Tuesday, September 7, 2010

A Depressing Debate

The other day, Paul Krugman wrote an editorial calling for more stimulus spending that cited FDR's retrenching in 1938 as evidence for doing more rather than less and pointing out that government spending, aka WWII, ended the Depression.  Victor David Hanson, a real historian, weighed in and pointed out that because now and then are not totally identical, Krugman was wrong, wrong, wrong to make an analogical argument.  Of course, since no two moments are identical, on Hanson's reasoning, we can never make arguments based on historical analogies.

Then today, we learn that "Amity Shlaes has a point-by-point and fact-by-fact rebuttal."

In the first instance, Shlaes is hopeless as a historian.

In the second instance, she writes at a fourth grade level:
The whitewashing of Keynesianism is what has kept us from knowing about it all these years.

Taxes are also overlooked by Dr. Krugman. In 1935 likewise, Congress and Roosevelt had raised income and other taxes. That shift discouraged already enervated businesses.
This is the actual order of the argument.  Likewise?

In the third instance, Shlaes is  a fibber McGee.  She insists that
The President spoke in his 1937 inaugural of “fashioning an instrument of unimagined power” with government, a phrase so bold no modern president, Democratic or Republican, would dare to read if he saw it on a Teleprompter.
Here is what Roosevelt actually said

In that purpose we have been helped by achievements of mind and spirit. Old truths have been relearned; untruths have been unlearned. We have always known that heedless self-interest was bad morals; we know now that it is bad economics. Out of the collapse of a prosperity whose builders boasted their practicality has come the conviction that in the long run economic morality pays. We are beginning to wipe out the line that divides the practical from the ideal; and in so doing we are fashioning an instrument of unimagined power for the establishment of a morally better world.
This new understanding undermines the old admiration of worldly success as such. We are beginning to abandon our tolerance of the abuse of power by those who betray for profit the elementary decencies of life.
In this process evil things formerly accepted will not be so easily condoned. Hard-headedness will not so easily excuse hardheartedness. We are moving toward an era of good feeling. But we realize that there can be no era of good feeling save among men of good will.
For these reasons I am justified in believing that the greatest change we have witnessed has been the change in the moral climate of America.
He is not discussing the expansion of state power but rather a moral awakening.

It's almost like the Right cannot win the argument with the facts so they need to use lies, half-truths, and evasion in order, if not to win, to confuse everyone.

What is really odd is that if you read Brooks today he is making more or less the same argument as FDR did, just not as coherently.

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