Sunday, September 23, 2012

Romney’s 47 Percent—Right Out of the Economism Scripture

            I was about to write a comment about the now-infamous video of Mitt Romney speaking in Boca Raton, FL about the 47 percent of Americans whom he’d write off in the election, but Paul Krugman sort of beat me to it in his New York Times economic column:
            Has Krugman read The Golden Calf? I know he has a copy, since like most aspiring authors, I sent copies to several important figures whom I had quoted in the book, hoping that some of them would see fit to give the book a little notice (dream on, as it turned out). But I have no idea whether he has actually looked at it. In any event, he was writing things before that book appeared that anticipated many of the messages in it, and since the book has appeared his columns seem to channel ideas in the book even more.
            The gist of this latest column is that today’s Republicans have a deep and serious disdain for ordinary working people, so it’s not in the least out of character for Romney to say what he did. If you work for someone else, by definition, you’re not one of the “job creators” that the Republicans idolize. Forget that those capitalists and investors would never have a dime if the working stiffs of America weren’t the world’s most productive workers, and hadn’t slaved away so that those guys could be rich while seeing their own income stagnate ever since 1980.
            What I had been about to add to that observation was that what Romney was captured saying in Boca Raton was vintage economism—so again, it’s not as if he was misquoted or that they caught him on a bad day. The creed of economism allows people like Romney an easy conscience when casting aspersions against so many of their fellow citizens.
            Using its two religious roots, the Protestant ethic and English evangelicalism, economism has concluded that where anyone is in the economic pecking order is exactly where they ought to be, for two reasons. The first reason is overtly religious. Both of the above religious doctrines held that God designed the world down to the last feather on the last sparrow. If the people who fall into the tax categories that Romney poo-pooed happen to be those who generally make less than $50,000 per year, and by the merest coincidence, Republican donors had to pay $50,000 a plate to attend the dinner in Boca Raton where Romney spoke, well, no reason at all for the donors to feel embarrassed. God made them rich because they were especially worthy, and he made the others poor because they were especially sinful.
            That’s the first reason. The second reason is that economism believes devoutly in neoclassical economics, which in turn teaches that everything about the economy can be exactly predicted by its neat mathematical models. Those models show that so long as you have a free market, then whatever happens in the world is the best possible thing that could have happened. If the market is free and the 1 percent are fabulously wealthy and the rest of us are miserable, then that outcome is the best possible way that the world could be organized. The only fly in the ointment is what happens if the market is not, in fact, ideally free. But that’s a minor change of the subject, as the devotee of economism then goes into a rant that the entire problem is due to the market not being free enough, and that hated government regulation is what is messing everything up.
            So the Republican donors can take their pick. They can all have an easy conscience because it’s God’s will. Or they can all have an easy conscience because precise mathematical laws prove that the world is ideal the way it is. Or for that matter they can believe in both. After all, they paid fifty grand for a place at the table—might as well throw in an extra ideology as a bonus.

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