Veneer of What?

by John Holbo on January 23, 2013

Victor Davis Hanson on ‘the meaning of the Inaugural Address’:

Three, the bitter election wars to achieve and maintain a 51–53 percent majority (the noble 99 percent versus the selfish 1 percent, the greens versus the polluters, the young and hip versus the stodgy and uncool, the wisely unarmed versus the redneck assault-weapon owners, women versus the sexists, gays versus the bigots, Latinos versus the nativists, blacks versus the “get over it” spiteful and resentful, the noble public sector versus the “you didn’t build that” profiteers, Colin Powell/Chuck Hagel/reasonable Republicans versus neanderthal House tea-party zealots), in Nixonian fashion have left a lot of bitter divisions that lie just beneath the surface of a thinning veneer.

Now that’s a sentence! Please feel free to award points for style and content.

Is he trying to say that America is divided, because the Democrats (but not the Republicans?) are a partisan force? Or is he trying to say that Democrats are perilously divided against themselves (because they have tried to turn America against Republicans?) Or is he trying to say that there are bitter divisions in the Republican party (because Democrats have found some wedge issues), and as a result the possibility of civil, orderly government/society is threatened? Your guess is as good as mine, I suppose.

{ 160 comments }

1

John Holbo 01.23.13 at 5:08 am

I suppose it might just be ‘the thinning veneer of Republican respectability, in the eyes of the general public’. But Victor Davis Hanson would hardly come out and put it like that.

2

Gene O'Grady 01.23.13 at 5:31 am

Victor has certainly lost it in the last forty years, hasn’t he?

If he thinks that the “young and hip” are the essential Obama supporters he doesn’t know very many.

3

David 01.23.13 at 5:58 am

In the interests of encouraging civil Internet discourse, what a fucking asshole.

4

Typhoon Jim 01.23.13 at 6:14 am

I heard on the radio that formica is back in style. Could he simply be trying to ride that wave?

5

Colin Reid 01.23.13 at 6:20 am

It’s hard to tell if the author is afraid that the right-wing crazies are about to tip the US into failed state territory, or he is one of the right-wingers himself and is trying to portray centre-left rhetoric about sexists and bigots as overblown and causing ever-deeper divisions in society.

6

Meredith 01.23.13 at 6:46 am

Go to the whole original post and note the opening word, “prune,” from a man whose family in California grows grapes. For raisins, I think I read once, not for wine.

Not that I have anything against raisins. In fact, I love them. But I think wine is better, or at least, more potent. Of course, water is best. (And there is more water in wine than in raisins.)

7

Ken_L 01.23.13 at 6:53 am

He is trying to say that he hates Obama and all his supporters because they’re destroying the country he loves. That’s all he ever says, well apart from some weird stuff about how the USA should base its foreign policy on precedents from ancient Greece.

8

Harold 01.23.13 at 7:03 am

It’s a living (a tax deduction for his supporters, instead of a paying taxes).

9

Mark English 01.23.13 at 7:42 am

My paraphrase: The ideological polarization which has been evident in recent years, driven by the electoral process, and which the Obama Democrats have successfully exploited and are continuing to exploit, is worsening [thus “thinning” veneer (of civility, presumably, and patriotic unity)].

10

Salient 01.23.13 at 7:53 am

See, what the world needs now is a multiple-passages-long auspicious exposé from you titled
“Addressing the meaning of ‘the meaning of the Inaugural Address,’ or: reading the tea leaves blowing in the wind, to grok the writing on the wall that’s just around the Corner.”

Or something. My favorite part was ‘prune away the purple passages.’ My second-to-least favorite part was how eerily ‘Obamism unbound’ sounds like ‘Django Unchained.’

The most true part was ‘we have not seen yet the bitter wars to come’ (have we ever?). The least true part was how he failed to follow ‘the bitter election wars to achieve and maintain a 51–53 percent majority’ with ‘in the House (legislature redistricting gimmickry…)’

You can tell it’s January because everyone in the comments is complaining about having to put up with their relatives. But also, don’t miss this gem: “Most of the generic promises that he made yesterday will fade and be blown to the winds, but the debt bomb will increasingly weigh on Washington.”

11

John Quiggin 01.23.13 at 7:55 am

I think it can and should be read straight, although obviously VDH would like it to be ironic. The reading is

1. As Obama points out, the Repubs are on the losing side of every issue in public debate at present, and the remaining sensible conservatives are jumping ship

2. VDH wishes he had the 2009 compromise-driven Obama back, instead of the 2013 version who plans to treat the Repubs as damage, and work around them

12

Salient 01.23.13 at 7:59 am

Seriously, try as hard as you can to write eight words in sequence that can conceivably compete with “the debt bomb will increasingly weigh on Washington” on the YOUR-HEAD-ASPLODE-o-meter. That tussle knocked ‘thinning veneer’ clear out of the park, with room to grow on.

13

Mao Cheng Ji 01.23.13 at 8:14 am

I heard some wingnut radio yesterday, and one of the main talking points there was to contrast the themes of this speech against Reagan’s (and, I suppose, Republican in general) theme of murcan exceptionalism. A Shining City on a Hill, n’stuff.

14

ajay 01.23.13 at 11:01 am

“Most of the generic promises that he made yesterday will fade and be blown to the winds, but the debt bomb will increasingly weigh on Washington.”

Now the fascist octopus has really unveiled the jackboot that will provide the background music for the crushing of the fragile flower of liberty beneath a… uh… big heavy thing.

15

rf 01.23.13 at 11:03 am

“Now that’s a sentence!”

?? Reads pretty much the same as every other article I’ve ever read in the National Review. I wouldnt be surprised if it was just the text from the NR subscriber Xmas card copy and pasted into an article

16

Tim Wilkinson 01.23.13 at 11:36 am

The Dems are the real racists. They hate you, so they bombard you with epithets based on your political views. Don’t let them make you feel ashamed of who you are – stand firm, and be angry at the way their opinions imply you’re in the wrong just because you belong to a tribe that happens to support: extreme wealth concentration; pollution; assault weapons; inequality for women, gays, Latino immigrants and blacks; privatised profit; and, er, neanderthal House tea-party zealots.

17

Rob 01.23.13 at 11:48 am

“Is he trying to say that America is divided, because the Democrats (but not the Republicans?) are a partisan force? “

Well, duh. He’s a Republican, he’s pretty much obliged to believe that. But Democrats are pretty much obliged to believe the inverse, with the only difference being that the Democrats are right*.

* At least from my perspective. If I were a conservative I’d probably believe the opposite. And there’s the rub; it’s not enough to say that VDH is wrong here, because he’s only wrong insofar as he believes things that most Republicans believe, and efforts to persuade them to believe otherwise have failed.

18

Barry 01.23.13 at 12:22 pm

Gene O’Grady 01.23.13 at 5:31 am
“Victor has certainly lost it in the last forty years, hasn’t he?”

Did he ever have it in the first place?

19

CuConnacht 01.23.13 at 12:25 pm

Most writers would probably be content to have the deeper reality lie beneath the surface, or else beneath a veneer. But Hanson places it beneath the surface of the veneer. One wonders what is beneath the whole veneer.

20

Anderson 01.23.13 at 12:35 pm

11: yeah, sarcastic VDH – taken literally – at least sounds much smarter than regular VDH.

21

marcel 01.23.13 at 12:52 pm

Is he trying to say that … ? Your guess is as good as mine, I suppose.

A wild guess from someone who has only once read VDH unexcerpted (life is too short), and only when I came across a blog post of this sort:

He’s not trying to say anything in particular. Rather, he is stringing words together, much like Thomas Wolfe, for their overall sound and effect/impression. It is the verbal equivalent of a sound poem.[1]

[1] I realize that my assertion has the flavor of an oxymoron, but what can you do or say when dealing with VDH: even the gods themselves contend in vain.

22

rea 01.23.13 at 1:50 pm

apart from some weird stuff about how the USA should base its foreign policy on precedents from ancient Greece.

Which he always gets wrong, despite purportedly being a great expert on Thucydides. Remember when he said that the Athenian Sicilian campaign showed that the surge in Iraq would work?

He read the Melian dialogue, and thought that the Athenians had the better of the argument . . .

23

ajay 01.23.13 at 2:01 pm

Most writers would probably be content to have the deeper reality lie beneath the surface, or else beneath a veneer. But Hanson places it beneath the surface of the veneer.

Beneath the surface of a veneer is… the rest of the veneer, right? Is he saying that all these bitter divisions are themselves just a veneer? But what, in that case, are they veneering? What hideous underlay?

24

Anderson 01.23.13 at 2:09 pm

22: indeed, that reminds me of the trophy named after VDH.

In retrospect, the Tommy Franks thing never panned out ….

25

Rob 01.23.13 at 2:31 pm

Actually I think there’s something more interesting here than I thought at first glance. I really like John Quiggin’s reading of the post (#11), but I think there’s a further nuance: VDH isn’t lamenting that the Republicans are losing the debate, he’s lamenting that they’re doing so because of some perceived unfairness. He seems to think it unreasonable that the Democrats claim the support of “Latinos” whilst the Republicans are left with only “nativists”, “gays” are presumed to vote Democrat whilst only “bigots” vote Republican, and so on. He’s in a similar position to post-1997 Tories who couldn’t understand why they were the “nasty party”, or why people were being suckered by Tony Blair (they may have had a point here, but only accidentally).

There are a few ways for him to defend this position. One might be to blame identity politics: the Democrats/left/whoever have fostered a situation in which “gays” or “Latinos” are encouraged to see themselves as a voting bloc, and this bloc has been successfully courted by the Democrats. The Republicans, with their old-fashioned approach of trying to win arguments, have failed to play the game of identity-affiliation. This, however, would quickly be exposed as bullshit by anyone with the slightest awareness of the “Religious Right” – the Republicans would have no problem pitting “Christians” against “nihilists” or whatever if they thought it would work.

Another defence might be that Republicans are standing up for “right but unpopular” ideals. They’re for protecting the border, and it’s a shame that some unscrupulous people have painted this as “hating Mexicans”. They believe that affirmative action is incompatible with equality before the law, and it’s a shame that some unscrupulous people have painted this as “hating blacks”. They believe in a right to [force people to] live by traditional values that trumps a right to [force people to] live by progressive ethical values, and it’s a shame that some unscrupulous people have painted this as “hating gays”. If only the Democrats hadn’t misled everyone by making them believe such outlandish caricatures of Republican common sense! This is basically “false consciousness” for right-wingers, the notion that people would vote Republican if only they were free to evaluate Republican policy on its merits, not on its aesthetics. I guess this could be true in a handful of cases, but for the most part people have pretty good reasons for opposing Republican policies.

I can’t help feeling a bit sad about this though. Even as a liberal I have no particular desire to see VDH or the people he represents made to feel wretched and powerless, and it would be nice if, once in a while, a political cause succeeded by persuading people rather than by outgunning the other side in the neverending political total war. Yes, yes, this is hopelessly naive, and yes, yes, I don’t imagine for a second that anyone at NR entertained even the slightest doubts about the demonisation and marginalisation of their political opponents in, say, 2004 when Dubya was re-elected, but I can’t really feel good about it now that they’re on the receiving end.

26

Uncle Kvetch 01.23.13 at 2:33 pm

One wonders what is beneath the whole veneer.

A turtle, of course.

27

AcademicLurker 01.23.13 at 2:42 pm

I have no particular desire to see VDH or the people he represents made to feel wretched and powerless

I do. I don’t believe that I did back in, say, 2000, but I do now.

I guess I’m an awful person.

28

bigcitylib 01.23.13 at 2:48 pm

He’s outgassing.

29

Uncle Kvetch 01.23.13 at 2:54 pm

If only the Democrats hadn’t misled everyone by making them believe such outlandish caricatures of Republican common sense!

VDH isn’t the only one making that argument these days.

30

Bloix 01.23.13 at 3:07 pm

Quiggin (#11) really is on to something. You can read this thing with a sneer in your voice, but after the second or third example, you realize that there’s almost no sneer in the words – they can be taken straight. “Noble” (twice), “stodgy,” “uncool,” and “wisely” would have to be sarcastic, but that’s it, and they carry no punch. His heart isn’t in it.

31

Steve LaBonne 01.23.13 at 3:13 pm

He’s trying to say what his kind are always trying to say: “Oh my god, there’s a ni[clang] in the White House!”

32

MPAVictoria 01.23.13 at 3:23 pm

“Even as a liberal I have no particular desire to see VDH or the people he represents made to feel wretched and powerless”
You are a far, far better person that I am Rob. I am loving every minute of it.

This is just another article that blames mean Democrats for having the temerity to actually point out what Republican position are.

33

Barry Freed 01.23.13 at 3:35 pm

Even as a liberal I have no particular desire to see VDH or the people he represents made to feel wretched and powerless

I’ll fully admit to more than my fair share of schadenfreude but when it comes down to it they can feel like they’re top of the world (Ma!) and as powerful as the Hulk for all I care just so long as they are actually powerless. Their delusional qualities have served us well.

34

MPAVictoria 01.23.13 at 3:40 pm

See also
http://www.lawyersgunsmoneyblog.com/2013/01/the-dirtiest-trick-since-robert-borks-stated-views-were-discussed-in-the-senate

Republicans hate it when you accurately describe their views because it reveals them for what they are, monsters.

35

JanieM 01.23.13 at 4:02 pm

“in Nixonian fashion” is a particularly nice touch.

36

pedant 01.23.13 at 4:11 pm

The genitive is a constitutive genitive rather than a partitive one, isn’t it?

So “surface of a veneer” means “the surface constituted by a veneer” not “the surface that is the part of a whole that is the veneer.”

See also “boots of leather”, “wings of steel”, etc., which do not mean “the leather has some boots on it!” or “the steel has some wings on it!”

Somewhat similar are “city of Rome” genitives, in which the city simply is Rome. (Different from “city of London”, in which “The City” refers to only one part of London).

VDH is a moron and a charlatan, of course, but this particular phrase is not that hard to parse in a non-moronic way. The rest of the paragraph is ample proof of his intellectual vacuity.

37

chris 01.23.13 at 4:32 pm

Like Barry, I don’t necessarily desire for right-wingers to *feel* powerless, but as long as they hold the views they hold, I do desire for them to *be* powerless to inflict the consequences of those views on others. Contemplating who the real innocent victims are, i.e. people who couldn’t help being born poor/nonwhite/gay/whatever, strictly limits my sympathy for the people whose worst complaint is lacking the freedom to oppress.

38

Anderson 01.23.13 at 4:35 pm

31: “The President is near!”

39

christian_h 01.23.13 at 4:44 pm

He means “you just wait we will have a civil war soon”. That is, he is talking about the thin veneer of sanity covering his impotent rage.

40

Trader Joe 01.23.13 at 4:45 pm

Its good to see that both the left and right enjoy near parity in their skills at gloating over victories and whinging about defeats.

41

ponce 01.23.13 at 4:48 pm

We’ll miss having such cartoonishly awful political opponents like Hanson when they’re gone.

42

Rob 01.23.13 at 4:48 pm

MPAVictoria @12 “You are a far, far better person that I am Rob. I am loving every minute of it.”

Well, I sort-of hid a second meaning in what I said. As a liberal I don’t want people to feel bad when liberal things (gay marriage, amnesties for undocumented immigrants, black Presidents and so on) happen. The fact that a large number of Americans apparently do feel bad about this troubles me (and I’m not even an American). Of course, there are two ways out of this: one, to avoid ever offending Republican sensibilities; two, for Republican voters to understand that there’s actually nothing much to fear in gay marriage, immigration or non-white-male people in positions of authority. They shouldn’t be afraid of or hurt by these things.

My worry is that we have cognitive biases in these situations which cause us to enjoy overpowering our enemies more than we enjoy converting them (by ‘them’ I refer to the voters; I doubt that paid conservative commentators can be meaningfully converted). Perhaps we miss opportunities to create a consensus, because it’s easier to assume that Republican/Conservative/whatever voters are just benighted fools who cannot be prised away from their ideological leaders and to focus on outgunning them at the polls or in the media.

A real evil would be if we did accept VDH’s characterisation of the 47% of people who voted Republican in 2012 as bigoted, nativist, sexist or spiteful rednecks, because we’d be close to accepting that these people are beyond reach, that they’re effectively a totally different tribe of people. This is why I worry about people using bullshit neuroscience (this decade’s answer to bullshit evo-psych, it seems) to explain that conservatives just have different brains from the rest of us, or to reclassify conservatism as some form of mental disorder; it implicitly accepts the argument that fully 47% of the American electorate is congenitally evil*, beyond empathy and beyond reason.

* ‘Evil’ may be a bit strong, but what else do you call a bigoted, racist, sexist individual?

43

JW Mason 01.23.13 at 4:57 pm

Even as a liberal I have no particular desire to see VDH or the people he represents made to feel wretched and powerless,

But the thing is, the people VDH represents feel wretched and powerless because they are wretched and powerless. Most people in this country — white men included — have jobs that give them no autonomy or chance for self-expression, no political power, no security against impoverishment by bad luck, have to abase themselves before authority figures, and are basically subject throughout their lives to arbitrary forces beyond their control. It’s not liberals who make them feel powerless, it’s reality. It seems to me — at the risk of what’s-the-matter-with-Kansasism — that the role of the VDHs is to create a politically manageable fantasy to channel justified anger.

44

Ralph H. 01.23.13 at 5:01 pm

Steve ($31) pretty much summarizes it. If deconstruction is needed, we should contemplate how VDH et. al. must feel, being on the wrong side of history again and again, on issue after issue.

JanieM: I don’t like to see “Nixonian” as a disparaging adjective. No way to treat one of the most progressive presidents in recent memory.

45

mclaren 01.23.13 at 5:04 pm

Cripes. Give the man a copy of Strunk & White.

Subject, verb, object. Slap ‘em together. It ain’t that hard, buckaroo.

46

Uncle Kvetch 01.23.13 at 5:18 pm

He means “you just wait we will have a civil war soon”.

He’s not alone. My very conservative father believes that there is a real chance of the country “breaking apart” in the next four years under the jackboot of the Kenyan Marxist. But then again, he was absolutely convinced that Hilary had Vince Foster killed. Which leads me to:

A real evil would be if we did accept VDH’s characterisation of the 47% of people who voted Republican in 2012 as bigoted, nativist, sexist or spiteful rednecks, because we’d be close to accepting that these people are beyond reach, that they’re effectively a totally different tribe of people.

Pretty much, yeah. I mean, I love my dad and all, but we don’t talk politics — ever — because he’s so thoroughly marinated in the worldview of Fox News and Newsmax that there’s simply no common ground and no hope of ever reaching any. I’d prefer trying to “reach” the people who don’t bother to vote at all than the people who actually pulled the lever for Romney and Ryan.

47

Marc 01.23.13 at 5:40 pm

Resentment and perceived victimization is at the heart of current conservative identity. It’s not just an act, and it’s even true when they’re in control (see The War on Christmas for a pretty clear example.)

48

geo 01.23.13 at 5:40 pm

49

Marc 01.23.13 at 5:43 pm

@43: Nixon can only be viewed as a progressive if you weren’t alive when he was in power or don’t compare him to the alternatives. He blocked genuinely progressive forces, corrupted the p0litical system, and worked hard to magnify divisions and tear the country asunder.

50

Steve LaBonne 01.23.13 at 5:48 pm

I’d prefer trying to “reach” the people who don’t bother to vote at all than the people who actually pulled the lever for Romney and Ryan.

Strongly seconded. The latter is an error into which Obama fell again and again in his first term; there are early but somewhat encouraging signs that he may finally understand its futility. The Fox News generation (take a look at Fox’s audience demographics- yeah, they’re old) is not reachable; we can only wait for it to die off, while trying to do a better job of speaking to the many people who are alienated from the political system for reasons that would have the potential to revitalize left-wing politics- if the Democrats could ever be brought to address them more and the Village less.

51

phosphorious 01.23.13 at 6:03 pm

Is he trying to say that. . .

He is trying to say the same thing that all pundits on the political right in America are saying all the time:

http://weknowmemes.com/2012/06/whargarbl/

52

Trader Joe 01.23.13 at 6:22 pm

@49
I’d prefer trying to “reach” the people who don’t bother to vote at all than the people who actually pulled the lever for Romney and Ryan.

So its “OK” for you to ignore the 49% of voters who went Romney/Ryan, but its not “OK” for the Romney/Ryan voters to feel the same about the 47% they claim feed off the system?

Its this type of thinking which historically turn those “in power” into those out of power.

53

Jim Henley 01.23.13 at 6:24 pm

Victor Davis Hanson did the text to a pictorial history of ancient warfare, something like 15 years ago. In a digression from chronicling actual, historical warfare he covered the fantastical variety described in the Iliad with its contests of champions and all their vaunting, and he declared that In its personalism and braggadocio it resembles nothing so much as the aggressive boasts common to gangsta rap.

I thought that was brilliance. And I guess he used it all up on that.

54

Steve LaBonne 01.23.13 at 6:27 pm

Trader, it’s not OK for you to a) lump everybody who voted for R/R into a single category, and b) assume everybody else is doing so as well. Only a fraction of those are diehards who would never vote for a Democrat. It remains true, however, that getting more current non-voters to the polls is a higher-value proposition for the left, and one which is not necessarily easy to square with efforts to appeal to possibly persuadable Republican voters. Despite his desire to do the latter, Obama won re-election by reassembling something close to his 2008 coalition.

55

Glen Tomkins 01.23.13 at 6:52 pm

Yet another mind wracked on the treacherous shoals of Thucydides.

What Victor D is trying to do, consciously or otherwise, is write like Thucydides, whose sentences sometimes go on for pages. I can sympathize. For years I found it very difficult to write except in long periphrases that tried to squeeze huge chunks of reality distillation, qualifying clause after qualifying clause, into one sentence.

The first thing you learn if you try to write like that, is that it doesn’t work in English. You just have to trust your readers to have the sense to wait for whatever qualifications are needed to come out in the due course dictated by the limitations of the mother tongue.

The second thing you learn is that this style doesn’t work if you’re not Thucydides.

Sadly, it still eludes Victor D that he’s not Thucydides.

56

Steve LaBonne 01.23.13 at 6:55 pm

Glen, I’ve seen it asserted by classical scholars that there’s a third thing: Thucydides’s style doesn’t work in Greek, either. (I wouldn’t know.)

57

Trader Joe 01.23.13 at 7:12 pm

SLB @54
Actually meant to pin the comment to 46 where originally made, not your observation (and related clarification at both 49 and 54) which I agree with up to a point….my observation would be that any party grows stale if it only appeals to its core base and can’t manage at least the occasional nod to the “across the aisle” parts that make sense…I’ve never known either party to have a full monopoly on good governance (indeed at times neither has managed it).

The ‘desolation’ the Democratic party found itself in during the 1980s was at least in part rooted in philosophical grounding from the 1960s. The party rides high right now in part on its own ideas and in part because Republican philosophy remains rooted in the 1980s….parties that don’t ocassionally adapt fall from power far faster than their constituents die.

58

Steve LaBonne 01.23.13 at 7:16 pm

Well, my opinion is that the Democratic Party has “gone stale” because it has spent too much time “reaching across the aisle” (a place where no sane ideas about governance have been found for quite a long time now), too much time “reaching” into the pockets of fatcat donors, and too little time working for the interests of the people it supposedly represents.

59

MPAVictoria 01.23.13 at 7:36 pm

“A real evil would be if we did accept VDH’s characterisation of the 47% of people who voted Republican in 2012 as bigoted, nativist, sexist or spiteful rednecks, because we’d be close to accepting that these people are beyond reach, that they’re effectively a totally different tribe of people.”

I do not think that every one of those 47% are unreachable. A common statistic that gets tossed around at other blogs (Balloon Juice) I frequent is that 27% of the population will believe and support any right wing position no matter how insane. I think that number is about right.

We should try and reach the remaining 20% but not by compromising on left wing ideals.

60

Uncle Kvetch 01.23.13 at 7:47 pm

my observation would be that any party grows stale if it only appeals to its core base and can’t manage at least the occasional nod to the “across the aisle” parts that make sense

In the abstract, I might be inclined to agree with this. In actually existing reality, there are no “‘across the aisle’ parts that make sense,” because there is nothing about the Republican Party, as currently constituted, that makes sense. How do you propose to govern in collaboration with a party that has no interest in governance?

The GOP has become the perfect encapsulation of Trilling’s “irritable mental gestures which seek to resemble ideas.” If and when that changes, nods across the aisle will be appropriate…but as Steve L above noted, Obama “reached across the aisle” repeatedly during his first time and got precisely nothing in return.

61

Glen Tomkins 01.23.13 at 7:59 pm

Steve,

None of us knows what did or didn’t work in Classical Greek, because it is a long-dead language. T’s prose certainly has its peculiarities compared to the rest of the extant literature of the time. But so does every other author’s work that has survived from that time. We don’t have the Athenian equivalent of the NYT — prose that’s only meant to be read literally — that survived to tell us wherein T is or isn’t reaching for some sort of effect. We don’t have everday speech to compare to the high speech of every author that survives from the era. There is even a school of thought that T’s prose is actually most likely to be representative of everyday speech of his day. I don’t think there’s much to go on to believe that’s true, but I also don’t think there’s any reason to imagine that T’s prose would seem clumsy or present any comprehension or clarity problems to a contemporary reader.

It’s also true that there is the underlying problem, present even if we don’t have the added problem of reading through a dead language, created by the fact that anything worth reading isn’t meant to just be read literally. And when you get beyond just trying to convey literal, concrete facts, the style and the substance of what you’re trying to do becomes pretty inextricable.

I would say that it’s more likely that people who don’t think T’s style works in Greek don’t have a good grasp of what he was working at. If his style doesn’t work for them they should really just say that they don’t think that T has much to say, rather than try to pretend that they understand what he was trying to do, but his prose just doesn’t do it very well.

It’s not as if there’s some cult of Thucydides, and if you dismiss his work you risk assassination by fanatics. Dismissal would be more intellectually hygienic than a patronizing concern that his thought was ill served by his supposed stylistic failings.

62

Steve LaBonne 01.23.13 at 8:24 pm

Wow- that was a far more interesting response than my lame little jest deserved. Thanks.

63

Trader Joe 01.23.13 at 8:25 pm

Uncle at 60

On social matters I’d be inclined to agree with your assessment, but on fiscal matters the Democrats have honestly hardly tried. Taxes and spending go together, not just one, not just the other.

I’d love to have money to give to every cause that solicits me, but in the end I must make choices, not because the causes arent’ good (Seniors, medical, unemployment extension etc….) but because eventually trying to serve everyone means you can’t serve anyone well.

At some point, borrowing costs alone preclude much good which can be done. You might quibble with your favorite Republican about exactly what to cut, now or later, or by how much, but the fact is current spending isn’t terribly sustainable on its current growth rate and some party will eventually need to address it. Clinton did it…Obama has barely tried.

64

Harold 01.23.13 at 8:25 pm

I suppose everyone here knows this, but on the topic of Thucydides famously difficult and obscure style, Mary Beard wrote recently that the aphorisms popularly attributed to him are in fact the work of translators, specifically one Richard Crawley:

Whatever the linguistic nuances, the truth is that the “jingle” [about the strong and the weak, from the Melian dialog] that we attribute to Thucydides was, in part at least, the work of Richard Crawley, a not very successful nineteenth-century Oxford classicist whose main claim to fame was a few satirical verses in the style of Alexander Pope—apart, that is, from his translation of Thucydides, which was adopted in the early twentieth century by the Everyman Library (for it appeared clear and fluent, as the requirements of that series demanded); now long out of copyright, it has become a favorite version to republish. It is in this guise that “Thucydides” has regularly been plundered for courses in political theory and international relations, and for the slogans that have supported either a neoconservative or realist, or sometimes even left-wing, political agenda. –Mary Beard, NYReview of Books http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2010/sep/30/which-thucydides-can-you-trust/?pagination=false

65

Colin Danby 01.23.13 at 8:27 pm

The weird part about the “veneer” metaphor is that we have, if anything, the opposite: the theatrical enactment of division and resentment atop a narrow range of actual policy differences.

66

Aaron Baker 01.23.13 at 8:50 pm

If you want the full flavor of VDH’s veneering, look up the selections from his Epaminondas novel that have been posted online. You can’t grasp what a prodigy he is until you’ve read some of the novel.

67

P O'Neill 01.23.13 at 9:00 pm

VDH’s fellow Cornerite Jay Nordlinger, not joking –

Shakespeare, Bach, Trollope, Johnson, VDH — let’s not overlook ’em, just because they routinely score.

68

DFH no.6 01.23.13 at 9:00 pm

Trader Joe at 63

You are aware that the percentage growth of federal spending under Obama is the lowest (by far) since Eisenhower?

No, of course you aren’t aware of that. Your worldview precludes such awareness.

69

Tim Wilkinson 01.23.13 at 9:36 pm

I’m with MPAVictoria, Rob @25, and obviously me, above. I read the passage exactly as trying to rally the troops and maintain a tribal identity by turning any guilty twinges of doubt into resentment of the arrogant Dems who insist with such cruelly insensitive plausibility that they’re right. That implies in turn that the Rep faithful are wrong and indeed rather unpleasant. Of course this paranoid/narcissistic approach raises the stakes, because to take the actually not-so-apocalyptic step of conceding that the Dems are right on some issue becomes tantamount to accepting that you are (now) a bad person.

Or to use the approved style: if the hat fits, shoot the messenger.

70

rea 01.23.13 at 10:00 pm

look up the selections from his Epaminondas novel that have been posted online.

He doesn’t spend nearly enough time on gay sex for historical accuracy.

71

MPAVictoria 01.23.13 at 10:03 pm

Hey Tim just wanted to apologize for mixing you up with the other Tim on the MLK thread. No harm meant.

72

DrDick 01.23.13 at 10:04 pm

Frankly, looking for coherence and logic from Hanson is a totally lost cause. As to the divisiveness of our politics, Fox News and the Rightwing Noise Machine might just have a wee bit to do with that. I also join the others here is saying how much I enjoy watching troglodytes like Hanson squirm.

73

MPAVictoria 01.23.13 at 10:11 pm

Trader Joe at post 63 is a classic example of what Atrios calls a Very Serious Person or VSP for short. VSPs know that “both sides are bad” and are concerned about the deficit. VERY Concerned. So concerned in fact that they want to cut the most successful and popular government programs in US history. Of course raising taxes from their current historic lows is never considered as an alternative.

Trader Joe there is NO deficit crisis. America can easily afford its relatively meager social insurance programs through a combination of relatively small tax increases and cuts to a bloated defense budget. Please stop reading the Washington Post and/or watching Meet the Press.

74

casino implosion 01.23.13 at 10:25 pm

Anyone the least bit familiar with VDH knows that this passage is supposed to be read in a tone of sneering, scathing sarcasm/irony. Just why it is that conservatives can never get away with this tone could probably be explained by a professor of rhetoric, but I’m just a construction worker.

75

Bruce Wilder 01.23.13 at 10:29 pm

Colin Danby @ 65

In American politics, you are either for the plutocracy or against them. And, if you are against them, you pretty much aren’t in American politics at an elite level. So, yes, the range of actual policy differences are narrow, indeed.

Obama is making a play for the secular centrist elements, which once led and controlled the Republican Party, attempting to make the Democratic Party into a conservative-led Party of the Center, with a presumptive claim on the political identity of a majority of the electorate. It is a mirror of Reagan’s political play for “Reagan Democrats”, the populists leaving FDR’s coalition, repelled by interest-group and loser liberalism. Obama’s getting some frisson from the accelerating collapse of American subcultures, but, talking about the realization of egalitarian values, when his policies are accelerating third-world levels of economic inequality and social immobility, would make Obama a ripe and easy target for a genuine opponent of the plutocracy. For the pro-plutocracy VDH, though, such a target cannot be easy. Even if he got an irony-transplant plus a sense-of-humor-app for his smartphone, I doubt he could manage such a pirouette.

76

Anderson 01.23.13 at 10:31 pm

64: Thanks for the Beard link, which confirms what I vaguely remembered from my college days — Thucydides’ style was problematic even back in the day.

These are not only a problem for the modern reader. They infuriated some ancient readers too. In the first century BC, in a long essay devoted to Thucydides’ work, Dionysius of Halicarnassus, a literary critic and historian himself, complained—with ample supporting quotations—of the “forced expressions,” “non sequiturs,” “artificialities,” and “riddling obscurity.” “If people actually spoke like this,” he wrote, “not even their mothers or their fathers would be able to tolerate the unpleasantness of it; in fact they would need translators, as if they were listening to a foreign language.”

77

Trader Joe 01.23.13 at 10:41 pm

MPAVic @72
Try seriously improving your reading skills.

My post suggests taxes and spending go together – it says nothing about CUTTING anything. I said the GROWTH RATE is unsustainable and I’ll challenge you to find any economist that says otherwise. The size of the deficit and our ability to manage it appears in no post I’ve ever written.

The importance of debt is the borrowing cost, not the repayment. As I suggested the annual service on $1T per year can certaintly be spent better than lining the pockets of our creditors both here and abroad.

Perhaps a little more seriousness and a little less effort to be a smart a$$ would serve your point of view better.

78

novakant 01.23.13 at 10:41 pm

I know making fun of stupid Republicans is amusing and all, but I have no idea how Democrats can feel so smugly superior because nothing changed. Actually I do have an idea: they don’t really give a toss.

79

Anderson 01.23.13 at 10:44 pm

78: we’re just not preposterously evil. Whee!

… Tho “no change” under “Torture,” on the basis that we’re not prosecuting the CIA torturers for past torture, is obtuse. Perhaps I can infer that your linked page is similarly misleading on subjects I’m less up on.

80

Uncle Kvetch 01.23.13 at 10:56 pm

I said the GROWTH RATE is unsustainable and I’ll challenge you to find any economist that says otherwise.

Does this count?

81

rf 01.23.13 at 10:58 pm

“Tho “no change” under “Torture,” on the basis that we’re not prosecuting the CIA torturers for past torture, is obtuse. “

Well you have two different contexts. Bush post 9/11 using extraordinary rendition and torture; Obama ‘ending’ a torture program that had already all but ended, and continuing rendition (IIRC) just with guarantees against torture. (Also increasing targeted assassinations which made the detention problems less relevant; as did growing cooperation between intelligence agencies in the WOT)

So swing them around, would an Obama administration post 9/11 have used torture? I don’t know. I would guess they would almost definitely have used extraordinary rendition though. But who knows?

82

Bruce Wilder 01.23.13 at 11:17 pm

Of course, if the issue is “change” or no, then the absence of prosecution is evidence for an argument that Bush’s policy precedent has not been overturned. Obama’s Administration is different, in details of style or circumstance, but has not effected an institutional change. With Zero Dark Thirty angling for Academy Awards, and Brennan tapped to be the next Director of CIA, one might note that popular and elite political acceptance of torture is higher now than when Obama was elected.

83

Bruce Wilder 01.23.13 at 11:18 pm

. . . when Obama was elected the first time.

84

Steve LaBonne 01.23.13 at 11:32 pm

And tooadd to Uncle Kvetch’s comment, here is Krugman citing some additional discussions, along with a couple of handy graphs. Sorry Trader, the DC “moderate” take on fiscal policy is complete balderdash. To the extent that there is a possible fiscal problem down the road, almost all of it is related to health care, and Republican-friendly policies PREVENT us from dealing effectively with that.

85

Anderson 01.23.13 at 11:35 pm

The Brennan nomination is extremely disturbing. And for that matter, I’m not convinced that torture necessarily stopped at Bagram or other U.S.-run hellholes.

I’m just pointing out that basing “no change” on “no prosecutions” is a bit much to swallow. I don’t really understand anyone’s disagreeing with that observation.

86

LFC 01.23.13 at 11:36 pm

Holbo:
Please feel free to award points for style and content

Content: Bad.

Style: Nothing terribly wrong with it. Not every sentence has to be short, and this one seems grammatical enough. These days, when sentences in university-press books sometimes join singular subjects to plural verbs (or vice-versa), ‘reasonably grammatical’ is about all one can ask.

87

ChrisB 01.24.13 at 12:05 am

“The National Rifle Association’s Wayne LaPierre … claims “absolutism” is “the basis of all civilization.”

“Without it,” he said, “Without those absolutes, without those protections, democracy decays into nothing more than two wolves and one lamb voting on, well, who to eat for lunch.”

Surely as a generation that has seen these kinds of negotiations demonstrated on reality TV programs such as Survivor we should be able to see that in the situation where “two wolves and one lamb [are] voting on, well, who to eat for lunch” the lamb would last at least into the second round, on the basis that the lamb would say to the weaker wolf “Look, eat me now and you’ll be up against your superior in the second (and inevitably tied) round – vote for him, and you’ll clear out your toughest challenge for the top spot.”

and of course see
http://home.vicnet.net.au/~borth/Twainshl.htm

And, carrying that a little further, if you started with 53 lambs and 47 wolves you could use the same arguments to carry it through to the point where you had 53 lambs and one wolf and they could rush him or just hire him as an enforcer against minority lambs.

Which would, I suppose, be an illustration of how the rich lambs do in practice manage to retain their position of power.

And however it all ends, it’s not easy to see how voting actually makes the lamb’s chances worse.

Interestingly, exactly the same wolf/lamb reference comes in to a libertarian/anarchist rant here that wants to discard the constitution entirely, guns amendment included –

http://www.tnr.com/article/politics/112147/disinaugural-blues

88

ChrisB 01.24.13 at 12:07 am

Sorry, I’m getting confused – wrong thread.

89

Harold 01.24.13 at 12:08 am

A thin veneer of style over a garbage dump of content.

90

Aulus Gellius 01.24.13 at 12:12 am

“It’s not as if there’s some cult of Thucydides, and if you dismiss his work you risk assassination by fanatics.”

For the record, I for one would join such a cult if I found it, though I don’t have any particular capacity for wetwork.

91

Substance McGravitas 01.24.13 at 12:21 am

The Thucydidees were the scourge of Istria.

92

Uncle Kvetch 01.24.13 at 12:26 am

Sorry Trader, the DC “moderate” take on fiscal policy is complete balderdash.

And the ridiculousness is compounded by Trader Joe’s priceless “on fiscal matters the Democrats have honestly hardly tried,” with the implication that the Republicans (who control the House, remember) would be all too happy to get down to some serious, honest deficit-reduction if only Obama would reach across the aisle to them. This is the party of the Bush tax cuts (justified to the gullible by the dangers of paying down the deficit too quickly) and two unfunded wars. Not to mention the party whose presidential campaign ran attack ads last year campaign saying “OMG OBAMA WANTS TO CUT $700B FROM MEDICARE, HE MUST BE STOPPED!”

Look, if you’re sincerely concerned about the “unsustainable” deficit, fine…I would say that you’re misinformed and misguided, but fine. If, on the other hand, you’re arguing that any Republican office-holder in DC gives a rat’s ass about the deficit and would do something about it if they could, I can only conclude that you’re either delusional or dishonest. They care about shredding the safety net and redistributing wealth upwards, and nothing more. “Reagan proved deficits don’t matter” and they are not about to unlearn that lesson.

So please spare us the false equivalency, or save it for Meet the Press.

93

Con George-Kotzabasis 01.24.13 at 12:37 am

The Democrat’s post-modernism is not merely divisive it’s also a culture of defeat. An attempt to defeat American excellence based on individual effort and entrepreneurial creativity by the gladiators of otiose sloth, both spiritually and materially, and by the EFFORTLESS alms grabbing of government largesse, in the widest sense, funded by the actively engaged in production and by the creators of wealth. It’s ultimately the division between mental and physical laziness and spirited dynamic action.
This is what Hanson is “trying to say.”

94

Ktotwf 01.24.13 at 12:42 am

Honest question, is politics supposed to be about more than who sticks his penis where, and which ideological group of technocrats runs our economy?

95

MPAVictoria 01.24.13 at 12:44 am

Uncle Kvetch you said it much better then I could have.

96

Anderson 01.24.13 at 1:07 am

Thucydides Death Cult. I have their first EP on vinyl.

97

John Quiggin 01.24.13 at 1:23 am

@93 C G-K And saying it better than you have, admittedly not a high bar.

98

Trader Joe 01.24.13 at 1:30 am

My, my. Touchy, touchy. I don’t believe I suggested taking away any of the precious spending toys we all so love…I merely suggested they would last longer if we didn’t play with them so hard.

It puzzles me how a conversation that began with near-full agreement that the Republican policies were bankrupt turned into a bash the fiscal conservative moment at the slightest whiff that there was even a reason for fiscal restraint and none whatsoever that health care, Social Security or any of the other ‘sacreds’ should be a part of it….

….a lifettime as a tax and spend liberal and now I learn I should have just been spend and spend….

Uncle – 10 bonus points for troubling to answer my challenge….Krugman wouldn’t have been my standard bearer, but if one wants to look to the Washington Post for an economist one takes what one gets….its my own fault for having missed his epistle, then again I’m tend to get more insight from the NY Post than the Washington one.

99

MPAVictoria 01.24.13 at 1:33 am

Trader Joe I hate to interrupt your umbridge but Krugman works for the Times not the Post.

100

engels 01.24.13 at 1:38 am

Trader Joe: great shopping experience, shitty blog comments.

101

Cranky Observer 01.24.13 at 1:51 am

= = = Trader Joe 01.24.13 @ 1:30 am
My, my. Touchy, touchy. I don’t believe I suggested taking away any of the precious spending toys we all so love…I merely suggested they would last longer if we didn’t play with them so hard.

It puzzles me how a conversation that began with near-full agreement that the Republican policies were bankrupt turned into a bash the fiscal conservative moment at the slightest whiff[…] = = =

Strangely, this “fiscal conservative movement” was absent when Alan Greenspan testified in favor of the Bush tax cuts in 2001 and when the Bush/Cheney Administration launched two wars (one a war of necessity, one arguably not) without raising taxes to pay for them. So I’m not really concerned about this phantom movement’s input, to tell you the truth.

Cranky

102

Salient 01.24.13 at 2:14 am

holy crap, I think “gladiators of otiose sloth, both spiritually and materially” actually wins my eight-word challenge.

103

bad Jim 01.24.13 at 3:37 am

I read Hanson as claiming that the “bitter divisions that lie just beneath the surface of a thinning veneer” are to be found within the narrow Democratic majority, and that the poor, hipsters, women, gays, greens, blacks and browns are actually at war with each other.

104

js. 01.24.13 at 4:07 am

It puzzles me how a conversation that began with near-full agreement that the Republican policies were bankrupt turned into a bash the fiscal conservative moment at the slightest whiff that there was even a reason for fiscal restraint and none whatsoever that health care, Social Security or any of the other ‘sacreds’ should be a part of it….

This sentence is definitely worse than Hanson’s. In fact, I can’t make heads or tails of it. (And it ends in an ellipsis! Why do people do that? Was there something else to say? Why not say it?)

And while lots of other people have made similar suggestions, I’d suggest you google “giant insurance company with an army” (just for starts!).

105

js. 01.24.13 at 4:28 am

Re the Hanson sentence: points off for the double use of “bitter”. And I think “in Nixonian fashion” isn’t well-placed. (E.g.: Were the election wars Nixonian in fashion? Or have they, despite themselves perhaps, produced divisions in Nixonian fashion?) Either way, more points off.

106

Sev 01.24.13 at 4:34 am

#28 “He’s outgassing.”

Well, that’s what happens when you frack with people.

107

Lee A. Arnold 01.24.13 at 4:43 am

For years I have been pointing out the distinct opportunities, and possible tactics, to help usher the Republicans into their historical dead end, and I remember receiving a good deal of derision from clods in these very threads. I shall adopt a veneer of sweet relish.

108

PJW 01.24.13 at 5:20 am

As for style, I see it as a juxtapositional Latour Litany of sorts.

109

Con George-Kotzabasis 01.24.13 at 5:40 am

@97 John Quiggin-A low bar indeed, just fit for leftists nipple-fed academics.

110

Tim Wilkinson 01.24.13 at 6:00 am

MPAV – yeah no probs. If you’d asserted I was identical to – or indeed shared any interesting properties with – that other Tim W, that would be different.

Uppercase merchant #2, winner of the Salient challenge: American excellence based on individual effort and entrepreneurial creativity – see also ‘a vast continent to despoil and plunder’. Can you point to a really great achievement of your barely adolescent yet already moribund empire?

I needn’t get all Capricorn 7 to disqualify the golfballs-on-the-moon stunt which was in any case perpetrated by teat-slurping plunderers of the legendary taxpayer. To assist with avoiding obvious solecisms I’d mention the names Manzetti/Reis/Bourseil/Meucci, Poincaré, Goebel, obviously Benz, Łukasiewicz, Basov/Prokhorov. You can perhaps have Baer and Oppenheimer if you want them, but note that they were not ontraprenors, but tit-guzzlers (yes, Baer too – corporate dugs squirt just as juicily); ditto the inventors of the internet.

Given the size and vast riches of the US, its genuinely valuable achievements are amazingly few – perhaps patent-chasing and other profit-driven activities are not actually the best routes to improving the lot of humanity?

111

John Quiggin 01.24.13 at 7:56 am

BTW, apologies to readers. C-G K is a well-known Australian troll, spamblogger etc. I shouldn’t have fed him, but I can’t resist sometimes

112

heckblazer 01.24.13 at 7:58 am

Jim Henley @ 53:
From what I’ve heard VDH can be quite good on ancient Greek history. That doesn’t mean he knows jack about anything less than two thousand years old though. Grapes, maybe.

Anderson @ 79:
It’s misleading on the areas I’m familiar with too. Saying that Obama’s Iraq exit plan was the same as Bush’s is misleading as the article they cite states that the plan forced on Bush by the Iraqis was the same as the plan proposed by candidate Obama. US intervention in Uganda is something Human Rights Watch Human Rights Watch lobbied *for*, and the Lord’s Resistance Army is a group that’s just vile.
The claim that Obama is worse than Bush on transparency based on a flawed comparison of 2008 and 2009 FOIA requests by Judicial Watch. For a start, it ignores the fact that the federal fiscal year 2009 started on October 1, 2008, or over three months before Obama was sworn in. Contra the cited article the most common exemption according to the Office of Information Policy was disclosure of personal information, with the “bogus” intra-agency communications exemption coming in third. The number JW gives for “rejected public records requests” seems to lump together both the 13% of requests in which the agency had no responsive documents as well as all requests processed for exemptions. Half of the latter ended up with the government producing all requested documents, and only 4% of all requests were denied in full. That that the government overall reduced its backlog by 55,918 probably also should have been mentioned when comparing FOIA performance.

rf @ 81:
“Renditon” is merely the act of one jurisdiction handing someone over to another jurisdiction, with extradition being the most common form. “Extraordinary rendition” means going outside the judicial system to grab someone; if Bin laden had been taken alive out of Afghanistan his would have been a case of extraordinary rendition. Extraordinary renditions usually are done in secret and therefore are prone to abuse, but they do not of necessity include torture or sending someone to a third party nation.
Since Clinton carried out extraordinary renditions against known terrorists with the support of Al Gore I’m fairly confident that any Democratic president in office during 9/11 would have used extraordinary renditions as an anti-Al Qaeda tool. I doubt a Democrat would have done more than torture by proxy (I know I’m damning with faint praise here).

113

bad Jim 01.24.13 at 9:08 am

The most stupefying trait of the patriotic Right is their insistence that America is both the best, most God-blessed, wealthiest nation on the planet, with a military capable of defeating all other nations combined, but so broke that it can’t afford to feed the poor, care for the sick, or make the least effort to mitigate global climate change.

It’s not quite the same as the old belief that Communism is simultaneously an utter failure and an existential threat, but it exhibits the same extraordinary mental flexibility. One might surmise that they’d conclude that a cat subjected to Schrödinger’s experiment would become a vampire.

114

Con George-Kotzabasis 01.24.13 at 9:29 am

@110 Tim Wilkinson—Starting from your last sentence. Fernand Braudel in his magnum opus Civilization and Capitalism delineates the moving Centres of the World-Economy, i.e., Capitalism, initially from Venice, to Genoa, to Antwerp, to Amsterdam, to London and finally to New York. The propelling force of this movement was the ceaseless ever increasing and greater rolling ACHIEVEMENTS of these metropolises that were at the centre of capitalist development during which its long duration led, for the first time in history, indisputably to the improvement of “the lot of humanity.” The fact that America replaced Britain as the centre of capitalist dynamism was the ne plus ultra achievement of the United States. Are you a human metamorphosed into an ostrich that refuses to accept the facts?
Furthermore, to associate Schumpetarian entrepreneurship with spoliation and plunder is to disassociate you and disqualify you from serious intellectual discourse. Plunder is the vocation of pirates not of creative entrepreneurs!

115

bad Jim 01.24.13 at 9:59 am

ARRRR! I’ve got an Entrepreneur of the Year Award on my shelf, ten patents and four million bucks, and I disrespectfully disagree. If plunder is not the point of enterprise, then why are capital gains taxed less than earned income? We value theft over thrift, greed over need, striving over giving, violence over violins (a staple of soundtracks). I say, raise the black flag, cry Havoc! and let slip the chihuahuas of marketing.

116

Mao Cheng Ji 01.24.13 at 10:40 am

Surely jazz has to be the greatest achievement.

117

Alex 01.24.13 at 10:57 am

Most people in this country — white men included — have jobs that give them no autonomy or chance for self-expression, no political power, no security against impoverishment by bad luck, have to abase themselves before authority figures, and are basically subject throughout their lives to arbitrary forces beyond their control. It’s not liberals who make them feel powerless, it’s reality. It seems to me — at the risk of what’s-the-matter-with-Kansasism — that the role of the VDHs is to create a politically manageable fantasy to channel justified anger.

+1 Mason.

118

Uncle Kvetch 01.24.13 at 11:42 am

C-G K is a well-known Australian troll, spamblogger etc.

Disappointing. Taken as parody, it’s really quite brilliant.

119

Tim Wilkinson 01.24.13 at 12:01 pm

MCJ – and the blues lineage in general, its aetiology not, though, being notably Schumpeterian. Of course I wasn’t really intending a law-like generalisation.
—-
Also, ‘plunder’ was a misquote of ‘poison’.

120

rf 01.24.13 at 12:50 pm

Heckblazer

Yes I know. I also said I didn’t know if a Democratic administration would have done more than ‘torture by proxy’ post 9/11.

121

Katherine 01.24.13 at 12:51 pm

@#18 Poe’s Law strikes again.

122

rf 01.24.13 at 1:27 pm

“It’s misleading on the areas I’m familiar with too. Saying that Obama’s Iraq exit plan was the same as Bush’s is misleading as the article they cite states that the plan forced on Bush by the Iraqis was the same as the plan proposed by candidate Obama.”

Obama did want to keep a residual force there though, as is well acknowledged

“if Bin laden had been taken alive out of Afghanistan his would have been a case of extraordinary rendition. “

If done by Presidential directive it would technically have been ‘ordinary’ rendition?

123

Bruce Wilder 01.24.13 at 2:44 pm

With self-conscious cowardice, as I know anything I say will fall on deaf ears, I thought I might wait for the end of the thread to say something in faint defense of Trader Joe and his anxiety about the implications of the continuing fiscal gap and the ballooning national debt it helps to create. He’s not entirely wrong.

I get that Trader Joe stepped in it, @63, with phrasing that provoked an aggressive, programmed response.

I’d love to have money to give to every cause that solicits me, but in the end I must make choices, . . .
At some point, borrowing costs alone preclude much good which can be done. You might quibble with your favorite Republican about exactly what to cut, now or later, or by how much, but the fact is current spending isn’t terribly sustainable on its current growth rate and some party will eventually need to address it. Clinton did it…Obama has barely tried.

He got exactly the kind of rote, rigid, blind partisan response he had been protesting in earlier comments in the thread as counterproductive.

I won’t say that Trader Joe did not get what he deserved from MPAVictoria, Uncle Kvetch and others. I’m not sympathetic with the bi-partisan tropes, or the household metaphor for Federal budgeting. Trader Joe @ 77, which comment claimed that he’d been misread, indicates to me that he was having a hard time finding the right language to express his concern — language, which would not run him afoul of the current partisan battle-lines, though it seems to me that he might have been hazarding those battle-lines, just as a moth courts the flame.

Continuing to switch metaphors at a furious pace, I will say that the magnetic field lines of partisanship are so strong, that I find it hard, myself, to write anything that won’t get drawn into a misleading alignment.

Yet, I feel I ought to affirm the truth that, yes, there is a fiscal gap, ballooning the national debt, and it is a serious economic problem. Obama, who against the best advice, could barely bring himself to endorse a two-year stimulus of $800 billion, (when simple arithmetic suggested a figure at least twice that was appropriate), has, in four years, added more than $5 trillion to the debt, nearly doubling the damn thing. (Can you, patient reader, stand another metaphor? Brace yourselves.) It is as if the country’s driver — Obama + Congress — insists on holding the American economy in second gear, while holding the gas pedal to the floor, revving the engine dangerously, while Mr. Bernanke pulls out the choke. (Does anyone under retirement age actually remember what a choke does? It enriches the mixture of fuel-vapor and air, and was used with carburetors to make it easier to get an internal combustion engine started. The excessive richness of the fuel-air mix will gum up the engine in short order, if the choke isn’t pushed back in, before pulling away from the curb.)

The partisans of the moderate Left will now ritually stick their fingers in their ears and yell, Krugman, repeating his counterfactual suggestion that policy could move the economy to a higher rate of resource utilization (lower labor unemployment) where the fiscal gap would close to nothing, ergo “there is no fiscal gap.” woulda, coulda, shoulda — we still live in the factual, not the counterfactual, universe, where the fiscal gap is reality. (Alert! Still more stupid metaphors; I cannot help myself . . . ) The actual partisan stalemate is a perverse Goldilocks, choosing the medium bowl of poison porridge. Contra Krugman, income distribution is the core dispute, and with corporate and financial sector profits at record highs, while real wages continue a steady decline, I’m pretty sure I know who is staging this “theatrical enactment of division and resentment atop a narrow range of actual policy differences” and why.

I’m a tempermental moderate, myself, and radical positions do not come naturally. But, I think, when the partisan blindfolds come off, Obama’s particular brand of Corrupt Centrism, genetically engineered to appeal to Villagers, is as much The Problem, as VDH’s comically hackish rhetorical #fail in the face of a President, who is pretty much everything VDH could hope for in a Great Western Leader (except not-pure-white-Aryan-cum-Ancient-Greek and not hyper-masculine homosexual.) Obama loves the frame of fiscal failure and tough choices, and, with his Simpson-Bowles Commissions and the like, he does his best to steer the country toward the cliff, at the bottom of which lies a future of neo-feudalism. You can look for change under the seat cushions with a microscope, if you like; I’ll don’t think you will find it, until the crash comes, and then, advice to slow down or fasten the seat belts won’t look quite so stupid, though, of course, the right thing to do wouldn’t have been that — it would still have been to shift gears, push in the choke and change course.

124

LFC 01.24.13 at 3:09 pm

Interesting that the “well known Australian troll” is citing Braudel. But C-G K puts a celebratory overlay onto Braudel which I think is largely C-G K’s own.

125

Trader Joe 01.24.13 at 3:11 pm

Wilder at 123
The defense, which is not faint, is much appreciated and far better stated than I managed.

In the good old days of the Democratic party (about 10 years ago), it was ‘ok’ to be what we called a social liberal and a financial conservative…it was a center-left grounding well executed by Clinton and not dissimilar to what Gore and and Kerry pitched throughout the Bush W. years.

It seems the modern Democrat needs to be ‘all in’ on spending with no restraint. As noted in the comment that started this mess at 63….some group of leadership will eventually need to “push in the choke and shift” whether it will blow out the engine, the transmission or both will depend on the factors that force the shift. To do so without consequence, in my view, would be improbable.

126

Steve LaBonne 01.24.13 at 3:19 pm

Yet, I feel I ought to affirm the truth that, yes, there is a fiscal gap, ballooning the national debt, and it is a serious economic problem.

No, it is not even close to being a serious economic problem at this time. Yes, there is one genuine long-term fiscal issue, and it’s called HEALTH CARE. There is no excuse for being ignorant of either of those facts- they’ve already been documented above and further information is readily accessible. Wake me up when there are any “fiscal conservatives” who are willing to learn from what other countries have done to restrain health-care costs while providing universal access to quality care.

I’ll assume that, unlike Trader, you’re genuinely misinformed and not just lying. But go forth and inform yourself.

127

Cranky Observer 01.24.13 at 3:21 pm

Assuming we just throw the Clinton Administration’s balanced budget, the subsequent Bush/Greenspan massive tax cuts, the Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld wars that pay for themselves (and therefore require no tax increases), and the vitriolic Republican/Libertarian opposition to restoring tax rates to reasonable levels in the recent negotiations down the memory hole then sure: “moderate Democrats” are the source of the US’ financial problems.

Cranky

128

Trader Joe 01.24.13 at 3:38 pm

Cranky
My first comment was taxing and spending go together. It was no more “right” for W. to spend as he did than for the current administration to spend as it does.

If a congress wants something, grow the stones to raise taxes, or cut something else, to pay for it. If a congress/President isn’t willing to ask for the money to do it, more likely than not its something that needs serious re-examination.

129

Cranky Observer 01.24.13 at 3:39 pm

I can’t cut-and-paste from this device, so I’ll just refer everyone over to Kevin Drum (two posts concluding with “More on Government Spending”) and Ezra Klein (“Think Obama’s a Big Spender?”). Oops.

Cranky

What was that about fingers stuffed in ears?

130

Cranky Observer 01.24.13 at 3:44 pm

Trader Joe,
Fourth time you have failed to address Clinton Admin’s balanced budget and _declining_ deficits. Must conclude that is deliberate. History of last 40 years is Democrats, for all their faults, clean up Radical Right financial messes, then take blame from VSP. But your serious concern is noted.

131

Uncle Kvetch 01.24.13 at 3:45 pm

In the good old days of the Democratic party (about 10 years ago), it was ‘ok’ to be what we called a social liberal and a financial conservative. […] It seems the modern Democrat needs to be ‘all in’ on spending with no restraint.

It was pointed out to you by DFH no. 6 @ that “the percentage growth of federal spending under Obama is the lowest (by far) since Eisenhower.” You didn’t respond. And based on your latest comment, it’s clear that you’re simply going to ignore anything posted here that conflicts with your view of yourself as the only grown-up in a room full of peevish children who won’t give up their “toys.”

Shorter me: I shouldn’t have bothered with you, TJ. It won’t happen again.

132

Steve LaBonne 01.24.13 at 3:47 pm

And to see why attempting to quickly reduce deficits is a BAD thing under recessionary conditions, you need only take a look at today’s employment news from Spain.

133

Trader Joe 01.24.13 at 3:48 pm

Cranky – At both 63 and 125 I specifically laud Clinton for doing just that and at 125 go on to state that I thought Gore and/or Kerry would have done the same thing…exactly what more do you want.

I’m specifically defending moderate Democrats. Its the message I started with and indeed my own political stance – what more do you want?

134

reason 01.24.13 at 3:48 pm

Trader Joe @125
Clinton increased taxes. Clinton cut defence spending. Clinton didn’t mess with entitlements. Obama hasn’t increased spending.

I’m sort of still wondering what facts you are looking at. Regardless of Bruce Wilder’s unquiet about the closeness of Obama to Wall Street – which doesn’t look that different to Clinton to me.

I have my own set of policy preferences, but I’m sure everybody else does. But the issue is just not that urgent. Unemployment is.

135

reason 01.24.13 at 3:50 pm

P.S. Welfare is not a middle class entitlement!

136

reason 01.24.13 at 4:04 pm

P.P.S. I’m sure Bruce knows I think that running up “debt” to finance a deficit is a choice not a necessity in a country with a sovereign currency.

137

Steve LaBonne 01.24.13 at 4:08 pm

Adding to what reason just said, remember the “good old days” when Greenspan claimed to be worried that continued balanced budgets would lead to the issuance of too little debt?

138

heckblazer 01.24.13 at 4:27 pm

rf @ 120:
It wasn’t clear to me if you included torture by proxy or not. Now I know.

rf @ 122
“Obama did want to keep a residual force there though, as is well acknowledged”

And Bush wanted to keep all our troops there indefinitely.

“If done by Presidential directive it would technically have been ‘ordinary’ rendition?”

No. To be ordinary it has to go through the normal legal system. Pretty much any presidential directive ordering rendition that isn’t “make a formal extradition request” is extraordinary by definition.

139

Jeffrey Davis 01.24.13 at 4:30 pm

A veneer is put on to wood to permit the use of a lesser grade of wood. The veneer is for show and its removal reveals the inferior wood beneath. In my experience, veneers don’t wear thin as much as the glue holding them to the base wood dries out and the veneer peels off. There’s nothing very dramatic about it.

I think what Hanson wants is something more like Wordsworth’s “little lines/of sportive wood run wild”. The many stresses on American society are a prelude to a coming chaos. Or maybe something akin to the cracks in a flying buttress leading to the collapse of a cathedral.

I could be wrong. Maybe Hanson sees America as structured with cheap pine.

140

Jeffrey Davis 01.24.13 at 4:30 pm

A veneer is put on to wood to permit the use of a lesser grade of wood. The veneer is for show and its removal reveals the inferior wood beneath. In my experience, veneers don’t wear thin as much as the glue holding them to the base wood dries out and the veneer peels off. There’s nothing very dramatic about it.

I think what Hanson wants is something more like Wordsworth’s “little lines/of sportive wood run wild”. The many stresses on American society are a prelude to a coming chaos. Or maybe something akin to the cracks in a flying buttress leading to the collapse of a cathedral.

I could be wrong. Maybe Hanson sees America as structured with cheap pine.

141

rf 01.24.13 at 4:52 pm

“No. To be ordinary it has to go through the normal legal system.”

I don’t know. The difference doesn’t seem as well defined as that. The 2004 NYU ‘torture by proxy’ paper seems to put emphasis on Presidential directives when differentiating between ordinary and extraordinary rendition. The Torture Outsourcing Prevention Act seems to give some discretion to the Secretary of State etc But I don’t know, so I won’t argue the point any further

“And Bush wanted to keep all our troops there indefinitely.”

Is this true? I can’t see why Bush would have wanted to keep ‘all our troops there indefinitely.’ What Obama pushed Maliki for has to be seen in the context of the 2008 Status of Forces Agreement. We don’t know what he would have pushed for without that constraint. Obama hasn’t differed all the markedly from Bush’s second term foreign policy, so I’d imagine the difference would have been minor.

142

Con George-Kotzabasis 01.24.13 at 5:25 pm

@124LFC—where exactly have I put “a celebratory overlay onto Braudel?” I simply repeated what Braudel depicted about the sifting of the Centres of Capitalism between the aforementioned metropolises each wrapped up in its own achievements and successes only to be surpassed by the next one replacing it, and nothing more. What was celebratory about that? Your “celebratory overlay” was your own invention.
Did you get your Ph.D. for the purpose of imitating pseudo-intellectuals like John Quiggin who dub as “trolls” those who express a different opinion to their own? Tell me your coterie of academics to tell you about your intellectual worth!

143

Anarcissie 01.24.13 at 5:47 pm

That sentence — you’re just supposed to revel in it, and in the vague outlines of chaos. destruction and cat fur always lurking below the dining-room table.

144

SusanC 01.24.13 at 6:26 pm

The “thinning veneer” is a rather puzzling metaphor. It would make some sense if there were factions that were pretending to be polite to each other but actually hated each other (like when you visit your family for Christmas…[*]), but the Democrats make no secret of hating the Republicans. I see no veneer.

Well, I suppose it could refer to impending violence. Like in UK (and probably US politics) one starts to wonder when/if people will progress from talking about hanging “the bankers” to actually killing bankers.

[*] Well, maybe not your family, or mine either, but the phenomenon is well known.

145

Lee A. Arnold 01.24.13 at 9:20 pm

Trader Joe #63 — “Obama has barely tried.”

I don’t agree with this, although I am also certain that it doesn’t much matter, in the big-scheme long run. (Because we could always do something else. Which ever way the game goes, it will be played — to be very zen about it.) First off, Obamacare’s tax increases and cost-cutting measures put the longest-term deficits into BALANCE, and the total debt will be paid-off by 2070. So says the CBO; see a cartoon here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wd4HDautaUw …..For an up-to-date treatment with the Bush tax-cut re-extension (I call it an “extension”, because nothing is ever permanent), we can wait for the CBO’s very next Long-Term Budget Outlook (which ought to be due in a few months). Now, you may have issues with “higher taxes as % of GDP, fifty years from now,” but I rather doubt that “impossible” or “unmanageable” follow from any scientific hypothesis about it. 2) Secondly, in the Obama years, growth in government spending (both federal and also, federal+state+local) is steadier than the Bush years, by about an order of magnitude — logarithmically it has almost flattened. Steady gov’t growth, as opposed to Bush’s accelerating gov’t growth. What the markets might make of this in the future will depend on a lot of other conditions, but let’s put some perspective on it, and get the trajectory right. 3) Third, this same drop-off in government stimulus has come at just the moment when we should run much bigger deficits, at just the moment that the whole economy has epochally cratered. So, raising taxes now is the worst thing imaginable for the super short-term (beyond clipping a few more nickels off the top 1%; they are still gliding on the assets we bailed-out): we need far more stimulus, because our real biggest problem is that the current long-term unemployment is going to cause additional, permanent social-welfare spending issues. Cause them, big time! If Obama has barely tried in this crisis, he has barely tried to understand what is going on, BEYOND the understanding of the mainstream economics establishment (all, but a very few people in it) which has been not only rather shoddy in the current crisis — on some topics they have counseled for 40 years against doing the correct things. Anyway, a good tactic for the immediate present may be the following: It should be made perfectly clear down to the very last mass-media imbecile that people who want deficit reduction NOW are DIRECTLY CAUSING a larger government welfare state IN THE FUTURE (much larger than the bigger one that will be necessary anyway), because long-term unemployment NOW is causing destroyed human capital, and so, the future is in very bad shape. Just go look at the FRED graph for the employment-to-population ratio for 16-to-19 year olds, if you want to have a heart attack… 4) Fourth I have a difference with the idea that there is a fiscal crisis for Obama to have tried more than barely at, given that he already addressed very-long-term healthcare in regard to its very-long-term monitoring and solutions. All healthcare costs aren’t going to be reduced at this moment, it is a long-term process of course, but the efforts might help with long-term interest rates. Yes our contemporary era does not like the future higher taxes that will be associated, but, so what, really? The higher taxes will all be spent right back into the sectors where job growth should be. Private profits will then follow, etc. But, for the interest on the debt to become onerous, private individuals must take their money out of the bond market. So the next thing to think about is, where are they going to put their money, right now? In a politically stable place, and on a guaranteed growth path? The answer is, there aren’t that many places right now; private finance ruined its own, and its only, privately-generated asset bubble (mortgage derivatives); they don’t really trust each other nor should they; private finance is basically both bored and incompetent at private investments of the small-scale sorts that we need; economic growth globally is still sunk in the tank until the U.S. and other developed countries resurge. So a short read of the whole situation is, “By preventing more deficit spending, the Wall St.-Washington axis is throttling-down an economic resurgence, and so causing the long-term debt service to become the very big problem that they wish to avoid.” In psycho oldspeak, they are in a double bind, intellectually, rhetorically, and it may be a while before they emerge. For now, it can be exploited as if it were a Marxian contradiction, (though it is a product of their own type of alienation, a Lacanian imaginary state in their heads — how’s that for VDH-style gibberish, to characterize his prose at the top?), because the short term will still have its own lengthy adjustment period: i.e. in the better economic environment you can raise taxes to pay off the debt, thus make deficits look better; plus, if bond investors still flee the market to greener shores overseas, then that flight will lower the currency, thus improve exports, thus create tax revenue, thus make deficits look better, more manageable. All in all, the deficits as they stand are doable, although this veneer of alienated blabber may go on for a while.

146

William Timberman 01.24.13 at 9:50 pm

Bruce Wilder writes by far the best apocalypsos of our dimished age, I think because he writes them more in sorrow than in anger. If I were younger, I might appraise them differently, but at my age anger, except in moderate doses, can be a mortal stimulant.

147

James 01.24.13 at 10:01 pm

Tim Wilkinson 110: “Given the size and vast riches of the US, its genuinely valuable achievements are amazingly few”

Says the person communicating on a societal changing technology invited in the US. Really the accomplishments of this man http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Norman_Borlaug
should be enough to grant the US a pass on this topic for 4 or 5 centuries.

148

GiT 01.24.13 at 10:07 pm

The percentage growth in federal spending is a bit of a deceptive statistic though.

Take 3 scenarios:

Spike, then steady: 20% increase followed by four 2.5% increases
Steady: Five 6% increases
Steady, then spike: Four 2.5% increases followed by a 20% increase

Results with a basis of 1 for the 5 year period (the math is a little rough as I don’t really remember how to solve these (P*(1+r)^N=F) sorts of things anymore.)

Spike, then steady: 6.3 total, 1.26 average (about a 4.8% rate compounded)
Steady all the way: 6 total, 1.19 average (about 3.6% compounded)
Steady, then spike: 5.6 total, 1.12 average (about 2.3% compounded)

In the three cases, average % increase is the same, but the amounts spent vary wildly.

Let’s do this using the principal and future amounts for a few splits of the 1999-2012 period.

(A)If you compare 2012 to 1999, you get a compounding rate of about 4%/annum
(B)If you compare 2009 to 1999, you get a rate of about 5.1%/annum
(C)If you compare 2012 to 2009, you get a rate of about .75%/annum
(D)If you compare 2008 to 1999, you get a rate of about 3.8%/annum
(E)If you compare 2012 to 2008, you get a rate of about 4.6%/annum

It’s easy enough from here to figure out which comparisons to make to amplify one’s partisan position.

Want to make Bush the spendthrift and Obama the miser? B vs. C.
Want to make Obama the profligate and Bush the penny-pincher? D vs E.
Want to show a modest increase in the growth rate of federal spending in response to the recession? A, D, and E.

As an addendum…

This is sensitive to start and end points, and one could try to deal with that, but here are the post-war period numbers depending on when you end.

1950-2000: GDP: 2.25%/year Gov: 2.55%/year
1950-2008: GDP 2.05%/year Gov: 2.61%/year
1950-2012: GDP: 1.09%/year Gov: 2.67%/year

In any case, Lee A. Arnold above is correct, I think, to look at the acceleration and deceleration of spending. The trajectories matter. Spending accelerated under Bush, then accelerated due to the recession, and now is being reigned back – but that probably ought to look like gradual deceleration and then reversal *relative* to GDP growth, it shouldn’t look like an about face.

Anyways, pardon the pretty off topic excursus, but my OCD when it comes to these sorts of descriptive number games kicked in.

149

Trader Joe 01.24.13 at 10:07 pm

Lee Arnold
Thanks for taking the time to so carefully explain your views. There are plenty of reasonable points and its quite possible the future will unfold along the lines you suggest.

I’m afraid it remains my view, based on my experiences and evidence of the last half century or so, that Nations with debt in excess of 100% of GDP and which run chronic and persistent deficits eventually lose economic power to those nations not in that position. Perhaps the future will be different, the world is decidedly more global, but color me skeptical of that.

I’m well aware that such a state of affairs doesn’t happen in the term of a single President and there is no chance whatsoever that such an outcome is the result of a single political party. Its the by-product of an inconsistent political will to which both leaders and electorate contribute.

I read plenty of economics. I’m not unaware of the facts. I just think the global economy is in a relatively untested place. ‘Wise economists’ are suggesting and trying lots of policy which seems to produce lots of unexplained results and volatility. Perhaps time will tell, or perhaps Marx had it right when he suggested that Capitalism will sell the rope with which it will hang itself…

That’s my last on this topic which diverged greatly from the original thrust of the strand which seemed to be to applaud the moral bankruptcy of the Republican party, not fiscal bankruptcy (which has been amply covered on several of Quiggan’s strands.

150

ChrisB 01.24.13 at 11:01 pm

“bad Jim 01.24.13 at 9:08 am — The most stupefying trait of the patriotic Right is their insistence that America is both the best, most God-blessed, wealthiest nation on the planet, with a military capable of defeating all other nations combined, but so broke that it can’t afford to feed the poor, care for the sick, or make the least effort to mitigate global climate change.”
For my money, the most stupefying trait of the patriotic Right is their insistence that America has a military capable of defeating all other nations combined but not capable of taking down a smattering of citizens armed with assault rifles, thus justifying civilian possession of ARs as a means of keeping the regime honest.

151

ChrisB 01.24.13 at 11:07 pm

As to thinning veneers, the underlying concept seems to be that while the unfortunate trends analysed haven’t yet resulted in financial apocalypse, there will come a moment when all of a sudden they do – that is, a Wonderful One-Horse Shay scenario, http://holyjoe.org/poetry/holmes1.htm.
“How it went to pieces all at once, —
All at once, and nothing first, —
Just as bubbles do when they burst.

End of the wonderful one-hoss shay.
Logic is logic. That’s all I say.”

152

rf 01.25.13 at 2:05 am

153

Harold 01.25.13 at 4:54 am

“a procrustean reformulation of national history which, if successful, will morally destroy the purpose and soul of America. It must be stopped, exposed, and shattered.”

He sounds really rattled! The purpose of America! But isn’t he Canadian? And an ex-con?

154

reason 01.25.13 at 9:02 am

ChrisB
Amongst the most stupifying traits of the patiotic Right ….

Somehow that rings a bell.

155

Tim Wilkinson 01.25.13 at 11:59 am

James – well that was a bit of overshoot really, an unexpectedly well-rewarded bit of out-trolling. I was primarily concerned with US entrepreurialism’s contribution, as I explicitly pointed out with specific reference to the internet.

But CGK has presumably sloped off to read some Braudel, and the stronger and slightly less intractable claim does look as though it may actually have some merit (we just need a rigorous methodology for collating and quantifying the data).

So for the sake of discussion as much as anything, I’d point out that the internet is only one achievement, and, oh I don’t know, some British bloke? As for Borlaug, I’ll draw on my wikipedic knowledge of technological history to remind you that the Cooperative Wheat Research Production Program was actually Mexican. I will concede though that it did have funding – presumably substantial – that can be traced back to the US’s incarnation of Braudel’s (perennial, conspiratorial, monopolistic, politicised) capitalism in the person of John D. Rockefeller. That funding originated in the libertarian-approved form of philanthropic trickle-down, but was administered as a bureaucracy, so everything seems so complicated and mixed up I’m wondering now whether I’ll ever find a suitably Manichaean lawlike generalisation in under twenty words.

—-

Lee to Trader Joe: you may have issues with “higher taxes as % of GDP, fifty years from now,” but I rather doubt that “impossible” or “unmanageable” follow from any scientific hypothesis about it. well, even in that scenario, economic logic tells us that the solution would probably be to cut spending on one of those toy causes. If a congress/President isn’t willing to ask for the money to do it [i.e. raise taxes], more likely than not its something that needs serious re-examination.

156

Gene O'Grady 01.25.13 at 5:31 pm

I have not read all the comments, but I think the notion of wood veneer is not where Hanson is coming from, being a classicist and all by training. I suspect he’s thinking of marble veneer, which really does thin due to exposure to rain, wind, and atmospheric chemicals, and can fall off in chunks.

If I wanted to go out on a limb, I might suspect the notion of marble (or related stone) veneer to allude to the difference between the architecture of the mongrelized Romans, which featured high end stone veneer, or high class stucco, over a brick and rubble core and the architecture of the pure blood Greeks (well, some of them in the fifth century thought they were) which featured pure bright marble through and through.

157

Lee A. Arnold 01.26.13 at 5:40 am

Tim Wilkinson #155 : “economic logic tells us that the solution would probably be to cut spending on one of those toy causes”

At that time (decades from now) the toy cause will be entirely healthcare spending, according to the current projection. There is nothing else in the current projection of that time that is unmanageable. Whether or not “economic logic” tells us to cut spending at that time, depends upon what it would do to society to cut that spending. If the answer is, “cutting spending will cause medical devastation for the elderly and the associated social costs of cleaning up after that,” it probably won’t be economical at all, it will be more expensive to cut the spending. As it would be, right now.

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Tim Wilkinson 01.26.13 at 3:08 pm

Sorry, poorly constructed attempt at irony – the economic logic cited was Trader Joe’s.

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Bryan 01.27.13 at 10:14 am

“Most writers would probably be content to have the deeper reality lie beneath the surface, or else beneath a veneer. But Hanson places it beneath the surface of the veneer. One wonders what is beneath the whole veneer.”
Yeah, and I guess since the veneer is thinning soon the sub-veneer will be the veneer, but beneath that lies the true reality which is that it’s veneer all the way down!

160

Peter Ruddick 01.27.13 at 7:00 pm

I’m a woodcarver. I use veneer to fill cracks in solid wood. Solid wood (reality) is thus on both sides of the ‘veneer’. I hope this fact wreaks havoc with political metaphorics:)

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