Just Right

by digby

At some point in the last few years I saw some conservative wag saying that the first part of the 20th century may have belonged to Keynes but the second half belonged to Hayek. I don't know if that's exactly true --- after all, governments have turned tax cuts into holy rituals on the basis of Keynesian ideas about stimulus. But it is at least somewhat true. Free market fundamentalism (which Hayek didn't actually believe in --- he was more of an evangelical) has certainly been the order of the day for at least a quarter of a century and animated the arguments of the aristocracy, the Randians and the political anti-commies for longer than that.

But, just as with liberalism in general, when the shit comes down after the conservative ideologues have been allowed to pillage and destroy everything in their wake, it's back to Keynes. And via Krugman, here's an excellent article by Martin Wolfe in the Financial Times that explains that the ideological poles were between market fundamentalism and socialism, not Hayek and Keynes, the latter of whom was essentially a technocratic pragmatist. And so it also implies that electing a technocrat like Obama at a time like this may be the best possible news. I have a lot of problems with the idea that ideology doesn't matter, but when put into an economic context it appears to be just what the Doctor (Keynes) ordered.

One of the weirdest things I've seen in the past few weeks has been the bizarre, reflexive loathing of FDR crop up again. I hadn't actually seen anything like it since I was a kid and the old folks would rail against "that man." It seemed ancient even then and that was a long time ago. And when I was in school it was taught without any caveat that Roosevelt saved capitalism, period. The historical context of that statement, in the middle of the cold war, was that communism was on the rise during that period and had Roosevelt not been able to get the country through the depression, there may have been revolution or a political overthrow on the order of Germany.

But that's no longer a given --- or perhaps it is, but the rise of conservative media makes the old FDR hating seem more mainstream then it did back when I was a kid. We are suddenly being bombarded with the convenient revisionism of crackpots like Amity Schlaes and the confident gibberish of Fred Barnes, who Susie at C & L catches blithly passing on the popular contrarian fiction that FDR actually made the depression worse. The stuff about how Ronald Reagan saved the world by destroying the air traffic controller's union is especially rich. (The antidote to such lies and misrepresentations, is here, in this excellent article about FDR and the auto unions)

So, just as we seem to have finally been able to put the Vietnam era behind us (at least for the moment), we're taking a trip back to the 1930s and we're going to have those same stupid arguments all over again. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose, yadda, yadda, yadda. It never really ends.