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Cranky And Johnny


Cats, Garfield once pontificated, are the world's best treeclimbers and the world's worst treeclimber-downers. That he made this pronouncement whilst dangling from a lofty bough by his toesies only serves to increase his authority.

Here's the deal, though. Cats in their relations with heights bear a striking parallel to a certain strain of hominids in their economic doings. And to give example to this trend, I present the startling resemblance of two of our intellectual world's most dissimilar creatures, namely (pull the curtain, Goldie): John Maynard Keynes and Ayn Rand. Give em a hand, folks! Thanks for playing our little game!

We'll start right in on ol' Deficit Johnny. Since the time of Adam "Invisible Fist" Smith, one of capitalism's chief dirty little problems was boom and bust cycles, the despair of investors and the devastation of hapless li'l guys strapped into the ol' roller coaster with no recourse but to ride it out, starving children b'damned. These E ticket PITAs were sometimes severe enough to give rise to unpleasantnesses like looting, pillage and armed rebellion, and everybody knows how bad that is for business.

The party line of the pro-capitalist economists, who rejoiced in the apellation "liberal," was that no matter how bad things got in a free market, it was always better than it would have been if the market was interfered with. That there was no way to test this bald assertion made it that much more plausible in the eyes of academes, at least those who never went outside to check out the odiferous masses and their quaint diseases.

It took a good healthy dose of depression and revolution to purge at least a few instances of this fine flock of their pleasant unicorns-and-sunshine platitudes. Barring Karl Marx and his scary ilk, by the brae turn of the 20th century even some nominally Neoclassical economists had started to ask the hard questions like "So how do you prevent the world from descending into howling chaos every time the market tanks?" John Maynard Keynes was among them. His solution? In a nutshell, kinda like Joseph with Pharaoh: store up during the fat years and distribute during the lean, duh. In his case, this took the form of recognizing the Gubmint as the single biggest player in the national economy, capable of beneficially gaming the whole shmear by what it spends and borrows.

After the events of 1929, politicians were ready to listen to anybody with even a smidge of academic credibility who confidently pointed a way out of the wilderness, and Keynes was tanned, rested and ready to serve. And for a time, the method worked. America spent its way out of the morass of the Great Depression, just in time to get a big kick in the eco pants from arms production during WWII. The 1950's saw a historic expansion of the middle class.

But (yes, there's but. There's always but.) Political will is a strange thing. Actually, no, it isn't. There was every desire on the part of governing officers to borrow and spend money, especially on their own constituencies in keeping with their own interests. Funding flowed like wine. The stricture, however, was that in good times you raised taxes and decreased spending and paid all that inspiration back to the gnomes who lent it. And that, somehow, just never got implemented. Funny thing.

Result? 90% inflation since WWII, an increasingly stagnant economy, a national budget hamstrung by interest payments on a steadily increasing national debt.

But as Reverend Chumleigh sez, enough of this hilarity. We've got a different hilarity to contemplate. It's Iron Ayn's turn at bat.

Take one part Austrian/Chicago School econ as evangelized by the likes of Ludwig von Mieses, a warm heaping helping of Nietzsche at his ubermenschiest, a self-righteous slab of anarchist/libertarian politics, a dab of rough trade and a belt but by no means a flagon of intellectual rigor, dress it in drag and call it Ayn Rand. Here she comes, Miss America. This broad made those futzy old classic Liberals look positively timid. In her surprisingly popular and influential (or not) doorstop novels and recursive essays, she extolled the Virtue of Selfishness (r) and the evils of government. She founded (or foundered) her whole hot mess of a system on the reification of the rational mind, which in her assessment was something between the Highest Good and Great Gawd Awmighty, which in turn was her justification for letting the Master Race, uh, I mean, the Great Minds, do whatever they pleased, social responsibility be flayed.

In her best-known boat anchor, Atlas Shrugged, Rand's featured genius inventer and entropy denier John Galt expresses the author's basic credo in a dramatique keynote oath which he and all his genius buddies recite: I swear by my life, and by my love of it, that I shall never live for the sake of another man, nor allow another to live for mine.

Quite apart from the implied tag, ...women, on the other hand..., this claptrap incantation is a snake ready to turn and bite the posterior of anyone pompous enough to take it seriously. As with the Keynesian stricture, there are narcissistic intellectuals galore ready to claim that screw-you-got-mine first clause, but the second? Not so much.

And that's just irrational: every breath you take has somebody else's sweat in it. To truly embrace relieving others of the burden of your betterment, you'd become a crusader besieging every castle of inequality in sight, relentlessly entangled in the minutiae of social justice and the politics of self-determination.

In other words, not behaviors the typical Randroid displays, to put it as mildly as is humanly possible.

Result? Stealth objectivist amorality spurs politicians to cut taxes and social services and infrastructure maintenance without, say, similarly divesting energy or pharma or agribusiness or heaven forfend defense contracting of their fatty fat government subsidies, leveling the playing field the wrong way. 25 million dollar bonuses don't earn themselves, my friend.

World's best treeclimbers. World's worst treeclimber-downers.

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