It is hard to exaggerate the feverish excitement with which many progressives responded to the Capitol riot. While the spectacle of hundreds of Trump supporters smashing their way into one of the sacrosanct sites of American democracy generated widespread condemnation, for many progressives the dominant emotional register was one of apocalyptic disgust — and arousal.
Here, finally, was irrefutable proof that they had been right all along: that Trump’s hateful rhetoric would finally become a hateful reality. Here, finally, was a war that could give their lives meaning. There were now Right-wing insurrectionists among them, and they would need to be fought. It was almost as if, on some deep level, they had wanted the Capitol siege to happen.
Today’s liberals are similarly flushed with ideological fervour, believing that they are in a cosmic struggle of Manichean proportions: they are the elect, the chosen ones, and they believe that their responsibility to purge all traces of white supremacy and hateful extremism is a grave one. Indeed, such is their keenness to root out white supremacy that they are apt to find it everywhere, even where it patently doesn’t exist. They are equally apt to inflate its threat where it does exist, like comparing the storming of the Capitol on January 6 to the terror attacks of 9/11.
Many of the stories that Wapshott tells are fascinating, but he does not understand economics well enough to explain Friedman’s views. Wapshott seems to be an unreconstructed Keynesian and so explaining Samuelson’s views comes relatively easily to him. But he never shows a solid grasp of Friedman’s monetarism and so, in explicating Friedman’s thinking, tries to do the analysis within a Keynesian framework. My criticism is not that Wapshott doesn’t agree with monetarism, although he doesn’t appear to; it’s that he doesn’t seem to understand this school of thought.
One of Friedman’s biggest contributions to economics was his 1963 book with Anna J. Schwartz, A Monetary History of the United States, 1867–1960. In it, they showed that one of the important contributors to the Great Depression was the 30% reduction in the money supply that the Federal Reserve allowed to occur between 1929 and 1933. Yet, here’s how Wapshott explains their finding: “Had the Federal Reserve eased interest rates earlier, many of the businesses which had gone bust could have borrowed to remain open.” But Friedman and Schwartz said little about interest rates; their focus was on the money supply. Indeed, interest rates during the Great Depression were quite low and Federal Reserve officials mistakenly saw them as an indicator of a loose monetary policy.
This anxiety is bound to continue. The administration prefers blaming the surge in prices on corporations, especially in the oil industry, rather than on its own policies—like the unnecessarily extravagant $2 trillion COVID-19 relief bill that passed in January 2021 and flooded the economy with fresh cash. More spending and taxes will inevitably follow such a large government expansion, and like most other Americans, 88 percent of Biden voters think these are both important issues.
During a recent address to the country, Biden noted that there is no federal solution to this pandemic, yet he declared his administration’s commitment to a legally dubious vaccine mandate for private employers. This could be explained by the fact that while Americans are equally divided on requirements by private employers to ask for proof of vaccination, 83 percent of his voters approve.
Likewise, only one in three Americans have confidence in their public schools, where the education establishment’s goal seems to be to obliterate merit. In my adopted home state of California, this “post-colonial” approach includes deemphasising the importance of tests, excusing bad behaviour, and imposing ideology on often ill-educated students. The San Diego Unified School District, meanwhile, is busily getting rid of mandates for such things as knowing course material, taking tests, handing in work on time, or even showing up; all these, the district insists, are inherently “racist”. This in a state that ranked 49th in the performance of poor, largely minority students. (Still, the situation could be worse: neighbouring Oregon no longer requires any demonstrable proof of competence to graduate.)
What passes for serious economic analysis by political ‘leaders’ would solidly fail any ECON 101 student; too much of such ‘analysis’ is the economic equivalent of an adult explaining the unexpected opening of a door by confidently asserting that the deed was done by a ghost. Here’s more from the Editorial Board of the Wall Street Journal. A slice:
Inflation keeps rising, and maybe the place where Americans have noticed it most is the grocery store. Prices have climbed 16% at the meat counter in the last year, and so President Biden is rounding up the usual scapegoats: Big meat producers.
“While their profits go up, the prices you see at the grocery stores go up commensurate and the prices farmers receive for the products they are bringing to market go down,” Mr. Biden said Monday. “This reflects the market being distorted by a lack of competition,” adding that “capitalism without competition isn’t capitalism; it’s exploitation.”
Thanks for the lecture, but back to Econ 101, Mr. President. Meat prices fell in the five years before the pandemic, and markets didn’t suddenly become less competitive. Like so much else in the Biden era, meat prices have soared amid surging demand, rising production costs and constrained supply.