Hey look – it’s the Goodyear blimp!

by John Holbo on July 10, 2007

Redstate, focusing on the issues of the day:

Franklin Delano Roosevelt chose the price of gold using the same methods with which you or I would choose PowerBall ticket numbers. If that doesn’t frighten and outrage you, I don’t know what will.

The author also reports that the George F. Will column in question, “made me spring out of my chair and pace around in abject disbelief and not a little anger.”

Thank goodness there’s no policy flippancy in the White House these days, otherwise urgent, perambulatory scowling at the olds, as we might call them, might look like aversion of one’s gaze from the news.

I wouldn’t make fun, except he put in that bit about springing and pacing.

UPDATE: And the author responds – to Kevin Drum, not to me. If you hate FDRblogging so much, “why don’t you write a post telling Democrats to stop raising the specter of Herbert Hoover at the drop of a hat?”

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Crooked Timber » » The Drop of A Hat
07.11.07 at 5:01 pm



Eric Rauchway 07.10.07 at 2:19 pm

Could we note that FDR’s gold policy, “gold standard on the booze” though it may have started, actually turned out kind of well?


alkali 07.10.07 at 2:46 pm

My mother tells a story of a neighbor of her family during the 1950s whose basement flooded during heavy spring rains. Overcome by rage, the neighbor could only manage to growl, “Roosevelt!”

There’s something kind of charming about this variety of craziness — it’s sort of nostalgia gone awry. I’d like to be able to work myself into a rage about the French Revolution or the Teapot Dome scandal sometime. Perhaps I’ll howl “Gutenberg!” next time the laser printer jams.


P O'Neill 07.10.07 at 2:51 pm

I didn’t think that there were any Gold Bugs outside the editorial offices of the Wall Street Journal.


Doctor Memory 07.10.07 at 3:12 pm

P O’Neill: oh, they’re all around, including a lot of self-styled libertarians and the odd “leftist” (both of whom should know better). It’s certainly a handy marker for knowing that you’ve wandered into a conversation that’s guaranteed to be unproductive.


ajay 07.10.07 at 3:14 pm

There’s something kind of charming about this variety of craziness—it’s sort of nostalgia gone awry.

If your political platform is basically to undo most of the legislative achievements of the last sixty years (voting rights, pollution control, civil rights, integration, welfare state) then this sort of writing doesn’t seem quite that crazy.

Maybe it doesn’t seem quite that charming, either.


thag 07.10.07 at 3:30 pm

what do you mean “policy flippancy in the White House these days”?

Americans learned this last week that Colin Powell spent a whole two and one half hours–150 minutes!–trying to talk Bush out of launching a needless war that has killed hundreds of thousands and cost America at least a half a trillion bucks.

Can you imagine the grave, unflippant sobriety, the solomonic seriousness, of talking for a whole two hours to keep someone from destroying your country? And then the even more immense, heroic, seriositude of shooting the shit for another half hour after that didn’t work? I mean, good lord, did Abraham Lincoln ever ponder a decision for an entire two and a half hours? Did Truman? Surely not.

And we also know that every previous White House has had the following totally serious rule: if a policy advisor cannot talk the President out of lying and cheating his way into a disastrous foreign-policy debacle on the first attempt, then they’re never allowed to bring it up again. No re-dos–that’s exactly what Washington said to his cabinet back in 1791.

So, I mean, what could Powell do? Really, I mean, what could he do? He had tried talking with the President for almost as long as, say, a shortish graduate seminar lasts, or an extended lunch. And that didn’t do the trick. So clearly he had to go before the UN and do his best to lie the rest of us into the same insane, self-destructive war.

But it was all very sober and deliberate on all sides, of that we can be sure. And there was no flippancy involved whatsoever.


Doug 07.10.07 at 3:31 pm

It’s charming when its proponents are a long way from the levers of power. That is to say it was a lot more charming, like Wag the Dog was a lot funnier, before Jan 2001 than it has been since.


Ginger Yellow 07.10.07 at 3:31 pm

“Franklin Delano Roosevelt chose the price of gold using the same methods with which you or I would choose PowerBall ticket numbers.”

Whereas the market prices gold with millions of people chooosing PowerBall ticket numbers.


monkey.dave 07.10.07 at 3:35 pm

They can detect particular instances of why an imperial presidency might not be a good idea, but even though they furrow their brows and ponder deeply, they just can’t figure out what the next link in the chain of wisdom might be.

I also note that adjacent to the article at RS telling us to be afraid of Roosevelt, they have an ad featuring FDR supporter Will Rogers wearing a GOP elephant button.


Matt 07.10.07 at 3:45 pm

Roosevelt chose the price of gold by a formula set to include the birthdates of his wife and kids? (or, sometimes, from the numbers in a fortune cookie?) That really is something to learn.


Marc 07.10.07 at 4:00 pm

The claim about FDR is, after all, coming from a Republican columnist. It sounds like Tory propaganda, so I do have to ask the same thing I now ask myself whenever I see a factual claim by an American Republican:

Is this actually true? Where did it come from?


Sock Puppet of the Great Satan 07.10.07 at 4:05 pm

Will’s column

“The Depression’s persistence, partly a result of such policy flippancy, was frightening.”

Yeah, 8% average annual GDP growth from 1933-1940. Saint Ronnie never managed that in a single year.

Shorter Will: Why can’t Democrats clean up the messes Republicans leave behind faster?

(I think we’ll be seeing that one again)


roger 07.10.07 at 4:16 pm

As Eichengreen long ago observed, countries that abandoned the gold standard earlier in the 30s recovered faster. Roosevelt needed someone around him who could say deficits don’t matter – like our own dear Vice President said to his underling, Bush. It is funny how conservatives have blindly adopted the policy of using state spending to make their way out of business downturns while blaming Roosevelt – I guess this is some weird version of Freud’s seduction theory on the ideological level.


thag 07.10.07 at 4:20 pm

Have a look at Kevin Drum’s reaction to Redstate’s wingnuttery.

If Drum is right, there was a principled and sensible reason for FDR’s choosing the day’s price in a semi-random way:

he wanted the price to go up gradually, and he wanted it to go up in an erratic and non-predictable way so that speculators would not be able to predict its moves.

In other words, he was not being flippant by using family birthdays. He was just doing some ordinary pseudo-randomizing, and for a very good reason.

If Drum is right, and if Will and then Redstate were really so clueless as this makes them sound, then by gum I’m going to spring out of my chair and pace around in abject belief.


Alex 07.10.07 at 4:34 pm

The gold standard is one of a number of ideas that make people go insane – killer memes, you might say. (See also: land-value taxation, peak oil, nationalism, progress, decline, libertarianism, managerialism..)


Alex 07.10.07 at 4:34 pm

(I think Henry has used a version of this argument before.)


"Q" the Enchanter 07.10.07 at 4:41 pm

And don’t even get me started on that sonofabitch Cleveland.


norbizness 07.10.07 at 4:57 pm

I even saw the lights of the Goodyear Blimp, it said Henry Morgenthau, Jr. was a pimp.


fardels bear 07.10.07 at 5:12 pm

So I’m pacing and all, but I’m not sure if my disbelief is abject or not. Is there some way to check? I’m thinking it might just be utter.


jacob 07.10.07 at 5:15 pm

I ran into a less sophisticated version of this (is such a thing possible) while teaching last year. A student of mine got in a tizzy–several times–reciting what a terrible person Roosevelt was. How he took away freedom and property and ruined a lot of people’s lives, but no one’s alive from back then so we’ve forgotten it. Really. She got very upset.


norbizness 07.10.07 at 6:05 pm

The next Redstate article, cribbed without recognition of sarcasm from The Onion: “Why Did That Joyless President Never Dance?”


pietr 07.10.07 at 6:26 pm

I’m sure all you people know a lot.
I like my gold.
It is yellow metal, heavy shiny and reassuring.
Play any game you like.
I make money when I choose to play with it, but really I just like owning it.
And if you have a problem with that, blow it out your ass.


Steve LaBonne 07.10.07 at 7:05 pm

Hmm, gold seems to have hitherto unsuspected neurotoxicity, as well.


norbizness 07.10.07 at 7:09 pm

Has pietr secured the color or has the color secured him?


abb1 07.10.07 at 7:21 pm

It is yellow metal, heavy shiny and reassuring.

Happiness is a warm gun.


Flavor Flavius Julianus 07.10.07 at 7:34 pm

And if you have a problem with that, blow it out your ass.

You’re a charmer, Pietr. Walking your streets, fantasizing about “take[ing] a swing at one one of these creeps.” Very precious that gold.


dsquared 07.10.07 at 7:35 pm

The gold standard is one of a number of ideas that make people go insane

surprising amount of work been done on this one in the 30s (although less on land value tax, wisdom of crowds, etc). I seem to remember Doug Henwood quoting quite a number of Freudians to the effect that gold symbolised excrement in the relevant pathological psychology.


Morat20 07.10.07 at 8:00 pm

Hmm, gold seems to have hitherto unsuspected neurotoxicity, as well.

I know it was the culprit on an episode of House


rea 07.10.07 at 8:10 pm

no one’s alive from back then so we’ve forgotten it

That will come as a nasty shock to my mother . . .


Shelby 07.10.07 at 11:29 pm


Are you sure your student hadn’t confused FDR’s tenure with Teddy Roosevelt’s? (Presumably mixing up the dates; less plausibly, but more entertainingly, conflating the substance of their administrations.)


Jon H 07.11.07 at 2:31 am

Nothing pisses me off quite so much as Teddy Roosevelt’s pursuit of Trusts.


pietr 07.11.07 at 5:46 am

Actually I am a charmer.
My blog is one place where I don’t have to be, but ‘fantasising’ about taking a swing at somebody isn’t something I devote time to; obviously if I did I’d have been ‘blowing it out my own ass’ years ago in some lock-up or other.
Equally obviously I actually did take a swing a couple of times in my youth, but when you realise you are up against the majority of life-forms in a country like Britain, a more systemic approach is called for.
Hence the writing.
And the occasional escape to North America, where despite any contrary argument, things really are better and a guy has some kind of chance.

Neurotoxicity? Not as toxic as you, mate.


dsquared 07.11.07 at 10:44 am

Apparently price control “has never worked”, so forget all you ever read about the second world war.


Bruce Baugh 07.11.07 at 1:23 pm

It’s this kind of historical obsession that played a key part in my giving up on libertarianism, actually, along with facing up to the realities of health care. Libertarian economics might work if you had a basically sane corporate culture, with a lot of decision-making power in the hands of people who understood that their social position can become fragile, that optimizing short-term and local profits isn’t an unlimited good, that cooperation with the rest of the society helps promote long-term opportunity for business too, that gratuitous social stratification feeds into unrest that ends up hurting the business environment, and so on. Say, business as conducted by people like Jim Henley and Neel Krishnaswami. :)

Unfortunately, far too much corporate power is in the hands of people who genuinely do feel personal hurt and anger over things that FDR and Theodore Roosevelt did, and who really have been planning their political and social strategy to roll back the New Deal and the Square Deal for decades. These are the people who subsidize the individuals and groups like Frum who will tell them that a scared and helpless public is good for liberty and morality. The lesson they’ve taken away from a century of public response to the excesses of their class is that they need slicker PR and more jackboots. The lesson for the rest of us has to be not so much “oh no, not again” as “always and ever”.


abb1 07.11.07 at 1:55 pm

Libertarian economics might work if you had a basically sane corporate culture, with a lot of decision-making power in the hands of people who understood that their social position can become fragile…

There’s no such thing as ‘corporate culture’, corporations are primitive organisms. To them it’s a simple ‘survival of the fittest’ game. If a corporation isn’t optimizing its short-term profits, then in a short time it will be killed and devoured by those who are optimizing their short-term profits.

What you could do is to change, optimize (and enforce) the rules of the game the corporations are playing, until you’re satisfied with typical corporate behavior induced by these rules.

Unfortunately it’s too late now: corporations already control those who make and enforce the rules.


mds 07.11.07 at 1:56 pm

I didn’t think that there were any Gold Bugs outside the editorial offices of the Wall Street Journal.

Returning to the gold standard is actually part of the official platform of the Texas Republican Party. Not that this should be particularly surprising. In fact, it’s one of the sanest parts of the document.


Alex 07.11.07 at 2:30 pm

There’s no such thing as ‘corporate culture’

Balls. They can have radically different internal cultures. (Bell Labs vs Provident Financial? Google and Halliburton?)


abb1 07.11.07 at 2:57 pm

…radically different internal cultures…

Sure, but Google and Halliburton live in different environments. Like cockroach and shrimp. They are different in that sense. But I’m sure Google is not that different from, say, Adobe or Microsoft circa 1980s.


pietr 07.11.07 at 3:33 pm

Corporate cultures are inherited from those who dominate the corporation at any one time; as people leave, the culture can change, but only assuming that the incumbents are of sufficient stature that they can wilfully diverge from the established practises without losing their jobs.

They usually can’t.
So they become contractors.

It takes an emergency, such as impending bankruptcy, to demolish the monolithic bigotry which can be entrenched; and even then, in some big, old corporations, such as Ford, the warnings are ignored once the initial crisis has been reached.


Alan Bostick 07.11.07 at 4:39 pm

Redstate is off his rocker. Were I to choose Powerball tickets, in the uncommon event that the Powerball lottery was offering an overlay, I would carefully choose my numbers to all be greater than 12, so as to significantly reduce the likelihood that I would be sharing the prize with someone else. Since each number combination is equally likely, but more people pick number combinations that include dates (like birthdates and anniversaries), number combinations that don’t include dates result in a higher expectation value (EV) per ticket than those that do include dates.


pietr 07.11.07 at 8:57 pm

Actually everything I said about corporations applies equally well to the left/’liberal’ establishment, or wanna-be establishment.
Perhaps they hate the corporations so much because they see in them political organs with a greater degree of legitimacy than they can lay claim to themselves.


Bruce Baugh 07.11.07 at 9:42 pm

Or perhaps we don’t hate corporations as such at all, but regard them as enjoying inappropriate privileges under the law and framed by social and legal expectations that make it too easy to do stupidly harmful stuff and insufficiently reward either competence or excellence. Tell me, do you question whether the victims of muggings and assaults might really just be jealous of their assailants’ superior wealth and strength?


pietr 07.12.07 at 7:49 am

I say old bean, when was the last time a corporation mugged you?
Okay, so I would agree the laws are insane when they allow a corporatoin to usurp someone elses property, such as when exploring for oil, but did anybody really force you to go into QuickyMart and then force you to buy things?
As for saying ‘we’, why allow yourself to be stereotyped so easily?
What an admission.


W. Kiernan 07.12.07 at 10:37 am

pietr: I say old bean, when was the last time a corporation mugged you?

Hah, you are a Canadian! No USian who has ever dealt with one of our for-profit hospitals or HMOs could ask a crazy question like that.


DirkVA 07.12.07 at 9:03 pm

‘Overcome by rage, the neighbor could only manage to growl, “Roosevelt!”’

You call this ‘craziness.’

Some of my elderly relatives used to do exactly the same thing. But it was not their basements that had been flooded. It was solidly Republican East-Tennessee towns that Roosevelt eliminated via the water caused by dams for his TVA project. Some died, literally, of broken hearts. Some merely found a new curse word.


perianwyr 07.13.07 at 5:31 pm

Gold is, after all, the metal with the broadest shoulders.

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