Monday, June 21, 2010


Or maybe just dementia? Ross Douhat's column today is one of the clearest indices yet of the collapse into drooling incoherence of modern "conservatism" -- all the starker for its immediate proximity to Paul Krugman's latest compelling plea for rationality.

Obama is a liberal? The liberals are the ones who are theory-mad?? The "conservatives" are the ones who are grounded in reality -- and about to re-ascend??? It's the welfare state that's in crisis, about to be smacked down by the Invisible Hand????

From which galaxy are these people receiving their radio signals?

"Conservatism" must be put in quotes, of course, not only because it isn't remotely conservative -- in fact, it's been swinging from the chandeliers since Reagan -- but because it's no longer even a perspective, much less a theory. Put aside entirely Tea Party goofitude ("Keep the government's hands off my Medicare!") or nativist xenophobia. The entire Milton Friedman neo-classical architecture has been blown away. In reality, it was always logical positivist nonsense, the Economist's New Clothes, ruling out of existence (into the ether of "externalities") anything that doesn't fit your equations... the drunk who looks under the streetlight for his keys because he can see there. But after its utter collapse and exposure as The New Alchemy, in the face of the worst unemployment since the 1930s -- indeed, with that specific object lesson in front of our eyes (hello? 1937, people?) -- it should be impossible for any sentient being to argue for it in public.

So what do you do? Well, you don't argue for it -- you project your own mishagas onto your "opponent." Onto the "liberals." Another idea we have to put under erasure, of course. If only. (We live in a boom era for quote marks. Too bad Derrida died before he could cash in.)

Almost makes one nostalgic for the time when the best lacked all conviction and the worst were full of passionate intensity. We're way past Yeats. More like Beckett.