Atlas Shrugged: The Mocking

Monday, February 21, 2011


Oh no--Matthew Yglesias is thinking again.

Bad Ideas

Chris Hayes tweeted yesterday “Hard at moments of maximum polarization to retain an open mind and not demonize ideological foes. It’s Power we stand against, not people.”

It’s a nice sentiment. But I think it also reflects a widespread tendency in political dialogue to underrate the idea that actual mistakes and bad ideas are a source of political problems.

No. Greedy people screw over the poor and middle class to grab more money. Whatever happens after that is someone else's problem. The shadow banking system wasn't a "mistake." Busting unions isn't a "bad idea." It's the powerful screwing over the powerless.

It gets easy to think that the broad public’s ignorance is irremediable and the elites on “the other side” are either hopelessly corrupt or else hopelessly stupid.

The broad public doesn't want to know anything because that will interfere with their elite worship and possible (nay, probable!) future as a billionaire.

But if I think about myself, I think I’m constantly improving my own understanding of politics and policy.

Every day and every way, he's getting better and better!

Does that mean I was hopelessly corrupt or hopelessly stupid 18 months ago?


I don’t think I was. So why should anyone else be any different? It’s always possible to improve my own understanding and so I hope other people’s understanding can and will be improved too.

I'm elite. I'm wonderful. So surely the other elite who are just like me are wonderful too!

Meanwhile, sixty years ago most adults hadn’t finished high school while even today a large share of adults can’t read which is going to be a large barrier to both the formation and the expression of sound political ideas. But these are remediable problems, just as I could (and should! and will!) obtain actual information about what Swedish labor unions do instead of speculating as I do in the post below this one.

Ah, speculation. The elite substitution for research. Why look up something when you already know all the answers due to your elite education, or can easily be corrected and therefore grow in wisdom.

It's not that they control our country, our lives, our children's lives. It's that they are so stupidly self-congratulatory while they do it.


Kathy said...

"... Meanwhile, sixty years ago most adults hadn’t finished high school while even today a large share of adults can’t read...

what the hell does that mean? Not only a lie, but a stupid lie. 60 years ago the US had an excellent educational system. Most (American) adults had finished HS and many attended (State run) college thanks to the GI Bill. Today most adults can read, semi-literates (Fox viewers) are a minority.

This guy is as stupid and vain and conceited as ArgleBargle, making untrue and unsubstantiated claims (aka "strawmen") to base his even stupider "thoughts" upon them.
Jezuz, what a World we're living in, where snobbish idiots are held in high esteem & paid big bucks, while real intelligent, educated persons (such as Climate Scientists) are reviled.

fish said...

Most (American) adults had finished HS

Actually not true but was rapidly changing (for the reasons you state). HS diplomas were at around 35% for those over 25 years old in 1950.

It is easy to lose sight that the vast majority of people in the country still do not have a bachelors degree.

Kathy said...

I stand corrected! Though I don't quite understand the graph... why do they distinguish between persons 25-29 and persons 25-older?

Made me quite indignant to have my parent's generation called uneducated!

fish said...

Splitting ages shows the trend better because it shows the next generation is improving long before it shows up in the national average.

Made me quite indignant to have my parent's generation called uneducated!

I totally know how you feel and get annoyed when MattY or McM use degrees as a proxy for education. All their learning didn't get them much knowledge.

Susan of Texas said...

His fundamental belief that we should have elites to do our thinking for us just blows my mind. Especially as his thinking is so immature. We built a government of checks and balances explicitly to prevent abuses of power over the poor, yet Yglesias writes to support the idea of a power elite, who can be trusted to make the right decision because they are "constantly improving."

They will never grow in understanding as long as they are unable to see outside of their assumptions of wealth and privilege. Yglesias won't let himself see the corruption of his class because that would lower his status and end his career. So instead we get a mauldin little post about trusting the elite and their wisdom.

Unknown said...

I quit reading Yglesias two years ago. I was never comfortable reading Yglesias. Basically he is a dilettante. He has a smattering of knowledge about economics, political science, history, etc.; but his vanity pushes him into trying to act like an expert in all the areas he has opinions about. Secondly, he is basically a conservative, as is Steve Benen. Benen is an Obama worshiper; he worships the ground that Obama walks on. These people are not progressives.
As a side note, do any of these mainstream pundits have spell and grammar check before they write something, and then post it. The amount of grammar and spelling errors almost make me think that they never completed English 101 in College. And since most word processors contain spelling and grammar checks, it is amazing the errors that are made by these experts.

Batocchio said...

I've linked Yglesias before on a few things when he was accurate and laid out a good case – for instance, some plutocracy stuff, including bad faith by the Republicans about deficits. He's also written some sharp anti-torture pieces. He's hardly my go-to guy, but I don't find him irredeemable. Similarly, Jonathan Chait writes quite well on economic matters, the plutocrats, supply-siders, Randians and libertarians, but was a disingenuous wanker on the Iraq War. Andrew Sullivan writes well on torture and conservative dishonesty, but he's a crackpot on other issues, a civility troll, and pushes bad, conservative economic policies. There are enough good writers out there one doesn't have to go to Yglesias, Chait, Sullivan if one doesn't want to, but personally, I've found enough value I don't mind sifting through the crap, citing the good stuff and criticizing the bad. That's to date, anyway. I don't seek out their stuff, but I read people who sometimes link them, not always in praise.

That said, I think Susan's characterization of Yglesias is spot on, and I certainly don't object to him getting skewered. He's parroted glibertarianism, which he doesn't seem to understand furthers plutocracy and plutonomy. He's definitely an Establishment Dem, part of the ruling class or close enough that he really does not see their flaws. That means he can write something decent occasionally about specific policies and policy battles, but currently cannot see the big picture. He'll oppose the revolution, not lead it.

I don't see what Harry does with Steve Benen, who quoted a Dem congressional staffer very critical of Obama the other day. Benen may be more centrist than any of us, but from what I've seen his policy preferences are indeed liberal. He writes a great deal about the actual deals in Congress and the likelihood of their passage, though – which are not always what he would prefer. I find Benen invaluable, because he's ridiculously prolific, he covers pretty much every major story of the day, and he does fact-checking and debunking of statements, usually on the same day. At his old blog, the Carpetbagger Report, he kept a running tally of John McCain's flip-flops (it looks like the final tally was 76), and also his factually wrong statements on Iraq. That's just damn good blogging/reporting. If you want to find, say, that earlier statement from Mike Pence/ Eric Cantor/ Mitch McConnell that exposes their hypocrisy, or the data that proves they're completely full of shit, Benen is fantastic at that. Anyway, I think it's pretty easy to disagree with Benen on his political perspective (for those who do) while still valuing the nuts-and-bolts of his blogging.