Why Conservatives are winning: they use the WMD of political debate

Summary:  Conservatives have found that insights by Gresham and Lenin create superweapons of political debate in modern America.  Glittering lies, simple and attractive but false assertions at high volume that drive accurate analysis off-stage.  Ignore rebuttals.  Instead launch a new salve of lies.  Ignore the long, complex, softly worded replies by experts.  The result so far is slow victory, perhaps eventual control of America’s state and federal machinery.  And perhaps ruin to America.

“A jackass can kick a barn down, but it takes a carpenter to build one.”
— Attributed to Sam Rayburn (Democrat from Texas, 1882-1961), one of our most effective and honest Speakers of the House

The Republicans have surged in strength, a powerful recovery from their 2008 losses.  Operational excellence helped, focusing their troops on a few objectives and policy objectives — #1 being to  make Obama a one-term president (said by Senate Republican Leader McConnell to National Journal, subscription-only).  More importantly, their tactics have been brilliant and innovative — driven by two insights:

  1. From Gresham, faux economics can displace the real thing in people’s minds
  2. From Lenin, oppose everything.  The worse the better for Republicans.

(1)  a corollary of Gresham’s Law — false theory drives out good economics

It’s an ancient insight that bad money displaces good money.

“The course our city runs is the same towards men and money. She has true and worthy sons. She has fine new gold and ancient silver, coins untouched with alloys, gold or silver, each well minted, tested each and ringing clear.  Yet we never use them!  Others pass from hand to hand, sorry brass just struck last week and branded with a wretched brand.  So with men we know for upright, blameless lives and noble names.  These we spurn for men of brass…
The Frogs (40 BC) by Aristophanes

“{It} is impossible for good-weighted coin and base and degraded coin to circulate together, that all the good coin is hoarded, melted down, or exported, and the degraded coin alone remains in circulation.”
On the Striking of Money (1528) by Nicholas Copernicus

“No sooner had Queen Elizabeth ascended the throne, than she turned her attention to the state of the currency, being moved thereto by the illustrious Gresham, who has the great merit of being as far as we can discover, the first who discerned the great fundamental law of currency, that good and bad money cannot circulate together.  The fact had been repeatedly observed before, as we have seen, but no one that we are aware, had discovered the necessary relation between the facts before Sir Thomas Gresham. … we are only doing what is just in calling this … Gresham’s law of the currency.
Elements of Political Economy by Henry Dunning Macleod (1858), pp 475-477  (see Google Books)

Conservatives have discovered that today this also applies to economic theories (in America, not in well-managed nations like Singapore and China).  Over decades of effort they’ve developed faux economics — simple and emotionally appealing, based on a mostly false history and mostly bogus theoretical foundation.  Tax cuts increase revenue!  Government intervention is always bad!  Gold standard!

It’s bastardized melange of Austrian, Neoclassical, and Monetarist theories; propagated by a host of well-funded think tanks, publicized by a host of media companies (e.g., Fox, the op-ed pages of the Wall Street Journal, National Review), this has gained a host of believers — driven by religous-like devotion, immune to facts (much like the fanatics on the Left who believe the world is doomed from Anthropogenic Global Warming).   F or horrifying examples see comments in these posts (disagreeing with much of Econ 101, even the value of unemployment insurance) :

It’s advanced into the public consciousness, much like the revival of faith in creationism.  But with more serious consequences.  It’s as if a new management of NASA decided that to use only Classical Greek astronomy (Wikipedia).

(2)  The worse, the better

Nine months before the election I wrote that the Republican Party had found an sure-fire tactic to sweep the November 2010 elections:  the worse, the better.  Obstruct everything, good or bad.  Offer compromises only to confuse your opponents.  The American people will blame Obama and the Democratic Party for the resulting disaster.

This tactical insight was a key part of Lenin’s strategy and is attributed to Nikolay Gavrilovich Chernyshevsky. From Wikipedia:

Chernyshevsky (1828 – 1889) was a Russian revolutionary democrat, materialist philosopher, critic, and socialist. He was the leader of the revolutionary democratic movement of the 1860s, and was an influence on Vladimir Lenin and Emma Goldman and Serbian political writer and socialist Svetozar Marković.

I asked what would happen if the Republicans won on a “stimulus is ineffective” and “deficits are bad” platform, and the economy has a second leg down (aka double dip recession)?  Preach austerity, that we should tough it out?  They voted in lock-step to extend the Bush Jr tax cuts, a trillion-dollar deficit to stimulate the economy (the third stimulus).  They they returned to preaching austerity.

Tactics that win might prevent success once in power.  But they work well to gain votes from a weak, silly people.

For more information

About the state of the American people

  1. Republicans have found a sure-fire path to victory in the November elections, 5 February 2010
  2. Will people on the right help cut Federal spending?, 19 June 2010
  3. Our leaders have made a discovery of the sort that changes the destiny of nations, 15 September 2010
  4. The easy way to rule: leading a weak people by feeding them disinformation, 13 April 2011

About faux economics

  1. Government policy errors as a cause of the Great Depression, 1 November 2008
  2. The evolution of the Republican Party has shaped America during the past fifty years, 8 May 2010 — Discover that deficits don’t matter politically!
  3. Keynes comments on our new-found love of austerity, 21 June 2010
  4. Why have mainstream economists lost the argument about the need for more economic stimulus?, 27 June 2010
  5. A note about the US economy and the recent elections (yes, we’re nuts), 9 November 2010
  6. The Republicans are serious about the budget. The results could be ugly., 24 November 2010


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