham. But former Fed chief Alan Greenspan’s doubts mean something—or should mean something—to everyone.

      Therefore, your question, “So are we now in an economic crisis because of BIG government or because free market priniciples failed?” is answered by none other than Alan Greenspan, not Duane Graham. Greenspan’s answer in October of 2008 was “because free-market principles” failed.

      As for the post-WWII era, remember that most of the time the marginal tax rates were very high, compared with what they are today. Kennedy lowered the 91% bracket to 70%. Reagan lowered the 70% to 50% and so on. So, even though Medicare and Medicaid was passed in 1965, the economy continued without a calamitous recession until 2008, due to many factors, most prominent, as pointed out in the piece above, the unfettered subprime mortgage industry, including the multiplier effects of Wall Street gambling.

      And I don’t know if it ever occurred to you, but the fact that there was no American “crisis” related to the Japanese nuclear issue is the reason why there was so much inefficiency and ineptness. Those at the top knew there was no crisis and therefore didn’t take the effort seriously. It was just an exercise in “doing something” for public consumption, in my view. Consider the Manhattan Project, in which there was a real problem to solve and a definite need to solve it. The government was organized quite efficiently to achieve what we needed to achieve.



  2. ansonburlingame

     /  May 1, 2011


    Now be very careful in thinking because “it” (Japan) was NOT a crisis was why government agencies just “screwed around” arguing or getting endless “chops” on anything and everything. You were not there. And for damn sure you did not hear heads of big organizations withing one government agency say “Thank God, this was not an IND (improvised nuclear device) exploding in America” Those senior men and women knew and know full well that if a real crisis of a radiouloical sort comes into our midst in America, their ability to mangage it, control it, keep people safe, convince people that are fearful that there is no cause for fear, etc is so far beyond current government capablity that it is sad and scary in and of itself.

    I have yet to write in any detail on what I observed and heard because of confidentiality concerns within my contract as well as simple ethical standards that no contract can specify. But I HAVE written a four or five page view of underlying problems as I saw and still see them, but so far only submitted it to one person, my “boss”. And that paper has scared the living helll out of him because it is a “political” (but totally nonpartisan) view based on very firm technical observations.

    I have long written (well before the Japanese incidents) that in my view the federal bureaucracy is totally inept to do anything decisive and “right”, particularly in emergencies. It is simply the nature of the beast when rule by committee becomes the only way to do business.

    Now rule by committee, called Congress is fine in developing far reaching legislation. But when the s.. hits the fan in an emergency, forget it. Real and fundamental TECHNICAL acumen and strong command and control leadership is needed in EMERGENCIES whether real or imagined. And our federal government has proven such ineptness in New Orleans, the Gulf and now in this “non-emergency” which could become a real emergency tomorrow.

    And the other part of the problem within any bureaucracy is the TECHNICAL lack of competence within. Most career bureaucrats are NOT technical experts. One reason why is such technical experts never rise to the top of any bureauracy. One must be a “manager” to so rise.

    Well how in the hell does a doctor that has NO understanding of radiological controls or consequences in a radiological emergency “manage” such an emergency. It would be like me trying to run a local post office!!!

    Or you trying to run a nuclear powered ship!!! God forbid in either case. I would be shot and you would run aground for starters and then “shot” with your career in you hands.

    As for political leaderhsip, at least in an emergency, forget it as well unless there is superb technical leadership as well AND those politicians listen to the real experts in the matter at hand.

    Why for God’s sake did the Mayor of New Orleans NOT demand evacuation of the city before the hurricane, just as an example. On the other hand look at the remarkable responses going on in Alabama today. Care to explain the difference is similar instances of nature creating chaos and “man” reacting, in entirely different ways.

    And don’t you dare try to turn Alabama into praise for Obama. It is the people on the ground that are making the difference in Alabama today. Now why is that I wonder? Any looting going on in Alabama? Any football stadium filled with total and uncontrolled chaos? Has a cajun sounding General had to come in to take charge of the “streets” in Alabama? Nope, not that I have seen. Now do you want to compare the geographical area destroyed in Alabama to the city of New Orleans and surrounding area?

    And then go back to the OKC bombing aftermath. Were you proud of those citizens in OKC? I was. Were you proud of the citizens in New Orleans? I was NOT for sure.

    In Alabama and OKC citizens of all color, creed and economic background joined hands in mutual support for one another. In New Orleans they generally sat in the superdome until “someone” came to their rescue and screamed like crazy when it did not happen soon enough.

    And of course why does Florida routinely handle hurricanes of enormous magnitudes and destruction without the chaos of New Orleans. In all cases it has little to do with federal leadership. It is what

    Andi goes on on the ground with normal citizens in each case.

    And what was the real emergency in the Gulf of late. It was a failure to STOP THE LEAK in a timely manner. And when the federal government responded it only compounded that problem, not to mention turning boats away from cleanup efforts because of lack of life jackets. OMG. What a typical bureaucratic response in an emergency.

    And such failures by the federal government are NOT caused by any one administration. It is the inherrent nature of any bureaucracy run amoke in my view. So is it any wonder that when really big problems arise, caused by nature or man, that bureaucracies are stymied in reaching effective solutions and making those solutions take effect to resolve a given crisis?

    And again, in my view and long experience, when such bureaucracies get bigger the liklihood of stalemate and ultimate failure become greater as well. Big government my hind foot to solve our problems. The people solve the problems ultimately, or at least they did before government tried to take over about 70 years or so ago.


    I suppose if some kid was peddling his bike to get away from the oil that a good bureaucrat would justify giving him a ticket for not wearing a helmet, right???

    In my view at least, Alabama and OKC show the results of keeping power with “the people”. Katrina and the Gulf are examples of giving that power to the federal government while the people sit back and wait for that government to “do something”.


    • Anson,

      I know you won’t buy this argument, but there was a time when entering public service was something to be proud of. Republican governance since Reagan has made it less so. Just read Thomas Frank or former Nixonite John Dean. The Republicans purposely stigmatized the bureaucracy.

      I won’t argue that what you experienced in Atlanta is genuine incompetence. I wasn’t there. But it did involve private contractors did it not? How is it you can completely lay it off on the government bureaucracy?

      Finally, here’s what I gather from your comparison of Alabama (which is a success story for all levels of government, by the way) and Oklahoma City to what happened in New Orleans: The white guys in Alabama and Oklahoma know how to run things and those dumb and lazy blacks in New Orleans don’t.

      I won’t comment any further on that nonsense.



  3. ansonburlingame

     /  May 2, 2011


    I was the only “private contractor” during the time I spent working on Japan’s radiological accident. My observations are related only to bureaucrats and the bureaucracy they run.

    People work for government as a career as a matter of pride in public service.

    Are you kidding me. Maybe someone accepts a Cabinet level appointment at financial sacrifice, but down in the trenches of a bureaucracy? Again, are you kidding me. Career civil servants are interested in their careers. Always have done so and always will do so. ME FIRST is the sentiment down in those trenches and you know it. You have been in the trenches of the postal service and I in the military and the federal bureaucracy.

    Yes civil servants serve for sure. But what do they serve first and foremost?

    And you should know as well as I do that NOT making a decisive decision is the norm in ANY bureaucracy, government or private. But in the private sector after the “bureaucracy” lends its mealy mouth non-decisions, a desisive business LEADER, pats them on the back, says thank you and then does what HE considers best.

    As for my comparisons between different parts of the country reacting to emergencies in a different way, you next imply that my views are based on race. Thanks again, Janes Reaction.

    I said CITIZENS in every case and you know it. New Orleans was a mess because of the manner in which CITIZENS and their elected representatives reacted to Mother Nature. Alabama and OKC reacted differently. Those are incontrovertible FACTS as I see it.

    And you now want to try to turn that into a racial arguement.

    Well how do we address FACTS without being accused of racism I wonder?

    I KNOW I cannot do so with the likes of Janes Reaction and thus do not try. I thought you were better than that.



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