Atlas Shrugged: The Mocking

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Success Is Its Own Reward

Megan McArdle won. All the writing, research, and time I've expended was a complete waste. I prevented nothing and convinced almost nobody. America supports McArdle's ideas and voted into office the people who will carry them out.

I am not sure they understand this; I'll never forget a tv interview I saw at a huge anti-abortion rally. The reporter asked a young woman what she would do if she got her way and abortion and her access to birth control were outlawed.

She replied, "Oh, the Democrats would never let that happen."

She's not the only one.
There is nobody to stop them. The Republicans will control all levers of government before long. Progressives and liberals have no power to do anything. McArdle wanted Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and Obamacare gone, and it looks like she'll get her wish.

Let the washing of hands begin, because there's no shame in joining the Trump administration.
In 1975, the economist Milton Friedman gave a series of lectures in Chile, as well as a small amount of advice to Augusto Pinochet, the country’s right-wing dictator. The advice was not on how to best crack down on political dissent, or where to hide the bodies of dissidents you were trying to disappear; it involved economic policy, and was advice that was similar to what he’d have given any government. Nonetheless, Friedman’s left-wing critics somewhat predictably used this brief interlude in a decades-long career to tar him and his ideas.
I could sit and discuss the economic plans created by the Chicago Boys School and the CIA but that would take a lot of time and work, which would just be a waste. Pinochet pushed through his economic plans by using political repression, including dogs trained to rape women. McArdle thinks it doesn't matter. "Everyone has to be paid by someone."
Pinochet's regime carried out many gruesome and horrific acts of sexual abuse against the victims. In fact, several detention sites were solely instituted for the purpose of sexually tormenting and humiliating the prisoners. Discothèque (La Venda Sexy) was another one of DINA's main secret detention centers. Many of those who "disappeared" were initially held in this prison. The prison guards often raped both men and women. It was at this prison where internal repression operations were centralized. Militants anally raped male prisoners, while insulting them, in an attempt to embarrass them to their core.[38]
Women were the primary targets of gruesome acts of sexual abuse. According to the Valech Commission, almost every single female prisoner was a victim of repeated rape. Not only would military men rape women, they would also use foreign objects and even animals to inflict more pain and suffering. Women (and occasionally men) reported that spiders and live rats were often implanted on their genitals. One woman testified that she had been "raped and sexually assaulted with trained dogs and with live rats." She was forced to have sex with her father and brother—who were also detained.[39]
Pinochet's men tortured their victims of course.
One torture method which was very commonly used was the "grill" or "La Parrilla." In this torture, electricity was fed from a standard wall outlet through a control box into two wires each terminating in electrodes. The control box gave the torturers the option of adjusting the voltage being administered to the prisoner. The naked prisoner was stretched out and strapped onto a metal bedframe, or a set of bedsprings, and tied down. He or she was subjected to electrical shocks on several parts of the body, especially on sensitive areas like the genitals and on open wounds. The Valech Report includes a testimony of a Chilean man who was interrogated by prison captors. They took off his clothes and "attached electrodes to his chest and testicles. They put something in his mouth so he would "bite his tongue while they shocked him."[32] In another method, one of the wires would be fixed to the prisoner (typically to the victim's genitalia) while another wire could be applied to other parts of the body. This caused an electric current to pass through the victim's body, with a strength inversely proportional to the distance between the two electrodes. A smaller distance between the electrodes led to a stronger current and thus more intense pain for the prisoner. A particularly barbaric version of the "grill" was the use of a metal bunk bed; the victim was placed on the bottom bunk and on the top bunk, a relative or friend was simultaneously tortured.
Most prisoners suffered from severe beatings, and broken or even amputated limbs. At Villa Grimaldi, DINA forced non-compliant prisoners lie down on the ground. The captors ran over their legs with a large vehicle, and crushed the prisoners' bones.[33] The assailants also beat prisoners in the ear until they became deaf, and entirely unconscious; this torture method was called the "telephone."[34] Most of the acts of punishment were intended to severely humiliate the prisoners. At the Pisagua Concentration Camp, captors intimidated prisoners by forcing them to crawl on the ground and lick the dirt off the floors. If the prisoners complained or even collapsed from exhaustion, they were promptly executed.[35] Prisoners were also immersed into vats of excrement, and were occasionally forced to ingest it.[

You might have noticed, if you could stomach reading that material, that our government committed some of these same tortures against Iraq prisoners. Before you say, "It can't happen here; nobody would let it happen," remember that it already has and we already did. We could have impeached Bush or at least sent him to jail after the fact but we went shopping instead.

When people worship their leader they think he can do no wrong. If he does do wrong, they just say that it's not wrong when he does it because he's one of us, he's a good guy. And good guys only do good stuff, so anything bad is really good. Bush committed crimes. Obama refused to prosecute him. Obama wanted to work with Bush's people and Obama wants us to work with Trump's people. Obama will let Trump's people torture and kill just as he let Bush's people get away with torture and killing. He had the power to stop it and refused. He no longer has that power and even if he does change his mind, it's far too late.

If you still think the elite care about you and work to make your life better, I can't help you.

If McArdle doesn't care that her alma mater helped Pinochet, she certainly won't care if they help Trump. We must make sure that the government functions smoothly when people are interred in camps. Which we also have done before. Muslims were already put on a government database and that was fine with us.
Whether Friedman should have advised Pinochet has long been a matter of cocktail-party debate in right-wing circles. Is it better for experts to send a message by withholding their expertise? Or if you have good advice to give, is it better to offer it to bad governments -- to benefit their people, even if incidentally the advice benefits the bad governments as well? The utilitarian calculus is, to say the least, unclear.
Sadly, the people of Chile did not benefit from The Chicago Boys' assistance and it's safe to assume that Americans will not benefit from the actions of libertarian and conservative Good Germans either. In fact, we might come to regret any cooperation with the Trump Administration, but as is invariably the way, we will be sorry much too late for the victims to re-animate and go back to shopping for the greater glory of capitalism.
Well, on the right today, it's no longer just cocktail-party chatter. A lot of #NeverTrump wonks are likely to find themselves torn between being #NeverTrump and being wonks -- between their consciences and their callings.
No worries. McArdle doesn't have a conscience. Problem solved.

But that's not really the problem, is it? McArdle doesn't want future job prospects harmed by collaboration with Trump and doesn't want liberals to sneer and insult her at cocktail parities, which evidently are the most important events of her life.
I don't see a moral obligation for anyone to serve in a Trump administration.
Phew! That's a relief. Too bad she immediately contradicts herself, though.
But people who opposed Donald Trump, on both the left and right, should commit right now to one thing: We will not tar good people for joining the Trump administration. Their motives will not be questioned, and if things do turn out as some of his critics fear, the people in his foreign and domestic policy apparatus will not suffer guilt by association. It is just too important that Trump have good advisers.

Now that you bring it up.

There's no point in fighting; we lost and we'd lose again. But nobody says we can't make the winners miserable in their success. Sure, McArdle is greedy and ambitious. There's nothing we can do about that. But McArdle and all her little cohorts desperately want to be cool, too. They think working for the White House will unlock Maximum Cool, so at the very least we should make sure they understand that that will never happen. It's the only thing liberals control.
Trump will be the least policy-savvy president in history. He has built no ideological framework for future policies, much less a set of detailed proposals. He has few advisers, in part because so many of the usual contenders have come out against him.
Here is where McArdle makes her mistake, however. For one thing, she went to Asia after the election. The jockeying for position is going on without her, although I am sure a lot of emails are whizzing their way around the globe while McArdle attempts to see if she can leverage Trump's win into another upwards failure.

The second thing is that Trump has his own people and Trump believes in loyalty. He also enjoys being spiteful and punishing people who crossed him. McArdle herself is beneath Trump's notice but she has prominently promoted the #NeverTrump failure, and that's not going to disappear from the internet. McArdle and her friends might be able to skim some money off of the Trump administration but that's not a given.
Now he is going to have to have advisers. He is going to have to staff regulatory agencies. He is going to have to decide about policy priorities, and push legislation to advance them. If smart, competent people refuse to be a part of that, because they think it’s likely that they will suffer permanent stigma from having joined his team, then Trump's administration will still do all those things -- but it will do them poorly, and the nation will suffer.
The nation will suffer anyway. The only question is, will people help Trump like Good little Germans, or will they do everything in their power to slow down, distract, delay, or destroy his presidency? "I was just following orders" is for Nazis, not Americans.
The most vital area for Trump to staff with good people is his foreign policy and defense team. Those people will be making decisions in a short time frame, and often behind closed doors, with little public check on their thought process. But his domestic team matters too. These are the folks who will have to make thousands of decisions that affect our daily lives, from education to what companies are allowed to merge. If his cabinet is filled with inexperienced folks or narrow activists, those decisions can be disastrous. So if a good person enters the administration, don’t question his judgment or her character. Applaud.
Make sure that Trump has good people in office while they compile lists of Muslims to jail. You wouldn't want to slow down that process. When Trump makes up his kill list (just like Obama!), he'll need competent people to carry out his orders. And when our few remaining separate corporations merger, they'll need lawyers to explain how having one source for a product will actually lower prices.
During the Bush years there was a cottage industry of liberal economists who dinged conservatives like Greg Mankiw and Glenn Hubbard for saying complimentary things about policies that were, let us say, somewhat less than well-supported by economic science. Needless to say, such cheap shots could easily have been taken at folks like Austan Goolsbee and Jason Furman during the Obama years. I didn’t take them.
If McArdle didn't insult someone, it's because she thought they might be useful some day in advancing her career. Goolsbee was her former professor.
Good economists in an administration cannot come out and say “This is bad policy,” for obvious reasons; their job is to have those conversations internally, and then support their boss’s decisions. That will also be the job of an adviser in a Trump administration, and we want good people in there making the good arguments.
Because Trump will care what people say, and listen to advisers who don't agree with him, and implement advice he disagrees with. For the good of the party he trashed.
When I tweeted a much shorter version of this thought this morning, I was beset by angry progressives talking about “Vichy” and “quislings” and saying that they wanted the Trump administration to fail as spectacularly as possible. While I understand the grief that those people are feeling, America, and the world, cannot afford this kind of thinking. There are things more important than political fights. One of them is making sure that the man in charge of the world’s biggest rich economy, and its biggest nuclear arsenal, has smart and sober-minded people around him. We all need to do everything we can to make sure that’s the case.
McArdle did everything possible to bring this moment to fruition. She demonized liberals and fought their policies tooth-and-nail. Paul Ryan and Goldman, Sachs will guide the economy now. She must be thrilled and we should remind her every minute of the next four years that she is getting exactly what she wanted. Any disasters will be of her own making, and liberals will have no power to stop anyone. But we can make those cocktail parties and comment sections just a little less fun for the princess.

McArdle wants the status quo because it made her rich. Sure, it could have more free market fairies, but she doesn't want it disrupted. She wants stocks to stay high, bonds to stay safe, housing costs to rise, taxes to fall, and regulation to disappear. She want to enrich herself and her useless husband. But now she might have more market freedom than she thought, and she wants everyone to ensure that her success in destroying liberal governance doesn't blow back on her.

She wants us all to work very hard in protecting her assets, while she continues to try to destroy ours. But thanks in part to her efforts, we no longer have the power to protect her money and now she's on her own.
I don’t know if Trump will ask people I admire to serve in his cabinet; I don’t know that they will be willing to serve if he does. But whoever does serve will have my respect for their willingness to take on a difficult job; my most charitable assessment of their motives; and my fervent hope that they will prove to be able stewards.
It's too late. McArdle won. The Free Market won. And now she will get her hard-earned reward.

(You already read Roy Edroso, right? I thought so.)


bowtiejack said...

Nice stuff. Thank you.
Yes, the Good Germans like McArdle will do it for Germany don'tcha know and not the icky Nazis.

OBS said...

In her next column, McMegan extols the virtues of well-done steak, just like daddy Trump likes it.

Susan of Texas said...

Heh, I expect a lot of praise for Paul Ryan at the very least. But I also think there will be a lot of normalizing.

Susan of Texas said...

Thank you, bowtiejack.

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

I blame all of Trump's win on cynical Wall St. Dems.

Which means they're just as corrupt and worthless as Meegan.

Susan of Texas said...

I have some ideas about that.

Tengrain said...

I blame all of Trump's win on cynical Wall St. Dems.

That's odd; I blame Trump's win on the people who voted for him.



Susan of Texas said...

If we truly believe that nobody else will do anything to help people in need, we will need to start from the beginning and prove that making the moral choice is both the right thing to do and the winning method. We can't insist that they agree with us any more than they can insist we agree with them. So we will have to *show* people what progressivism in action can do. It will be starting over from the beginning and will take a long time, but talk is achieving nothing.

The Democrats will rebuild the party in their own image no matter what we do. We must do the same in our own way, not for the presidency or the party, but because helping others is what we say we do.

swkellogg said...

"But whoever does serve will have my respect for their willingness to take on a difficult job."

Shorter: Godspeed Steve Bannon!