Sunday, February 15, 2009

An Austrian in Tennessee

The Austrian school of economics is a fundamental basis of my worldview, going back to when a former editor (Tommy Toles, who once served as press secretary to Rep. Larry McDonald) introduced me to the Foundation for Economic Education's monthly journal, The Freeman, around 1994.

By happenstance, I just stumbled onto a blog post by Ron Jones of Nashville, Tennessee, who describes how he became an ex-Republican conservative via Austrian economics.

Mr. Jones seems to be something of an autodidactic Austrian, and his disillusionment with the current system of party politics is typical of the Ron Paul/Rothbardian mood among many disillusioned Ordinary Americans. As Patrick Cleburn says in commending Mr. Jones's work: "There is a an instinctive presumption that if all the MSM can find to offer is NeoCon versus Liberal Democrat, maybe no one else can talk."

Indeed, this is just the sort of perception I've tried to combat over the years: The elite belief that, just because Ordinary Americans don't publish op-eds in the Wall Street Journal, they have no opinions that matter. Our elite, in both parties, have a profoundly undemocratic disdain for the "men of untaught feelings" who make up so many of those generally designated "Reagan Democrats."

The man who spends nine years in the Marine Corps (as did Mr. Jones) cannot be said to be "uneducated"; Parris Island is a much tougher school than Harvard. Yet there is a disturbing tendency of the elite to mistake articulation for intelligence, and to mistake credentials for expertise, so that those who do not express themselves in clever soundbites or elegant essays, those who have no well-connected Princeton, Georgetown or Dartmouth classmates to recommend them for insider positions, are automatically dismissed as dimwitted troglydytes who are unfit even to judge their own interests:
An' it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' anything you please;
An' Tommy ain't a bloomin' fool -- you bet that Tommy sees!
Or to quote the Outlaw Josey Wales: "Don't piss down my back and tell me it's raining." Which is to say, the Ordinary American understands that the elite view him as immeasurably beneath them. The Ordinary American also knows that the elite exercise far greater influence than he does, so that when he gets screwed over by the government, he naturally suspects that this somehow benefits the elite, and that indeed they have arranged this screw-over. There is, then, a special rage that fills the heart of the Ordinary American when the elite tell him that he is being screwed over for his own good.

Mr. Jones's disdain for the Bush-era GOP is perfectly understandable -- when did anybody at the Bush White House ever listen to the likes of him? If the Republican coalition is falling apart, it's not his fault, it's theirs. Ken "Cakewalk" Adelman, Henry Paulson and Michael Chertoff never gave a damn about the Ron Joneses of the world, and never will. It is this extreme disconnect between the party elite and its (potential) grassroots constituency that has sapped the vitality from the GOP.

The disconnect expresses itself as ideological, but in reality it is a question of class interest. The influential elite benefit, as a class, by the centralization of authority, since centralization puts power where the elite are best positioned to influence it, and where the Ron Joneses of the world can't touch it. Their access to centralized power assures the elite that, however power is wielded or by whom it is wielded, it can never be wielded much to their detriment.

To speak this way about the elite -- to see them as they are, as self-interested creatures of unlimited ambition, and describe them as such --is to invite designation as a "populist," as if you were William Jennings Bryan snapping his gallouses and ranting about the "Cross of Gold." But when the centralizing elite are so evidently wrecking the country, "patriot" or "populist" are quite nearly interchangeable.

There once was a certain student of James Burnham who understood these things.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for the kind words.

    I take issue with elitists of both parties. Particularly if they '...have a profoundly undemocratic disdain for the "men of untaught feelings"...'

    When he goes on to confess that "We are afraid to put men to live and trade each on his own private stock of reason; because we suspect that this stock in each man is small, and that the individuals would do better to avail themselves of the general bank and capital of nations and of ages." I cant help but think it is the elitists themselves who are "men of untaught feelings."

    Liberals, Right-Wingers, any other name, an Austrian knows them as 'statists.'